What's the future for SharePoint?

Earlier this month I listened to a Webinar on the future for SharePoint, which was presented by Sam Marshall of Clearbox consulting. Whilst you might be thinking that 52 minutes is far too long for you to listen to a Webinar about the future of SharePoint. I can assure you that it will be time well spent if you currently have or are considering moving to a verion of SharePoint.

In the webinar Sam looks at a significant number of areas, from some of the concerns around Sharepoint to some of the drivers behind the development of digital workplaces within organisations. One slide about the digital workplace definitely caught my attention as Sam described a digital workplace a bit like "Town planning" in that organisations need to think carefully about how they get from where they are now to the "perfect digital workplace"

This slide also provides a very useful summary of the elements of the Digital Workplace, so a Digital Workplace should contain the follwowing concepts/tools:

  • Comunicate and Engage
  • Collaborate
  • Find and Share
  • Business Applications
  • Agile Working (Mobile devices)

These are supported (implemented) by the following:

  • Strategy
  • Governance and Operations
  • A (great) user experience
  • Adoption
  • Technology and Security

There are many more really useful slides like the one above, as a result I thoroughly recommend listening to this webinar.


The misconceptions of SharePoint

Thinking about using, or currently using SharePoint then you'll definitely be interested in this infographic from Evoke IT which looks at 10 misconceptions associated with SharePoint.

The infographic is a couple of years old, but it's definitely worth having a look at.

Hat Tip - Michael Sampson

How to create engaging content that keeps users coming back for more!

No...not this type of engagement!
Earlier today I took part in a webinar hosted by Interact Intranet on the topic of creating content that keeps users engaged and as the title of the blog posts says...coming back for more.

Both content and content engagement are extremely important topics for intranet managers to have a good understanding of. Not just when they're running an already well established intranet but perhaps more importantly when they're about to launch a new intranet.

The reason I would argue that it's more important when you're about to roll out a new intranet is because getting users excited about content should start before your intranet is launched, so that when your intranet does launch users will be full of enthusiasm about it.

There are several ways you can get your users excited about your intranet and the content that is going to be published to it, they include:

  • Holding a contest to decide on the name of the intranet
  • Identifying content managers (this is really important and should be done early)
  • Sending teaser emails - showing screenshots and sneak previews of new functionality
  • Creating pre-launch guides
  • Posters
  • Thinking about a soft launch

Of course engaging with your users in relation to your new intranet and the content that's on it should continue post launch and could involve any of the following:

  • A survey post launch to gather feedback
  • An area (forum) where users can suggest new content
  • Creating "exclusive" content that can only be found on the intranet
  • Lunch and Learn and similar style sessions to explain how to use new features on the site

Building relationships with content providers.

This is essential to ensure your intranet content remains up-to-date. So there are several groups of users you'll need to build effective relationships with. Again you should start talking to these groups of users early in the process of rolling out a new intranet, not just before it is launched.

They groups include the following:

  • (Senior) Management Team
  • IT
  • HR
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Thought leaders
  • Engaging authors (these are the  people who are creating the most content within your site, and can usually be identified through site statistics) This group may include people who you weren't aware were creating a lot of content in the first place.

Types of engaging content

To keep employees engaged you need to have different types of content, not just "boring" company news, although of course this does need to be featured, in addition to this you should aim to have the following types of content:

  • Special features
  • Company news
  • New hires
  • Featured Teams
  • Awards & Recognitions
  • Event photos
  • Customer wins and best practices

Anything that features an individual is generally considered a great morale builder, as people like to read about people, it gives them a sense of wellbeing and feels nice :-)

Integrating your content with other channels

This is about integrating content from other platforms and includes the following types of content:

  • Newsletters
  • E-blasts
  • Social media
  • Blogs
  • Whitepapers
  • Case Studies
  • Webinars

Twitter and RSS are great examples of two channels that can be easily integrated on intranet homepages.

Creating great content

This is a very important area, as writing content for the intranet is very different from other media.

  • Put conclusions at the beginning, get to the point in the first paragraph, then expand upon it
  • Proofread you work, typos and spelling errors will send people away from your pages
  • Use headings and sub-headings effectively - these make the text more scan-able
  • Be sure that it makes business sense - it meets organizational content objectives
  • Keep content visually consistent, this makes a users experience more consistent

There were some great hints and tips contained within this webinar. If  you're interested in learning more about creating engaging content then I highly recommend "Creating intranet content" on the Clearbox Consulting website. This is an excellent guide to doing just that!

Social factors in collaboration

I enjoy reading Michael Sampson's blog posts, even more so after hearing him speak on a couple of occasions. His latest blog post is definitely worth a read if you haven't done so already, as it looks at some of the social factors that can impact on how people work and collaborate with one another.

Enjoy!


Kent Fitness League (KFL) Race 2 @ Swanley Park

Front legs not too bad
Yesterday I took part in the second Kent Fitness League cross country (XC) race at Swanley Park. There are three things to say before I describe the race in a bit more detail.

The first is that this was my first XC race since school, where to be honest I hated XC, the second was that on Saturday night it absolutely heaved it down, which as a result meant that the course was very muddy, but apparently not as muddy as some of the cross country courses! The third and final point is that in the race briefing the organisers indicated that there was a large hummock that runners would need to climb over, but there would be some help from the marshals.

