Sprints, leaps and baby steps – What it takes to make an intranet strategy work.

May 13, 2013

Next week I’m speaking at Intranätverk – the newest star on the intranet conference sky. Kristian Norling has done a remarkable job of putting together a great lineup of speakers mostly from Sweden but also some notable people from around Europe. Kristian promises to bring a twist to the regular intranet conference and I am happy to play my part in making this happen.

My talk will be about intranet strategy and how we at Grundfos have been quite successful with a more sustained model but now find ourselves faced with a challenge. It will not be about Sharepoint although there IS new version out there which is awfully hard to ignore. Heck, just last week I walked though Copenhagen Airport where Microsoft banners lined the security check area. I’m sure there are a whole bunch of jokes that can be made based on that but I’ll leave that up to you J

A new Sharepoint – that also means that whenever intranet peers meet it doesn’t take very long before the conversations turns to the topic of this new version. Sometimes it makes good sense to upgrade but all too often this is done simply because an eager and very tech focused intranet manager wants the newest version. An even more common scenario is that the IT department tells the intranet team that they will now upgrade to the latest version as a part of the overall strategy (or some other reason) with no questions asked.

Let me always having the most recent piece of software is NOT a strategy. It’s an operational thing. Even if it is labeled as a strategic ambition, it is an incredibly stupid one! Strategies need to be made around what the platform – be that the intranet, record management system or something else – can help your colleagues, the users, achieve.

What about the scenario where the USERS are the ones asking for the new version of a given platform? It is not at all a common thing so I was really surprised that when Grundfos announced that the entire company should move to MS Office 365 I was approached by quite a few who excitedly asked “when are we getting Sharepoint?”. Why was that?

The answer is buried in the fact that our intranet is more than 10 years old. It is grown with the company and with the needs of my colleagues but more importantly, it has grown INSIDE the organization and little heed has been given to the outside world since our intranet was – and is – doing a good job. We are in a situation where we have had great success growing our intranet with the company to serve the needs of our colleagues but if you compare to what’s going on elsewhere it is clear that what started as a small discrepancy – a hairline fracture – has now grown into a big crevasse and we now need to prepare to take a big leap.

This is obviously a very daunting task but nevertheless one that has to be done. If we fail to do so people will start looking elsewhere. In Grundfos we have seen a spectacular uptake on the use of Yammer which I think is excellent but it also underlines my point that although a sustainable development model is the best way forward you inadvertently find yourself in a situation where radical change is needed. It’s a fact of life!

So how do you create an intranet strategy that work? My answer is short and simple: Make sure that you always grow with the company. Users hate surprises but every once in a (great) while you need to take a great leap forward to catch up otherwise people will be leaving. Most importantly you should never, ever stop listening to what your customers really need and it is NEVER “the latest version of SharePoint”…

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If you are interested in reading more about my thoughts on the development gap that I have outlined here, I hope that I’ll see you in Gothenburg. If not, you can take a closer look at the J. Boye blog where I wrote a blogpost titled “Mind the gap – also when developing your intranet


IntraTeam Event 2013 – Personas, Yammer, and power in social networks

March 13, 2013

Normally I publish a brief review of the events I attend on this blog but this time is slightly different. The Intranetizens were not able to attend this year’s event in Copenhagen so I was asked if I could step in. No problem. Thus this year’s review of IntraTeam Event is published under the seemingly inconspicuous alias “Guestblogger” and you can find it by following this link:

IntraTeam Event 2013 Roundup

I also had the honor of doing a brief presentation about Yammer in Grundfos and judging from both the popularity on Slideshare but also on the testimonials from the other delegates it went very well. If you are interested in the presentation you can find it embedded below and you are of course more than welcome to contact me if you would like to know more about our Yammer journey in Grundfos.

Yammer – from 0 to 1500 in three weeks from Martin Risgaard

The first rule of Sharepoint is…

December 4, 2012

You do not talk about Sharepoint! I’m sure there are many other Fight Club related quotes to be said about intranets and platforms but the one mentioned here is very appropriate for my experiences from two conferences in the past month.

I have enjoyed the privelege of speaking at J. Boye 2012 in Aarhus and Intranett 2012 in Oslo and what stood out at both events was that technology is no longer taking center stage when you talk about intranets. Until very recent you could not attend an intranet event without half of the presentations were either about social media orSharepoint. Now we are talking about search, user experience, content strategy, etc. – why this change?

