Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Intranet manager: the most complex job in the world

It struck me again recently while I was reading the latest edition of Jane McConnell’s ‘digital workplace’ report. There are an amazing number of aspects to intranets or digital workplaces! Intranets and intranet projects are complex. Intranets touch the hart of organizations.

Intranet managers
This is also what you hear when you talk with people who are responsible for the intranet. Their role implies they have to master a broad range of skills, if they want to do their job successfully. So is intranet management one of the or the most complex jobs in the world?

Intranet disciplines
Let's see which skills a successful intranet manager has to have. I have conducted the following list. Intranet managers need to know:
  • The organization and processes: how does the organization work and what are the key business processes? This is also important because the intranet needs organization (governance) that fits with the overall organization of the company. An intranet manager must be able to define, set up and manage the intranet organization.
  • Organizational strategy: related to knowledge of organization and processes, knowledge of the organizational strategy is important. Where is the organization headed? An intranet manager must know this and position the intranet as an enabler for the strategic themes. Decision makers will see the intranet has value and creates value.
  • IT and technology: an intranet is built using (web) technology and often integrates with other IT systems. Knowledge of these technologies is essential to be able to talk with IT and select the right intranet platform. The intranet manager must also be able to translate the needs of the employees to a functional description that IT understands and can implement.
  • Trends: What trends can be seen in the way people, organizations and technology works? Keeping an eye on these trends and using them for the intranet is essential for an intranet manager. Else the ‘intranet’ will be built elsewhere by employees…
  • Sales: a good intranet sells itself, but not everybody is just as convinced about the value of the intranet as you are. Therefore an intranet manager should be able to sell the (envisioned) intranet and sell it to management and employees.
  • Service: an intranet can (partially) break down. Employees will complain about this. Their complaints should be listened to and solved. Related to this knowledge of secondary processes is essential. Employee self-service is a highly valued feature of intranets.
  • Writing for ‘online’: creating relevant content for employees is an art. An intranet manager must be able to create such content and help others do so as well.
  • Finance: an intranet costs money and generates value. An intranet manager must be able to write up a business case for the (envisioned) intranet to prove its value to decision makers and employees.
  • HR and legal policies: what may or may not be shared on the intranet differs per country and market. In some countries, for instance, an employee picture isn’t allowed to be share (without consent). An intranet manager must know these (local) rules and act on them.
  • Measurement: intranet managers must measure the intranet usage, and analyze and report the results.
  • Convincing: intranet managers need to be influencers. In many organizations they don’t have a position to impose what they want (even if that would be possible…). Other people skills like communicating and presenting fit in this category as well.
  • Community management and networks: managing intranet means understanding the communities and networks in the organization. How are decisions really made in the organization and how do you get communities and networks to work for you?
I probably missed a few skills. I loved to hear from you which other skills you think an intranet manager must have. More and more I’m convinced that intranet managers should be good translators. I think that’s the implicit skill in the list. Intranet managers must work in between organization and employees, IT and Communications, design and technology, etc.

One person?
Reading this list could lead to the question whether all this can be done by one person. Ideally speaking I think the intranet manager should have all these skills. In most cases it’s even necessary, because there is no extra budget for more intranet managers (with other skills). But even if these skills are spread out over more than one intranet manager I think it’s important that these managers have overlapping skills. In this way they will understand each other more deeply.

Which steps can you take to learn more of these skills? I don't think there’s a 1-2-3 recipe. But I can recommend the following 3 steps:
  1. Read and listen: read books and blogposts from intranet experts and talk with other intranet managers
  2. Study: there isn’t an intranet management study (should there be one?), but spread out over different studies there are classes and courses that you could take.
  3. Contact the primary process of your company: take you time to participate in the primary process of your organization. Ideally work in the primary process for some time.
I’m curious if you recognize all this. Do intranet managers see themselves in this way? Did I miss out important skills for intranet management? And which skills are the hardest to master?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Some insights from the Digital Workplace Survey 2014 - 3

In my previous post about Jane’s report about the Digital Workplace I focused on what the report said about adoption, challenges and business scenario’s. In this post I’m zeroing in on the survey results about mobile intranet, search, and the scorecard.