Before the start there was a very poignant moment as we were treated to a flyby from four spitfires, followed by a 2 minute silence to mark Remembrance Sunday.

Shortly after this 500 runners set off from the mass start line, this time I remember to start my Garmin, which I hadn't on my previous race running for Gravesend Road Runners. This was a three lap course and went a little bit like this.

Lap 1 - A slow start as everyone jostles for position and gets used to the soggy conditions. Some points of the course were very congested, no more so than the first hummock, where there were no marshals to help. After the hummock the course became a single track which led down into a woods, where there was definitely no overtaking, this was followed by a short hill (where I spotted a GRRAC supporter) into some more woods and then downhill into a very muddy part of the course next to the lake. Having turned around at the lake I spotted a couple more Road Runners and gave them some encouragement before a short sprint up a steep incline a right turn and the first complete lap.

Lap 2 - More of the same, but a bit quicker as the field spread out and runners began to find their race pace. I felt good during this lap and definitely gained some ground on other runners, helped by some more encouragement.

Back legs completely covered
Lap 3 - The final lap and feeling it a bit now, but trying to keep going and make up some more places (not really happening though) the final hill and no sprinting up it this time, but a sprint finish to ensure no one overtook me and DONE!

Final statistics for the race were 5.2 miles in 41:38 (8 minute miles) and a race position of 223rd out of 495 runners. Pretty happy with that, although I would have liked to have got closer to 40 minutes, but all things considered (especially the wet conditions) I'll take that and hope to improve at Race 3 which is Oxleas Wood in Eltham.

I always loved getting really muddy as the photos show, so if you're runner who enjoys getting muddy and you live in Kent then you should you get yourself affiliated with a club and get to the next XC race :-)

I hope you like the photos of my legs, you really don't want to see what my trainers look like!

The four core use cases of an enterprise collaboration platform

The Lunar core..who knew!
Recently I was fortunate enough to take part in a webinar organised by HighQ solutions which looked at the "Four core use cases of an enterprise collaboration platform" The webinar delivered by Stuart Barr is well worth watching if you're thinking about developing an internal collaboration platform.

In the webinar Stuart looks at some of the reasons why enterprises are looking at enterprise collaboration platforms. There are of course a number of reasons why the use of these tools is on the rise, not just because of the development of consumer tools like Dropbox, GoogleDrive, Icloud and the ease with which these can be used by individuals both at work and at home.

The problem of course with these tool as Stuart explains is that IT Departments don't like them, the reasons why include the following;

  • Lack of control over infrastructure
  • No visibility into information sharing
  • Security and compliance risks
  • Often blocked at the firewall

So whilst people want and need these tools and like the simplicity of the consumers tools that are available, there are some serious barriers to their adoption and how they're viewed by IT.  So instead of using a consumer tool within an organisation, organisations are increasingly looking at enterprise versions of collaboration tools. These tools should provide;

  • Enterprise-grade security
  • More control & auditablity
  • Secure private clouds
  • A choice of hosting locations
  • Single-tenancy deployments
  • ISO27001 certification

In addition to this the tools should provide options for external collaboration, so collaboration with clients, partners, suppliers and anyone who doesn't have access to your network. These are just some of the topics, which are discussed in this webinar and at only an hour long it's well worth spending your lunch break watching it :-)

Turning Challenges into Opportunities: New Directions for Legal Information Professionals

If you're interested in reading about what the future might hold for Legal Information Professionals then look no further then a Law Sites blog post called "Turning Challenges into Opportunities: New Directions for Legal Information Professionals"

In the post Robert Ambrogi looks at some of the challenges and opportunities presented by unprecedented innovation in legal technologies. Naturally with innovation comes challenges and Robert looks at some of these before looking at some of the opportunities and new roles for legal information professionals.

There are many ways in which legal information professionals can provide value and Robert's post looks at some of the roles that legal information professionals need to think about undertaking to ensure they remain relevant and valued.

The most complex job in the world?

Pretty complex stuff  - Reproduced from Wikipedia
Two recent articles have discussed the increasingly complex and I would argue difficult role of the intranet manager.

The first of these on the ThoughtFarmer blog discusses why the intranet manager can be so complex and difficult. Before discussing this blog post you might be interested in reading my blog post on a similar subject called "Tips for new intranet managers" which ThoughtFarmer link to in their post - thanks guys :-)

Their post begins by discussing why the intranet manager role is so complex, followed by a look at some of the core skills required by intranet managers. This is a very comprehensive list of attributes and is well worth reviewing if you're considering moving into intranet management or have recently become responsible for managing an intranet.

The post then looks at how social intranets have made the intranet manager role even more complex, before suggesting three ways in which you can identify any weaknesses in your current skill set. This can be very useful to do and looking at the list of attributes I can see a couple of areas which I need to develop.

The second post called "Intranet manager: the most complex job in the world" was published by Samuel Dreissen on his blog Infoarch. In it Samuel reflects on how important intranets are and how this means it requires an individual with a significant number of skills to manage them. Samuel presents another very through lists of skills and attributes required by modern intranet managers and again looks at the ways in which intranet managers can develop their skills.