Part of the explanation is maturity. The technology platforms that intranets are built on have come of age and it is no longer common to hear of big migration projects or big bang launches (the latter, I find particularly good). The platforms now develop more consistently and continuously which makes the need to perform the “quantum leaps” of the past much less. Another part of the explanation might just be that many companies have been forced to prioritise differently due to the struggling economy. This means that you need to make ends meet and use what you already have.

The other big part and also the big upside is that the user is now in focus. It’s now about efficiency and productivity and to achieve this you must focus on the user experience. In my opinion this is indeed great news for both the end users but also for intranets in general.


Mind the gap – also when developing your intranet

October 29, 2012

It happens – more frequently than it should – that you meet an intranet manager with a somewhat disgruntled look on her face when you start talking about how their intranet is doing. More often than not this is because they are in the middle of a big redesign or a big upgrade to the next version of the intranet platform which ought to be good news. But often it is just one more in a long line of intranet projects which historically have been testing the patience of the intranet team – not to mention the colleagues.

The big problem is that the intranet is too often seen as a project. You may have a nice intranet vision that talks about how your intranet will be the one place above all and must support the business goals and strategies. So, I ask: Since when did it become a business goal to always use the latest version of SharePoint?

Read the answer and the entire post on the J. Boye blog – Posted ahead of the J. Boye conference in Aarhus next month where this will be the topic of my talk. I hope that I will see you there.


Continuous measurement of intranet user satisfaction – Can it be done?

July 3, 2012

Measurement and user satisfaction is something that all intranet people think about now and again me included. I have been running satisfaction surveys for a couple of years and although these big, annual surveys have produced very useful results I have thinking about a more continuous measurement of your intranet and how this can be done. I was introduced to the idea of Net Promoter Score which inspired me to think whether it was possible to create something similar for intranets. To explore this further I posted the following question in three LinkedIn groups.

“How do you continuously measure intranet satisfaction?”

I got some very good and insightful feedback from the group members and I will try to summarize and conclude in the following.

First of all the concept of Net Promoter Score where you ask users one and the same question will not work well for intranets. Firstly, the people in your target group are left with little choice where to go for information. You may have a fragmented digital workplace but the employees are still ‘forced’ to use what’s put in front of them. Secondly, you will be asking the same people the same question over and over expecting different results and that’s not very likely to happen.

Several contributors pointed out that people are fed up with surveys and pop-ups. I even blogged about what I have dubbed ‘survey fatigue’ so I cannot agree more but if we don’t ask, we won’t know.

After reading through the discussions I have discerned two themes which could be relevant for continuous measurement.

1. KPI Quesions
The key is to make these relevant to the organisation and to the purpose of your intranet. If you have an intranet strategy and/or purpose in place, this should be fairly easy and this sbould also enable you to find the Critical Business Requirements which you can base your questions around.

2. Feedback analysis
This obviously requires a structured method for collecting feedback. A great way to do this could be to team up with your helpdesk. This will allow you to create a sentiment analysis of the incoming feedback which will provide an insight into the atitude towards intranet and it may even tell you something about the organizational mood at any given time.

Inspired by the omnipresent feedback tabs on websites the two mentioned above could be combined in a quick questionnaire like the one below where I have assumed that the Critical Business Requirements are to be able to find up-to-date information quickly and easily, and of course that the intranet is relevant for the employees:

The obvious downside of the KPI measurement is that does not give you any pointers as to what areas you specifically need to address if you need to improve. I have some concerns that a generic satisfaction KPI will be just ‘for show’. It doesn’t provide anything but small clues as to what to change in order to improve, and it does little to justify why and where you need to invest time and/or money in developing your intranet. That said, I also believe that if you have a professional intranet team they are very likely to know exactly what levers to pull and buttons to push in order to improve, and by running the continuous analysis you will not have to wait for the annual survey to adjust your efforts.

In addition to this, I can’t help but think that if the Intranet community could agree on three benchmark questions we would have a way of comparing what we do. Intranets are sufficiently similar when it comes to the purpose of having one, yet different enough to create a need for bigger surveys and benchmark studies like they do at IBF or WIC. You still need those to get specific details on WHAT and HOW to improve your intranet, but for a quick comparison, the concept of an “Intranet Satisfaction Score” could still be useful.

