What makes an essential Intranet?

An interesting PowerPoint presentation here from James Robertson of Step two Designs, who asks the question - "What makes an essential intranet?"

In the presentation which is from the recent Intranets 2011 conference James outlines what makes an essential intranet and perhaps more importantly how you measure the effectiveness of an Intranet.

This presentation is well worth reviewing if only for some of the screenshots of Intranets towards the end of the presentation.

Are you playing an Intranet tug of war?

Katrina Marques on her blog has written an interesting piece on some of the biggest challenges facing Intranet Managers.

In her post she explains how traditionally Intranets have been used to "push" news and corporate communications but over time Intranets have developed to the extent that many now offer two-way communication, including in some organisations micro-blogging tools like Yammer.

Katrina has two questions for her blog readers:

  • How necessary is it to still have information such as “About Us” on an intranet, when a large portion of that information would be available via the company’s external facing website
  • How much should individual teams like Marketing, Internal Communications, HR or IT influence the intranet in terms of content and architecture?
Both of these questions could be blog posts in their own right! In terms of "about us" information I believe it's important to retain this especially where organisations don't publish the details of support staff to their external website. This is fairly common in organisations I've worked in. Certainly there is a case for improving how this information as Katrina suggests in her blog post by adding in social features like status updates, connections, followers and groups the individuals might belong to.

The second question is much more challenging as Katrina indicates in her blog post "While intranets are maturing and need to become multi-faceted, many still sit within one of the above mentioned business units, resulting in siloed approaches to driving and developing the intranet. The likely outcome would be a lopsided solution to function, design and content" I asbolutely agree with this last statement, with any Intranet it's important to provide both features and content that are going to appeal to and work for the whole organisation, not just a small part of the organisation. I love the idea of an Intranet steering group/committee who drive the development of the Intranet equally but as Katrina says "Where do we fit in an organisational structure? Will we remain under the strong and often biased influence of our parent business unit (often IT, Marketing/Coms or HR) or will we break free and flourish – influencing and innovating the way we work?"

Integration and collaboration a hard nut to crack!

Martin Farley at the Collaboration Rogue blog has written an interesting piece on the challenges facing anyone contemplating integrating a new collaborative platform with an existing system.

From the introduction to the blog post "One of the most difficult stumbling blocks to any new approach to working is how to integrate your new system with old/legacy systems. By “systems” I mean both technology and working practices/culture and will deal with both"

As Martin explains traditionally new platforms have been engineered so that they're built into or "grafted" on to legacy platforms. This isn't necessarily the best approach as Martin indicates. "The reluctance to let go of old systems will probably be your main obstacle to progress, so you should be prepared to ignore calls to make it fit “the way we do things here"

So what approach should Knowledge Managers and IT be taking when it comes to integrating collaborative platforms with legacy platforms? Martin outlines two potential approaches to how collaborative platforms can be integrated within existing platforms without having to spend siginficant amounts of time or money on developing a solution:

Collaborative tools..."don’t always require formal integration into current technologies. Using RSS, folksonomic tags, iframes, smartphone apps and a range of other connectivity tools, you are often able to integrate the information on different systems without them having to be formally connected"

"Because they are primarily user-led, they can lead integration and change, forcing legacy systems to catch up with them (rather than trying to augment/improve legacy systems)"

In his conclusion Martin writes something which I believe is very important when thinking about how you can use collaborative tools "Ultimately, where collaboration is concerned, succesful integration will be about co-ordinating with legacy systems, not connecting to them" this is so important to remember, especially where you might have a well established and well used Intranet, you need to work with it to enhance the way individuals are working rather then provide another platform which might just end up neglected.

Law firms and outsourcing

Looking for an introduction to the different types of outsourcing undertaken by Law Firms? Look no further then this post on the Vantage Partners blog.

The post looks in some detail at back office outsourcing, middle office outsourcing and front office outsourcing.