These are two very interesting and through posts, which look at the complex roles of intranet managers. So if you're new to intranet management or are considering a move into intranet management then these two blog posts are definitely worth reading.

Is there a future for SharePoint?

Many organisations are using SharePoint as either an intranet or as a collaboration tool, or in some cases as both. But with the increased focus on Office 365, does SharePoint have a sustainable future? This is the question asked by Sam Marshall in an excellent presentation on the Clearbox Consulting blog which I have embedded below.

This is a really interesting and thorough look at some of the factors that are influencing the adoption of SharePoint by organisations and the future of this product.


Dartford 10 miler 2014

Last Sunday I took part in the final Dartford 10 mile race. This isn't I race I've run recently, mostly because it has been cancelled or I've been involved in other events. This year I entered it thinking it would be useful training for the Brighton Marathon in April. Unfortunately the event was cancelled (as in  previous years) and re-arranged for the 21st of September.

The re-arranged race date suited me quite well, especially as it was starting at 0830, compared to most races which start at 1000. I actually wish more races started earlier, although I appreciate that people have to travel in to attend races, so it might not be the most popular move.

In addition to this being the first time I'd run this race in a few years it was also only my second race as a Gravesend Road Runner. I was very proud to don my blue top again and set off on the 10 mile route, along with 4 other Road Runners. Now this course is described as undulating, but I think it's fair to say that the route contains two fairly significant hills. The first of these is at around 2 miles and lasts for what feels like a very long time and just when you think it's over you swing right and the hill continues. Once this hill is finished the middle part of the race is really quite pleasant and you can definitely build up some speed and a very good rhythm. Unfortunately at 9 miles you hit another hill, which lasts pretty much until the finish, but I don't think this is as significant as the first one.

So on to my splits, now this was the second time I'd use my Garmin during a race, unfortunately I forgot to start it and didn't realise this until about 1/2 a mile in :-( But I'm still going to publish my splits because I think they show how the middle part of the race is much easier than the first.

Mile 1 - 7:22
Mile 2 - 7:24
Mile 3 - 7:53
Mile 4 - 8: 03
Mile 5 - 7:50
Mile 6 - 7:06
Mile 7 - 7:26
Mile 8 - 7:24
Mile 9 - 7:56
Mile 10 - 4:14

Taking all this into account and the fact that I was trying to mentally calculate my time as I was running I was delighted to finish the 10 miles in a time of 1:15:51 and finished 126 out of 393 runners. As it happens 1:15:51 matches my Previous Best for 10 miles, which was at the Canterbury 10 mile in 2012. I think this shows improvement...I think!

This was a very enjoyable race and one that I would certainly do again, if it was run again. This is why I think it's a real shame that this is the last year that this race is being held as it's a very well organised and marshalled race, with some excellent facilities at the start and finish. So it looks like my local "middle distance" race will now be the Dartford Half Marathon, which takes place in July of each year.

Intranet Now conference!

Last week I was fortunate enough to join 100 other intranet professionals at the first ever Intranet Now conference. This was a conference that had been organized within the space of four months by Wedge Black and Brian Lamb.

I was particularly excited about attending this conference because it would be my first "un-conference" this is a non-traditional conference in the sense that attendees create the agenda by suggesting sessions that they run themselves, with input from the other attendees. This and the fact that the morning sessions were a mixture of 20 minute Keynote sessions and 5 minute ignite style sessions gave the conference a real buzz that I haven't felt at another conference recently. This has been confirmed by the very positive feedback the conference has received in the days since.

This feedback includes two write up's from Martin White of Intranet Focus (linked below) and a write up by Gloria Lombardi of Simply Communicate (also linked below)

These are well worth reading to get a feel for some of the main conference themes and the issues that were discussed. Of the sessions that did take place, there were 3 that I particularly enjoyed. They are (in no particular order):
  • 7 things about intranets I learned the hard - Sam Marshall of Clearbox Consulting
  • Intranet Features you need right now - Sharon O'Dea
  • The future of work and the digital workplace - Jonathan Phillips
I've embedded these 3 presentations below so you can enjoy them as much as I did. In addition to these presentations, there are a number of the other presentations available on the Intranet Now conference website. Overall this was a fantastic conference, which I would highly recommend if you can when it runs next year.




 

What's in a name?

It seems like it has been a while since I posted anything about intranets, so I thought I'd write a post that
covered not one but two (almost) related topics. That topic is "names" and the reason I'm posting about names is because of two (unrelated) blog posts which I've read on this subject.

The first is a post on one of my favourite blogs the Intranetizen blog and is called "What does your intranet job title mean?" In it the authors ask the blog readers to complete a survey on what their job title is and their role and responsibilities. I would encourage you to complete this survey, but naturally only if you work with intranets or other internal communication tools! It will definitely be interesting to see what the range and scope of the job titles are when the Intranetizen team publish the survey results.

The other blog post is from the Intranet Connections blog and is called "Top 6 names for intranet software" in it the author looks at some of the other names organisations have given their intranets/intranet software. These range from; internal employee website to enterprise social network. I actually think some of the names listed in the blog posts aren't actually intranets, but I totally see the point the blog post is trying to make. That is that whilst intranets might have many different names they all do very similar things and irrespective of what you call it the aim of an intranet, enterprise social network or internal communication software will broadly be the same.

