Using your intranet as a communication tool

Two interesting (albeit slightly old) blog posts on using intranets as communication platforms to talk about here. The first by Mark Morrell lists "8 ways in which SharePoint 2010 can help internal communications" Mark makes a very good point before his list of suggestions, which is that he doesn't believe SharePoint 2010 is the only way to improve internal communications with an organisation. But that SharePoint is one of a number of tools that could be used for internal communications. This is an important point to reflect on as there are indeed a number of ways in which we can communicate with our users, emails, intranet homepages etc etc.

When it comes to SharePoint 2010 Mark believes there are 8 ways it can make a difference, Mark describes these as "agile" and "tailored" solutions and are as follows;

  1. Polls: these can be used to ask for feedback on anything.
  2. News: SharePoint allows you to tailor a section of a page to display stories
  3. News stories: users can read these and rate or like them
  4. Sharing news stories: users can share stories
  5. Tag new stories: users can tag a story or a word with phrases which allowed it to be retrieved in future
  6. Discussion forums allow people to provide feedback on a news story
  7. Blogs allow users to provide a personal view on a news story
  8. Podcasts can show and tell users how to do something in an informal relaxed style
The second blog post from James Robertson called "Comms & Technology facing the future together" is a wider look at how intranets and the technology changes we've seen in recent years are impacting on how internal communications are published. 

The post includes a presentation James delivered at the Melcrum Digital Communications Summit in Melbourne. This is a really interesting presentation which looks at how the developments to intranets are providing much richer and more interactive ways to communicate with users. Ultimately this means it's an exciting time to work in communications, especially if an intranet is your responsibility.

However it's not all plain sailing as historically communication teams and IT teams have clashed because there is a perception that technology teams talk geek and communication teams just talk news. Moving past these stereotypes will make for a more successful intranet and newer and more exciting ways to communicate with users. It's the how to do this that James talks about in a bit more detail in his blog post.

5 ways to make your intranet homepage more attractive

The Business 2 Community website has highlighted the importance of intranet homepages in its recent post "5 ways to make your intranet homepage more attractive and useful" If you're wondering if you can make your intranet homepage more attractive AND more useful, well yes you can!

So what are there suggestions for how you can improve in both these areas;

  1. Publish new content regularly. This seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me as intranets should be as up-to-date and relevant as possible. Of course, this always means the content needs to be accurate, there's no point publishing content that is inaccurate or that doesn't justify its inclusion on the intranet. The article does suggest ways in which you can find "fresh" content, including listening to what people are saying, attending meetings and re-publishing content from internal blogs.
  2. The next is an interesting suggestion to link to regularly used content after identifying it by looking at statistics and perhaps even what pages people are looking for. This suggestion will only work if you're able to generate statistics. It does sound like a good idea to link to content people are using regularly so that they can access even quicker.
  3. The third suggestion is two things, firstly to ensure your intranet is branded, this includes giving your intranet a name. The second suggestion is keep the design simple, friendly on the eye and uncluttered.
  4. The next suggestion is something that applies not just to your intranet homepage but your entire intranet and that is to emphasise and encourage good navigation. This means putting menus where users would expect to see them and to use titles that make sense to users.
  5. The final suggestion is to mix serious content with fun and engaging content. In reality this means striking a balance between official very corporate news and news that is more personal to individuals.

There are some good suggestions here as to how you could improve your intranet homepage. Ultimately of lot of what you're able to do will depend on the organisation you work for and the technology that supports your intranet.

[Picture credit -there is nothing more attractive than confidence from Flickr]

Social intranets evolution or revolution

The Techbubble blog has published an interesting blog post on Social intranets, which for anyone considering implementing a social intranet is well worth a read.

In the post called "Social intranets evolution or revolution" the author looks at some of the reasons why social intranets are becoming the norm in terms of intranets. The author then goes on to outline some of the challenges faced by organisations when implementing social intranets. 