What do you think? Will it make sense – let alone be possible – to have this kind of metric?

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A special thank you to Martin White, Nigel Williams, William Amurgis, Nicolas Lethbridge, and many more for sharing insights thoughts and resources in the LinkedIn discussions. Among these resources I’d like to mention two in particular: A Metric Model For Intranet Portal Business Requirements and the Intranet Management Handbook


The Engaging, Social Intranet

April 4, 2012

How do we *do* social? In our wiki? In the document management system? …or do we just buy Chatter/Yammer/SocialCast? These questions are being asked in many organisations – my own included – and the answer is not always easy. Truth is we *do* social where it makes sense. It’s not about the tool, it’s about the context.

What about the social intranet? Personally, I’m not too fond of the term as it indicates that we need something new. A new intranet. This may very well be the case, but I find it much more important to look at when, where, and most importantly why people should use the social features on your intranet.

Chris McGrath and Ephraim Freed from Canadian ThoughFarmer have written a very interesting white paper that dives a bit deeper into what a social intranet is and what it can do for your enterprise. Among other things, they advocate that HR need to take a lead role in making companies more social and the workforce more engaged. I agree that HR is a vital player due to the fact that they reach all corners of the enterprise  but your social initiatives should be carried out in a symbiosis between Comms, IT, and of course HR.

One of the conclusions from Jane McConnell’s Digital Workplace Trends 2012 is that the emergence of collaboration solutions in companies is re-creating corporate silos – the very thing that increased collaboration was supposed to break down – but the main difference is that by introducing a social layer, i.e. a social intranet, you can bridge the silos and the serendipity of social media is likely to make it easier to discover gems of knowledge.

According to a study by Gallup, presented in the white paper, the companies with the most engaged employees have seen much higher growth rates than those with less engaged employees. This fact alone ought to command at least some attention from management. It’s hard to disagree that a happy employee is more likely to be an engaged employee – it’s harder to agree on how you make people happy (and make more $$$ along the way).

I strongly believe in the intranet as the hub for the digital workplace but as I wrote earlier I’m not too sure whether it should be dubbed a social intranet. It’s a matter of words, agree, but I would like to see it as “The People Centric Intranet”. The most important task on intranets in numerous surveys is to find people. The consumerization of internal platforms creates an expressed need to connect and follow fellow employees and share updates with them but you still have a large proportion of your intranet that consist of documents, forms, etc. which is not very social.

One of the big questions is what benefits you will get from a social intranet. It depends on the resources that you put into it but also on the culture of your company. If informal communities are common place, I would venture a guess that you are much more likely to succeed than if you come from a more traditional culture. A cultural change is a big job and this is where HR – due to their wide reach – would be formidable change agents. You people who can act as ‘flight attendants’ on the journey. You need to get safely airborne but once you are in the air the attendants need to make sure that the passengers are happy and have a comfortable journey. Hopefully it’s going to be a long haul flight :-)

One of the finishing comments in the whitepaper sums everything up very nicely:

“Successful social intranet become virtual places that employees inhabit rather than visit”

I personally believe that this should be the ultimate goal for all intranets – social or not.

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These were some of my thoughts after reading the whitepaper. I strongly recommend that you download a copy and put it on your Easter reading list – you can find it here: ThoughtFarmer – Social Intranets & Employee Engagement


Community management, Wikis, and a bar – Learnings and reflections from IntraTeam Event 2012

March 5, 2012

The first conference day was kicked off by Tony Byrne, who set the scene with a very down to earth presentation and some may even have found it a bit discouraging, but personally I found it quite refreshing that someone dared to remind us that few companies are succeeding with online collaboration at scale. Some might even disagree, but if you look at case studies presented at conferences etc. I do agree with Tony on this one. Only a few are doing it well, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it, and personally I remain convinced that we are standing on the edge of a major change in the way we cooperate.

This naturally raises the question on how we then succeed which ties very nicely into a trend I saw at this conference: The rise of Internal Community Management.

It may not be big news but it was certainly new to me to see the very strong manifestation of the need for community managers in the organization. Not only was the term “distributed community management” introduced, but I sat through presentations from Alcatel-Lucent, SEB, and Aviva where the presenters all touched on the topic. SEB had even recently hired Anna to become the internal community manager. I found it very interesting and believe that this is these are the examples of how the role we today call “intranet editor” will change into the facilitator for collaboration and networking throughout the organization and there is no doubt that if we want the visions for the digital workplace to happen we need a lot of Annas.

