Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday from your Intranet

I personally do not make it public knowledge when its my birthday. I get embarrassed by any fuss and am conscious of the fact that I am no spring chicken anymore. Though when I saw the following Tweet in my feed last night I thought it was a wonderful idea.

@vj2w Feel special. My Intranet is customised to wish me HB. Nice touch.

I retweeted this post and commented that I thought is was a great idea. Wouldn't be too hard to implement and it would be appreciated.

Another of my Intranet tweeps, @DigitalJonathan commented that he agreed it was a nice idea but raised a couple of relevant points.

  1. The message should not quote the users age as that could contravene European Union laws on sharing age of employees due to possible discrimination

  2. Would the Birthday greeting go all users as is the case on facebook, or only be sent to the individual?

In my opinion, the first point is a no brainer. No need to quote the age, even if it is a milestone like 21 or 40. Most people just say Happy Birthday when face to face and besides, according to stereotyping, no woman likes to be reminded of their age. Not many middle aged men either for that matter.

The second point is more interesting though. Some people love others knowing when their Birthday is while others are not comfortable with any fuss or attention.

If I was to implement such a feature I think I would go with the following scenario.

When a user is set up, their birth Day and Month ONLY is entered. Each user can edit their profile page and for the Birthday section they would have following options:

Having the option to publish a reminder to the Upcoming Events section would work similar to the same Facebook function. This would suit those who are comfortable to have everyone knowing their Birthday is coming up. It might even help employees born on the same day to connect and build better social relationships.

I gave a lot of thought as to what the default setting should be and decided on Send personal Birthday Message to me only.

I am confident that providing each user with the option to opt out of this function completely would satisfy any critics in my current organisation.

The other reason is, to be honest, even a casual curmudgeon like me enjoys being wished Happy Birthday once a year, but don't tell anyone and please don't make a fuss.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The future has already begun. Is your Intranet ready?

After reading the recent piece by @gvanleemput, Mobile Intranet - Nice to have or must have? I was inspired to put down some personal thoughts and observations.

Over the past 6 months in my organisation I have noticed a huge increase in the number of employees being provided with iPhones and iPad's for work purposes.

Our company now offers customers most of its services via mobile applications and has a growing presence on Twitter and Facebook. Around 25% of employees now use iPad's for business purposes. I am sad to report though that our Intranet has not yet been optimised for delivery on any mobile devices and we are early on in discussions on how this will be achieved.

Data obtained from Jane McConnell's Global Intranet Trends for 2011 of last year indicated that only about 7% of participating organisations were already providing Intranet information and services via smart phones and other mobile devices and 40% of Intranet Leaders were well on the way to delivering mobile services. I can't wait to see the results of this years Digital Workplace Trends 2012 and have a suspicion that the figures for mobile optimisation will have risen significantly.

One of the benefits I enjoy from presenting at Intranet conferences is the opportunity to get to know other Intranet Managers and discuss the many common problems we experience. When discussing Mobile Intranet delivery a couple of common obstacles have been:

Concerns about security of information delivered to mobile devices
Company leaders have in the past raised the issue of the security of company information delivered to mobile devices and also the security of the devices themselves. Many a Blackberry has been left in a taxi from time to time.

Delays in deciding the mobile devices to be rolled out and supported
Blackberry's ruled business as the preferred portable device for many years. It has only been in recent times that the functionality and usability of modern alternatives has become mainstream for business users.

The future for Intranets and information delivery is very exciting. Technology is continuing to evolve rapidly. Many of the past obstacles have been removed and perceived risks addressed. Mobile computing devices once seen as science fiction are now mainstream products. I believe that Mobile Intranet information delivery is definitely a must have in today's business world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dilbert on Intranets

I came across this cartoon while waiting for an early morning flight to Melbourne and embarrassed myself by laughing rather loudly in the flight lounge.

When I went to the wonderful Scott Adams Dilbert site I was delighted to find many strips on the subject of Intranets. I am not sure how Adams is able to pinpoint the many issues we as Intranet Managers face with next generation Intranets and the emerging social and collaborative aspects they are introducing but he definitely seems to have his finger well and truly on the pulse.

Check out lots of Dilbert's Intranet related strips here.

All credit to Scott Adams - Dilbert

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tips to help you gain executive support for your Intranet

There are many reasons that Intranets often lack the support of company leadership. One of the main ones I see is that the decision makers are unaware of the potential Intranets have to provide enormous value to the organisation. Another problem is that many of these benefits, like enhancing employee engagement and loyalty for example, are not always tangible or measurable.

I have had varying degrees of success in gaining support for the Intranet and it requires a great amount of passion and enthusiasm. It is not just a case of presenting a business case to the executive committee and hoping to gain approval.

There are a few things that I tend to work hard on before I drop a proposal on an executive’s desk.

