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.