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Tags // Intranets

Better Practice Checklists & Guides

I stumbled upon this site by the Australian Government's Department of Finance & Deregulation. They have a comprehensive collection of guides and checklists for managing their online properties. The collection covers IA to content strategy to intranets to KM. Cool!

Social networking on intranets

Jakob Nielsen's latest Alertbox

"Social software is not a trend that can be ignored. It's affecting fundamental change in how people expect to communicate, both with each other and the companies they do business with. And companies can't just draw a line in the sand and say it's okay for employees to use Web 2.0 to communicate with customers, but it's not okay to use it when communicating with each other."

Review: What every intranet team should know

The idea of having a team to manage and sustain the intranet still raises eyebrows. It was not that long ago that the intranet had the same position in the organisation as the e-mail exchange server -- a tool from the IT department that needs little intervention. Hopefully all this is changing. But this change also means that the organisation has to deal with skills gaps. They either have to groom internal talent or source talent from the industry. Both are frustrating affairs when you don’t know what you’re dealing with. This is where James Robertson’s book, What every intranet team should know, shines.

I was consulting for an intranet redesign when James announced his book. I ordered multiple copies immediately. I gave one copy to the client’s project team and I’m happy to say that the conversations are at a higher level these days -- more focused on action rather than on conceptual understanding.

Many of the ideas that James presents in his book are ideas that he’s already touched upon in his resourceful blog, ColumnTwo. However, having all these ideas arranged for a quick read, and in fine print I must add, is quite priceless. It just works better.

So if you want to have more focused conversations with your clients or stakeholders around intranet management, just grab a copy of this book and give it to them.

Calendering: Are we there yet?

Michael Sampson has written an interesting article on state of calendering applications out there.

“There” is the nirvana of calendaring, whereby you can set up a meeting with anyone, viewing their free-busy time within the context of your standard calendaring client. It’s seamless—it works across Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, Google Calendar, Meeting Maker, Apple iCal, and other systems. It’s automatic—the free-busy information shows anytime you enter their name, adding them to an upcoming meeting. Basically, it just works... That’s not the case today, even for products from the big vendors...

Intranet offers bright future for internal communicators

Gerry McGovern on new skills for internal communicators:

"Intranet internal communications is radically different from print internal communications. The intranet internal communicator facilitates rather than dictates. They help people find. They guide rather than lead. They support the completion of a task such as checking up a procedure or a job vacancy. They focus on creating clear menus and links... This is a call to arms. You young ambitious communicators, get involved in making search work better, focus relentlessly on the quality of menus and links, simplify the steps and words used in software applications, make policies easier to understand and forms easier to complete. There is so much to do, so many areas where you can make your organization more productive, efficient and effective."

Designing site structures for intranets and websites

My new article over at PebbleRoad looks at design of site structures:

"A good site structure makes users happy. They can easily find, understand and use the information on your site. For the business, this makes all the difference. In this article I’ll go through principles behind good site structures and describe a methodology for creating site structures."

Lean intranets - part 2

Patrick Walsh continues his analysis of managing intranets the lean way and comparing it to how car manufacturers manage their factories the lean way.

"So, there you have it. Basically, in the Lean Intranet, information professionals will be removing barriers, minimising and assessing content and continually improving their intranet using a customer-focused approach. Hard to achieve? I won't say that the transition to a lean approach in intranets will be without problems but I know it's possible. I've seen ‘lean' working for many years in the automotive sector helping to produce better cars through more efficient processes. Why not better, more efficient intranets?"

Usability testing on the cheap

A friend of mine asked me about doing usability testing on the cheap. Thought I'd share some apps and websites I have bookmarked.

Unfortunately the online testing services can't be used for testing intranets. And not many intranets support Macs or browsers other than IE. So that leaves one with the Classic approach -- 1 video camera 1 PC, and 1 extra LCD monitor. Yes, there is another tool, Morae, that can be used on Windows, but it's pricey.

The Lean Intranet: from Intranet Zero to Intranet 2.0 and beyond

Patrick Walsh has written a beautiful article explaining the the dire conditions of many intranets (Intranet Zero) and the misconceptions that drive it.

"In my opinion, the current paradigm for intranets has never worked. I call the current state ‘Intranet Zero' because popular approaches offer virtually zero benefit to intranet users and their organizations, while giving zero chance of breaking out of the spiral of uselessness, poor user perception and even poorer usability."

10 Best Intranets of 2009

NN group has published a new report on best intranets of 2009. Good to see that there is more focus on collaboration.

