Showing posts with label Intranet. Show all posts

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.

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!

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!

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.

Intranets in the spotlight!

It seems like there have been a lot and I mean A LOT of articles published about intranets recently. A lot of them have been very interesting, but a few in particular have caught my eye.

The first of these is "Closing the Gap between Intranets and Websites" in this article the author looks at how intranets are beginning to push the boundaries of design. This is demonstrated by the latest Intranet Innovation Awards and the cutting edge design used in some of the winning entries. There really are some very interesting designs demonstrated in this article and if you're an intranet manager looking to update your intranet, then it's well worth reviewing these.

Another article on Intranet design published recently is "Intranet Visual Design: Does Your Intranet Need To Be Pretty?" In this article, the author consider how important it is for your intranet to be "pretty". I wont ruin your enjoyment of the article by saying whether intranets should be pretty or not, but suffice to say I believe visual design is an important element of any intranet.

Two recently published articles from the the CMS wire website look at some emerging trends in intranets. The first of these "Social Intranets, the Lemming Curve and 'Down With People'" discusses whether social intranets are designed primarily to support collaboration and discussions between individuals or whether they're designed to support the work that individuals do, to make them more efficient. You could argue that social intranets are actually designed to support both people and the work they can do. In fact I think it's important not to get too obsessed with your social intranet only serving one particular purpose. I'm certain most intranet managers will agree that intranets actually server a number of very distinct purposes.

The last and perhaps most interesting article is one called "What's the hottest trend in intranets" which looks at the concept of ICE. Intranet, Community and Extranet and how the hottest trend in intranets is to deliver these three elements on the same platform. As the article outlines combined the ICE elements provide "provide holistic engagement, reduce development and software costs, and simplify user experience for employees and customers alike." Whilst it might seem odd to incorporate all of these elements within an intranet, the author explains why it make sense to do so.

Your intranet is one facet of an overall collaboration platform that extends through and beyond the walls of your offices. Organizations should evaluate their technology and software based on its ability to manage all three types of “ICE” sites using a common set of tools, shared content repositories and infrastructure.
I like how the intranet is described as a "facet" of business collaboration and as providing effective solutions for employees. That should certainly be the aim for ALL intranet managers, but it's not easy to accomplish. If you're interested in an introduction to some of the concepts that you should aim to introduce into an existing or new intranet then this article is well worth reading.

So it has been quite a couple of months for intranets, lets hope 2014 continues in the same way.

Interaction Intranet Conference 2013

At the end of last month I was lucky enough to attend two fantastic conferences in the same week. The first of this was the Social Media in Large Enterprises (SMILE) Conference, which I'll write another blog post on. The second conference was Interaction Intranet Conference, which took place at 200 Aldersgate Street.

This is the 3rd year I've attended this conference, having previously attended in 2012, and 2011. The quality of this conference always impresses me and it seems to be getting bigger and bigger, with more than 250 intranet professionals attending this year, which made a change of venue again this year.

The conference is a veritable smorgasbord of the biggest and brightest talent in the intranet marketplace, including, Michael Sampson, James Robertson, Rebecca Richmond, Martin White, The team from Intranetizen, Sam Marshall and many many more!

The first session of the day was an excellent presentation from Michael Sampson on Collaboration on the intranet. During the session Michael looked at some of the issues organisations face when thinking about how they're going to encourage collaboration and some of the ways in which intranets and other tools are facilitating collaboration. It was definitely interesting to hear about the many tools that are available to organisations, which can be an issue in itself, and the approaches that some organisations have taken.

Michael also talked passionately about what adoption requires and what success ultimately means. So successful adoption of a collaborative tool will need at least some of the following:

  • Executive sponsorship
  • Embedded champions
  • Real life scenarios (rather then personas)
  • User groups
  • One to one coaching
  • Training

In terms of success, ultimately it will mean the following:
  • Cultural alignment
  • Information on what is happening
  • What some of the scenarios for engagement are
  • Making it "real" for people

The next presentation was from Genevieve Potter of Bauer Media. Genevieve explained how she had managed the rollout of a new intranet in her session called "The intranet survival guide" there were some useful tips in this presentation from Genevieve including a slightly contentious incentive to give content editors extra days holiday if they created a certain amount of content. This was widely discussed both during and after her presentation. Right at the end of her presentation Genevieve list her 5 top tips, which were:

  • Find the magic bullets
  • Planning v execution - it's important to spend longer on the finer detail
  • Find out what makes your team tick - so that they undertake what you've asked them to do
  • Great design will always pay back
  • Make your intranet impossible to ignore - make it open when an individual logs on

The conference then split into 3 streams at which point I chose stream two, which included the following presentations; Rebecca Richmond talking about the shift from engagement to empowerment. James Robertson, who I'm a big fan of then talked about what makes a successful intranet team. James gave his five top tips for intranet managers on how to deliver a great intranet, they were:

  1.  Always have a to-do-list. Intranets have to continually evolve and develop, so you should always have a list of things you're going to be doing, now, in the next 6 months and beyond this. This means you can say to management > this is what we have planned.
  2. Spend more time with the people that count. This was an interesting point made by James and one that I'll definitely be taking forward. In essence James was making the point that you cant deliver effective solutions for staff you haven't met. You have to get out there, meet people and understand the reality of things on the ground.
  3. Give yourself time to succeed. This was another interesting point with James saying that an intranet managers time should be split as follows: 40% of the time developing new stuff, 40% of the time running the intranet and 30% of the time developing relationships.
  4. Do work that makes you a hero! Again another interesting point with James saying that we should forget about all the stuff that happens in the background. Intranet managers need to be front and centre at all time and do nothing that doesn't give you more credibility!
  5. The final point was to celebrate success. The intranet is a marathon not a sprint, so if you get the opportunity to should about something successful then you should do so.

After lunch the sessions continued apace, with two huge names from the intranet, collaborative world. The first of these speakers was Andrew Wright from the Worldwide Intranet Challenge. Andrew took us through the results of his latest survey of intranets. There were some very interesting results in this survey and it's worth reviewing these on the interact intranet blog.

The second speaker after lunch was Luis Suarez, Luis spoke passionately about the work he has been doing at IBM on their intranet and collaborative solutions, as well as the workplace of the future. Luis's presentation is available on the interact intranet blog and I would encourage you to view it as it's excellent. Sadly I then had to leave what was yet again another excellent day of learning about existing and future intranets.

If you want to read a more detailed summary of the second day of this conference then there is more detailed blog post available on the Interact Intranet blog, including presentations from some of the speakers.

Do intranet managers need to be technology gurus?

A while ago I read a post on LinkedIn asking whether intranet managers need to be truly technology savvy. Sadly I cant find the post anymore, but it got me thinking about whether intranet managers need to REALLY understand technologies and be truly technology savvy and take a hands on approach to their intranet. Or whether they just have to have an understanding of technology and need to be hands off and have a more strategic role.

Intranet managers need to be hands on!

To truly understand the intranet you're managing surely you need to be immmersed in it on a daily basis? There is a good argument that says an intranet manager should be the central point for ALL content additions and changes. If this is the case then all content can be checked for quality and any errors corrected before they appear on the intranet. The intranet manager then knows where every single piece of information resides on the intranet right, how valuable is it having an intranet manager now?

Intranet managers need to be hands off!

One of the arguments against intranet managers spending their days continually editing intranet pages is that the individuals who understand the content and therefore how it should be displayed are the people in the departments or offices who use it on a regular basis. In my mind there is absolutely no point in an intranet manager publishing content for another office, because they don't work in that office. So they don't understand how the office works and how the content that is being published helps people working there. Whilst you might think that managing an intranet would mean a lot of editing of content, in reality for intranet managers it doesn't. Yes developing a content strategy is an important part of an intranet managers role, alongside other tasks like, managing the technology, establishing a good intranet team, enhancing collaboration, managing ongoing projects, marketing the intranet and continually enhancing the user experience.

It depends on your role

I believe a lot of the day to day work intranet managers undertake will depend on the type of role they have. If they're managing a team then their role is going to differ significantly from someone who is working on their own to manage and develop an intranet. If you're lucky enough to be working in an organisation that has a large intranet team, then you're likely to have delegated content ownership either to the team or to the wider organisation. If this is the case then the intranet manager will be focused on managing ongoing projects that help improve the intranet.

It also depends on the technology you're using

If you have an intuitive content management system that individual editors are able to use with very little or no guidance from an intranet manager then your role is going to be significantly different from an intranet manager who is having to hand write HTML code, or struggle with a less efficient method of publishing content to their intranet.