Dinosaur Deal 10k 2014

Yesterday I ran the Dinosaur Deal 10k, which you wont be surprised to learn took place in a very hot and windy Deal. This was the second time I had run this race, the first time was in 2010 when I was recovering from tearing the ligaments in my right foot, having fallen over on the final bend at the Darent Valley 10k.

There are also some other notable differences between this race and the last time that I ran it, they are in no particular order:

  • I'm 4 years older
  • I've completed two marathons since 2010
  • I've joined Gravesend Road Runners AC and was delighted to be wearing my club strip
  • I knew what the course was like, undulating but with a fast final 4K
  • Perhaps most importantly I wasn't injured
  • This was my first race wearing my Garmin Forerunner 110

So a bit about the course, before I tell you how I got on. This is described as an undulating course, starting near the Scout Hut on the sea front you head along the coast towards Dover before swinging inland after about 1.5K. The route then takes you through some quite pleasant residential areas before you hit the "difficult" part of the course from 3-6K. This is series of climbs of varying degrees of difficulty culminating in a short climb that sees you come back on yourself and down a hill to run the final 4K. The final 4K is a lovely stretch of running beside the seashore, although yesterday the wind was blowing directly into our faces for this part of the race, which wouldn't have helped our times. 

So how did I get on, well first of all I started far too fast and then suffered slightly during the tricky part of the course. I did however manage to make up some time and places in the final 4K and was delighted (although a bit disappointed at the same time) to clock 48:06. This was an improvement of 4 minutes on the last time I ran this race, which I'm very pleased with. This time saw me finish 162nd out of 442 runners. Overall a very well organised race and very pleasant route, although less inclines would be nice :)

I'll have to see if I can improve on this time at my next race the Faversham 10k, which I last ran in 2009 and clocked 46:10*

*Not sure I'll be beating this in September!

Creating a successful SharePoint intranet

Have you just decided that SharePoint is going to be your next intranet, but you're unsure where to start on the implementation process? Fear not as help is on hand in the shape of this excellent presentation from James Robertson.

In the presentation James looks at the approach organisations should take, not just when implementing a SharePoint, but any intranet. So this is an excellent resource for anyone just starting out on an intranet project.

One of the key points James makes and which resonates a lot with me is the following point:

  • The work isn’t over once the coding has been finished — launch and governance activities are equally important.

I think it's essential that this is well understood within organisations, so an intranet project is not just about developing a tool and then launching it. An intranet is an organic and developing resource and as such requires good governance to ensure it remains relevant to the org


 


Are you a digital bridge builder?

I enjoy reading posts by Gerry McGovern and his latest post called "From Intranet to Net-Work: the rise of the digital bridge builder" is an interesting look at the changing role of in intranet managers and those involved in the management of intranets.

In the blog post Gerry looks at the challenges organisations face in making information in silos available to users. Unsurprisingly having information contained in silos and separate repositories will seriously hinder how well individuals can collaborate within organisations. As Gerry says in his post:
The culture of silos will hurt all data and information. It will lead to duplication, confusion, inaccuracy, slowness, incomplete information. It will become a significant drain on resources as employees waste their time navigating through many systems with different interfaces.
Gerry than looks at how in the World Cup many teams had outstanding individuals, including Argentina who made it to the final, but only one country had a team and that country was Germany. This is similar to how organisations work in that many organisations will have teams that work well in isolation (silos) but ultimately need to work in a joined up manner to help the organisation work more effectively.

This means that intranet managers and those working in the digital sphere need to work hard at linking the silos of information together. Only when the different information silos are joined up will organisations be able to work effectively as a team. For intranet managers this also means building bridges between people and content (becoming a digital bridge builder).

This is most definitely a challenge for intranet managers and those working in the digital workplace, but one I'm sure we're all open to.

What is a social intranet and how can it help your business?

Looking for a good introduction to what a social intranet is and how it can help your employees/business? Then the short video below, which was published to the IT Portal website is a good starting point.

The video "stars" Lori Williams from Appiro whose company provides a social intranet solution for many organisations.

Is there a difference between a social intranet and an enterprise social network?

Jenni Wheeler over at the "Confessions of an internal communicatior" blog has written a thought provoking post called "Social Intranet or Enterprise Social Network? Is there a difference?"

In it Jenni ask whether we should separate all the different tools we use, intranets, enterprise social networks, wikis, forums etc, as they are all effectively just part of a single online channel. I definitely agree with this, especially in the context of the digital workplace where intranets are often regarded as the glue by which other tools are joined together.

What I especially like about Jenni's post is her description of the different levels of social interaction that users can undertake on the tools that are now available.

For me, a social intranet is different to an enterprise social network (ESN). For me, an enterprise social network is an online tool that is designed for collaboration. That is about communities and file sharing and creating a space for anyone to add news and information. Content can be liked and commented on and people are able to add their own status updates and more personal details to a profile.
For me this is a great way to describe the differences between these tools, but what do you think?

Are we seeing the death of news on intranet homepages?

News on the intranet homepage is something that most organisations and many individuals expect to see as a matter of course, but a recent post on the Intranet blog questions whether news will always be on the corporate intranet homepage.

