Tag Archives: success

Selecting a Web CMS: Case study from Oticon

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Selecting a new Web CMS can be a daunting process, in particular at a large, complex and global company. Danish hearing aid manufacturer Oticon (3,000+ employees, customers in 100+ countries) went through the selection process using industry best practices in a 4-step process, which took a total of 7 months.

The website was a corner stone in the recent launch of the new corporate Oticon brand. A new Web CMS was needed that would better meet requirements and business objectives.

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Intranet design: Hands-on guide

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James Robertson: Designing IntranetsDoes 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 info@jboye.com 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.

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Use the intranet to HELP people: Case study from Perkins Eastman

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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.

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Is your organisation ready for the next big web technology project?

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Web EvolutionIt really does not matter what you are trying to achieve; whether implementing content management, search, portal or something “social”, the project is certain to face internal organizational challenges along the way and will require a level of organizational maturity in order to avoid complete failure. How do you figure out whether your organization is indeed ready for that big web technology initiative you are dreaming of?

Unfortunately the chosen route often turns out to be a “dead end”. Don’t expect any digital agency or other type of vendor to tell you that you are not ready to buy their solutions. Many buyers start the conversation with their vendors much too early in the process, naïvely hoping for some honest feedback. What normally happens is that the vendor challenges the buyer to define their functional requirements, while important aspects such as governance and organizational readiness are left unchecked.

If you suspect that your current agency is milking you for what you are worth, you may just be right. In fact, considering the scenarios at some of our members, I’ve sometimes thought that any other vendor or any other system would be a dramatic improvement on the status quo. Actually making the change is the difficult part.

If you are able to make the decision and change things on your own, then you belong to a tiny minority of online professionals. Most have to liaise with managers, other departments and a group of critical stakeholders often not placed in the same location. Moreover, getting the permission to go ahead with a vendor evaluation process is really only the initial and easy part of the project. The implementation is much more cumbersome and risky.

In my experience, typical indicators of organizational readiness include:

  • a sizeable team of experienced online professionals, including at least one knowledgeable manager, ideally with strong project management skills
  • a clear strategy for your online activities with success criteria and a clear vision
  • a governance model that enables you to make decisions, including how to allocate resources, set priorities, definition of roles and responsibilities
  • a few failed projects under the belt with organisational learning on how to prevent it from happening in future projects

Digital projects hardly ever come in on time and on budget. Add to that the factor that if the organisation is not ready for the change, a new technology or a new vendor could actually turn out to be a competitive disadvantage.

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Developers are the real key to success

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Janus Boye in 2000 with some skilled developers

If you don't work with great developers and know how to manage them, you can forget digital strategy, good project management, quality content or user experience design: your project will fail.

During the past months I've come to realize the importance of developers and how they are managed. In the few web projects that actually succeed, a common characteristic seems to be a combination of experienced developers and a manager that often has a technical background.

As a customer you don't necessarily need to employ great web developers, but you need to employ somebody who can manage them. The developers can be working at a system integrator or at your vendor of choice. Either way the developers need to be directly involved on your projects. If they are not employees of your organisation, you need stronger project management skills than if they are on the inside, so that you can ensure that other clients and priorities are not taking over.

Some vendors are really good with developers. Take Microsoft with their Microsoft Developer Network, which has helped spark the romance with a product like SharePoint found in IT department around the world. Among the big vendors, IBM and Oracle also both has extensive developer communities with user groups and events geared at the technically savvy. Among the smaller vendors, this is more the exception than the rule. Alterian and FatWire are examples of vendors that don't really offer much in terms of connecting with developers and a developer community, while Ektron and Sitecore are smaller vendors that have done more than most in their league.

For you as a customer this is important to take into account. It means that it is difficult to find great web developers experienced with Alterian or FatWire. It is also more difficult to convince great developers to take on an Alterian or FatWire project and learn the products, since it is far from as attractive to write on the CV compared to those vendors that treat developers with more interest.

If you have managed to pull off a success without great developers, I would love to hear from you!

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Do you have an elevator pitch for your online activities?

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Can you explain what you do online – and why – in 3 minutes? How about in 30 seconds?Elevator buttons

Web people often feel frustrated that

  • Their top management doesn’t understand the value of web
  • Their editors continually forget who the target groups for the website are
  • Their own boss thinks that updating an entire section on the intranet should take no more than 10 minutes

It can be very tiring to have to explain the same things over and over again. But have you stopped to look at how you reply and respond to people? Are you speaking their language? Could it be done in a simpler way?

