ISKO - Findability and information management in the corporate workplace

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be able to attend not one but two Knowledge Management events. The first was the 4th Knowledge Management Forum 2015, which was organised by Practical Law Company and Thomson Reuters. I will blog about this in the next few days.

Following this event I attended the first ever ISKO meetup, which was called "Findability and information management in the corporate workplace" this event was designed to bring together 3 contributors (myself included) to talk about the chapters they had written for the "A Handbook for Corporate Information Professionals" I was the 3rd speaker to talk, following an introduction by Katharine Schopflin and an excellent introduction to taxonomies and how to manage them by Helen Lippell.

I wont say too much here about what I said, because you can read exactly what I said in my slides below and if you really want to, you can purchase the book from Facet Publishing.


Developing your intranet manager career

Mark Morell, formerly of BT has written an interesting post on the Clearbox blog called "Developing your intranet manager career: it's all about partnerships" In the post Mark describes how the opportunities for organisations to develop their intranets as part of the move towards digital workplaces, also offer intranet managers great opportunities to develop their careers.

Mark then looks at what you'll need to have in place to achieve both a great digital workplace and create a role for yourself within the organisation.

The key would seem to be in developing relationships across the organisation that you work for. As Mark puts it:
Your approach should be to invest at least as much time connecting with your stakeholders as identifying business requirements for technology. Getting that balance right will be a giant step forward to likely success. Asking people to approve your transformation when they are familiar with and where they understand its importance improves your chances of success.

It is essential your stakeholders have a clear picture with timescales, owners, costs and benefits. It is the best way for you to do justice to the time and effort everyone will be giving. You need to get involved with the key areas and functions of your organisation to make this happen.
I couldn't agree more with the argument Marks makes for ensuring that your key stakeholders have a clear picture about the transformation of the intranet or digital workplace is going to look like and what the timeline is for this transformation. Developing and maintaing good working relationships, especially when managing a large project, is an essential requirement for an intranet manager and something that intranet managers should invest a lot of time.

Ultimately this will help improve your position within the organisation you work for as well as increasing the chances of your project being successful.

If you enjoyed this post by Mark Morell, you may also be interested in reading two posts I wrote previously about my career and some tips for new intranet managers. I have linked these blog posts below:

5 priorities for intranet managers in 2015

5 is the magic number, or is that 3?
Elizabeth Marsh of the digital workplace group has written a very interesting post on LinkedIn, which looks at the priorities identified by Digitial Workplace members for 2015.

In her article she looks at the Top 5 priorities, which are in the order of priority and suggests some ways in which the Digital Workplace group can help support these priorities.

So the question is what are the priorities that have been identifed by Digital Workplace group members.

The first one is Governance which is of course extremely important for anyone managing a Digital Workplace or intranet to havea  good grip on. As Elizabeth says Governance forms the foundation of great intranets as it provides the principles and standards around which intranet content is created and managed. What Elizabeth does day is that some organisations lack governance at the strategic level e.g. deciding what the intranet or Digital Workplace strategy will be.

The next priority is Defining digitial workplace strategy and roadmap. As Elizabeth says whilst there are many benefits to having a digital workplace in place many organisations haven't even thought about how they're going to implement a digital workplace.

The third priority is about prioritising user experience. This is definitely becoming more and more important as intranets and other applications look to improve their user experience to something akin to the consumer websites we're all used to using. In addition to this intranet design is becoming much lighter, in part because of the move towards more mobile use, but also because that is what users now expect.

Closely tied to prioritising user experience is integrating social/collaboration tools. I would argue that this has been a priority for many years now and there have been some very good examples of organisations tightly integrating social and collaborative tools within the intranet. However there will always be an argument that says that irrespective of how closely you integrate these tools they will only be fully used when they're integrated within a users workflow.

The final priority is redesigning or upgrading our intranets. As Elizabeth says as intranet managers our work is never done and we should be continually delivering new functionality on tools within an intraent so that the user experience is always being improved. You should definitely not just stop developing an intranet!

So the top five priorities there. I'm sure there are other priorities that could have possibly made it in to the top five. What will be interesting to see is whether this list is different in 2016.

Intranetters meeting March 2015

Last Thursday afternoon I attended the latest Intranetters meeting. For anyone not familiar with this group, they are an informal group of intranet and internal communication managers who meet on a semi-regular basis to discuss the management and development of intranets.

The latest meeting was held at Robin Partington & Partners, an architecture firm based on New Oxford Street. The first 1/2 of the meeting was a demonstration of their intranet, which had been custom built in-house by a small team of developers.

The intranet manager talked the group through the process of how they got to where they are today. This process started with Sineks golden circle which helped them identify why they were implementing a new intranet and how they were going to do it. From here they looked at building something that had a real purpose and that also looked good, after all they do design for other people, so why not do it for themselves!

The result is a very impressive task based intranet, which focuses on providing users with the essential tools they need to undertake their roles. These tools include integrated project management and project planning pages, timesheet logging pages linked to Outlook and a very impressive appraisal system.

The second 1/2 of the meeting was a presentation by James Robertson of Step Two Designs who talked at length about how "design thinking" is transforming intranets. Design is now a powerful word in business and there are many design techniques that we can apply to intranets. Design is especially important in relation to intranets as they can often be ugly and difficult to use applications!

