THE BLOG

OF JANE McCONNELL

Global “Company Net Steering Committee” – way to avoid wasting resources

May 8, 2008

I’ve recently come across several cases where companies could have saved money and time if they had a global “Company Net Steering Committee” in place.

By “global” I mean one that has representatives from all parts and key functions of the organisation. By “company net” I mean with a scope encompassing intranet, internet and all online initiatives.

Several global companies have noticed that some solution providers are approaching their different entities around the world trying to sell their solutions on a country basis. In a couple of these cases, a sale is made to the country in spite of the fact that the global group had already purchased the technology.

The problem was twofold:

1. The group did not know that the country had a need

2. The country did not know that the group had already acquired the solution.

Another example is a case where a team from corporate IT had developed an interesting idea and carried it to the point of a proof of concept. When they presented it to a larger forum of intranet managers, they put up a slide intending to be reassuring. The slide explained that their new concept did not affect the intranet, nor the portal, nor the current collaborative solution. However, it did touch on these things. They had intended to define their scope so that the intranet managers would realise that the new “thing” was different and was not intended to overlap with their areas of responsibility, the intranets.

The problem here is that it should have not just overlapped, but also been co-ordinated with the intranet and integrated into the intranet. It should not have been handled as a separate project.

Here, similar to the first case – a twofold reason:

1. Corporate IT team was not fully aware of the intranet scope

2. The intranet managers were not aware of on-going IT initiatives.

Both examples would probably have been handled better if a global Company Net steering group existed. Even a lower level Company Net co-ordination team whose role is to simply update each other on on-going work, needs and ideas could have foreseen the potential conflicts and waste of time and money.

In both cases, all parties had good intentions, believed they were doing what was best for users, and certainly did not intend to waste resources or create user confusion.

User-centric UA and entry page strategies for better findability

May 5, 2008

A user-friendly, optimised search engine is only one part of the findability “tool set” for an intranet. There is a whole other side that is too often forgotten.

Three additional dimensions contribute to the total findability experience:

  • the “User Architecture” or UA
  • the customisation and personalisation approaches
  • the confidentiality policy

and of course the governance that accompanies all three aspects.

This article deals with the first: The UA, which is my term for how the user perceives the structure of the intranet.

The UA components are (A) the top level categories (level 1 navigation), (B) the entry page design and (C) the global gateway.

A. User Architecture

There are 4 principles around which a user-centric UA can be defined:

1. Define top level categories ( level 1 navigation) in user terms, not in terms of the source of the content. This results in categories defined according to subject or purpose (user populations who have similar needs).

2. Ensure that clear mission statements exist for each : for example, this space provides these things for these people. Or even better, this space lets these people do A, B or C by providing them with X, Y Z.

3. Implement a double-ownership approach, with roles in charge of the spaces and thereby representing user needs, and other roles in charge of content, thereby ensure information and services of high quality and relevance.

4. Distinguish between content created “for us by us” and “for others by us”. Departments and functions tend to want to put both in the same space on the intranet, and this is not logical for users.

B. Entry page

Consider the entry page to be a key findability driver with 3 roles:

  • Guide the person to understand the structure and navigation of the intranet
  • Indicate the range of content and services available
  • Be global and relevant at the same time

In order to fulfil the three roles, select your entry page design by understanding three fundamental patterns. These can be blended to some extent, but overall the design must lean one way or the other:

a. Newsy

b. Navigational-based

c. Highly customised (portal style)

The slide below relates types of entry page models with different intranet landscape patterns. (I have described these patterns in previous articles: How intranet and portals landscapes evolve and Global intranets: different challenges, different paths.)

Entrypagepatterns

A simple entry page decision spider can be a useful tool when making these decisions, in particular when working together with colleagues in different parts of the organisation. It helps focus the discussion.

Entrypagespider

C. Global gateway page

Global gateways are more common on internet web sites than on intranets. I have personally rarely seen them done well for internal intranet landscapes. I have seen many intranet site maps (usually automatically generated and either too high level or too detailed to be useful for users). However, a site map is not a gateway page. The gateway references all parts of the whole landscape, not all parts of a single site.