In the blog post called "The destruction of home page news" the author looks at whether activity streams will replace intranet news content. The article quotes several organisations that have replaced news on their intranet homepages with content from Yammer. According to the article "social media activity streams via Yammer are driving users to the news"

The reasons behind this move seem on the face of it very logical, given that email and other ways of delivering news were designed just to deliver content, not as organisations are increasingly doing encouraging engagement and adoption. Yammer like many social tools encourages users to contribute and create their own content, in this respect it can significantly increase employee engagement.

Another logical reason why having activity streams on the homepage rather than more traditional news content is that conversations between individuals and within the organisation are key to good communication. Social media tools, including enterprise social networks like Yammer, present a great opportunity for organisations to put conversations at the forefront of their intranet/communication strategy.

Of course the article doesn't say that intranets will be be devoid of intranet news stories anytime soon. My feeling is that Yammer and other social media sources will be used to supplement rather than replace intranet news stories.

Building a collaborative company dictionary

I love the team at Thoughtfarmer, they have an excellent looking product and are always publishing useful
tips on how to manage content on your intranet.

In addition to their blog, Thoughtfarmer publish a biweekly email which always contains tips and ideas on managing intranet content and developing your intranet. Their latest tip is to create a "collaborative company dictionary"

As they say in their email;

Most companies have loooooong lists of company-specific acronyms and industry jargon. So Oxfam America opened editing privileges on the company dictionary to all employees, while using page version histories to ensure any inaccurate changes were rolled back. The resulting comprehensive dictionary provides new employees with a wealth of information and models effective collaboration.
The results look very impressive and you can see the benefits of creating something like this. It strikes me as being especially useful for new joiners who certainly wont be aware of the different acronyms used in the organisation and what those acronyms mean. Of course an intranet isn't the only way you could create a collaborative company dictionary, wikis have often been used to create collaborative dictionaries, with Wikipedia being a great example of an online reference source.

So what are you waiting for, get out there and start building yours!

Is it time your organisation started using social tools?

Ready, set, go!
The big question many organisations are asking themselves internally is, should we be using social tools to encourage knowledge sharing and improve collaboration between teams and individuals?

Whilst there are some very good examples of organisations using social tools to great affect. There are many organisations who are only now beginning to look at the benefits social tools bring. So its not surprise that James Robertson, an world renowned expert on intranets and the integration of social tools within intranets has written a post called "How ready is your organisation for social tools?"

In his blog post James looks at how intranet teams can identify whether and organisation is ready to implement social tools. But before looking at this he discusses some of the issues that can arise from organisations implementing social tools too quickly or too slowly.

The danger with rolling out social tools too early is of course that the organisation isn't ready for them and they simply wont be accepted. On the other hand choose to roll out social tools too slowly and you may miss an opportunity to roll out social tools to a group that have shown an interest in them. Whilst it's important to carefully think about when you roll out your social tools, you also need to ensure you engage with the groups that will ensure the success of your rollout. James defines these as follows;
Leaders - who set organisational strategies and policies
Stakeholders - who own key business processes and system 
Staff - who must be active and engaged with the new social tools
As James says, "no social project can flourish without the involvement of these three groups" so you need to ensure you have their full support before embarking on a social tools project. James then looks at how intranet teams within organisations can identify whether an organisation is ready to implement social tools.

James uses what he calls a "temperature check" to identify how the various groups within an organisation feel about social tools. Rather then repeat what James has published I would recommend a thorough read of this section as it outlines a useful way to get a sense of how likely it is that a social tool will be accepted by the groups James mentions earlier in his post.

This is an excellent blog post, which I would recommend to any intranet manager who is being asked to look at social tools.

Have you got your elevator pitch ready?

The elevator pitch, something that is often talked about within organisations, but if you were in an elevator, or lift for those of us based in the UK, with someone very senior in your organisation would you be ready to pitch your intranet to them?

This is the question the team at Intranetizen ask in their latest blog post "Creating a winning intranet elevator pitch". In the blog post they take a look at some of the tools intranet managers can use to create elevator pitches.

My biggest takeaway from this blog post is to focus on who within your organisation the intranet is going to help. Simply saying everyone, even if you believe it's going to be everybody is not the way forward. In your elevator pitch you need to focus on a group or groups of individuals which will gain real benefits from using your new intranet or tool.

This is a good introduction to the elevator pitch, which all intranet managers should take a look and of course formulate their own!

Are social software pilots useful?

Jon Mell who currently leads IBM's Social Business practice in the UK, has written a very interesting blog post on whether piloting social software with a small group of restricted users is useful. *Spolier alert he doesn't think they are useful*


Now the first thing I would say is that in the two organisations I've worked in where we've used social software, both rollouts have been in response to the business asking for a tool that would solve a particular problem. So at the first law firm I worked for we were asked to find a solution that would help departments share content more easily, allow individuals to comment on it and subscribe to updates. In this context blogs were identified as the most suitable tool and we embarked on a project to implement these. Subsequent to this we looked at how wikis (on SharePoint 2007) could be used to facilitate knowledge sharing.

