The four simple truths of Intranet

This month saw Investis host the first of many Intranet thought-leadership seminars. Over 45 people from 38 FTSE and multinational organisations filled the room made for 40, for what was to be an insightful if not somewhat snug gathering at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden.

In this post I summarise some of the key points discussed:

The workplace is out of date – Mike Boogaard (Investis)
I started off the event by revisiting the point I made in my last blog post about the workplace being based on a 20th century model even though we find ourselves in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Coupled to this is the reality that consumerisation of IT is raising the user’s expectations: organisations that fail to improve both their digital workplace and access to up-to-date technology risk losing their best people to the competition.

I concluded, however, that there is a huge gap between what we as organisations are ready for and what the consultants and vendors are trying to sell. In most cases organisations are simply not ready for the utopian ‘totally mobile, social and collaborative network’ and simply need to focus on connecting people with people and people to information, achieving what I refer to as ‘networked productivity’ and ‘coordinated working practices’.

The Four Simple Truths of Intranet – Mark Smith (Investis)
Rather than focus on the big business transformation piece, Mark focused on four practical ways of ensuring your Intranet is fit for purpose.

1. Your Intranet doesn’t have to be ugly!
An ugly Intranet reflects a lack of investment and says to the user that the organisation doesn’t care (…and so why should the user?). Also, as people are working more from home and remotely, it is important that entering the Intranet gives the same sense of ‘brand feeling’ as walking into the physical office itself.

2. Make things simpler
A key win for an Intranet is if it is simple to use, easy to navigate and fast at finding information. The focus should therefore be on what you can take out rather than adding things in. Intranet managers should focus on eliminating complexity.

Mark gave the example of the mobile Intranet site of the UK parliament. Developed by Sharon O’Dea (then at the UK parliament), it is focused solely on what MPs really needed when on the move. Namely, alerts telling them when they needed to go into the house to vote , maps of the parliamentary estate and of course a list of bars and restaurants. A great example of making things really simple.

3. Use technology intelligently
Technology should never be the driver of a project, but the enabler. My approach is always to take a step back from technology as this allows me to focus on the needs of the business rather than be restricted from the outset on functionality. Technology needs to be used smartly to deliver content and tools that are relevant to users. Define your objectives and needs first, then select the technology to do it.

4. Put people at the centre of the Intranet
Lastly, Mark focused on the most important part of any Intranet: the users. He made it clear that content is not king, people are. This means focusing on the activities and requirements of the user rather than publishing pages. He concluded that by focusing on the users you will allow them to become more efficient, and efficient employees lead to efficient organisations.

Integrating social collaboration within your business – Bruce McKay (Jive)
Bruce focused on the benefits of integrating social collaboration for the organisation and gave 3 practical examples: Toshiba which achieved faster sales cycle, SAP which reduced product release cycles and News Corporation which reduced multiple Intranets to one.

They achieved this by improved access to information, easy scalibility, ideation and innovation, and improved general awareness.

But the best way to get a feel for what Jive can do is to watch this great video (put your headphones on!).

Simplifying the Intranet – Paul Hewitt (Deutsche Bank)
We are incredibly grateful to Paul who gave us some of his precious time to talk about DB’s initiative to simplify their Intranet and give a practical example of how they went about integrating their social collaboration platform into the workplace.

Below I have outlined the key points that I noted down:

1. Deutsche Bank has the same challenges as many of our clients: multiple intranets, several disparate and diverse systems, out-of-date content and a desire to make use of social collaboration.

2. Clearly defined roadmap – DB had a clearly defined roadmap, divided into four phases with well-defined activities and benefits per phase.

3. Solid social collaboration business case – DB launched their social collaboration platform to a select number within the organisation and let it go viral, but prior to launch they developed a clear strategy and solid business case for the implementation of the relevant platform, and were able to measure performance against these objectives. Their key objectives (each stream split into several activities) included reduction of service costs, consolidation of the Intranet, a focus on eliminating waste/duplication of work and decommissions the total number of tools used.

Paul concluded by highlighting some of the key opportunities that he believes DB’s social collaboration platform has to offer, which included: improved findability, visibility beyond your own division, a great way of driving traffic to the Intranet, and helping people connect to management.

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I would like to thank Mark, Bruce and Paul for their time and all the attendees for making it very interactive and insightful morning.

If you are interested in receiving a more detailed presentation of the event, please get in touch.