The idea is to have a single page, always available from the top banner, that provides links to all parts of the organisation’s intranet landscape. The links may be organised by site, topic, target user population, geography or other criteria. The gateway page is especially useful in an intranet landscape that has lots of diverse sites rather than one where there is already a user logic or portal spirit.

A list of the “dynamic places and services” of the intranet is also helpful. It lists discussion groups, project rooms, notification services, blogs, wikis and so on within the overall intranet landscape. Depending on volume, it can be incorporated into the global gateway or be a second level global page.

Of course, the more granular the gateway is, the more difficult it is to keep it up to date. With the right degree of detail it can be a useful navigational tool for users.

Comments?

It would be interesting to hear from intranet managers to see if people have experience with global gateway pages for their intranet landscapes, and also how their entry page design fits or differs from the patterns I’ve described.

Language reality checkpoints – moving targets

April 15, 2008

Language strategies are moving targets, evolving along with your enterprise strategy and business and operational changes. You need to start by asking the right questions, then once you know what you’d like to achieve, see how technology can help you, how much it will cost and what organizational changes are needed. This article proposes some “reality checkpoints” you will find helpful when analyzing your needs.

Reality 1: International enterprises have three types of languages: corporate, working and local.

Corporate languages are the official ones, the ones used for press releases for example. Some companies have up to 4 or 5 corporate languages. The working language is the one used horizontally across the enterprise, for example the one used by senior and middle managers for reporting, and by R&D engineers, experts and other managers for collaboration. Local languages are those used by employees in their “home environment” among colleagues in the same physical location.

Reality 2: One country does not equal one local language.

Some countries have more than one language, and many “share” the same language, even if there are significant differences. It’s useful to draw a language map of your enterprise, basing it on “comfortable” or “generic” languages. For example Dutch people are usually very comfortable in English, as are many Scandinavians and eastern Europeans. People in France, Canada, Morocco and other countries mutually use and understand what is in reality a hybrid, generic French.

Reality 3: Different languages are used for different purposes.

Look at the different types of content you have in your intranet: news, strategic messages, HR policies, product and sales information to name a few. Then look at the different users of this information: client-facing employees, internal communities across the company, employees in manufacturing facilities and so on. Build a matrix comparing type of content and usage with type of language (corporate, working or local), then add the dimension of “as is today” and “target” for what you would like to achieve.

Reality 4: Not all content merits the same quality of translation.

Criteria to take into account are: How critical is the content? Is it time-sensitive? Who needs it? Will it change soon? The more critical it is and/or the longer it is valid and/or the more people who need it, the more you can justify doing a high quality translation. If it is of interest to a small group, and/or may change soon and/or is not business critical, it is acceptable to use approximate translations, or let employers use automated translation tools on the intranet to get the general meaning.

You now have a starting point for determining what should be translated into which languages and with what degree of quality.

Reality 5: Localization and translation are different.

Distinguish between adapting content and changing the language. A message from the CEO will not be localized. It will flow from Corporate Communications to employees through carefully controlled translations. However, a new travel policy may be defined and published by HQ, then sent to the business groups who may contextualize it to make it relevant to their organizations, job titles, and so on. It may then be sent to country HR teams who will adapt it based on local travel contexts (distances, air and rail infrastructures) and translate it into the local language. The key here is to make sure your process specifies who is responsible for contextualization and/or translation at each point.

Reality 6: Hot news defies the most well thought-out strategies!

Is it better to get it out in English first, then, publish the corporate language translations as they are done? Or is it better to wait until the item is translated into the relevant languages, then publish worldwide simultaneously? The jury is still out on this one, and companies make different decisions usually depending on the nature and urgency of the announcement.

My overall advice is to set up a cross-company working group to look at these issues within your own enterprise, and to come up with several working hypotheses that you can then analyze from both technology, financial and organizational viewpoints. Be aware that you will probably need to adjust your strategy as your business and operational contexts evolve.