So for example if you have a strong external reputation and branding then the internal experience users have "should" be just as good. Unfortunately this isn't often the case and users have to endure ugly looking intranets and other applications despite potentially being part of a large multinational organisation.

This is especially galling given that design is fairly easy to do and most applications including SharePoint can be designed to look nice and engaging.

As James said in his Presentation, which I have embedded below* for intranet managers it's about taking a fresh look at the bigger picture within your organisation and applying the fundamentals of good intranet design to your intranet. Applying design thinking will help push intranets to the next level and reshape the way we work.

*This presenation is from the IntraTeam Event 2015, but they were almost identical.


The new age of intranets: publishing and content

Last month I wrote a blog post called "The new age of intranets" which referenced an article published by CMS Wire called "The new age of intranets: planning and corporate communications" little did I know that these was the first in a series of articles by CMS Wire on the evolution of intranets.

Their latest article on this topic is called "The new age of intranets: publishing and content" and looks at one of the greatest "hassles" in relation to manging and intranet, which is ensuring the content is updated on a regular basis. Ask any intranet manager and they're likely to say that having out of date, redundant or trivial content on an intranet is a sure fire way to annoy your intranet users. As the article says:

Publishing is critical to the ongoing success of an intranet. When employees consistently see good, valuable and recent content, your site becomes sticky and you will achieve a better return on your intranet investment
So what does good content management mean and how can intranet managers ensure it is achieve? Fortunately the author looks at four areas that are critical.

Quality & Quantity

The first item you need to think about is the quality of yoru content, is it up-to-date, is it still relevant? If it is great, but you also need to think about how people are going to find the content and to faciliate that you need a taxonomy or several taxonomies as well as a great search engine. I love the idea of intranet suffering from a Goldilocks syndrome, not too little and not too much, it needs to be "just right"

Mobility

The next area to think about is mobility, organisations need to ensure intranet content can be accessesed via mobile devices, otheriwse users wont see it as something they can use easily. That's all there is to say about that!

Publishing

Making publishing similar can be crucial to the success of an intranet. It's therefore important to have adequate processes in place for the different content you're organisations is going to be publishing and perhaps more importantly the different media formats.

Governance

Governance is a key element of any intranet contet strategy as it will outline the correct roles and responsibilities within your organisation as well as identify the content workflow and the documentation that supports the intranet content lifecyle. One thing to say about Governance documentation and this is something I saw on Twitter a while ago, is that you don't need to be producing a 100 page document unless you're planning to enforce intranet governance by hitting people over the head with it!

This is a short, but very interesting introduction to some of the issues intranet managers need to think about when thinking about content and how it's published.

Are you following the herd?

I've been following the Above and Beyond KM Blog which is written by V Mary Abraham for some time now. In fact I can remember reading blog posts from this blog in my very first role in a law firm, which was some time ago now!

Often V Mary Abraham will write a blog post that really strikes a chord with me and her latest does exactly that. Called "Intranet ignorance is not bliss" Mary looks at some of the choices Law Firms have in relation to the software that they use.

Mary explains that there are three choices that Law Firms can make when it comes to deciding what software they're going to use:

  •  Purpose built software, that is software that is built specifically for Law Firms
  • Client preferred software, that is software that their clients are using and so using it would make life easier for the law firm to use the same software
  • Herd default software, this is software that isn't designed to be used by Law Firms,  but everyone seems to be using it, therefore everybody else has to use it. The example Mary provides of this type of software is SharePoint.

As Mary explains using the first two types of software makes a lot of sense for Law Firms, because ultimately it will make the Law Firm and the clients lives easier. So of course the big question is why use software that isn't designed for Law Firms and isn't being used for clients aka SharePoint?

Mary then explains some of the reaons why Law Firms do so and cites the "herd default" as one of the reasons so many Law Firms are using SharePoint as their software of choice, especially in relation to Document Management, Enterprise Content Management and the provision of an intranet.

Of course there are many credible alternatives to SharePoint and Mary talks about one of these in particular Interact Intranet and that she will be publishing a white paper on how Interact Intranet might be helpful for KM Departments within Law Firms. This sounds like it will definitely be of interest for Law Firms and ultimately any organisation who are looking at their options for intranet solutions.






Finding the right fit for an enterprise social network

A lot has been written about the value that enterprise social networks (ESN's) can bring to organisations. From breaking down information silos, enabling individuals to ask and answer questions and improving the flow of communication within departments ESN's like Yammer can provide a lot of value to organisations.

However finding the right fit for an ESN can be difficult, especially where an organisation might already have several digital tools in place. For example most organisations will have intranets, so how can intranets and ESN's work alongside each other? This is the question asked and answered by James Dellow in his article "Where intranets and enterprise social networks fit in your business"

James starts by answering the question many people might have, which is how can the chaos that can be an ESN work alongside an intranet, which are usually calm havens of documents, links and pages. The answer is that as an organisation you need to understand the value that each of the tools can bring. There are of course many differences between the tools and the perceived value that they provide, but as James says "value is relative"

Intranets deliver value based on the information they provide from systems and tools that people are aware that exist. ESN's do something very different, in that they help people escape the "tyranny" of hierarchy and encourage people to think differently about how they organise information.

Does that mean that ESN's will replace intranets? I don't think so and James agrees, saying that they're essential, but they're not as engaging, responsive or transformative as they could be. This is certainly true although you could argue that more intranets are become lean, lightweight and perhaps most important more social.