“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Keats was certainly not thinking of intranets when he wrote his famous poem. But today’s intranet managers do face many questions related to the aesthetics of their platform: How important is it for an intranet to be ‘beautiful’? Will it increase adoption? Will it increase employee satisfaction? Or is it just one of those many ‘nice to haves’ for which there is no time and budget left after all the important functional stuff has been developed?
In my opinion, design aspects are becoming more important, but are still secondary to good functionality. You need to get the fundamentals right first!
New hires are an important category of users when you are (re)designing your intranet. It pays off in many ways to identify them and to make sure they are well represented throughout the design process. You may also want to introduce specific KPIs for them, or at least track their performance against overall KPIs separately.
Foursquare has been labelled a social networking revolution and has brought location-based services onto the radar for many online professionals. Unfortunately beyond New York City adoption remains limited and in all but a few business-to-consumer cases, meaningful usage scenarios can seem few and far between according to sceptics.
For a sound reality check, I did a Q & A session with Martin Risgaard Rasmussen, a member of our community for web and intranet professionals. Martin works as intranet webmaster at Swedish-Danish dairy giant Arla. He has used Foursquare for a while and below he shares his interesting perspective on the application, which includes some fresh thinking on how it might impact on intranets.
Telekom Austria Group recently re-launched their intranet and were one of the very first customers to use the new HTML5-enabled Aloha Editor from Gentics. I've previously warned about first mover disadvantages, so I had a brief conversation with Telekom Austria Group to find out more about their project, their experiences with the new Aloha editor and any useful lessons for other online professionals.
The English-language intranet plays an important role for the 16,000+ employees at Telekom Austria Group. I spoke with Daniela Sattler from corporate communications at Telekom Austria Group, who told me that they have been working with local CMS vendor Gentics for almost a decade and also use their CMS, Content.Node for their existing websites.
If you don’t take action, intranets keep growing until they reach a state of unmanageable chaos. To avoid this, and to avoid the consequential significant negative impact on productivity, financial services company SWIFT used a combination of employee interviews together with card sorting exercises to combat the problem.
As a project manager for the recent redesign, I focused on rethinking the information architecture of the entire intranet. This meant re-grouping things together in a new and logical way, which would make sense to the employees.
Based on the five-rings motif of the Olympic movement, intranet expert Martin White offered practical and very useful advice for all intranet professionals in an inspiring session at the recent KMWorld 2010 conference in Washington DC.
With the London Olympics fast approaching, Martin shared his views on what intranet professionals need to do to prepare and get their act together during 2011. His 5 Olympic rings had the following headlines:
- Supporting teams
- Establishing performance standards
- Using sprint development approaches
- Discovering hidden talent
- Overcoming potential hurdles.
Apart from some highly relevant anecdotes touching on among other things French weddings and snooker, the presentation included helpful slides, illustrations and examples to explain each of the headlines. Particularly interesting was Martin's view on how support from "T-shaped managers" are essential for making collaboration work. A T-shaped manager in Martin's view is somebody with department "depth", but also a breadth of experience and a good reputation across the organisation.
Another takeaway for me was how the business environment is changing due to the mobile revolution. Highly mobile employees present a new set of requirements, and with a show hands, only 1 in the audience had yet developed a mobile persona for their intranet.
Finally, Martin concluded with a set of "Action This Day" points, including getting rid of content that has no value, using search logs as a powerful diagnostic tool and being a champion of information management.
An intranet “killer app” is a service that drives staff members to the site, and keeps them coming back. Something so essential, that you can’t live without it in your daily work.
As such, they can have a positive effect on the rest of the intranet. Even the killer intranet applications that are not directly business-focused can play a vital role in promoting the intranet to staff and stakeholders.
To identify your killer apps, you could do a simple exercise. Ask yourself, what would happen if the intranet was deleted. What important tasks would be impossible (or much harder) without the intranet?
Some typical examples of intranet killer apps, that I have collected from our groups of intranet professionals, include
- Phonebook: What is John's number? Who else can I contact if he is not there?
- Locations and room booking: How do I find John's office? What meeting rooms are available?
- My forms: Where do I find forms for travel, vacation, education?
- Dynamically updated KPIs: How is our organization doing right now in relation to the strategic KPIs?
- Sales per hour: What are the sales numbers for our stores? How does my store compare to the rest of the chain?
- Financial reports: What do I need to know as a manager?
- Project management tools: What is the status on my project? Who is assigned to which tasks?
More unusual – but nevertheless useful – examples include
- Workflow for new employees: Imagine if everything could be ready the first day the new employees goes into work; computer, passwords, phone, newspaper subscription, etc.
- Having what’s relevant for you on the intranet sent to your inbox.