Communicating with employees who are not connected to the intranet

March 26, 2008

Glen contributed some real data to the discussion about “Spam from corporate communication” and the follow-up post: “Effective internal communication benchmarks

“Our read rate or click rate is around 6%-10% depending on the subject.
Articles about human interest get the most hits. Articles about
security and technology are much lower. We employee about 130,000
employees. We publish about 6 articles a day and publish them to the
homepage of our intranet.”

It is great to see some real figures. Thank you Glen.
6 articles a day is a lot. I wonder how many companies manage to produce several articles in a week?

I did a case study on La Poste (French postal services) for my web site over 6 years ago, and learned about their dedicated team of internal journalists whose only job was producing articles on subjects related to the activities of La Poste.

They also produced short summaries that could be printed on large sheets of paper and posted in the distribution offices around France, letting the employees “on the road” see the news in the morning when they came in to pick up their mail bags. There were new news posters every day. The HQ-based team made it a rule to provide regular content, at daily intervals.

Technology has advanced since then, and companies are doing things ranging from employee radio (a large bank in France is experimenting with this), videos in places where people collect, external web sites (Arcelormittal’s webTV is an example), screen-savers for office-based people and same content short messages on TVs around the factories, and so on.

Of course, many organisations now let employees access the intranet from outside the enterprise,  from home for example, so the number of “non-connected” employees is becoming more difficult to assess.
However, how many people will come home after work, and turn on their computers to see the news from their company? Not many I bet. Unless of course they need it for something else, such as work instructions for the next day (airline personnel, bus-drivers, etc.).

Making the intranet the primary tool for distribution of news only makes sense if practically everyone can access the intranet. Otherwise, there must be parallel methods. Sounds obvious, but not all enterprises practice this approach. Print publications are usually glossier and less frquent. Then tend to serve to communicate more in-depth information / stories.

How many organisation have daily communication of company news to employees who do not have easy access to the intranet? And what are the methods?

Effective internal communication benchmarks?

March 9, 2008

It may be impossible to measure effectiveness of your communication

My previous note on “Spam from Corporate Communications” triggered some comments and questions from around the world.

Rachel McAlpine picked up on it and I put a comment on her blog “Content that makes people happy” saying that 90% of the time people want local news. That’s what they find relevant. But that the trick is getting the other 10 % right.

Of course, the percentage varies, and also depends on what you consider “common” and what you consider “local” or “specific”. Those are words full of meaning to most people, and can set off long discussions!

I received an email from a senior content manager who said he was struggling with the issues I raised and says ” I find it difficult to measure the effectiveness of our communications and channels. While we have internal benchmarks, I would like to measure our effectiveness against external companies. I am curious if you have, or are aware of any bench mark studies. I would be interested in click rates, effectiveness of the communication and contribution to our strategic priorities.”

I was also recently asked by an intranet manager in a global company if I had any idea what “click rate” or “watch rate!” to expect when a new corporate video is published. In their case, the videos are published both on the web site and the intranet, as well as being project from screens in the lobby and around the organisation. Good strategy, but that makes it nearly impossible to know how many employees have actually seen it.

The short answer is No, I don’t have any benchmark studies and would love to know if anyone out there does. Please share them with us here or send me an email.

Don’t be afraid to involve people, transparently

However, I do have some suggestions as to how to keep employees informed and feeling involved:

  1. Be sure to include at least one question about your intranet in your annual employee “climate” survey. This lets you build from a baseline.
  2. Consider doing a short online survey to find out whether or not people know the strategic orientations of the company, and where they get that information. See if it is from internal sources (managers, newsletters, intranets, colleagues, etc.) or external (press clippings, TV, ..)
  3. Do regular quick polls on your intranet to assess user opinions about different subjects including strategy.
  4. Do not forget to include employee usage of your web site (in addition to the intranet itself) when you consider how employees get corporate information and messages.