Become a goto person for key people.
I like to build up a strong relationship with executive assistants. They are people who can help you get a foot in the door. Spend time getting to know them but more importantly how you and the Intranet can help them. I have had great success in the past by providing something as simple as an online local services directory. Having all the details of the dry cleaners, florists, caterers and any other services they use regularly can help make their job easier. If you can identify how the Intranet can help them work they will be more inclined to help you when you need it.

Become known to the company leadership.
I am sure you have all had to attend things like financial results presentations, product launches and even end of year celebrations. These are all excellent opportunities to get to know the company leaders and more importantly let them get to know you. You do need to be prepared for these things though. You need to do a bit of research on each executive (thank you Google & Linkedin). Learn a bit about them, where they worked previously etc. It’s
great if you can find out what they enjoy when not working (executive assistants are excellent help with that one). That way when you introduce yourself at the next informal company gathering you will always have something to discuss that you can be reasonably sure they will be interested in. At the formal presentations come prepared. Read the company annual results, have intelligent and relevant questions prepared. Sit up the front (this is a simple thing but something many people try to avoid).

Give executives some Intranet facility for them.
Again, engaging the EA can help you find out what is needed here. Some of the things I have provided are Market Analyst Reports portal, online archive of board papers, daily media monitoring service, online communication channel like a Blog or a Vlog. Its up to you to find out what they need and deliver. The reward though is that if they have a reason to go to the Intranet daily, they will start to appreciate its value.

Become a great sales person.
After spending some time doing all the previous groundwork you will be in a better position to present business cases for further enhancement and development. Working demonstrations tend to work better that just a written proposal and presentation. For example if you want money and approval to roll out a collaboration suite across the organisation, try and mock up an example site and scenario that helps the audience visually understand how collaboration can work and what benefits it can offer. Most importantly, keep your demonstrations or presentations short, simple and relevant to your organisation.

There are some organisations that are just not open to innovation or change and even the most passionate and driven Intranet Manager has trouble selling the Intranet and themselves however there is never a reason not to try.

On many occasions I have gone ahead and implemented changes and developments without gaining formal approval. Some have worked and some have not. I do like to follow the advice of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper "If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologise than it is to get permission".

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dynamic and Intuitive Intranets

Am really looking forward to presenting at the Dynamic and Intuitive Intranets event in Brisbane Australia on 23rd November 2011.

When initially asked to participate I had planned to present on the importance of good and clear governance for Intranets however on receiving the proposed line up I saw that Simon Rawson from Microz Australia had claimed a session on "Responsible governance: who owns your intranet".

So I decided that having two governance sessions in one day definitely runs the risk of putting delegates to sleep. So instead I decided to develop a session on Social Media Integration. I will be exploring how to go about determining if there is a need for Social Media on your Intranet and if so how you might successfully implement integration and obtain user buy in and acceptance.

I will also be participating in and Interactive panel discussion on "Proving the value of your Intranet". I know this is something many of us Intranet Managers struggle with and hopefully we will be able to explore how others have approached this requirement.

I am always happy to visit sunny Queensland however the clincher for me was when I saw the event was being chaired by the lovely and very knowledgeable Rebecca Rodgers one of my good friends from Step Two Designs. Rebecca and I first met when we both presented at the same conference in 2007 so the Dynamic and Intuitive Intranets event will be like a bit of a reunion for us.

Dynamic and Intuitive Intranets
Good Governance / Search & Content / Identify & Change
23-24 November 2011
Mercure Hotel, Brisbane, Australia

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sharepoint explained by Common Craft

I have always been a huge fan of Common Craft and their ability to make videos to explain new technology trend in simple and easy to understand ways.

This one is all about how Sharepont can be used in a business to make communicating and collaborating easier and more efiicient.

No need for more of my waffle. Check out the video and you will see what I mean.

People often feel overwhlemed at work and tools like Sharepoint can help
manage and organize all the messages, document and calendars in one place. This video focuses on these key points:

  • How information overload keeps teams from being productive

  • How Sharepoint helps to solve this problem by creating home for a team's collaboration

  • How a team leader uses Sharepoint to identify team members, create a home for projects documents, calendars, etc.

  • How the team can use Sharepoint to find resources that prevent them from having to reinvent the wheel

For more excellent videos visit Common Craft. You can follow them on Twitter @CommonCraft.
View the original posting for this video including full transcript here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Social Media @ Work - Must See Video from Red Sky Vision

I have watched this video through at least three times and passed it onto more people than I can remember. The video quality and production is fabulous in itself though more importantly the content is just so good. If you are an Intranet Manager and having a difficult time explaining the value of Social Media to your companies decision makers and holders of the purse strings I would urge you to show them this video. It explains in clear and simple terms how these technologies are being used right now and why it is important to seriously consider how you are going to exploit the use of Social Media in your organisation. Things move very fast these days and you do not want to be left behind.