Intranetters meeting - London Underground

Earlier this week I attended my first ever Intranetters group meeting. The Intranetters group describes itself as "a community of intranet/comms/media people from organisations around the UK and Europe, all involved in the area of intranets" The group has regular meetings to review Intranets and to discuss challenges that are affecting individuals who manage Intranets. I'd been a part of this group ever since I joined my current firm but for some unknown reason I'd never received any of the updates from the group so never attended a meeting.

The meeting was held at the headquarters of London Underground (LU), where if you didn't know their meeting rooms are named after the tube lines, and included presentations delivered by Liz Moody of LU, Brian Dobson of Transport for London (TFL) and a presentation from Romec which unfortunately I missed. First up was Liz Moody from London Underground. Liz put the improvements to the London Underground into context by outlining some of the reasons why LU have an Intranet. These ranged from employee engagement to the place for access to business processes.

Liz went on to outline some of the issues with the old intranet, there were quite a few of these including duplicate content, too many pages, poor governance and the site not being DDA compliant. Liz then outlined London Undergrounds vision which included the following:

  • User centred information & design

  • Managed content

  • A maximised comms opportunity

  • More integration with other Intranet sites

  • Best practice in relation to FOI & other related legislation

  • Best practice in terms of Knowledge Management
I have to admit the new site looked great and it was interesting to hear from Liz about some of the challenges the Intranet team at London Undergroun face in making content available to London Underground staff. If you think about how many staff are on gates, on platforms etc for them accessing the Intranet can be an issue so making the Intranet as easy to use as possible is a key priority for the Intranet team.

Next up was Brian Dobson from TFL who talked in some detail about an Intranet Benchmarking Foundation (IBF) review that had been undertaken by TFL and London Underground. The review looked at the TFL and London Underground Intranets although they'd only chosen to look a the usability of the Intranet. Brian firstly explained how usability was broken down into the following areas:

  • Content

  • Design

  • Findability

  • Coherence

  • Engagement

  • Accessibility

  • Effectiveness

  • Efficiency

The IBF review meant a team from IBF being on site looking at the Intranet, asking questions of the stakeholders and then preparing a report for the organisation. Unfortunately Brian wasn't able to share too much information with the group but suffice to say London Underground and TFL did quite well in the review and it certainly looked like something well worth doing if you can afford the £18k IBF joining fee!

I've actually looked at becoming a member of IBF as they do seem to be a very well organised organisation. In addition to benchmarking of intranets they also run the very popular IBF 24, which I've signed up to and am very much looking forward to.

Managing the flow on information using social tools

How do you manage the information that is sent to you, do you rely on email or hardcopy only? It can be hard keeping up with the amount of information we receive so it will come as no surprise that increasingly individuals are using Social Tools to manage the information they receive.

If you're not 100& certiain about the benefits of using Social tools to manage information then I recommend you read a recent Fumsi article called "Managing the flow of information with social tools" in the article the author looks at how information can be managed by individuals and by organisations. From the article:

"The beauty of RSS is that you choose what to subscribe to no-one can send you something you don't want and if you subscribe to a feed that turns out you don't like, just unsubscribe from it and it's gone forever. Your are in control unlike with email"

"Even if you miss something important in your flow of information first time around, it will picked up by other people and discussed - retweeted or blogged about, so it will bubble to the surface eventually. This is the power of the network effect - it filters, magnifies and distributes the most important information very efficiently"

Now imagine if the same principles of managing information were used within an organisation.

"Imagine being able to ask a question inside your organisation by posting a short message that anyone in your network can see and answer instantaneously; to be able to update people immediately on a project you've been working on; to be able to collaborate seamlessly with colleagues from all over the world" From a practical level what this actually means is looking at tools like wikis, blogs, microblogging and RSS.

This is the power of Enterprise 2.0 or as it's increasinly being called "Social Business" if you and your organisation aren't looking at Social Business then you really should be