In my current role I joined at a time when the firm has just purchased licences to a wiki tool. This was designed to be used by departments to facilitate greater sharing of knowledge and to help project teams work more closely together. In this instance several products have been carefully considered before a decision was made based on the requirements of the business and of course a number of other factors including cost and the functionality available within the product.

In neither of these instances did we decide to pilot the social software with a small restricted group of users. In his blog post Jon outlines the reasons why he doesn't believe piloting a social software tools with a small group of users is particularly helpful. There are several excellent points outlined by Jon, of which the following I am in complete agreement with :

The more people who have access the greater the success. A social system with 2 people is less useful than with 10, which is less useful than 100 etc. You are looking for knowledge accidents so you need to increase the traffic in order to encourage ‘collisions’
Social is about systems of engagement – and removing barriers to collaboration and information flow. If you artificially limit who can connect with whom the platform will fail as you are undermining the entire premise of the system
There are a number of other points which Jon makes, but these are the highlights for me. Of course the bigger question is if you did decide to have a social software pilot, was it successful?

BIALL Conference 2014

This year will be the first year in about 10 years that I haven't attended the BIALL Conference. I won't go into the reasons why I'm not attending, but suffice to say I have looked at the Conference programme and it looks like another cracking line-up.

The "fun" starts with Phil Bradley and his keynote called "Data, data everywhere". I've heard Phil speak on a number of occasions so I know this will be an excellent keynote presentation. I expect there to be lots of questions as Law Librarians look for ways to manage the massive amounts of data that is being created on a daily basis.

The next session that I would definitely attend is Laura Woods session called "Meeting the Challenges of the Ever Changing Workplace – How to Future Proof Your Skills" Laura has written and spoken on a number of occasions about how individuals can future proof themselves. This has never been more important when there are increasing pressures on Law Librarians to deliver more for less. 

Two more sessions which I expect to be well attend and certain timely are "How Demands from Clients and Advisors are Changing the Role of Today’s Information Professionals". Client demands both internal and external are constantly changing and of course Law Librarians need to adapt to these changing demands to ensure they remain relevant and focused on providing services that offer value to the business. Otherwise they will merely be seen as an overhead and expendable.

The second session is "Big Data at the National Audit Office" from Sarah Dillingham. I've done some work with Sarah as part of my contributions to FreePint so I know she knows her stuff. Big data is something that Law Librarians in all sectors need to think about carefully as it provides some opportunities and challenges.

Interestingly a session following this Big Data talk is about how Law Librarians can help contribute to their firm's intranet. This would certainly be a talk that I would attend as Law Librarians and Information Professionals definitely have a role to play in maintaining intranet content, even if they don't manage the intranet itself. I certainly be watching this session closely on Twitter.

There are of course many other sessions which I'm sure will be well attended and provide some excellent insights and generate plenty of discussions. This is of course one of the reasons why the BIALL Conference is so valuable in that you can chat with peers about similar challenges both within and outside your own sector.

For those people going to the BIALL Conference, enjoy, it really is a fantastic experience.



#Missonmarathon the wrap up!

I've been a bit lax in keeping you all updated about my #missionmarathon experience having only written a couple of blog posts on the subject, you can read these blog posts, by clicking on the links below. So I thought it was about time I provide a summary of my experience and most importantly a report on my Brighton Marathon 2014 experience.

The #missonmarathon experience

This was an amazing prize/experience and goes to show that if you enter a competition on Facebook or Twitter you stand every chance of winning it, as long as you write a good entry. If RunLounge/Freestak choose to run the same competition next year then I'll be recommending anyone who asks me to enter. 

Missionmarathon has been an amazing experience, not only have I received some top class kit, training from some of the best coaches in the UK and an amazing experience training in the Algarve. I've also made some friends for life, especially littlerunnergal who is proving an inspiration, not just to myself but to the hundreds of runners on the #ukrunchat community. 

During the course of #missionmarathon I also discovered the #ukrunchat community. If you're a runner and haven't visited this community on Twitter you absolutely have to. Discussions take place on Sunday and Wednesday at 8pm and provide runners both new and experience to tap into a fantastic resource aka other runners!

The 2:09 training camp in the Algarve had to be the highlight of my missionmarathon experience, although meeting Phoebe Thomas at the January training day and Paula Radcliffe whilst staying at the Hilton in Brighton certainly rank very highly. In addition to fantastic scenery, including the best beach I've seen in a very long time, the training camp provided the opportunity to train and act like an actual athlete. Morning, afternoon, evening, the focus was solely on improving your performance as an athlete. I have to say having just rolled out a very large project in the days before going to the Algarve it was fantastic to be able to focus on my running again and not have to worry about answering the phone or emails. 

I put in some pretty good performances during the week and was especially happy with my speedwork on the track, my 5k time and my long run time/pace. I was confident that combined the training would help me run a sub 4 hour marathon in Brighton.

Brighton Marathon 2014

So the day of the big race was finally here and I was feeling semi-confident about my chances of running a sub 4 hour marathon. This had always been my aim when I started the missionmarathon training programme. Unfortunately in the two weeks prior to the marathon I'd suffered two minor setbacks. The first of these was an ankle injury, which I picked up on a recovery run (I'm still not entirely sure why, but I'm blaming wear and tear). The second was a throat infection, who needs a throat infection when running a marathon, thankfully I was given some strong antibiotics to help clear this up.