There are a lot of factors that have to be taken into account before you can say YES an intranet manager has to be technology savvy. What I will say is this, in the early years of an intranet managers career it's important to use and understand as many content management systems and web based tools as possible. So they they have a broad understanding of the intranet solution market and the different tools that are available. As careers advance it's less likely that an intranet manager will be as hands on. I appreciate this isn't eloquently written, so if you're looking for more background on this subject, why not have a look at some of the links below.

[Photo credit - Hand in Hand from Flickr]

A 3rd way to build an intranet

If you're an intranet manager looking to upgrade or replace your intranet you usually have two choices when it comes to new products:

  1. SharePoint 2010 or 2013
  2. Another Content Management System (CMS) that offers similar features to SharePoint

So the question asked by Jesper Bylund in his blog post "Our third way intranet" is whether there is a different away to build an intranet that provides all the functionality of SharePoint but without the overheads and development time of SharePoint, but that also offers the flexibility of a bespoke CMS.

According to Jesper it is possible to do this by combining the functionality contained within different products. In his blog post he outlines the ways they have addressed their business requirements using a number of different tools. So in order to facilitate blogging they started using Wordpress. When individuals started asking for Wiki functionality on the intranet they looked at Mediawiki. Using these best of breed tools meant that Jesper's organisation was able to provide functionality that their existing CMS didn't support, without having to go through a long search for a replacement CMS.

In his blog post Jesper also outlines the other benefits that have come from integrating best of breed solutions within the existing CMS. They are that:

  • Having seperate tools embedded within the intranet means the best tool is available at all times
  • Using open source tools saves on development time and costs
  • The tools could be swapped in and out relatively easily
  • The open source tools can be updated by 3rd parties more easily then updating the entire intranet

Jesper has included some screenshots in his blog post, which are well worth reviewing to see how he has integrated tools like Wordpress and Mediawiki.

50 ways to a better intranet

Hello and welcome back to my blog! I know it has been a while, I could rattle off a number of excuses but I wont, instead I'll get right back into blogging by talking about this post on "50 ways to a better intranet" on the Worldwide Intranet Challenge blog.

In the blog post Andrew Wright, looks at some of the ways in which intranet managers can make their intranets "better". Andrew groups these into the following tasks, which are then looked at in more detail:

  • Finding information
  • Completing work tasks
  • Interactivity (staff contributions)
  • Performance
  • Look and feel
  • Content
  • Maintenance (governance)
  • Other
  • - See more at:
    • Finding information
    • Completing work tasks
    • Interactivity (staff contributions)
    • Performance
    • Look and feel
    • Content
    • Maintenance (governance)
    • Other

    I'm not going to say much about the list of tasks and the sub-tasks apart from that it's a very good list for any intranet manager who is new to their role and is looking at how they can improve their intranet quickly and effectively.

    I was interested to see that Andrew included creating a "best bets" lists. This is something we've looked at the past, but haven't yet implemented. Whilst best bets can be useful, they can take a lot of work to implement and you need to ensure you speak to all potential parties about what items should appear at the top of search results.

    If you haven't already then I definitely recommend you have a look at these 50 ways in which you could improve your intranet.

    Can intranets "go bad"?

    Is it possible for an intranet to bad? Yes definitely is the short answer. Understanding why is more difficult to answer, but one of the most common reasons for intranets going bad is that content becomes outdated and nobody takes responsibility for updating it.

    This issue is discussed in the blog post "Why intranets go bad - set it and forget it" In the blog post the authors look at why intranet teams often spend a lot of time during an intranet upgrade ensuring content has an owner, but once an intranet has launched responsibility for content sections can often be neglected or forgotten.

    The authors argue that whilst a decentralised published model might work initially, over time it will break down as individuals leave departments and with is responsibility for updating content. The answer the authors suggest is to put in place the idea of delegated ownership of intranet pages. Frpm the blog post:

    "Delegated ownership differs from assigned ownership in that the responsibility is bestowed upon an individual or role temporarily but ultimately remains with a core group. Delegations can be open ended and long term but the ultimate responsibility still remains with the central authority. So when the person to whom the ownership has been delegated changes roles, goes on long-term leave or leaves the organization, authority automatically returns to the core team, who then decides who takes over. This central group is also responsible for ensuring adequate training and support are available"

    Whilst this sounds like it might work, in practice it does mean that there is a lot of extra administration for the central intranet team and if that is just a team of one then this extra administration could quickly become very onerous. I'd be interested to hear what other people think?