According to the blog post there are 6 main benefits to implementing a social intranet, they are:

  1. Employee engagement - social intranets allow ALL employees to participate, not just those who have rights to edit the intranet or the intranet team
  2. Communications - social intranets have the potential to significantly improve the way an organisation communicates with its employees and the methods by which employees can communicate with management
  3. Knowledge capture - this is quite interesting, but unfortunately the author doesn't go into a lot of detail about how exactly social intranets can help capture knowledge. My perspective on this is that with social intranets comes much more personalisation and interaction, this usually takes the form of rich profiles, activity streams and group functionality. This functionality allows individuals to create more personalised workspaces where they can share knowledge more effectively.
  4. Collaboration - tools like wikis, blogs and activity streams help highlight work that other individuals are doing and help build on a collaborative culture
  5. Collective learning and training - This is the idea that a social intranet can "showcase" training and more value can be added by creating wikis and "topic forums" to support learning
  6. Innovation - From polls to toolboxes and widgets, social intranets can be truly innovative

There are of course a number of challenges that organisations will face when implementing social intranets including;

  • Technical issues
  • Knowledge management issues
  • Cultural issues
  • The social tool selection
  • Training
  • Governance and good practice

This is a useful article if you're interested in reading about some of the benefits and challenges associated with social intranets.

Can you make tacit knowledge...explicit?

Two excellent posts here which discuss whether you can make tacit knowledge (the stuff that is stored away in our minds or hidden somewhere else) explicit.

The first called "The great debate – tacit knowledge and collaborative technologies" is from the Brad Hinton Plain Speaking blog. The post looks at some of the challenges associated with trying to make tacit knowledge explicit. The post also looks at whether social media tools like blogs, wikis, forums and listservs can assist in the process of moving tacit knowledge to an explicit form. I wont ruin the post by saying too much more about it, but it has generated some interesting comments.

The second post called "Can tacit be made explicit" is from the Knowledge Jolt with Jack blog. Jack's post say both yes and no to the question of whether you can make tacit knowledge explicit. I agree with both answers and I imagine most people will to, but I'll leave it up to you to decide.

[Photo credit - trying to make tacit knowledge explicit from Flickr]

PLC Knowledge Management Forum

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the PLC Knowledge Management Forum. This was a one day event held at Haberdashers Hall aimed at Knowledge Managers, Professional Support Lawyers and Information Professionals. The format of the day was a mixture of panel sesions and individual presentations, with perspectives from Knowledge Managers and significantly clients.

The first session of the day What do your clients want from knowledge management was a panel session involving Katharine Ward from Vodafone, Matthew Whalley from Berwin Leighton Paisner and Tim Bratton, General Counsel at the Financial Times. The panel started by explaining what they did and what their expectations were in terms of Knowledge Management and clients.

Katharine explained how they received a lot of training/updates from their panel firms. They'd also participated in both secondments and reverse secondees, which they found useful. Vodafone also found having a Knowledge/Learning/Traning person at the pitch was useful in understanding what services the firm could provide them. Matthew then described his new role (Client Knowledge Manager) at Berwin Leighton Paisner. This is a centralised role with no ties to any practice groups. The role is to act as a liaison between teams and clients to understand what it is they can offer a client. Having previously worked at HSBC, Matthew is in an ideal position to understand what clients value and how a firm and knowledge management teams can deliver. The last panelist was Tim Bratton from the Financial Times. Tim listed three areas where he thought law firms and knowledge management teams could add value. They were as follows:

  • Mobile as a delivery platform - 50% of consumers are consuming information via mobiles or tablets. As a result we should be designing websites for mobile users not for desktop users. The future for want of a better word is "appified" and services which are only designed for use on desktops will flounder.
  • The next issue Tim talked about was the commodisation of legal services. This has been under discussion for a while now, but is especially pertinent when you think about the improvements in technology over the last five years. As a result law firms have almost become content providers, in that they're pushing out more and more content. Very much like the PLC model, which Tim suggested law firms should adopt.
  • The final issue Tim talked about was the growing importance of social media and how law firms need to give more consideration about how they provide services using social media tools. The best example of how a social media tool was being used successfully was Twitter and the Tweetups that have been organised by many groups across Twitter. This is an excellent example of how Twitter can create a powerful network and a sense of community.