The challenge of pitching the website or intranet to internal stakeholders often comes up in our community of practice meetings. Here are a couple of examples of elevator pitches I collected from a recent meeting:

Moving our printed documents online brings us two extra benefits: Speed - we can communicate and react faster - and statistics - we have useful details on how the information is actually being used. However, these extra benefits also require extra work, so making the shift is never 1-1 in workload, but rather a factor 3.

Remember that we are not making a website for you as local departments, but for our customers”.

Short, concise and goes to root of the issue, don’t you think?

In designing your elevator pitch, you can draw inspiration from some of the lessons learned about communicating with internal stakeholders, also shared in the recent group meeting:

  • Use common, every-day terms instead of fancy web talk such as “governance” and “content strategy” to avoid getting blank stares.
  • Sometimes fancy words might be useful, though, depending on your target audience. Try naming a project “process optimization”. That kind of language resonated with management for one our members, who was consequently able to get the funding he needed.
  • Think strongly about naming your project “redesign”, as people tend to think of “re-“ as brand new (i.e. a big expensive project) and “design” as pretty colours (i.e. not providing real value).
  • Say “thank you” to people when they take the time to give you their input. Even though you might think that correcting that spelling mistake on some page deeply buried in the navigation is a waste of time when you have complex projects going on.
  • Keep a public to-do-list of tasks planned for the web or intranet for the next 6 months that you can refer to when people don’t understand why you can’t correct the spelling mistake right now. When projects are completed, turn the to-do-list into an achievement list.

What does your elevator pitch look like?

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Keine Experimente

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Konrad Adenauer said Keine Experimente"No experiments" was the famous slogan used by the Germany Christian Democratic political party in the 1957 election. It remains one of the most successful election slogans of all times and helped secure a landslide victory for Konrad Adenauer.

Having spent a few years travelling around the world talking to online professionals  frustrated with failed projects, budget overruns, unstable websites, intranet downtime, vendors acting cowboy-style it seems to me that you as customers need to stop experimenting.

The solution is clearly not to continue with more iterations and perpetual beta releases. These might work well in a market with speed and constant change, but that's not what's really happening. In fact, very little has changed when it comes to online projects over the past years. The skills, user experience, strategies, planning, goals and technologies are not really changing that fast.

Instead of blindly experimenting and hoping for the best, use the vast knowledge that already exists to find tested solutions to your problems and requirements. You can tap into an endless source of inspiration by talking to your peers willing to share their lessons learned. If you are not able to find a reference for a given user experience, product or intranet application, it might be wise to wait and avoid potential first mover disadvantage.

Often vendors have been the ones encouraging experiments. They want you to buy their latest product release and change your organisational processes to fit around their software. Analysts too are catalysts for experimentations, when they invent new terms and contribute to the hype. To be fair, some customers are also capable of dreaming up grand experiments on their own. Unfortunately for buyers, most internal managers can't tell an experiment from a tried, tested and proven solution. Vendors simply can’t say no!

I'm a big fan of learning, but there are many other ways to learn than experimenting. Next time you embark on a new online project, try removing all experiments and avoid the pain. Do proper planning and remember that experiments come with risks.

NB: Thanks to Gerry McGovern for inspiration with his 2002 article on Iterative design can be lazy design

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Vendor selection in a month

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ServicestyrelsenSelecting a new vendor for a CMS project doesn't have to be a long and complicated process. In fact, one month can be enough if you don't overcomplicate things and have made the necessary preparations.

One of our customers, The National Board of Social Services (Servicestyrelsen in Danish), recently managed to get through the process in a very short time by following the guidelines described in our report Best Practices for Selecting a CMS.

Their time line was accelerated a bit, as they wanted a decision before Christmas, allowing them to get started right away in 2010. Here are the highlights from their plan:

  • (Nov. 1-17: Writing the Request for proposal)
  • Nov. 18: RFP was published on their website
  • Nov. 27: Deadline for proposals
  • Dec. 7-9: Proof of concept w. 4 vendors on half-day workshops
  • Dec. 14: Selection of vendor to engage with in a scoping exercise
  • (Jan. 6: Scoping exercise - approximately 1 week)

Note that vendors only had 9 working days to submit proposals, yet they received 17 (good) proposals.

