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.


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

More insights from the basement – ISM Forum part 2

November 7, 2011

After a great day with lots of input – some of which I blogged about here – I was back in the basement for more insights. A little more preoccupied with the fact that I had to do my own presentation (which went well if you ask me) but the day also provided more great insights.

One of the first presentations was from BT. I have seen this presented several times, but I have to say that they are doing a great job and there’s always good ideas to find here. The interesting thing this time around was that BT has encouraged ’non-business’ social stuff in order to get the social side going – a really good approach, but also one which requires very good support from management.

If I compare to my own company I am sure that there will be a substantial divide between those who think it’s a good idea and those who don’t. Who is the bigger group is hard to say, but regardless I think everybody should keep Richards wise words in mind: ”People don’t come in thin slices – they come in 3D”. What he meant was that companies focus on a very small portion of a person. That portion consist of the expertise needed to fill the job role. Everything else is best left at home. Personally, I would like to see more ’3D people’ in the workplace. Wouldn’t you?

The ROMEC case featured a very entertaining music video which was a very welcome break, but the main takeaway for me was their use fo offline initiatives to drive traffic to the intranet. Nigel told how they used postcards sent directly to the employee’s homes to encourage use of the intranet. Simple and reasonably easy. In my opinion this is something that many, including ourselves, should do a lot more of. As a company you still want to engage with them, but in order to achieve this, you must look in the bag of old marketing tricks. Comms and marketing may be a bit like cats and dogs, but here’s an area where we can benefit from working together.

The final presentation of the day was the one I was particularly interested in. Attending a course in strategic management, I have recently turned in a paper on internal networking and in the process of writing this I have been thinking a lot about the future workplace and how loose ties become more and more important in diverse organisations. Luis shared very interesting insights in how IBM has become a very ’disconnected’ company and yet the social technologies help them stay connected allowing the IBMers to work when ever and wherever. He mentioned that people did not share their own work under their own name on the 16,000 blogs as much as they contribute to the internal IBM wiki which has more than 1 million page views per day. Very interesting that the internal sharing is driven by more altruistic motives, and not fuelled by the ‘Ego factors’ mentioned on Day 1…

Luis’ closing remark: ”Work happens wherever you are. You are work. Work is you.” was a very appropriate end to another day with lots of good input. After all, it was Friday afternoon close to 6 pm, and in a way this sould be classified as work, but a most inspiring kind.


A brief epilogue: Thank you to all delegates for two days of excellent networking and last, but not least, a thank you to the ForwardNetworking team, Jozefa, Martin, and Luuk, for two excellent days.

Internal Social Media Forum – Day 1

November 3, 2011

Internal social media have a hard time getting priority in most companies – if that’s the reason for the Internal Social Media Forum being held in a hotel basement in Madrid is not for me to say, but the thoght did enter my mind during the first day.

Regardless of the venue, I did see some very interesting presentations with some good learnings, ideas, and food for thought. The highlight of the day – at least for me – was the presentation by Jerome from Alcatel Lucent. I was truly impressed by the level of internal transparency and openness they have achieved in a company of 77,000 employees.

The most striking takeaway was that the users had rejected Sharepoint as the platform of choise!

  1. Sharepoint rejected?
  2. Users had a say?

I’m officially impressed! According to Jerome, this wasa due to the fact that people brought their expericences from ’outside’ platforms like Yammer and Facebook which made them expect the same simplicity internally.

Other interesting takeaways was the focus on gamification from Verizon. Elizabeth told how they focused on the person and not the processes which, obviously, talks to the ”Ego-factor” that all people possess in some degree, and there is no doubt that vanity is a very powerful motivator when it comes to user adoption.

The final presentation of the day was from SAP and what struck me the most was the honesty about what makes people tick. Not strategies, not figures, but stories about real people. If you find what Angela and her team has dubbed ’Extreme Heroes’ and tell their story you create lots of engagement. It may not be strictly business relevant, but in this age of social media, engagement is what you are looking for, and what company can honestly say that they don’t want engaged employees?

All in all a very interesting day 1, and I am certainly looking forward to the sequel tomorrow. Stay tuned for more from the basement in Madrid, or follow the hashtag #ISM2011 on Twitter :-)

A trip to the Lotusphere and back

March 1, 2011

“It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.”
– Spock (Star Trek)

No. I’m not a trekkie – nowhere near! I found the above quote while asking Uncle Google a few questions about how Vulcan was related to Star Trek. It may sound like a slightly odd thing to do on a Tuesday evening, but the explanation is quite simple.

IBM Denmark hosted a local version of “Lotusphere Comes to You” today and one of the things they presented was something called Project Vulcan – hence the Spock reference.

Admitted – I was quite apprehensive before going to the event and this is probably rooted in my daily interactions with big blue which are rather far from innovative and thought-leading. The room was full of IT people and being a comms man, I felt a bit like the odd one out…

Project Vulcan was featured as a part of one of the presentations and that confirmed to me that IBM still are remarkably close to the cutting edge when you look at their projects. What I found particularly interesting about this project, albeit only seeing a very brief demo, was the addition of what I would call a “stream layer”. This sits on top of your email, your activity feeds, but also your BI tools creating a continuous stream of updates some of which you need to act on and others which is just information.