Mobile intranet
I hear quite some organizations talk about mobile intranet. The report shows only 10% actually have a mobile intranet. And 30-40% have plans to develop one in 2014. To me this is somewhat disappointing, although it does relate to my consultancy work. Mobile intranet is still far away for most companies. Many are (still) working hard to get the 'basics' right.

Quite some attention is paid to ‘search’ in the report. Clearly search is not done well in most intranets. I do find it surprising hardly any companies get search right. My experience is this usually has more to do with governance and content design than with technology…

Together with an Advisory Board a Digital Workplace Scorecard was defined with which organizations can assess themselves at their readiness for or current state of the digital workplace. The Scorecard is not easy to understand and fill in, I find. But I actually like that. Developing an intranet or a digital workplace is not easy either. The Scorecard clearly communicates that. There are many things to take into account when developing and maintaining a digital workplace.

In conclusion
First and foremost I’d like to congratulate Jane with another great report. Clearly a huge amount of work must go into the report. I find reading the report inspiring and insightful. And the way the survey results are presented get better every year. I really appreciate the way Jane continuously is thinking about how to present and communicate the results in a better way.

I’ve read quite a bit of posts about the report. It’s great to hear what others think of the results. I’m curious to hear what you think of my findings from the report. And how you use Jane's great report in practice. Please leave a comment if you have any.

Oh, and finally, it’s good to see some Dutch organizations – I counted 7 - participating in the survey. But we can do better, dear Dutchies! :-)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Some insights from the Digital Workplace Survey 2014 - 2

As mentioned in my previous post I wanted to write some more about Jane McConnell’s research report about ‘the digital workplace’. I can’t and won’t discuss the whole report. I thought I’d highlight some parts of the report and hopefully this will get you to buy and read the report yourself. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you to.

Adoption and challenges
I searched the report for ways in which organizations promote internal social networking and support adoption. What I found was that most just let it grow (‘viral adoption’), promote it with official communication, and make sure senior management is involved and gives a good example. I think it would be great if more is shared about how organization support adoption of internal social networking (and digital workplaces). My experience is that many organizations have a hard time growing internal networking and workplaces.

This also relates to the interesting chapter about ‘The new workplace. Challenges and concerns…’, especially the part about the “toughest challenges”. It would have been great if some practitioners or the survey results would have shown how companies are addressing these challenges. It is good to see the list of ways organizations are tackling the challenges, like internal communication campaign, behavior change, etc. But what does this look like in practice, how are these companies doing this and does this really help overcome the challenges?

Business scenario’s
Jane defines four interesting and valid business scenario’s for the digital workplace. For instance, supporting customer facing employees, employee learning and development and organization flexibility. I like how Jane underlines the necessity of a business focus of the digital workplace. In my experience this is often the reason why intranets or digital workplaces hardly have value for employees and the organization. Governance is a big issue with many intranets and digital workplace. Not thinking about the reason/goal of why the organization needs a digital workplace is just as big of a problem.

For this reason I wonder if the business scenario’s in the report should be even more business focused. For instance: how does the digital workplace helps sales employees to do their work? Or: how does the digital workplace help employees develop new products and services? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this topic. I’m planning to share mine in the near future.

On Monday, I'll publish my final post about the Digital Workplace report.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some insights from the Digital Workplace Survey 2014 - 1

Well, Jane McConnell’s yearly report about the Digital Workplace has been out for some time now. At that time I read the report (like I do every year), but didn’t have (or make?) time to share my thoughts on it. But I’m sharing them now.

Jane’s report, ‘Digital Workplace in the connected organization’, is the most comprehensive report about the digital workplace. It’s her 8th report and it again contains loads of information and interesting insights. As I’ve said before: It’s a must-have for every person interested in or working the intranet, digital workplace and social business space. By the way, Jane regularly shares insightful nuggets from her research and extensive experience over on her blog.

Extra valuable
This year’s report clearly has extra value compared to previous editions. The report contains an enormous amount of valuable information. More than ever before Jane gives guidelines how to go through the report, with a short and longer version of the report. Also a scorecard is provided to score the organization you work for and compare yourself with others. Furthermore I like how the report is set up in such a way that you don’t have to read the whole report to understand the segment you’re interesting in. In this way the report is truly a intranet or digital workplace handbook. And it’s updated every year! The report can help you target fields in which your digital workplace can improve. In my work as a consultant I also find that some organizations are anxious about their intranet being hopelessly outdated. This report can help those organizations to find out if they are right to be anxious or not.

