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Intranets 2013 Conference Sydney – Day 2

Intranets 2013 Conference Sydney – Day 2

Live blogging from Day 2 (see also Day 1). It’s been a fantastic conference so far, so I’ll try to do justice to today’s tracks (and apologies in advance when it goes silent at the end as I’ve the privilege of being the closing keynote — no pressure then!). Conference agenda.

Creating Trust and Uniting staff at a global and local level. Kim Sbarcea – ThinkingShift

James explained that one of the things Step Two have noticed is that successful teams deliver successful intranets – in that order. So its important that we think about how intranet teams work and their place in the organisation.

Kim began by talking about how Hollywood perpetuates a myth that leaders – heroes – are born that way This sends out the wrong message about leadership. Business literature too tends to give the wrong impression with titles like “Leadership for Dummies” and “Become a leader in 5 days”.

When it comes to trust we’ve all been on those workshops where you get blindfolded and somehow expected to start trusting each other by stoping each other falling over.

Kim presented her ‘circle of trust’.
Many orgs will say they support home working, but it there’s no trust, when you try to do it your boss still ends up thinking “Are they really working or watching TV?”. So sometimes being an effective leader means letting go – an openness to trust and a willingness to delegate in Kim’s circle.

When it comes to influencing, start with the Why, rather than the What? So don’t go in saying “We’ve got an intranet with XYZ” but “This is why we have an intranet”

Kim tried to introduce ‘no talk thursdays’ to avoid interruptions every thursday afternoon. In Rome! It was disruptive, but let people think about what it means to allow team members to really concentrate.

Kim talked about 3 motivators of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (something I’ll be exploring too in my talk later today). She gave the example of Atlassian’s 5 rules:
1. Open company, no bullshit
2. Build with heart and balance
3. Don’t #@!% the customer
4. Play, as a team
5. Be the change you seek

Final tip on exploring collaboration:
Marshmallow Challenge. Kids do it really well because they play and prototype rather than debate.

The task is simple: in eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top.

Successful intranets – Art not Science. Paul Earl – Aurecon
Paul has been working on a SharePoint 2013 implementation for a management consultancy – 7500 people across 80 offices. Challenge was to merge 2 companies, 2 intranets and 5+ rogue mini sites: “Deliver one Aurecon”.

Step 1: Define the Vision
* Don’t ask anyone what they want
* End users own the need, not the solution
* Don’t be afraid to write the vision yourself

One of Paul’s favourite activities in the end-user workshops was to talk about “A day in the life of”. In effect create a story around a scenario, such as “You’re working on a new project with the Cape Town office…”

In a nutshell, the Vision was a global publishing platform, empowered collaboration, build culture and reinforce brand; pictures not words.

Step 2: The interface
Don’t be too clever with the navigation. If people say “I’m looking for an HR document”, then put it under HR. [Controversially] Paul advocates starting with the org structure, though the menus implemented are things like “Deliver projects / Develop business / Build Expertise”

Step 3: Content
Always the biggest risk. Expect to do a lot of hand holding of content owners to get people to actually get round to working on it. Lie about the deadline! Make it at least twice as early as it actually needs to be.

Step 4: Development
Small team approach so everyone knows what is going on. Did NO documentation, but lead by a workshop and sketching approach. It took less time to build a prototype than it would have taken to get the documents signed off.
Don’t even think about customising SharePoint, that makes it unreliable and hard to upgrade. So Aurecon worked on branding but everything else was code free. When SP2013 came along they could upgrade in just three days. They wanted SP2013 especially for its community features.

Step 5: The results
* 10 months end to end.
* 200 content authors trained
* Soft launch then full go live
* designed mega-menus and a ‘My Shortcuts’ feature

The site design is clean and consistent, with minimal templates to ensure consistency.


Metadata is used extensively, seen as categories for things like news, so that when an article is created there are fields for geography,media type, topic and so-on. Content is then presented using search. This helps in the services area too – people can navigate to HR policies then filter by area if needed.

In communities, categories are used as a primary navigation approach. You can browse from a three-tier list, say, Business Support > Human Capital > Career development. They implemented basic gamification, telling people it was just for fun. One person complained “you make me feel like a child, playing on an Xbox”, only to email back a few days later complaining their points weren’t adding up correctly. One consequence of this is that when people post in communities, they have to fill in the three tiers of categorisation too, but so far the conversations are working well, and functions are seeing the benefit of frequently asked questions being answered by the community.

What modern intranet pages look like. Rebecca Rodgers – Step Two Designs
Rebecca talked about the 7 roles of a home page illustrated with lots of screenshots.

* Coca-Cola – grouping is used to help users know what they can expect to see.
* Department of Human Resources – very simple mobile interface: Search directory, Search Intranet, A-Z. As resolution goes up, the much richer the content becomes, and more multi-column.
* Patricks – strong imagery to communicate what the organisation does.
* Canon – has a character, Pixel, to represent the intranet. They have a calendar on the homepage. Catherine commented that these an work well if everyone can add to the calendar. Don’t necessarily show the standard month view, a “this week” display may be better.
* Sun Water – another intranet with a character, Simon. Simon changes – a St Patricks Simon, Christmas Simon, even a Movember Simon.
* Framestore – highly customisable homepage with drag and drop feed widgets. Within a few weeks 90% of users had customised it.

How Practitioners make search work. Matthias Brunnert – Findwise
Search isn’t just about the search engine, in Findwise’s survey, 64% of respondents saw the issue as being of that we don’t know where to look vs 53% poor search functionality.

1) Appoint a search manager. 61% of respondents who were satisfied/ v. satisfied with search had at least 1 FTE working on search
2) Get help from search experts.
3) Design a modern interface. UX applies to search too, such as spelling suggestions, type-ahead and refiners (facets) in results.
4) Use Metadata – 73% of users satisfied with search were in organisations that used metadata.
5) Get feedback, for example a feedback form with the results page,
6) Its not about intranet search but all sources employees need.
7) Adapt the search engine to your needs – it isn’t a magic thing that works out of the box.
8) Look at the search logs

Top two search engines? SharePoint 2013 and Apache Solar (Open Source).

All in, top marks to Step Two for putting on a world class intranet event. The enthusiasm carried on through right to the end, the quality and diversity of the speakers was excellent, and everything went so smoothly too. One theme that really struck me was people talking openly about what it means to be an intranet manager, and I think that reflects the strong local community. I also appreciated that the team had a range of speaker slot lengths to encourage first-time speakers out of the shadows. That’s a smart move – we always need new perspectives! That said, I do hope to be back one day 😉

See also:
Rebecca Jackson wrote some excellent summaries of her experience of the conference too – see her blog
Andrew Wright did an insightful summary of 10 themes from the conference

Sam Marshall

I'm the director of ClearBox Consulting, advising on intranet and digital workplace strategy, SharePoint and online collaboration. I've specialised in intranets and knowledge Management for over 19 years, working with organisations such as Unilever, Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Sony, Rio Tinto and Diageo. I was responsible for Unilever’s Global Portal Implementation, overseeing the roll-out of over 700 online communities to 90,000 people and consolidating several thousand intranets into a single system.


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