This is obviously a big change to the way we work today and certainly not something that will happen overnight, but with an increasing demand (and supply) of information this could very well be one way to solve the everlasting, crowded inbox problem by supplementing it with something more nimble. This something will ultimately make us more effective by providing relevant info when we need it – and we need it!

Sadly, an event like that reminds me that IBM the sheer size makes it considerably less realistic that I will ever see a solution like that inside “my” firewall: We are simply too far removed from the thought leaders. This means that all the great ideas are lost somewhere on the road from there to here, and that’s a real shame.

For my part I hope that Project Vulcan will live long and prosper :-)

Among Online Squirrels and Networking Ninjas

November 11, 2010

-Experiences and reflections from the J. Boye 2010 Aarhus Conference.

“Martin, Have you met <insert name>….?” – That must be the sentence I heard the most times at last week’s Conference in Aarhus, and at the same time it describes this year’s experience very well. This was the 3rd time I attended this conference and it is very clear to me that if I have to point at one thing that sets this conference apart from other events that I’ve attended, it must be the big focus on the social/networking dimension. Janus and the rest of the team work tirelessly in facilitating connections between delegates – almost to the extent that, when you leave the conference, it feels like having a new, extended family – if not that, you certainly feel like a “networking ninja” with all the new connections you’ve made.

Eric Karjaluoto started the event off with a keynote about the importance of speaking human – a topic which turned out to be very symptomatic for the tracks I followed during the two days. Speak human, Be honest, Focus on the users, and variations of this was repeated over and over. Personally I find it puzzling that people – we – are still struggling with this dimension of communicating business messages – it shouldn’t be so hard, but I guess it is! Personally, my best reminder to speak human is a drawing from Gapingvoid with the text: “If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face” – It’s as simple as that!!

I had the pleasure to present a case study at the intranet track on Wednesday with Jane McConnell and Ernst Decsey. Jane McConnell was presenting some of the results of the Global Intranet Trends 2011 report and as always there are plenty of interesting findings here – like this one:

From the Global Intranet Trends 2011 report

The above figure shows how leaders (Organisations where the intranet has become “the way of working” – or “Stage 3 intranets”, if you are familiar with Jane’s work) really are moving ahead. I have compared this with last year’s report and interestingly enough it shows growth in all areas whereas the “others” (or stage 1+2) primarily show development in the “Front Door” area. Could this be a sign that the financial crisis has increased the emphasis on the intranet in organisations who have a well-functioning intranet while development has halted for others? Regardless of the reason, this shows that we still have a vast, unexploited potential here, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a leader or you ‘just’ aspire to be one.

You can read much more about the Global Intranet Trends for 2011 at Jane’s website + you can find out how you can get hold of your own copy.

Thank you to all the other online squirrels who hopefully, like me, gathered enough inspiration to last through the winter. A special thanks to J. Boye team + volunteers for yet another great event. See you in 2011.

Don’t just build it and throw it out there!

October 6, 2010

That is one of the most important messages from Michael Sampson in his most recent book “User Adoption Strategies – Shifting 2nd wave people to new collaboration technologies“. This is the first time I read one of Michael’s books and since he calls himself @collabguy on Twitter I have to say that my expectations were rather high….

….and I can now honestly say that I have not been disappointed!

The book provides a comprehensive toolkit which you can put to good use when you need to get users to use the new stuff you have developed. Obviously the book is centered around online tools, but most of the approaches work equally well with many other kinds of projects as well – and not only things online. Michael outlines 20 different approaches for you to pick and choose from because as he says already on page 14 “Don’t do them all, and don’t wait until page 105 before figuring that out!”

The initial chapters focus on adoption and change in a more general perspective and provides a nice introduction. One thing that becomes increasingly clear after reading this is that change is not about tools and methods – Change is social! If you can’t get enough on board there’s really no point! This brings us back to the “How?” and the 20 approaches.

They have been divided into 4 stages which are somewhat linear. Most of them are complemented with survey results from Michael’s recent user adoption survey which gives a nice picture of what others do and what actually works. Here are the headers and my own brief interpretation (more details in the book – obviously):

1) Win Attention = Make sure to get lots of attention, and most importantly from the right people!

2) Cultivate Basic Concepts = Educate people on the basics of the new system

3) Enlivening Applicability = Make people comfortable with the new system

4) Make it Real! = Get it done! Make it a part of daily lives.

If I should point at one small thing that I miss, it would be some kind of quick overview of the 20 approaches for quick reference after you have read the book.

All in all Michael has written a book for everyone who is working with change management and adoption – particularly in the online realm. Whether you are an experienced change agent or you are coming to terms with your first project, I’m sure that you will find a lot of useful tips and strategic approaches, and that you’ll find yourself reaching for it again and again.

Some may say that parts of the book seem an awful lot like plain, common sense, but isn’t that often what makes a book truly great? As French philosopher Voltaire put it: “It may be common sense, but after all sense is not that common!”


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