Intranets 2013, Australia's (if not the world's) premier intranet conference, has now come and gone for another year.
It was another great event - the third I have been lucky enough to attend.
Close to 200 people came to see a star studded line-up of international speakers, including:
- Jonathan Phillips - Coca-Cola Enterprises (UK) and Intranetizen - whose intranet has won multiple awards including:
- Michal Pisarek - Dynamic Owl Consulting (Canada)
- Sam Marshall - Clearbox Consulting (UK)
- Kim Sbarcea - Thinking Shift (NZ)
Nearly 200 people attended Intranets 2013. James will need a bigger venue soon.
Many of the presentations are already available on the internet so I don't plan to re-hash them here.
Instead, this article is about the key themes and developments that I noted throughout the conference and what these might mean for the future of intranets.
My top 10 take-aways
Coincidentally I came across an article today about IBM's simplified intranet - IBM’s massive simplification - which also has a personalised news feed.
Are we heading towards the day when an intranet home page is completely personalised for each individual staff member? Let’s hope so.
It was Einstein who said “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
This approach applies to intranets. Many organisations are too quick to implement a solution, without really thinking about the problem they are trying to solve.
According to Michal Pisarek in his presentation about the Secrets of successful SharePoint intranets, "Intranets need to solve a business problem - too many organisations try to use SharePoint for everything - the success of SharePoint depends on solving a specific business problem".
Alex Manchester, from Step Two, made a similar observation is his presentation about Designing for success with social intranets and enterprise social networks - "beware of wooly objectives, instead focus on identifying things that can be measured".
Sam Marshall in his presentation - Loving the intranet - the need for a re-think on user adoption - spoke about the need to stop talking about adoption and instead to start using the intranet to help people complete meaningful tasks.
Matthew Nette from NAB said a similar thing when he explained their implementation of Yammer. "We desperately searched for a good business case but found in hard work to find one. Eventually we asked the community for case studies and success stories and here we found the answer and learnt a lesson - don’t under-estimate the power of stories about innovation, improvement and effective communication to help sell your idea’.
Speaking of stories, Shawn Callahan from the aptly named Anecdote, delivered an interesting session about the power of influencing stakeholders through stories.
In these days of ROI, Net Present Value, Costs and Benefits - it's helpful to know that a good old fashioned story, told in the right way by the right person, still has the potential to influence, persuade and convince.
Joanne McBain from Wannon Water certainly used her story telling skills to describe her personal journey to obtain credibility and approval in order to create a digital workplace.
While it certainly helps to have a good story to tell, it can also help to deliver that story with a powerful video. Jonathan Phillips from Coke showed the impressive Coke Intranet Launch Video. Luke Sinclair (AMP) also had a fantastic video launch for the AMP intranet (lets hope we see it on Youtube soon).
Alex Manchester spoke about social technologies in his presentation, Designing for success with social intranets and enterprise social networks. He says they promise a lot but are failing to deliver on this promise at the moment. He sees three main problems - 1) poor objectives, 2) culture is not ready, 3) failed experiments.
He is right. Some other articles that look at why social technologies are failing to deliver include: 5 reasons social intranets have not taken off, Is Middle Management the Enemy of Social Business? and Are intranets becoming more collaborative and accessible?
However, as Alex points out, the promise of social technologies is great. The following two reports outline this promise in greater detail - McKinsey Report: Social technologies could raise productivity by 20-25% and The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.
Jonathan Phillips gives us the low-down on how the Coke intranet has won so many awards.
The big bang approach to intranet implementation - ie. implementing many features over a long period of time - is losing popularity within the intranet community. Jonathan Phillips from Coke talked about how the Coke intranet not only consisted of a big launch but they have also taken a long wow approach to intranet development. There have been 60 improvements that have been introduced since the launch.
I wrote about the benefits of the long wow approach and the similarities with the Lean Startup movement in the recent article, The Organic Intranet.
SharePoint cops a lot of flak these days. But in my experience, this bad reputation has more to do with poor or non-existent change management than anything else. Michal Pisarek nailed it on the head when he said that implementing SharePoint is more like implementing SAP than MS Office.
Change management, communication and training should all be a significant part of the SharePoint solution.
SharePoint is not something that the IT Department can roll out and then expect everyone to know how to use.
Some tips that can help people use SharePoint more effectively include:
- Implement SharePoint out-of-the-box. Both Paul Earl from Aurecon and Ingeborg Hawighorst from Powerco (NZ) advocated this approach. The benefits of this approach become even more apparent when it's time to upgrade.