- A help section that is the place to go for all manners of support, from obtaining system passwords to getting a light bulb changed.
For much more on intranets; not just killer apps, but all the other aspects of running one, check out our intranet groups in Europe and the US or attend the intranet conference track at the J. Boye conference in Philadelphia in May.
What are your intranet killer apps? How did you first identify them? What are you doing to promote them?
Does your intranet suffer from a heavy navigation, an unintuitive user experience and an over-abundance of information? If the answer to this is yes, a redesign is probably high on your long list of priorities. But before you sneak off and call your local digital agency, I would encourage you to read Australian intranet expert, James Robertson's new book Designing intranets: creating sites that work.
With it's practical guide to intranet design, the book should be a mandatory stop for all intranet professionals if a redesign project is in the pipeline. Sydney-based, but frequently globetrotting, James is one of the world's most knowledgeable people in the intranet space and we have often had the pleasure of learning from him at various J. Boye events. He is known for his no-nonsense, direct way of highlighting things - a style that has been skillfully transferred to the page in James' new book.
Through a myriad of valuable real-life examples and expert insights James provides a methodology which is just as effective as it is easy to understand and pick-up. What I particularly like about the book is how strategy and organisational buy-in are stressed as being extremely important for a redesign process. If these things are not carefully handled, success will be very hard to achieve. The book is full of these best practice insights and tips, so besides a practical guide to intranet design you will also get a rich resource of general intranet must-knows.
In short, I can warmly recommend Designing intranets: creating sites that work. The price for the 275 page book is just $60. Bear in mind what a redesign project realistically costs; an excellent business case right there!
If you are a member of J. Boye's groups, you can get a 10% discount on the book (and all James' other books and reports). Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a discount code.
For much more on intranets; including all the many aspects of running a complex one, check out our intranet groups in Europe and the US or attend the intranet conference track at the J. Boye conference in Philadelphia in May.
I bet one of the important goals for your organisation’s intranet is to 'help employees'. However, as an intranet manager you may be struggling to come up with tangible, measurable ways for the intranet to do just this.
Well, how about taking that goal literally? Use the intranet to provide easy access to help and support.
Much has been said and written about the importance of key figures – also in relation to intranets. Intranet managers are expected to constantly produce and provide ”relevant and up-to-date key figures” to management in order to document their every activity and essentially justify their existence.
Moreover, many intranets are being used to publish key figures and information, allowing employees to follow important developments, such as monthly results and sales- and customer- figures This can result in an awful lot of time being spent on gathering and following up on key figures – even though the often sparse resources may well have been better spent on other things.
Key figures do have their place, but your intranet would undoubtedly be even better if you also got a grip on the following points:
- What is the strategy: What is it really for? Should the intranet be a shared cultural platform? Is it an electronic phone book or perhaps a platform for collaboration? Regardless, do let the strategy take priority over the figures; use the strategy to identify which key figures you actually need and follow up on how the intranet meets the strategic goals and objectives.
- Regular management reports: Produce something like an A4 page describing progress and reporting on the overall direction. Any noteworthy developments and thoughts on future expectations. Include a short script with expected milestones and key dates for the next couple of quarters.
- How is the intranet being used? Only very few intranet professionals take the time to continually involve and engage colleagues and talk to them about their intranet experiences. What works? What could be improved? What doen’t work full stop?
- The greatest risks: Many things can go wrong, and it is not a great feeling being the one with whom the buck stops if the intranet starts playing up. Make a list of the greatest risks as you see them and update it regularly. Under each risk, include a description of what is currently being done to handle / prevent the known risks.
- Technology and vendors: Those 2 points appear near the top of most risk lists and tend to eat up large chunks of both time and budget. Remember to examine what’s behind the various products and vendors / suppliers. Do you have good, well-working relationships and a stable operation? Will you have to change or upgrade CMS in the near future? Allocate time to develop internal competencies and skills so you don’t end up relying on external suppliers and so you can competently and confidently challenge your partners.
These things clearly all take time, which often implies that you need the agreement and support of management. Interviewing employees about their use of the intranet for example is an exercise with no easily demonstrable outcome or benefit – at least not in the short term. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine how to create a better intranet without knowing and understanding how the employees are using it in the first place.
Last, but not least, remember to make your work with the intranet enjoyable and fun. Leave openings and room for colleagues, departments and good ideas to live, develop and thrive within the web workplace.
The intranet today has a unique position as a tool used across departments and serving a multitude of purposes and needs. Key figures in themselves don’t contribute to improving internal dialogue and workplace welfare. We need more intranet professionals who are willing to challenge the status quo and not just continually refer to stats and figures if we are to make better use of the intranet and really reap the potential benefits of its existence.