Candid camera?

If you are really brave, do “candid camera” or “live news” style interviews one day in the canteen, by walking around with a mike and a video camera asking people to tell you what the company strategy is in their opinion. Then publish it on the intranet.

I’m half joking. You might get some really interesting answers, or you might get fired!

Spam from corporate communications?

March 6, 2008

One of the speakers at an intranet conference told us that a group of users in his company had complained to him about the spam they got on their company emails. He asked them what kind of spam it was so that he could try to adjust the filters, and they said it’s from Corporate Communications.

This is the second firsthand anecdote I have heard recently where intranet users have complained about “spam from corporate communications”. In the first case, a few months ago, it was an IT person who told me that the number of “deleted without being read emails” from corporate communications to employees was in the high 80-90%. A figure like this should make people stop and think about what their “all” email policies are.

It should also make us all think about how blogs with RSS feeds can ease this situation for users. People can then subscribe to what interests them. Of course, then the problem is that maybe people won’t subscribe to the feeds from corporate…!

That then raises a more fundamental issue of what type of news really does interest everyone in an organisation? In most cases, at least in large global companies, there is very little news that really speaks to “all employees”. Which of course brings us around to how to customise, and what is the right balance between mandatory and optional news items on a portal page.

What is common and who decides….two basic open questions for many companies.

These questions are subject to much debate – sometimes quite emotional, and touch on organisational politics, fundamental beliefs about the nature of human beings, and even philosophical views on the value of individual freedom versus what is good for the larger group.

The business value of news: connecting people to people.

January 7, 2008

Paul Miller has written a post on the IBF blog “Why Intranet news is under threat” that triggered some thoughts from my end.

News on an intranet is very tricky.  If done well, it will bring people together, trigger communication and innovation.

Here are three suggestions:

1. Balance between official and spontaneous

Balance the news between official corporate polished stories (which are important for building a sense of what the organisation is all about – officially!) and spontaneous news items from all corners of the organisation (which reflect information and activities from around the organisational world).

This requires an easy one-click publishing system of some sort (note I did not say “blog”!) so that people can communicate easily. These items should be published in a space clearly labelled and differentiated from the official internal news items.

Do not think that if you solicit news from entities around the world, from which you select some to be rewritten then published, that you are providing the type of news I’m talking about. I mean straight from the people.

2. Favor local over global

If you have portal technology with different news feeds, give the most space to local news, then professional, community, divisional, regional or whatever middle-level layers you have, and the least space to corporate.

Put local in the most prominent space on the home page, and corporate in a visible but not central place.

This guideline will most likely offend many corporate communicators.  If it bothers yours, let me know and I’ll give you some explanatory ammunition to clarify!

3. Demonstrate the business value of news

Expand the concept of news beyond the “official corporate internal press releases”.

Define different types of news and include updates on what people and teams are doing around the organisation.  Example categories: project news, hot topics in our business community, what’s new with our customers, and so on. Include a link to a name and email for readers who want to know more.

If your intranet includes community and team spaces, enable people to publish news from these sources with one click.

A well thought-out news strategy can be a key way to connect people to people in your organisation and to give them a new way to communicate and collaborate.

Attitudes & activities for intranet managers in 2008

December 31, 2007

As an intranet manager, you are in a unique position: you may well be one of the few people in your company who realise the full potential value of the intranet, how close your organisation is to achieving this or how far away you are. Above all, you have a good idea of what can be done to transform the intranet into the strategic asset it should be.

Achieving changes comes down to attitude and activities. Pick one or more activities that strike you as important for your organisation, but whatever you choose, do not skip the first one!

1. (Attitude) Find a good job title for yourself, get your manager to agree to it and re-do your business cards and email signature.

See my post of  August 2007 “Does your job title reflect the strategy and vision behind your role? ” with suggestions based on intranet managers around the world.

2. (Activity) Create a global intranet team with representation from different parts of your organisation.

