Intranet screenshots & Insights from the leading edge of intranets

Earlier this month I listened to a Step Two webinar called Intranet Screenshots & Insights from the leading edge of intranets.

For anyone not familiar with Step Two they are an Australian company that help plan and design online solutions for organisations and their employees. Their focus is on delivering intranets, but they have a lot of experience with UX, different technologies, collaboration and the digital workplace. In addition to this Step Two organise and present the Intranet Innovation Awards. This was the focus of this webinar to some extent as we were treated to a deep-dive into Gold Award winner Robin Partington & Partners intranet.

Before this deep-dive James Robertson outlined what the webinar would cover and there were 3 broad themes:

  1. How to deliver the digital workplace
  2. Intranets blurring inside and outside
  3. Design leading to success

Sadly I didn't take a huge amount of notes during this webinar, but I did make some notes in relation to how to deliver the Digital Workplace. So an important point that James made was that any organisation thinking about implementing a Digital Workplace, really needs to think about the concept first and what is it that they're trying to do. Also whilst the Digital Workplace might be easy to define, the journey to a fully fledged Digital Workplace is actually very difficult. This is because there are 3 streams involved in any Digital Workplace journey:

  1. Technology stream
  2. Business stream
  3. Design stream

Understanding the importance of each of this and how they all work together is crucial in ensuring organisations deliver an effective Digital Workplace. 

Sadly that's all the notes I took from this webinar as there followed a deep-dive into the Robin Partington & Partners intranet as well as loads of screenshots from some of the other winners. I'm hoping that Step Two will make the recording or presentation available from the webinar, but until they do this is all I have :-(

However James recently spoke at the Intranet Now conference in London and his presentation from this conference looks very similar to the one he delivered during this webinar, so I have embedded this below, for you all to enjoy!

Making social collaboration work - MWD Advisors conference

On Thursday the 15th of October I attended the Making Social Collaboration Work masterclass, MWD Advisors. Through the power of Twitter I was lucky enough to win a free place, so was looking forward to hearing from other practitioners on how they were implementing social technologies. This was the first event MWD Advisors had ever hosted and I have to say I was very impressed right from the start.

Venue and Facilities

The venue for the Making Social Collaboration Work masterclass was the Wallspace event space in Clerkenwell. Not only was it a convenient location, but the conference started with a free breakfast! What is there not to like about a conference that starts with a free breakfast, apart from my ever expanding waistline. After breakfast masterclass attendees moved down into what was called "The Den" but was essentially the basement, despite this it was a well lit and very welcoming space, with more free tea and coffee, sweets, biscuits, chocolate bars, cans of coke and even Irn Bru in the fridge! I think I was definitely distracted by the sweets!


Back to the important stuff and the agenda. This was a mix of case studies and some interactive sessions, which are always good to keep attendees awake and engaged. First up was Angela Ashenden from MWD Advisors who provided an overview of the key drivers and some of the challenges facing organisations that are thinking about implementing social technologies. Below are some of my notes from this first session.

Better collaboration = a better business

  • Better sharing of knowledge
  • Driving innovation
  • Connecting distributed teams
  • Building better relationships

What does it mean to be collaborative?

  • Networked and non-hierarchical
  • Open, honest and trusting culture
  • An engaged and valued workforce

How to get there!

  • Organisational support and leadership
  • Strategy and purpose
  • Technology alignment
  • Governance and community management
  • Adoption management

Top 3 challenges

  • Getting senior level buy-in
  • Expanding adoption beyond the early adopters
  • Convincing the middle management layer to engage

A key takeaway from this first session and something that Angela stressed was that social collaboration is about more than just a technology in other words building or implementing something and then expecting people to use it just isn't going to happen!