The night before the Marathon, 3 of the 4 marathon team met up for dinner and to discuss our plan for the race the following day. At that point in time the weather looked like it might be wet and windy and the night certainly was. Fortunately by the time morning came round the bad weather had passed through very quickly and it stayed relatively fair for the majority of the race. After what seemed like a very long walk to the start line from the Hilton hotel we arrived and immediately set about finding a place in the throng of people.

I was determined not to start too quickly and had tested all my kit including my sports belt, so that it didn't fall off, like last year. After a few minutes impatiently waiting we were off and I was soon into my stride. After about 3 miles I caught up with the 4 hour pacemaker and thought I would stick with them for the duration of the race, but they seemed to be running at a slow 4 hour pace so I made a decision (wrong decision) to not run with this pace maker. Further up the course I found ANOTHER 4 hour pace maker. Now if you're wondering why there were two, apparently there are always two for each pace. Now obviously I should have stuck with the first one I found as the second one was running 3:50 pace, which was out of my league.

This was proved right at 20 miles when I was passed by the first 4 hour pacemaker. From that point on it was a real struggle, both physically and mentally. So I was delighted when the 400 metres and 200 metres signs appeared at the side of the road. With only a few metres to go I spotted Simon Freeman from Freestak who shouted my name and I believe took a photo. It was great to see him here and it almost, okay definitely, bought a tear to my eye!

I've also forgotten to mention the support I received around the course, despite not seeing them myself several of my work colleagues and friends were on the course supporting my efforts. It's always good to know that people are supporting you and in fact after the race they said they were a bit worried about me because my pace had slowed down significantly, that will be following the wrong pacemaker and my legs blowing up at 20 miles!

When I did finish it was in a new PB of 4:14, 5 minutes faster than last year, I was very pleased with this although definitely feel like I can get closer to 4 hours. So having said this, will I be running another Marathon, yes most definitely. My experience in the last 6 months has been fantastic and crossing a Marathon finish line is definitely something I want to do again!

Is this the future of collaboration for law firms and their clients?

I'm a big fan of the solutions HighQ solutions provide to Law Firms and their clients and have been lucky enough to work with one of their products in a previous role. In additionto an excellent suite of products they also create some informative content.

Whilst I'm a bit late in sharing the presentation below. I still believe there is a lot of value in doing so. The presentation is a good introduction to some of the challenges law firms are facing at the moment and how collaborative tools (especially those provided by HighQ can help).

There are a lot of screenshots in this presentation, which demonstrate how HighQ could be used by any organisation. Enjoy!


Using the intranet to inform, engage and inspire your users - ARK Seminar

At the end of last month I was lucky enough to be invited to present and attend the "Using the intranet to inform, engage and inspire your users" seminar organised by the ARK Group.

This seminar was designed as an interactive forum where attendees could listen to a series of case studies from intranet managers from a number of different sectors. My presentation was supposed to be on "Avoiding information overload" but I deviated slightly from this theme and looked instead at some best practices in relation to content management. I also talked about how some of the key information on your intranets (People Information and Policies) could be organised. More on that later.

First I want to talk about the presentations that preceded mine and in particular Angela Rossiters presentation on how they rolled out a new intranet at Linklaters. First though we heard from the Chair of the Seminar; Chris Schilling. Chris talked in some detail about how we can ensure we deliver intranets that provide value to our customers.

In this regard intranets should be designed to serve a number of different purposes. So whilst many of them are displayed primarily as communication channels, they should also be used to reinforce the organisations branding as well as promote value through the use of Knowledge Management and Business Intelligence tools.

To get to this point Chris underlined the importance of identifying Business Strategic requirements. In a nutshell these requirements should identify "What we need to do to meet our goals" and "How do we expect to do that" There are of course detailed requirements that will come out of any new intranet project and these need to be looked at carefully to ensure the intranet fully matches the requirements and the expectations of the organisation. To complete his presentation Chris provide three takeaways, which I think will lead to a successful intranet implementation, they were;

  • To ensure your intranet is user and organisation centric
  • That technology should follow function
  • That you need to define your value proposition and track against that proposition

Next up was Angela Rossiter from Linklaters who outlined the journey Linklaters had taken to implement their new intranet (built using SharePoint). Angela provided a lot of detail around the reasons why Linklaters chose to replace their existing intranet and some of the other business drivers.

For me what was more interesting, was hearing about how they went about replacing their intranet. This started with identifying and asking key stakeholders what they were looking for from a new intranet and subsequently what the scope for the first phase of the intranet should include.

Once the scope had been agreed a strategy and roadmap was prepared, which outlined the different stages of the project and what was and what wasn't in scope. They then looked closely at their requirement list and identified those that could be done and those that would be part of a wishlist for potential future development. I should say now it looks like there was a lot of documentation involved at this stage of the project as requirements had to be documented in different ways dependant on the audience.

After requirements has been agreed, the design could start, this is where things usually get really interesting, unless you're deploying an out of the box intranet, where you may be limited to a set design/templates. Once the design was agreed, it was then time to start building the new intranet, othewise known as where an organisations vision comes to life! Once built there were several tasks that had to be undertaken, including moving content from the old intranet to the new one and setting aside a period of time for both BETA and User Acceptance Testing. The latter of these is very important and Angela recommend a period of at least four weeks for this. Once testing had been completed the intranet could be launched.