Next posts
I plan to write two more posts about the report. The first is focused on adoption, challenges and business scenario’s. The second is focused on mobile, search and the scorecard.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Creative blackhole

Back to blogging! Man, I really missed it and have tried several times to get back into the habit of blogging regularly. Typing a few lines of text, but never finalizing the post and hitting the ‘publish’ button. I’ve been wondering for some time why I could cram out a post and I now think I’ve found the source.

As I’ve mentioned I’ve been very busy with all kinds of projects. I’m happy to say that almost all projects have been going and are going great. It’s a joy to work for clients and help them improve their communication and knowledge processes using web technology.

But there’s this one project that is not going right. It’s been going wrong for months and just when you think the project is back on track it derails again. You’ve probably been there. To me this is my creative blackhole. Loads of thinking and energy is poured into this project. Every little detail is thought over. Sucking away creativity and therefore also time to blog. Horrible but true.

Of course there are all kinds of self-help tips relating to this situation. ‘Kill the project’, ‘Don’t let it take away your happiness’, ‘Don’t focus too much on the negative stuff’, etc. This can work some of the time. But everybody knows that when you have a sore finger it’s hard to not pay attention to it till it goes away. And in the case of a project it’s about people: the happiness and expectations of my client and, on the other hand, the happiness and performance of my team.

The good thing about projects is that they don’t go on forever (although it sometimes feels that way). The project seems to be better now. At least I’m blogging again and I’m really happy about that.

I’d be happy to hear about your experiences with time, bad projects and blogging. Does lack of time and/or a bad project lead to less blogging? Or do you have time to get around this deadlock?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Setting up the digital workplace program #intra14

Next masterclass at the Congres Intranet is by Paul Miller and Elizabeth Marsh about setting up the digital workplace program. Here are my notes.

What is the 'digital workplace'? It's consists of 3 connecting circles: the employee's digital home life, employee's digital working life and the organization's digital workplace.

Only 36% of organizations have a formal digital workplace program or function.

The overview of the session relates closely to the digital workplace checklist they developed. The steps that are distinguished are:
  1. strategy and approach - 70% of the organizations say they have set up a collaborative platform, only 10% succeed... Do a review of systems and roadmaps and define the as-is landscape of the current digital workplace. Interestingly someone remark: don't focus only on the digital landscape but also how people do their work offline. 
  2. stakeholders and buy-in - Interesting remark: Digital workplace seems to be resonating more with stakeholders and senior management than "intranet" and "portal". 
  3. governance framework - their research shows governance continues to be poorly addressed. Governance should be ongoing, not only for the duration of the project
  4. implementation and measurement - cross-functional teams lead to more success here, take an iterative approach, define key success criteria, make sure you help people understand and use the new way of working

Tapping the mind of many by @rossdawson #intra14

This year's Congres Intranet starts with two masterclasses. The first masterclass is about the potential of internal crowdsourcing by Ross Dawson. Here are my notes.

Ross starts out by point to the Wikipedia definition of crowdsourcing, but disagree with the "open call" part. It's not limited to 'open calls'.
His definition of crowdsourcing: tapping the mind of many.
And there's a huge number of crowdsourcing initiatives and platforms.

There are two big constraints to external crowdsourcing. It's intellectual property and context.
There are different types of closed crowds, e.g.:
  • employees
  • customers
The big difference between open and closed crowds is it's important to have a good reason to have a closed crowd. People that you want you to join the closed community need good reasons to join as well.

What are the steps to succes w.r.t. internal crowdsourcing?

  • objectives - why? Access better ideas? Tap existing talent? Engage staff? ...
  • context - where is your organization now? What are the existing innovation structures? What is the culture of the organization? What are the stakeholders in the crowdsourcing project?
  • process - how to set up the project? Select and define the initial project, design incentives, invite participants, encourage contributions, etc.
  • platforms - what's the right platform? Social platforms, idea platforms, prediction markets, competition platforms, collaborative documents
  • adoption - what pilots can we create?
  • success factors - what are the factors that distinguish good from bad crowdsourcing projects? 1. strategic clarity, 2. define metrics, 3. rewards, 4. roles, 5. communication, 6. governance