To stay in the pragmatic track, I will have to say that this is hardly a surprise to see community management become more important. If you look at the commercial web services, community management has been the talk of the town for at least the last two years and focus is only increasing. I see this as a(nother) prime example of how the trends from the commercial web seep into the organization and create a demand for similar capabilities and that companies need to hire people with new competencies.

The Shell Wiki
The case that impressed me the most was from Shell and how they implemented a wiki in the organization. Griet Johannson presented some very convincing facts and figures and I was very surprised about the very honest and straight forward approach they had taken. It can be summed up to: “If you are looking for something in the wiki which isn’t there, it’s YOUR responsibility to create it!” Basically it all starts with a search query with the obvious purpose of finding information, and you don’t find it you are probably going to search elsewhere and you are then obliged to contribute to the common good by sharing your findings which then can be corrected and expanded. Simple. Easy. Pragmatic…..and it FINALLY made me see why I have had a hard time getting to terms with how a wiki should work. It’s about search. Not structure.

The Aviva Service Bar
Through a conference like this you hear about many great ideas and concepts. If you ask me the most interesting was when Luke Mepham presented “The Service Bar” initiative from Aviva. The IT department had simply created a posh bar-like setting where people could stop by with their computers – both work and private – and get a service check or support with a specific issue. The basic idea was to help people get the necessary tools to work remotely and then provide a little extra service. I think this is a truly great idea. We can do almost everything from our chairs through webcams, IM, etc. so we need to come up with places where people are “allowed” to meet on company time. Helpdesks and similar functions are all great, but we still need the physical meeting. It be less of a trend and more of a personal crusade for me, but we need to challenge the arm’s length principle that is in virtually all kinds of support and create room for more F2F contact – also for simple things.

A big thank you to delegates for two great days (and evenings) in Copenhagen, and also a congratulations to Kurt and his IntraTeam for another inspiring conference. I’m ready for another dose in 2013 :-)

If you would like to read more from the conference, you can take a closer look at the links below.

Blogposts
Very nice recaps of all three days from Sam Marshall: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.

Ernst Decsey – Is digital workplace becoming an accepted term
Mark Morrell – What is a digital workplace

Presentations on SlideShare
Kristian Norling – Search analytics in practice
Jerome Colombe – A step to the digital workplace

Sam Marshall – Loving the intranet

Oscar Berg – Why traditional intranets fail today’s knowledge workers


The intranet vs. The digital workplace

January 31, 2012

In November I was in Stockholm for Intranätdagarna 2011:2 (The Intranet Days 2011:2) and during my two-day visit to the Swedish capital, I had the pleasure of talking to Paul Miller from Intranet Benchmarking Forum. Among other things we spent some time talking about the proclaimed death of intranets which I believe is greatly exaggerated.

Since then I have started at my third intranet related job at a new company and this has given me an opportunity to get a closer look behind the scenes of an intranet that has remained largely unchanged for an impressive 10 years. This also allows for a rather unique perspective on how the very traditional intranet fits in the online landscape of 2012.

In 2002 online was equal to websites and maybe also an intranet if your company had realized that there was a need for an internal website. This was for communication, information, forms, and selected documents. Self-contained with no integrations since there was nothing to integrate!

Somewhere along the way other systems came about and slowly they started to nudge into the online realm offering more and more advanced portal functionality and taking over functionality from the intranet. Big investments were made and in some companies this was at the expense of the intranet because it did a great job at publishing news and forms. This means that we now have a landscape of many portals or portal-like functions. Many of which would fit snugly on the intranet and this poses the question: What to use where and when?

The process leading up to this has been that of evolution. The solutions have developed in relative isolation, but the needs that they serve are largely the same and this is where the notion of the digital workplace comes into play. We have a landscape of monoliths where some are grouped closer together than others and if the intranet does nothing that publish news and provide a phonebook, it doesn’t take much imagination to declare the death of intranets and that the remaining

This puts the intranet in a quite unique position: You can argue that the intranet doesn’t serve a business purpose and that it should die, but you can also argue that the intranet is the independent alternative that can form the mortar between all the monoliths out there and this is the big challenge for intranets and intranet managers of today: How do you bridge these gaps between the components of the digital workplace?