There is disconnect between how immersed and digitally connected employees are outside of the workplace, and how their internal communications are being delivered. On the ground, employees are still posting printed communications on the water cooler when they can be engaged, led and informed via the latest digital channels.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Posting Emails as Intranet news items - Just because you can doesn't mean you should !

I had an unusual incident happen the other day which reminded me of the need to keep content management training content and resources up to date.

In my organisation I have a group of about 30 employees across the business who are trained as content managers and have the ability to create, maintain and publish content to the Intranet. All of those people are also able to create and publish news items to the front page.

I always recommend that content managers create news items in HTML format using the templates and tools I have provided for them however it is also possible to publish items that have been created in Word, PDF and PowerPoint format.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a news item appear regarding some changes to IT services and was very surprised when I clicked link and after a short wait, Microsoft Outlook started to open.

One of the resourceful and obviously time poor content managers had published an email they had received from their manager as a news item to the front page of our Intranet. I quickly contacted the publisher and explained that there are many reasons why emails should not be published as news items.

The primary issue with this practice is that our email system runs on Microsoft Exchange. That means that all emails on desktops & notebooks require outlook to be running before they can be opened. That slows down access timed considerably for those in the office but for those in the field using VPN it frequently grinds to a halt.

The second reason is all the non essential texts contained in an email. Subject and date stamp details for a start, but there is also the addition of Email addresses for sender, receiver and all cced. This additional content is not aesthetically pleasing, not needed and not very secure.

Since this incident I have had to revisit our training and reference documentation and also the training provided for Intranet content managers. I never thought that I would have to not only provide details of what file types are suitable for publishing online but also what file types should not be used. Just proves that you never stop learning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Get a free copy of the Digital Workplace Trends 2012 Report

Because Intranets are inside an organisations firewall it is difficult for Internet Managers to keep abreast of what other organisations are doing in their Intranet space. Jane McConnell's annual Global Intranet Trends report fills that knowledge gap.

In the last survey over 400 companies participated resulting in a snapshot of Intranet trends and strategies from around the globe for 2010. I was personally interested to discover how many organisations were testing the social intranet waters and the Global Intranet Trends Report 2011 provided me with the detail I was looking for.

Jane does a comprehensive job of preparing each years survey and report and the consistent result is an invaluable and relevant reference for every Intranet Manager in any sized organisation. Get a taste from the 2011 report here.

If you are an Intranet Manager and would like to get your hands on a free copy of the Digital Workplace Trends 2012 report all you need to do is join up to participate in the survey and Jane will send you a personalised link. The 45 minutes it takes to complete the survey is time well spend as you will be referencing resulting report you receive for the next 12 months.

The more participants the more beneficial the results so join up to participate today and help make this the best Digital Workplace Trends report yet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sites about Intranets - Platforms & Resources

This morning I received a Google Alert titled Top 10 Sites about Intranets and I expected to see all my favourite sites listed and although there were a couple of sites that I used, most of my favourites were missing.

The source was a site called Xmarks a bookmark synchronisation application which once installed registers and aggregates the bookmarks of all its users browsers. The currently narrow cross section of users of this application results in less than comprehensive results when searching for sites about Intranets. Having said that, the results are not bad and will only improve if take up of the Xmarks application grows.

It has prompted me to provide you with my list a few of my favourite sites about Intranets.

Step Two Designs
Headed by James Robertson @s2d_jamesr Step Two Designs provides vendor-neutral consulting and mentoring services on all things Intranet. The site contains a plethora of free resources in the way of fact sheets and articles. It also hosts the Column Two blog that James authors and I would advise all Intranet Managers to subscribe to the Column Two feed.

NetStrategy JMC
Jane McConnell runs this site for her Digital Workplace Strategy & Governance consulting firm. It also hosts her must read blog and is the home of the annual Digital Workplace Trends survey (formerly the Global Intranet Trends survey ). I have participated in the survey since it began 6 years ago. I encourage every Intranet Manager I meet to take part in the survey each year and as a reward receive a participant copy of the report. You can read a review I did of last years report here.

Prescient Digital Media
Intranet Consulting firm with many years experience in Intranet planning, consulting & strategy. Prescient Digital Media is headed by Toby Ward @tobyward who has been a twitter friend of mine for some time. As well as publishing excellent Intranet related articles and videos to the site there is also an excellent Intranet Blog with lots of valuable Intranet Information.

Worldwide Intranet Challenge
Run by another of my Twitter friends and fellow Aussie Andrew Wright @roojwright the Worldwide Intranet Challenge provides a wonderful service to allow your organisations Intranet to be benchmarked against others across the globe. This site constantly provides valuable reference material and insights into issues that face modern Intranets and the people who manage them.