The next session was delivered by Kim England of Pearson who talked about how they were using Jive to mobilise colleagues and drive change across Pearson. This was a really interesting look at their 5-year journey, which highlighted how important it is to engage with senior leaders to help drive adoption. My takeaways from this sessions were as follows:

  • Transformation within organisations can take time
  • You (or senior leaders) need to lead by example
  • Two way engagement is critical

The next session was delivered by Sheila Parry who looked at how to build a business case for social collaboration. One of the first things that Sheila discussed was what the outcome was when people started working together in a more connected way, the following should all be positive results:

  • Reduced duplication of effort
  • Reduced time wasting
  • Improving difficult processes
  • Making isolated workers feel less isolated
  • Reducing silo thinking

After a very pleasant lunch (curry) we hear from two more speakers about their collaborative efforts. The first of these was Virginia Henry who I have heard speak before. Virginia talked about how her organisation (UnLtd) was using Igloo to provide a collaborative workspace for her users. UnLtd were using Wikis a lot to facilitate collaboration including allowing users to post news content on to the homepage of the intranet! This looked like a truly social intranet, which had a significant role in the on-boarding of new joiners. The final speaker was Katherine Jones from Springer Nature, Katherine spoke about how Macmillan who have recently become part of Springer Nature were using Jive to create a collaboration hub to unify a merged company. This was a really interesting case study and according to Katherine they are having to do it all over again since Macmillan education became part of Springer Nature in May 2015. 

Overall this was a very interesting day, full of some very practical advice from individuals who had already rolled out collaboration tools as well as some interesting discussion among the other attendees. For even more analysis of the event I would recommend Angela Ashenden's blog post on the MWD website. This post include sketch notes from the event, which I think are fantastic!

The Digital Workplac​e: Can your Intranet do M​ore to Drive Engagement?​

Are you?!
Earlier this week I attended a Brightstarr event called The Digital Workplac​e: Can your Intranet do M​ore to Drive Engagement For anyone who hasn't heard of Brightstarr they are an award winning "digital design company" that works with Microsoft products to build intranets; usually using SharePoint on-premise and SharePoint online/Office 365, although they have recently started using their own product Unily to provide an intranet as a service to organisations.

Taking place in the Barbican Centre the event started with an introductory session from Martyn Perks called "What the hell is the digital workplace". At the start of the session Martyn asked attendees to indicate using "Ready steady cook" style cards whether they knew what the Digital Workplace was. Surprisingly a significant number of individuals in the room were already aware of the Digital Workplace, but of course that didn't stop Martyn from finishing his presentation. At several times during his presentation Martyn referenced external sources, including significantly a reference to the Capita Employee Insight Report 2015 which provides insights into how employees think and as a result how organisations should develop their digital workplaces. Martyn's session concluded with a definition of the Digital Workplace, which I may have noted down incorrectly, but was something like "The Digital Workplace is about unifying how your business communicates and collaborates using a core set of tools". An intranet should of course play a major role in any organisations Digital Workplace, which is reassuring for intranet managers around the world.

The next session was delivered by Anna Maslanka who showed how the different technologies Microsoft has made available to organisations, could be used to develop a digital workplace. It was very interesting to see the sheer number of tools that Microsoft has made available and the extent to which they are being used by organisations. However my favourite take-away from this session was the acknowledgement that the gap between what users are used to using outside of work and what they have to use whilst in work is huge and that teams working within organisations need to try and close this gap. This makes perfect sense to me as users within organisations expect to be able to use the same tools in work, that they use outside of work.

The next session was a case study from Merlin Entertainments, which looked at their deployment of a new intranet. This was an interesting session for two reasons. First was that Merlin Entertainments focus seemed to be on making the intranet fun (which is a reflection of their vision and values) to the extent that they have a fun-meter on every page to indicate how much fun the content is. I'm not quite sure how this would work with something very dull! The intranet they had built did look really great and I'm sure it would be a pleasure to use, but I have to wonder about where all the boring but essential stuff would be published. The other interesting aspect of this presentation was that they had only designed the intranet for desktops. Now given that a large percentage of Merlin's staff are likely to be outside you would assume a mobile site would be essential, but apparently not. According to the Merlin representative this is a technical limitation of the technology they are using, which was a bit odd given that they were working with Brightstarr so it was presumably SharePoint or Unily, the latter is more likely in my mind.