Communicate through conference calls at least once a month, and set up an online space on the intranet to share ideas, ask questions, and in general build relationships.

3. (Activity) If you have a major project in mind, put together a short presentation (maximum 10-12 slides) for budget decision-makers.

Use business language. Focus on senior management, business and user needs. Do not use any technical words. Suggested content: (one slide per item):

  • Our intranet (portal) today
  • Stakeholder needs
  • Business and user needs
  • Current issues / risks / challenges
  • Proposed solutions / actions
  • Benefits
  • Requirements
  • Snapshot roadmap with major milestones
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Next steps
  • Decision criteria
  • Call to action

Include a short appendix of 6 – 7 slides: “what others are doing”. Refer to similar organisations and illustrate with screenshots (if possible), commentary, industry data, benchmarking information.

(Commercial break…. you’ll find plenty of ammunition in the Global Intranet Trends Report to show your management what others are doing.)

4. (Activity) Get a high level mandate to clean up the intranet landscape.

Then do it by defining roles and scopes for different sites or parts of the intranet. Work on this with the global team, get it signed off by senior management, and define a realistic but firm timeline for all sites to align. Without the high level mandate, you won’t be able to do this because you’ll hit too many political roadblocks.

5. (Activity) Work on the basics of search.

Study search logs, implement best bets, work with content producers to make content more searchable. This combined with point 4 will raise the findability index of your intranet dramatically.

6. (Attitude) Stop talking about 2.0 and begin talking about functionalities that bring value to organisations.

The very concept of version numbers does not have much meaning for intranets anyway. Intranet landscapes are so varied even within a single organisation (with the possible exception of very small ones), that you’ll find intranet 3.0 (whatever that is!) right alongside with intranet minus 1.0 (whatever that is!).

Talk about co-creation of documents, building a corporate dictionary, collecting and consolidation of marketing intelligence, project management, crisis management, internal brand-building and knowledge sharing.

7. (Attitude) Do not hesitate to make decisions on major issues, once you’ve been through the consultative part of the process.

Listening, exchanging viewpoints and discussing solutions is only the first step. It’s too easy to get bogged down and even blocked completely at that point by lack of a 100 % consensus. However, you’ll need to have a global team or visible, cross-organisational involvement as well as a clear mandate from senior management before you’ll be able to turn major decisions into reality.

One of the 2007 Survey participants cited in the Global Intranet Analysis Report says: “It is a fine line between community decision making and getting things done. There is a middle path that will help you gather a consensus in the organisation without stopping work. »

Final word: Hang in there and keep up the efforts.

You’re managing one of your organisation’s key strategic assets even if they don’t know it yet. Making them aware of this could be the most exciting and rewarding activity in your 2008 action list!

Lunenoel Happy New Year!

Intranet resource numbers

December 11, 2007

Intranet teams always feel under-resourced. Are they?

First, let’s take a look at some numbers. I am aware of 3 relatively recent sources which are in fact quite similar.

1. James Robertson’s intranet resource survey conducted by StepTwo in 2005, where he and Iain Barker published their findings: Intranet teams: survey results and key findings:

  • Organisation with over 10,000 employees – from 10 to 13 intranet headcounts
  • From 1,000 to 10,000 – around 7

2. A second source is the survey conducted at the Intrateam Event in 2007, organised by IntraTeam A/S.

  • The 103 respondents were from organisations averaging 7,000 employees, had 5.4 intranet headcounts, which makes an average of 0.8 per 1,000 employees.

3. The third source is my own Global Intranet Survey of 2007  where I reached the average of 1 headcount for 2,300 employees. This is based on data per size category going up to very large organisations of over 100,000 people.  When I look at the smaller sizes within the survey population, the figures are similar to StepTwo and IntraTeam.