  • The next session was a presentation from Katharine about how Vodafone has created a world class legal function (400 legal staff across 23 countries). This was a really interesting session, which looked at the knowledge management vision, including the teams use of technology (SharePoint 2007 and other collaborative tools) and how the team builds relationship, trust and confidence through face to face events (conferences and other meetings) and their use to technology; video conferencing and other more traditional communication tools. It was certainly interesting to hear how Vodafone were using different technologies to develop and build relationships, although it was interesting they weren't currently using Yammer. Katharine also discussed the Vodafone Legal Portal (built on SharePoint) which incorporated a number of features, including a Who's Who, a global map contains team information, know how, news on services and some collaboration tools (team sites in SharePoint).

    Katharine also talked about she and her team used a number of tools to commnicate with each other, these include blogs, Knowledge Maps and Knowledge Cafes. Katharine then looked at some of the ways in which external law firms can help with the development of their legal function ideas included; tailored seminars, global training, access to experts, secondments and KM forums. In her roundup Katharine looked at the work that they still need to do, this includes potentially setting targets for creating knowledge and improving both their collaboration tools and their document management system.

    The next two sessions although interesting were of "less" interest to me although I thought the points Matthew Whalley made in his presentation "Delivering successful client KM" were very interesting, especially his takeaway points, which were to:

    • Define your business goal - and be sure it is aligned with your firm's strategy
    • Align your strategy with an external, relationship based epistemology
    • Make sure you have in place elements that are key for delivering; board level support, clear goals, strategic alignment and perhaps most importantly a budget!
    • Pick your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), set a baseline and track them over time

    The last two sessions of the day were the ones that I was most interested in. The first of these was a presentation delivered by Loyita Worley on how Reed Smith is integrating Know How. This integration is centred around their use of DecisivSearch 7.1. In the first part of this session Loyita described some of the issues facing fee-earners at Reed Smith when it came to finding Know How, namely that there were too many databases and that fee-earners were looking for one place to find everything.

    Loyita then described how they were running DecisivSearch across SharePoint (where the know how was maintained) and allowed them to search and filter using various options. These options were defined by a focus group and include the document source, practice group and creation date. There are also options to allow filtering by Document Type, Application and Author.
    The final session was called "Becoming strategic in the use of social media for knowledge management" and was a quick fire look at some of the trends in content delivery and social media. This was supposed to be a panel session so Livio Hughes from the Dachis Group did well on his own to present on this very topical subject. The presentation started with a very detailed slide, which outlined some of the tools currently used and the idea of social business. Livio then described five key trends, which are affecting how businesses operate, they are:

    • Mobile - this reiterated what Tim had said earlier today and that table usage was overaking PC usage
    • Cloud computing - This is definitely appealing to law firms (look at our own virtualisation project) however theree are still some issues around ownership, security and reliability
    • The consumerisation of IT, including the opening up of data feeds from IT teams.
    • Big data, this is a growing challenge for many firms including law firms, around how they manage the amount of data that is being created. There is certainly an opportunity here around how Law Librarians/Knowledge Managers present data (on the intranet, within other tools)
    • The concept of social business or how social business can improve business performance through communication and/or engagement. I thought it was great that Livio described social business as encompassing connections, content, collaboration and culture. These are key elements of any social media project delivery.

    Livio's was certainly an interesting presentation, I'm not sure it contained anything groundbreaking though. Overall the forum was very interesting and it was good to see that a law of firms were using Yammer or looking at how they could use Yammer.