- Free food is a great way to get people to attend meetings, training, etc
- Do not allow people to cut and paste from Word. This copies across all the Word styles and can cause disaster (this has improved in SharePoint 2013)
- Need to not only train people in the HOW but also the WHY.
- Train content authors as early as possible - don't wait until the day before launch to get them going
- Ensure content authors are clear on what the guidelines are around uploading images - do not let them load big images (though SP 2013 helps with this problem)
- Take the time to implement SharePoint best bets - will greatly improve the search results
- Make sure senior management and middle management complete their profiles - will encourage others to follow
- Implementing custom forms with workflow is a winner
According to Kim Sbarcea from MindVision, leadership and trust are integral to an intranet team’s success. The idea of a ‘lone hero’ coming to save the day is a myth (perpetuated in part by Hollywood) - you need to accept that a team is necessary to succeed.
Some leadership books also send the wrong message - they make it seem like any dummy can learn leadership. This is not the case. Building a team takes trust and trust takes a long time to build (though just a moment to lose).
This theme of trust was also noted by Shawn Callahan who described trust as consisting of credibility, reliability, and intimacy. Trust is a helpful quality if you wish to be an effective story teller.
Part of being a good leader is ensuring your team is motivated. Kim talked about three drivers of motivation - autonomy, mastery and purpose. These topics were also discussed by Sam Marshall as well in the context of how they can be used to motivate people to use the intranet.
For more information about these motivational qualities, see the very interesting video - Dan Pink: The Surprising Truth about what motivates us. I also mention these motivational qualities along with the meaning of work in the article, Cool Hand Luke and why I'm passionate about intranets.
Michal Pisarek also spoke at length and emphasised the importance of other non-technical elements that were key to success such as change management, strategy and of course, governance. Michal is a fan of the John Kotter 8 phase approach to leading change. An approach that was followed by Weston Solutions on their way to becoming the #1 ranked intranet in the Worldwide Intranet Challenge.
Following on from this theme of teamwork, some of the speakers talked about the importance of gaining the buy-in and trust of the community. For example, Matthew Nette from the NAB said that strong community leaders were critical to the success of his project. In fact, the community played a pivotal role in helping ensure the Yammer business case was approved by providing case studies and stories that convinced senior management that it was a valuable investment.
The Digital Workplace is gradually changing the way organisations operate. With the increase in flexible working, job sharing, working from home and better technology, the way organisations distribute and manage work is changing.
This change in the way of work is changing the very nature of organisations - greater trust is needed and different ways of measuring productivity are also needed. Kim and a couple of the other speakers touched on some of these points during their presentations (and also at the bowling on the Wednesday night!).
For an interesting article on this topic, see Social Business Forcing Companies to Reorganize Internally.
The thing I enjoyed most about Intranets 2013 (and previous conferences as well) was the chance to meet people from a diverse and interesting range of organisations and backgrounds. Some of these people I know of by reputation (or LinkedIn and Twitter profile) and there was nothing like getting to meet them in person.
I was glad to finally meet Jonathan Phillips from Coke and Intranetizen, Michal Pisarek and Sam Marshall, whose blog articles and tweets I always read (and highly recommend to anyone). These guys are almost as smart as they appear on the interweb!
It was also good to catch up with Rebecca Jackson (who did a good job reporting on the conference), Luke Sinclair (AMP), Tamsin Stanford (Australia Post), Bridie Sampson (Parsons Brinckerhoff), Paul Earl (Aurecon), Kate Needham (NSW Trade & Investment), Glenn Martin and of course the entire Step Two team.
The theme of the conference was that "Intranets Unite" and I have to say that the conference is a great example of how an intranet can facilitate that. In fact, the conference itself could be used as a case study by organisations wanting to learn how to combine traditional face-to-face communication with the power of social technologies.
Yet again the team at Step Two did an excellent job organising the event and certainly provided many opportunities for people to meet each other socially with well organised breaks and a fun and interesting social night.
Great effort and well done!
Other Intranet 2013 References
- Intranets 2013 - Presentations
- Intranets 2013 Conference Sydney – Day 1 Sam Marshall
- Intranets 2013 Conference Sydney – Day 2 Sam Marshall
- Intranets2013 – Day 1 - Rebecca Jackson
- Intranets2013 – Day 2 - Rebecca Jackson
- Intranets2013 – UX Sketchnoting
- Conference Review: #intranets2013, Sydney - Jonathan Philips (Intranetizen)