  • Less than 1,000 employees – 3 intranet headcount
  • 1 to 5,000 employees – 8 intranet headcount
  • 5 to 15,000 employees – 12 intranet headcount
  • 15 to 30,000 employees – 19 intranet headcount

When the intranet becomes the “way of working” do resources go down?
If we consider content providers part of the intranet team, the number of resources will vary according to how decentralised the publishing model is. Logically, the more the intranet is integrated into the way of working, the lower the official “intranet headcount” will be. Why? Because people who provide content will consider it part of their “normal” job. It will be considered the natural way of working, and, hopefully the CMS and/or content publishing systems (including 2.0 tools) will enable highly decentralised publishing. If they don’t, then the intranet as the “way of working” will be crippled.

Low resources for what should be a strategic asset for an organisation
As we go higher up in size of organisations (the Global Intranet survey offers categories up to over 200,000 employees) the ratio of intranet headcount to employee base drops, but not always consistently. There are different explanations for this:

  • In large decentralised organisations, intranet managers and major content providers do not always know each other, nor are they aware of each other’s existence.
  • Another factor to consider is that organisations with a significant percentage of people who are not pc-connected may have an intranet headcount that is not proportional to the total employee base.

 

Please feel free to add comments about your own resource context.

Highlights from the 2007 Global Intranet Survey Reports – just published

November 28, 2007


Intranet = the way of working now or very soon

  • The intranet already is “the way of working” or will be in 1 or 2 years for over half the organisations in the survey population. Half say that today employees would be disturbed in their work if the intranet “went down” for 1 to 2 hours, with the figure reaching 3 out of 4 if it “went down” for 24 hours.
  • Yet only 1 out of 5 of the organisations say their senior management considers the intranet to be business critical. However this is up nearly 5 points from 2006! So things are improving. Trendscharts_3






Users come first – at last!

  • Focus on users is at the top of the list of investments.
  • Usability is a key strategy driver and user-centred design & usability, cited by 3 out of 5 organisations, will be the top investment area for the next 2 years.

Search is suffering

  • Nowadays when “search rules” on the internet, it is disappointing that nearly 3 out of 5 organisations are “not really satisfied” or “not satisfied at all” with their intranet search.
  • However, most  do not make the necessary effort to optimise search. Well over half have “less than one person” who works on supporting and optimising search. Very few have taxonomies, and not nearly enough do analysis on the search logs.

2.0 is making headway

  • 2.0 tools and technologies are being tested by a majority of organisations and visibly integrated into the intranet by many.
  • Organisations where the intranet already is or will soon become “the way of working” are more involved in 2.0 than the others. 4 out of 5 compared to 3 out of 5 in the full survey population).
  • 1 out of 3 of these organisations are bringing the topic to the forefront, as shown by the fact that they are starting or have established an official 2.0 strategy.

Fears for an “underground” intranet unfounded

  • Wikis and blogs do not constitute an “underground intranet” as many people feared would happen.
  • Over half of the 2.0 population plan to or have already integrated them into the intranet navigation, also making them searchable with the intranet search tool.

Major obstacles still lie with senior management

The top 3 obstacles according to 2 out of 5 organisations considered to be “a serious obstacle that holds us back” are:

  1. Intranet not seen as a priority
  2. Lack of awareness of the potential role of the intranet
  3. Lack of ownership at a senior level

About the 2007 Global Intranet Survey

178 companies and organisations around the world participated in the second annual Global Intranet & Portal Strategies Survey. They include 45 % headquartered in Europe, 43 % in North America, 10 % in Asia-Pacific and 2 % in other parts of the world. 72 % are in the private sector, 20 % in the public sector, 4 % are associations, and 4 % are extraterritorial world bodies  and NGOs.

Over half the organisations have more than 15,000 employees, including 13 % with over 100,000 employees. All areas of activity are represented from services to goods, basic materials, technology and many others.

Reports available

You can read about the Global Intranet Trends and the Global Intranet Analysis Reports on my web site at netjmc.com/survey. They are available for purchase online. You can read details, download the tables of contents and sample pages for both reports and link to the purchase platform from the NetJMC web site – survey section.

You can download a 1-page description of the reports here: Download Global-Intranet-Reports.pdf
(pdf document)