How to avoid social collaboration failure: focus on people

I am aware that the title of this post makes a pretty big commitment to the reader, and I don’t blame you for thinking I am about to reveal the holy grail of social collaboration or Enterprise 2.0. I am sorry to disappoint you.

Unfortunately there is no definitive roadmap for success or perfect case study we can all replicate. The very nature of Enterprise 2.0 is that the solution needs to be adapted to the one thing that makes every company different: its people.

Typical,”, I hear you say, “another wishy-washy blog post that only adds to the conundrums we already face!”. Hopefully, not!

The reality is that although the solution is almost certainly unique, the approach to uncovering the solution is relatively standard. It just needs to be focused on the people. So here are a couple of key steps that should form part of your passage into the world of social collaboration, and help ensure a successful outcome:

1)  Don’t let the technology define you, you define the technology – “we want to implement platform x because our CEO went to a conference where it was presented, and he loves it” does not make a good business case! Before you select the right platform, make sure you do your homework (see #2, #3 and #4 below). Certainly do not start by selecting the platform. Take a step back from technology and resist the temptation to jump on a particular bandwagon. Most responsible vendors actually advocate this approach themselves, as failure is not in their interest either.

2) Understand the users’ requirements and needs – this is not about getting the users buy-in but about making sure that the solution actually meets the needs of the people who will be expected to use it. Sounds like a no-brainer,  right? Believe me, so many organisations still see this step as a waste of time or simply treat it as a box ticking exercise. Gain an understanding of what is lacking from the current system(s),  find out how the users are currently working (tools, devices, locations), find out what the users require to work more efficiently and effectively, and what would make their day more productive (and enjoyable!).

3) Ensure the drivers are in place – if your business doesn’t not have a collaborative culture, there is no technical solution or platform that will magically create a social collaborative environment. You need to make sure the business is ready, and that the relevant drivers are in place. These drivers are personal to the organisation and will include essential factors such as culture, leadership and technology.

4) Build a strong foundation (business case) – define the business objectives and the relevant KPIs to measure success. You need to be able to measure your solution, not just to prove you are on the right track, but more importantly to know if you are on the wrong one. The benefits of E2.0 are often intangible (i.e. more engaged employees), making them harder to measure but not impossible. Also focus on the wider business metrics. Define the end-goal or outcome  (e.g. innovation, growth, profitability, customer retention), which are measurable.

5) Pilot – the saying that ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression’ is also true within the organisation. This makes pilots so important.  They allow you to launch in a controlled environment, steer the project, make observations and adjustments, and perfect your approach before you roll-out to the wider audience.

6) Planning – “a goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). A medium and long term plan is essential. It gives everyone confidence that it is not just a whim. You need to include in your plan governance, community management, communication strategies (for senior stakeholders) and adoptions strategies (for users) if you are to succeed beyond the initial pilot or launch.

6) Identify champions – I have mentioned this various times in previous posts, but it is often under-rated or ignored completely. The whole concept behind E2.0 is that the users own the platform, provide the content and drive adoption. To make this happen you need the ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ (Rogers’ bell curve) in place. So make sure you have identify, motivated and brought on-board the key influencers, gatekeepers and leaders.

7) Clear communication – if your organisation is anything like 99.9% of the other organisations out there, your foray into launching ‘a new solution’ will not be the first the employees will have experienced. By now they probably have a multitude of tools, platforms, apps, and software systems that were, at the time, equally ground breaking as your initiative. Make people understand why you are introducing this new system, why it will be beneficial to them and set aside enough time and budget to train them and provide support.

8) There is no ‘one size fits all’ – as mentioned in my introduction, E2.0 is world where ‘one size does not fit all’. It is perfectly possible that even within your organisation you might need to consider different solutions or approaches for different departments or business units. I am certainly not suggesting implementing a myriad of platforms within one organisation. That would almost certainly end in disaster, but make sure that you introduce your new solution only to those users who will benefit, rather than forcing it on everybody.

Conclusion:

When speaking to organisations, I am glad that the conversation is no longer about ‘why’ they need to implement an E2.0 strategy. They get it now. They realise that the workforce is changing, that technology is speeding up conversations, and that social networks have altered the way we communicate and collaborate forever. The question now is no longer about ‘why?’ but ‘how?’.

Unfortunately, it is now in the ‘How?’ phase where organisations are losing their faith and where the money is squandered. In 9 out of 10 cases it is because the initiative did not have the users (the people) at the centre. Focus on the people and their needs, and you will be on your way to success. If you don’t have the resource for this ‘discovery’ exercise, get outside help. It will save you lots of money, pain and resistance in the long run.