Evolve or die!
Intranets and their managers are faced with an exciting challenge regardless whether you use state-of-the-art portals or of you have a homegrown HTML site: How do you connect all these vital pillars of the digital workplace to form a strong intranet that serves as a single point of access?

The notion of creating an intranet that contains everything is that of 2002. Today’s intranet will be a thin layer on top of a number of other highly specialized tools to form a ‘Patchwork Intranet‘ or ‘Heterogeneous Intranet‘. This layer may provide some core functions like news, and possibly the social dimension, but most importantly it is a layer that gives you access to what you need while hiding the underlying complexity.

“Digital workplace” and “Intranet” are not interchangeable and also not contradictions. The intranet is an integral – possibly the most important – part of the digital workplace of the future. The intranet is not dead, but if you fail to realize this potential, you’d better brush up on your life saving skills


3 reasons to get passionate about your intranet

January 10, 2012

Almost 5 years ago to the date, I decided that it was time to try something new. I applied for a position as webmaster for fairly large Danish company where one of the tasks were to implement a new intranet. My prior knowledge about intranets – although I had extensive knowledge about online stuff after 4 years as responsible for an international website – was rather limited and I did not quite know what I was getting myself into. That was probably a good thing but I am also very happy that I made this move.

Fast forward 5 years….. Two weeks ago I started at my third intranet job (many exciting perspectives, but more about that later…). Friends and colleagues have asked why I bother: ”Our intranet is rubbish! You can’t find anything and I only use it when I absolutely have to!”. A very understandable reaction and something that everybody passionate about intranets encounter from time to time – some more often than others! :-)

So what is it that is so fascinating about intranets? You probably have your own reasons, but here’s my top 3:

1) It helps create a strong internal network.
The intranet is for everyone in the company! If you dare to stick your head out and proclaim that you are the go-to guy for intranet questions, you will be approached by all areas of the business. Not only does this provide you with great insights into what is going on in the company, but it also gives you a unique opportunity to build an extensive internal network. When I talk to fellow intranet people from around Europe, one of the things all have in common is a very good understanding of what’s going on in the company – much more than the position reveals when looking at it in the average organisation chart.

2) You gain knowledge of both business and processes.
This means that you have to cater for a great deal of needs and that all departments and business areas ideally contribute to the intranet and usually they need YOUR help! This also means that you need to understand their needs and their point of departure – and you have to understand this quickly. I have found myself in situation where you have to get a grasp of fairly complex processes through 3 minutes of Q&A and this is not always easy. Parts you can learn and parts come with experience.

The combined knowledge you get through this gives you a holistic view of the company, and just like the internal network, I see this as a great advantage for navigating in complex organisations.

3) The perspectives…
Digital Workplace, Intranet, call it what you like! Regardless of the name I’m sure that we are standing on the edge of a major shift in the way knowledge workers define work. Attending various recent events, listening to presentations from some of the most innovative companies have only reinforced these beliefs.

The sheer perspectives in what the internet means in this respect is a very important aspect of why I enjoy working with intranets. Some call me naïve when I we talk about this, but it doesn’t matter to me. The www had it’s major break through just 17 years ago, and look where this has taken us. I think the next 17 years holds very exciting perspectives indeed.

What about the negatives?
Of course you have downsides. Organisational inertia, office politics, time and budget constraints, etc. but this is not just intranets that face these, and all of these are waters that you can learn to navigate. With my top 2 advantages I even think you are better equipped than most to make progress. After all, an intranet well done is also a great mirror of the organisation. Understand that, and you understand business.

How about you? Where did your fascination start? Why do you find the work fascinating? …and if you don’t – why not?

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More intranet passion?
If you would like to read more stories about why people are passionate about their intranets, I suggest that you head over to IBF (Intranet Benchmark Forum) where you can see more statements and stories.


How Arla made their intranet more social

December 23, 2011

‘Social’ was a major buzzword for intranets in 2011. As is often the case, it is far from easy for intranet professionals to figure out what the concept behind the buzzword means for the business and how to back it up with a business case. However, it is clear that many managers and employees now expect social, so where and how to start?

Danish dairy company Arla Foods, took the first small but important step in the direction of social, when they introduced a simple thumbs up or down rating feature on internal news…..

Read the entire article at the J. Boye blog. Yours truly have a few comments in the post as well…


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