Intranet Experience
Another essential blog to follow is Intranet Experience authored by Sean R Nicholson @seanrnicholson. Sean is one of the leading commentators in the current hot topic of Social Media on the Intranet.

Intranet Connections
Intranet Connections is an out of the box all in one Intranet software solution and although they have a product to sell they still provide oodles of valuable Intranet information and opinion for free. The organisation is headed by the wonderful Caroline Douglas @carolyndouglas and yes she is another of my valued twitter friends. The frequently updated Intranet Connections blog consistently delivers value for Intranet managers in any sized organisation.

There are many many more wonderful sites out there to help you stay informed and up to date with everything Intranet and the above are just a sample to wet your appetite.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Usability Testing - How many users should you test?

One of the last presentation sessions I attended at Intranets 2011 was by Step Two's Rebecca Rogers @rebeccarodgers titled "How do you find out what staff need?".

Rebecca is a specialist at performing user needs analysis for organisations so I was keen to attend her presentation and I was definately not dissapointed. When Rebecca came to discussing Usability Testing I raised the question of how many users should be tested and referred to Jacob Nielsen's well known Alertbox article from 2000 Why you only need to test with 5 users.

The discussion that followed raised many differing opinions. Some were of the view that the research performed by Nielson & Landauer was specific to Internet Web sites & not for Intranets. Others maintain that 5 users was definitely not enough and that testing 20 users minimum was more appropriate.

My experience tends to agree with the research (now nearly 20 years old) that recommends testing 5 users at a time provides the best insight into an Internet or Intranet sites usability problems.

The Nielson posting explains the reasons why 5 users is enough:

"As soon as you collect data from a single test user, your insights shoot up and you have already learned almost a third of all there is to know about the usability of the design. The difference between zero and even a little bit of data is astounding.

When you test the second user, you will discover that this person does some of the same things as the first user, so there is some overlap in what you learn. People are definitely different, so there will also be something new that the second user does that you did not observe with the first user. So the second user adds some amount of new insight, but not nearly as much as the first user did.

The third user will do many things that you already observed with the first user or with the second user and even some things that you have already seen twice. Plus, of course, the third user will generate a small amount of new data, even if not as much as the first and the second user did.

As you add more and more users, you learn less and less because you will keep seeing the same things again and again."

This does not mean that you stop at 5 users. It merely means that you perform testing with 5 users. Attempt to fix all the issues arising from these user tests, then test again with the next group of 5.

I have found that using this method of testing, fixing and testing again makes the most of everyone's time and resources. My experience in using this method has demonstrated that by the time you have tested 4 groups of 5 users you will have identified around 90% of usability problems.

Of course careful consideration needs to be given to selecting which users to test. It is best to choose from a wide variety of employees, each with varying degrees of computer skills and diverse roles in the organisation. You need to try hard to ensure that the broadest range of employees as possible participate from the Executive level to those in call centres, outlets and on the road. This is also highlighted as an important consideration in the research.

"If, for example, you have a site that will be used by both children and parents, then the two groups of users will have sufficiently different behavior that it becomes necessary to test with people from both groups. The same would be true for a system aimed at connecting purchasing agents with sales staff."

I have always found usability testing to be fun and enlightening and while not everyone would share that view it is still an essential exercise that all Intranet Managers should carry out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Intranets 2011 - What a fabulous event.

What a wonderful conference. I was lucky enough to be asked to present myself which I must say was a little intimidating due to the high standard of speakers. The presentation line up and the way the event was organised was excellent so I just had to share some of the experience here.

Some of the many logistical touches that made this event special.
  • An espresso coffee cart. So much better that the usual coffee served at these events.
  • No delegate folders that rarely get opened after the conference. Instead a conveniently sized little booklet was provided that contained the presentation schedule, speaker bios that included the Twitter name for each speaker and plenty of room for notes
  • Free Wi-Fi for all - Fantastic
  • Power boards on each table meant notepads and iPads stayed charged for the entire event.
  • Smartphone charging station was a great touch that I took advantage of twice.
Then there was the excellent lineup of speakers. I was very excited to meet Jane McConnell for the first time face to face after dealing with her for 5 years online and she was as lovely and interesting as I knew she would be.

I was very impressed with Michael Sampson's live blog posts. He captured the essence of the sessions he attended as they were happening and posted them immediately. Great effort.

And then there were the excellent presentations. I have never been to an event that provided such a wonderful lineup of knowledgeable Intranet professionals.

My only disappointed was that I was unable to attend every presentation due to the dual stream format and deciding which session to go to was very difficult.

Here are a few of the presentations from the event that made it so special.

James Robertson (Australia) @s2d_jamesr
As blogged by Michael Sampson

If you would like to see a few more of the speaker presentations they are available Here.
Thanks to Step Two for making Intranets 2011 happen. I don't know how you will top this next year but I can't wait to see what is in store.