"Intranets are getting more strategic, with increased collaboration support. Team size is growing by 12% per year, and platforms are becoming integrated, with a strong showing for SharePoint. Improving usability increased use by 106% on average."

Web content migration: disastrous strategy

Gerry McGovern says it's no point taking old intranet content and migrating it to a new system. I do agree that it's a waste of resources to migrate content that is not useful. But many intranets do have useful information. The problem is that the useful info is in bits and pieces and present all over the intranet. This is where migration issues become tricky. Yes, intranets can have a clean up during the redesign, even using copywriters to prep the content. But this is not a long term strategy. Unless there is a shared commitment to publish good quality content, any clean up will last only till the next published piece. A shared commitment takes time and does require constant monitoring. And yes, it does require few people to drive the initiative -- the guiding coalition. Only when this is in place that we can expect to address the reasons for bad content that McGovern lists:

  1. We allow the organization to publish puff, fluff and vanity, instead of focusing on the needs of our customers/staff.
  2. We don’t hire web content professionals. Instead we find the most junior person in the department and give them the job of managing the website.
  3. We don’t see the Web as a unique medium-we just take print content and print thinking and shovel it onto the Web.
  4. We don’t review and quality control. We have practically no processes to take old content off our website.

Intranet metrics and measurement

When doing intranet projects, you either face situations where there are too many requests for metrics or where there aren’t any. I fear the latter. It means that there is no real pain guiding the project. In such cases it is usually playing catchup with another agency’s “cool social app” or with one person’s ideology that “everything should be wiki”.

What we need in situations where metrics are discussed is a dose of “business value thinking”. It is about discussing how to take what we know now and raise it a level or two to provide greater business value. James Robertson has written two excellent articles that point in this direction.

Business value thinking is not a separate process; it is a mindset that must be embedded during the project. It is about seeing the need for real improvement. And this can be done quickly with few resources as James mentions in his article.

Metadata fundamentals for intranets and websites

James Robertson has written a simple and clear article on the use of metadata for intranets and websites.

Metadata is one of the key elements of site design and management, and is often a driving factor for the purchase of a content management system (or other similar publishing tools).

While metadata can be used in many complex and powerful ways, most sites benefit from keeping it pretty simple.

Only capture the metadata you need, and make it very simple for authors to enter it. Recognise that there is a cost (in effort and usability) for every metadata field established, and therefore focus efforts on clear business or site needs.

News you can use

Gerry Mcgovern has some real good advise for the online newsroom:

"In an age of attention deficit and impatience, news created on organizational websites and intranets needs to be brutally action-oriented and to-the-point It needs to help people do things. It needs to be practical and real. And it needs to be newsworthy-not simply put up because it's Tuesday and we need to publish something."

I've added this to my post on Designing the Online Newsroom.

Exploring the Intranet Hive

Cairo Walker from StepTwo Designs provides another perspective on managing intranets. He introduces the "hive" concept that explores the following in a two part article (part 1, part 2):

Blog on KM & intranets

Simon Goh is going through a major knowledge management project and is blogging his about his experiences. He has a post on preparing content for the intranet when you have a large pool of contributors. Good points. [Disclosure: we worked on the project together.]

Intranet Information Architecture

Latest by Jakob Nielsen on intranet IA:

"In our study, task-based structures often endured better than intranets organized departmentally. In our user testing of intranets, we've also found that task-based navigation tends to facilitate ease-of-learning. Thus, the benefits for IA durability are just one more argument in favor of adopting a task-based structure for your intranet."

Intranets: what staff really want

Gerry McGovern did a survey and found out that staff really care about a few things that matter to them: finding people and finding forms and procedures.

"First and foremost, staff see the intranet as a practical place that should make it easier for them to do their jobs. While things like wikis, blogs and personalization got some votes, they were way down on the list when compared to finding people and forms."

Survey: User-driven intranet and portal personalisation

James Robertson at Step Two Designs has put up a survey to find out the use of personalization features in intranets and portals.

Here's our chance to get some hard facts on this issue. Fill in the survey (even if you haven't implemented personalisation).

Intranets not realizing productivity gains

Gerry McGovern nails it right with the state of current intranets. The intranet mindset is still in its infancy. And stakeholders and management are to blame -- they're clueless about the ground reality and potential opportunities.

"A great many intranets are not achieving their potential because, at a very basic level, they are not being managed. Nobody is really in charge and there are no proper business metrics in place to measure success."

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