Angela then provided us with statistics and feedback around intranet usage and these were it has to be said very impressive. Especially some of the feedback the intranet team had received unrequested from users. On the whole it looks like the intranet at Linklaters has been very well received, but as Angela stressed, rolling out an intranet is only 1/2 the journey, the other 1/2 is ensuring it continues to reflect the requirements of the business and its users.

The final presentation of the day was mine, as unfortunately two other speakers were unable to attend, my talk focused on intranet content management. I haven't included a copy of the presentation here, but I'm happy to share it with anyone who would like to see it.

In the presentation I argued that effective management of content requires:

  • Processes and rules around content creation
  • Motivated and active content providers
  • The right solution/design in place to support the content
  • Owners

But in order for these content owners to continually add content to your intranet, you need to ensure they're engaged fully. There are several ways you can do this; for instance by providing them with a forum in which they can discuss issues. In my presentation I also looked at some of the ways in which People information and Policies can be displayed on intranets. This subject coult take up an entire blog post, so I'm not going to discuss it here.

It's sufficient to say that these are key pieces of information and due care and attention should be given to how you display and maintain this information on your intranet. Overall I thought this was a really informative seminar, it was just a shame the two advertised speakers weren't able to attend. Although this was most likely down to the tube strike rather than anything else.

#missionmarathon the story so far

Late last year I wrote about how I had won a place on the RunLounge Missionmarathon team. 7 weeks into the journey I thought it was high time I updated all my followers on what I've been up to as part of this challenge.

The first thing we were provided with was a training plan tailored to our experience level, which for me meant an experienced marathon training plan. Now this training plan differs significantly from my training plan last year in a number of ways:

  1. There are lots of different runs built into the training plan (Kenyan Hills, Threshold runs. Easy and Comfortable runs and of course the Long Slow Run)
  2. The Long Slow run is based on time rather than distance so instead of setting out to run 15 miles it's about spending 120 minutes on the road. This is significantly different from last year and takes some getting used to.
  3. Core work and conditioning are a key element of the training plan.
  4. Cross training is considered part of the plan as well, especially if you have a niggle or injury and aren't able to run as much as you'd like to.

Combined the plan aims to put you in a great position when you're standing on the start line at your Spring Marathon. In addition to the plan all the Missionmarathon team have been kitted out by Saucony UK. Of all the kit I received from Saucony my favourite two pieces have to be the Guide 7 running shoes, which are excellent and I'm certainly feeling the benefits of wearing these, and the Sonic ViZi Jacket. I'll be writing reviews of both of these products as they're excellent, especially the jacket, which has an excellent feature, which I may well have to video!

Shortly after receiving our kit the missionmarathon team all met up with Nick Anderson and Phoebe Thomas. Nick and Phoebe are the coaches that are going to help us achieve our marathon goals (for me that's a sub 4 hour marathon). This was an inspiring session and I took away loads of tips on training, nutrition and things to avoid doing! All the missionmarathon team are in regular contact with Nick, Phoebe and Saucony to discuss all things training.

As for my training,  this is going really well and I'm feeling the benefits of mixing up my training runs to incorporate all the elements of the training plan. I am to publish a few more blog posts about my training and of course that all important video of the Sonic ViZI special feature!

Intranet and Digital Workplace predictions 2014

It's the first week of January, so what better way to welcome in the New Year then by posting a list of predictions for intranets and digital workplaces in 2014.

Whilst I did consider doing this myself, we're fortunate in the intranet community to have a number of resources and individuals who are more than happy to do so.

Of these the Intranet Benchmarking Forum is an excellent resource and one which if you haven't heard of before contains some excellent resources and articles. One of their last posts in 2013 was a predictive one (unsurprisingly) which is well worth taking a look at in more detail.

So lets have a look at some of trends outlined in the post.

The first trend is that digital workplaces will become more robust and secure. As the post points out whilst many organisations have started down the digital workplace route, very few of them have considered how to provide access where the technology infrastructure is poor. This is something that will need careful consideration in 2014.

The next trend is that the lines between internal and external content/tools etc will become increasingly blurred. For example Royal Mail have an intranet that can be accessed from the internet. This I'm sure will be a big trend in 2014. Especially with the publication of a report called "Digital workplace technology roadmap 2014" which looks at the blurring of these boundaries.

Another trend, which will please a lot of people is that intranet managers, collaboration specialists etc, will be even more in demand! But we need to ensure we have the right skills in place in order to manage these opportunities well!

A "it seems obvious" trend is that companies who take the time to sit down with staff and train them on how to use new tools and functionality gain better adoption. This seems obvious to me, as I've said time and time again, you cant expect someone to just start using a new technology with no training or no context in which to use the new technology. Taking the time to hold someone's hand whilst they use the new technology is definitely a good idea.

Finally is the idea of "advanced intranets". These are intranets that combine, communication channels with collaboration and publishing in one place. In this way previously fragmented services are brought together into one place, significantly improving the user experience.

These aren't the only trends outlined in this blog post, but they certainly caught my eye, enjoy reading the full list and let me know what you think.