They got through the evaluation process in a highly efficient manner, and are now ready for the implementation process which is where the actual value is generated.

The key factors allowing this to be accomplished were:

  • A short RFP: 12 pages long and contained only the most important scenarios and general project information. This allowed vendors to quickly get an overview of the request and produce a reply. For more on this, see Why are RFPs always so long?
  • Transparent evaluation criteria: By having agreed and communicated early on what the evaluation criteria were, they were able to quickly read through the 17 proposals and select the best 4 for the next step. For more on this, see No scoring methodology for CMS selections
  • Not asking for too much too soon: They only outlined the project and the key use scenarios. The detailed requirements and implementation plan will be made together with the winner in the initial scoping exercise. In that way they don't have to specify requirements and make assessments of a system they don't yet know.

The National Board of Social Services found both a system and an integrator which fitted their organisation in about a month. However they are only buying a scoping exercise to start with, so they still have the option to pull the plug if things go wrong (thus minimising the risk).

They are satisfied with the outcome and confident they have made the right choice. They now look forward to spending time and money on optimising the solution - instead of wasting it on a marathon selection process.

The winner was Headnet who were bidding with the open source CMS Plone. Congratulations to them and thumbs up to project manager Brian Bentzen (@BrianBentzen) and his team at The National Board of Social Services for running an exemplary process.

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Would you prefer to be a whale or a herring?

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killer whaleEarlier this week I met the CMS selection team at home, a Danish chain of real estate agents. While I quickly reviewed their comparative vendor sheet, I found that in between the usual plus/minus grading, they had used the metaphor of fish to describe their size and relative importance to each vendor. For some vendors, home would be a whale, for others only a small herring.

This lead to a good discussion around the pros and cons of being a big fish with a small vendor or of being a small fish with a large vendor. Which is better?

On the one hand I know many customers who have preferred being a small fish, e.g. with IBM, Microsoft or Oracle, as they deemed this a  less risky choice, both in terms of vendor stability and of applying shared experiences from other small fish they have had on their books. Naturally the problem with being a small customer in a big ocean, is that it can be difficult to get attention and influence the big vendor to move their solution in your direction.

On the other hand, as a big fish, many buyers feel they have more persuasive powers over the vendor. We have some members in our community of practice which represent more than 50% of their particular vendor's total revenue. This might make it easy to get attention, but is obviously also quite risky as the survival of the vendor more or less depends on your continued investment.

So, which scenario is best? As usual, the answer depends on your preferences. Depending on your circumstances, the ideal compromise might be to choose a large software vendor, but work with a small local implementation partner.

If I could share one serious word of advice, it would be that the past 10 years have shown that being a small fish is not any less risky than being a big fish. Many thought they were safe when they picked the now discontinued Microsoft CMS or when they bought from big CMS vendors such as Interwoven and Vignette which have recently been acquired.

Good luck in the big ocean!

Thanks to the CMS selection team at home for adding some fun to a common discussion! Thanks also to Carsten Paul at exa-online and Volker Grünauer at Wienerberger for additional inspiration.

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Rethink web content management

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sign_success_and_failureIn preparation for the web content management session at our upcoming Aarhus 09 conference, I've been thinking about the many significant unsolved challenges facing WCM. I often talk to buyers, and it is clearly still the case that project failures are far too common. Even those happy with their projects or perhaps even happy with their vendor are facing big problems, with issues such as performance, usability or migration to name but a few. Ask those paying the invoices and they will undoubtedly agree that  the web content management sphere is in dire need of improvements.

Thus far, web content management has been an industry obsessed with technology and with an agenda set by vendors. While the rest of the world focus on getting their projects to run smoothly or quite simply on surviving the current financial climate, WCM vendors are generally doing very well financially. Perhaps customers should explore ways of tying payments to actual project success?

Perhaps we need to look beyond the day-to-day issues and rethink web content management entirely if we are to make progress?

My 2 fellow session speakers and I have agreed to use #fixwcm as our Twitter hashtag to prepare for the conference session and you can see a tweet from the discussion below:

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My co-presenter, Jon Marks from LBi has already shared his thoughts: Let’s #fixwcm Before The Wheels Come Off

Whether you can make it to Aarhus or not, I invite you to participate in the discussion, either by tweeting or posting a comment a below. If you have the time, we'll be showing a live stream from Twitter at the session on Wednesday at 10:30 - 12:00 Danish time (GMT+1).

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