Following a short break the final session of the day was a panel session, which included Marc Wright from Simply Communicate, the Internal Communications Manager from the Marine Stewardship Council, the Communications Manager from Envigo and an Account executive from Microsoft. This was a lively session with some very interesting questions taken from the floor about how to get over the barriers to adoption, what tools the panelists saw as being key to the delivery of the digital workplace and lots more!

If you are interested in learning more about the Digital Workplace and the technologies that support it then the slides from the seminar are available.

Leprechauns and Donkeys - The Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon 2015

On Sunday the 11th of October myself and two of my club-mates from Gravesend Road Runners ran the Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon. The last time I ran this half marathon was in 2010 when I stumbled round the course in a time of 1:57:58. I really enjoyed it despite a slow time for me and pledged to run it again in future.
Finished and very happy!
Fast forward 5 years and this time around I was confident I was going to beat my time from 2010 for 3 reasons. Firstly and mostly significantly was because I believe I am a much better runner than I was 5 years ago. Secondly I had had the benefit of undertaking some speed sessions so I knew I was running relatively quickly and finally because the route had changed because of the cycle superhighway works. The latter reason might seem small, but the route no longer took runners over the bridge at Westminster and as anybody knows, bridges go up and then down and then up again when you have to turn around and that counts as a hill in my mind!
Before I get to the race report I think it's worth mentioning the hellishly early start for this event. I was up at 5.30am and in a taxi at 5.55 to get a train from Dartford to London Victoria at 6.38 with a number of other runners including one runner who thought they were running a marathon. I had a slight moment of panic at the though of having to run 26.2 miles not 13.1. I was also joined on the train by a significant number of Irish Rugby fans who were travelling to the Ireland vs France game in Cardiff. These fans included two who were dressed as Leprechauns, their banter certainly woke me from my slumber as the train inched its way towards London Victoria.
At Victoria station I met up with one of my club-mates and we slowly made our way to Hyde Park where the race started. It was at this point we parted company as I went off to meet some of the team from the Brooke Animal Hospital who I was running for. After a quick photo opportunity (photos from the day are on the Brooke Facebook page) and good wishes I dropped my bag off and made my way to the Green start funnel.
For anyone who hasn't run the Royal Parks 1/2 marathon before this is one of the biggest 1/2 marathons that takes place in London with approximately 16k runners taking part. As a result they have to have a phased start with the elite runners starting approximately 2 and 1/2 minutes before the rest of the field. As I was in the green funnel I crossed the start/finish line at about 9.05, which wasn't bad considering the number of runners both in front and behind me!
The course itself is unsurprisingly chocked full of London landmarks from the 3 Royal Parks you run through to the Mall, Trafalgar Square, Aldwych and many many others. Unfortunately I was too busy trying to keep to my target pace to notice them all, but they were definitely there! After 5k I was just about on target for a 1.40 finish (which is what I was initially aiming for) but I needed a boost, which is why after 6 miles, having run around Aldwych and the Mall you re-enter the parks and the crowds really swell! After 10k I was still on target for a 1.40 finish and was looking forward to see Team Brooke at Mile 7 and Mile 10.
It's hard to describe the feeling when you hear people cheering your name and encouraging you to run, but it's definitely an emotional experience and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

At mile 7 I spotted Team Brooke and went in for high fives all round, which was fantastic. Then things went a little bit wrong, whilst the course went down hill at this point I noticed that  Mile 9 - 10 was up-hill and my brain flipped out a bit, to the extent that I ran a 9 minute mile between 9 and 10. Fortunately I crossed the 10 mile mark in 1.16 which meant I was still on target for a 1.40 finish. From there it's just a Parkrun to the finish so I gave it all I had (probably) and crossed the line in 1:39:44. I was absolutely delighted with this time, which is only 40 seconds slower than my HM PB so a new PB should soon be on the cards!
This is a really well organised event that takes in some of London's most iconic landmarks. If you get the chance to run it then I would definitely recommend you do so!
As you will have read I ran for a charity and really enjoyed both raising money for them and being able to spend some time with them on the day, including having a post run massage!