    This blog is just one in a series of four posts on "Why intranets go bad" on the non-linear thinking blog, the other posts, which are well worth reading, are:

    The curse of intranet quick links

    I'm a big fan of the the work the Intranet Benchmarking Forum (IBF) does, although sadly the organisation I work for isn't large enough to become a member. Anyway the latest posting on their blog is about something very close to my heart, which is the very tricky subject of intranet quick links and the best way to do them.

    Intranet quick links are designed to give "quick" (the clue is in the name) access to resources and applications that are used regularly. Whilst this is a great concept they suffer from a number of issues as outlined in the blog post on the IBF blog;

    • The list is too long - The worst possible thing you can do is present a list of useful and essential links to a user and for them to see that it's 4 pages long :-(
    • The links aren't quick - Quick link would indicate that when someone clicks on it they go there "quickly". If the link goes to another page where another link has to be clicked then it's not a quick link.
    • The link is ambiguous - If it isn't obvious what is going to open/display when the link is clicked on then the link is a failure. The label attached to a link should be clear and make it obvious what is going to happen (as with all other links)
    • Links are unpredictable - To cut a long story short, don't chop and change what your quick link points to, this will just confuse your users.
    • They're quick, but are they useful - If you have to add a new quick link to your intranet, check that it's actually going to be used. If it's only used once in a blue moon by less then a 1/4 of the organisation then it probably shouldn'y be in a quick link list.

    Having looked at some of the problems with intranet quick links the blog post then provides some examples of and best practice in relation to intranet quick links. I'm impressed with the examples provides in the blog post and even more so with the best practice suggestions, which include the following:
    1. Choose links by popularity
    2. Link directly to applications and forms
    3. Let users add their own links (if your CMS allows it)
    4. Provide roll over explanations

    There is more information and best practice tips in the full blog post. Also if you haven't already I highly recommend registering for the Digital Workplace 24. A 24 hour tour of amazing intranets and digital workplaces.

    Going social - word of mouse

    No mice were harmed in the writing of this blog post

    Earlier this week I listened to a recording of a very good webinar from the team at Interact Intranet and specifically Nigel Williams and Sara Burgess.I haven't linked to the webinar here because I don't believe it's publicly available unless you registered to attend the webinar.

    The title of the webinar "Going social - word of mouse" is as you will no doubt have noticed a play on the phrase "word of mouth" and a reference to a soon to be published book by Marc Ostrofsky called "Word of mouse" Word of mouse looks at how we're all immersed in technology but are "sleepwalking" through it's impact. So for an intranet manager this might be that they have a fantastic tool at their disposal but they need to find ways to make their users aware of it's existence and how valuable it is rather then just let them sleepwalk their way through their use of it! This is especially true with social intranets, which aim to engage people more and encourage users to add content and collaborate with other users. So what are some of the things intranet managers can do to encourage these behaviours?

    So the first thing Nigel and Sara reminded us was that going social isn't just about deploying a technology and expecting individuals to use it.  If you're planning on going social then you need to think carefully about individuals behaviour and what it is they might want to get out of a social intranet. So it might be that you're trying to:

    • Connect people with content
    • Connect people who have created content with similar content
    • Connect people based on similar needs

    Unfortunately a lot of intranets don't fulfill their potential to connect people with content. So the question is how can intranet managers encourage users to visit the intranet and improve their intranet experience. There followed 10 useful tips from Nigel and Sara for intranet managers and intranet editors.

    1. Only upload a document if you really have to. Intranet managers need to encourage their editors to create flat HTML pages that mean their users stay in the intranet rather then open Word, PDF or Excel documents.
    2. It's also important to remind intranet editors that their content should be constantly evolving. It's great that individuals are prepared to publish content to the intranet. But it needs to evolve as do the conversations about it.
    3. People buy from people. Show faces and include a photo of authors on a page.
    4. Intranet page titles should where possible be short and sweet. This is important as you don't want to tell users the whole story in the title. You also don't want to be amibguous, between 2 and 9 words is ideal.
    5. Page summaries should never repeat the title. These should add more detail and tell people what the document is about.
    6. A key point is that plain text is not engaging. Instead use videos and pictures to make the intranet page more engaging and interesting.
    7. Avoid using jargon. This is very important as jargon will kill your intranet. If you have to include jargon then do so in a glossary or abbreviation list.
    8. Making your content searchable is very important. In practice this means making your metadata great. So keywords and a the summary should always be indexed by your search engine.
    9. Knowing what technology your audience is using is an important factor. As difference tecnologies will potentially take lonnger to download pages and content. It's also important to consider remote workers and those individuals who might not have access to a PC.

    This is useful advice and there are of course inherent dangers in not making your content and useful and as easy to read and understand as possible. The biggest danger being that users don't use your intranet or don't value what is in it. The old saying goes that if you put rubbish in (the rubbish being intranet pages)

    Having great content within a great tool will help get your business talking, which can only be a good thing.  Overall this was a really interesting webinar, if you get the chance to attend a Interact Intranet webinar or event then based on this webinar it will be very worthwhile.
    [Photo credit - Cat & Mouse from Flickr]

    How to sell an intranet redesign to your boss!

    A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to listen to a webinar from the team at Prescient on how to "sell" an intranet resdesign to your boss or management team. Toby started out by saying that the intranet business case should be about more then just ROI. The intranet business case should weave a complete story and outline the cost benefits, the ROI and the opportunities created/problems solved by introducing a new intranet or redesigning the existing one.

    Identifying the problems/requirements

    This is a multi-stage process and will usually involve one or more of the following:

    • Gap analysis
    • Identifying business requirements
    • Identifying user requirements
    • Benchmarking

    Once you understand what you need to do, you can start to think about how you're going to deliver the plans and design. This will involve a number of the elements listed below.

    • Strategic planning
    • Governance
    • Functional planning
    • Business Case
    • Metrics (KPI's)
    • Social media utlisation
    • Information Architecture
    • User experience (Design)

      Why intranets are important

      Managing an intranet you can often forget what it is that makes an intranet important. So when selling an intranet to management it's important to always to keep the following reasons why intranets are important in mind:

      • Intranets can help recruit and retain staff
      • Intranets can help increase productivity
      • Intranets can engage employees
      • Intranets help knowledge workers productivity

      Metrics for selling

      Stressing the following intranet values, will also assist with your pitch:
      • Streamlining business processes
      • Improving operational efficiences
      • Enhancing communication and collaboration
      • Reducing the cost of internal business units
      • Improving and supporting sales
      • Increasing sales

      Unfortunately much of the value derived from an intranet is latent, intangible and softer, which means it can be hard to show how important it is. Here is an example of this using a real life tool. So we all understand that the telephone and email are vital for business and we'd never query these tools nowadays. Intranets are much like telephones in this respect, much of the value is unseen and not measurable, but it is inherently understood by individuals. There are of course many benefits to intranets, these were discussed at some length by Toby and included the following:

      • Hard cost savings
      • Increased sales
      • Increased productivity
      • Competitivenes
      • Application Access
      • Collaborative features
      • Onboarding

      Toby then discussed how ROI in relation to intranets is really about selling the benefit and when you're selling an intranet redesign to your boss, you really need to put your sales hat and game face on! Toby also stressed the important of measuring as much as possible and to be aggressive when doing so. Ultimately the more you put in the tougher it is for your boss to say NO!

      Toby then looked at some examples of companies that had looked at some alternative ROI methods. These include looking at the ROI from Web 2.0 service as well as the ROI from wikis and social networking tools. Finally Toby outlined 6 killer reasons for redesigning an intranet, they were:

      • Customer service
        • Improve sales
        • Wikis and blogs can reduce customer service calls
      • Executives need it
        • 94% of executives said that they use the intranet for communications
      • The competition is doing it
        • They're retaining and attracting staff as a result
      • Add tacit and explicit knowledge to a sea of context
        •  Will make individuals more effective and increase sales
      • New hires expect it
        • Employees under 40 use social media everyday. They expect the company that employes them to do the same
      • Non-conformers
        • There is not much you can do about these individuals, who don't care what you think. You need to sell to EVERYBODY else!
      This was an excellent webinar from Toby Ward and Presceient and it has certainly helped me identify what we need to focus on, if we were to ever think about redesigning our intranet.