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Interaction 2013

Live blogging from Interaction 2013 in London, hosted by Interact Intranet #iic13

Michael Sampson at Interaction 2013

Interaction 2013

Michael Sampson – Collaboration on the Intranet

Michael (@collabguy) began with ‘The 5% problem for intranets’: Typical functions of the intranet  – Communication, Content, Workflow – are important, but only represent a small fraction of what people do in their working day. What really matters in Collaboration.

Things people struggle with on a  day to day basis are more like running projects, knowing if you have the latest version of a document. Same with inducting new people. Same with finding expertise.

The ‘chemistry’ of collaboration has 4 main elements:

  1. Communicating – sharing ideas, updates
  2. Agreements – how we do stuff together, rules of engagement
  3. Action – executing things jointly agreed, joint review and accountability
  4. Outcome – that we are working towards some outcome together


Sharing not fully-formed ideas is important for collaboration. If an idea is fully formed theres no scope for you to add to it. Sharing incomplete ideas is therefore a cultural value, which in turn requires an openness to the ideas of others. It also requires a culture of sharing risk and reward to underpin it. Michael sees hierarchical organisations are favouring the perfectly-formed end (though I think hierarchies are becoming a bit of a scapegoat these days!).


Key to governance is about ensuring a high quality experience when people are interacting with each other (compared with interacting with content in a more traditional intranet). Foe example, who can create a site and when.

 “Adoption is a process not an event”

Adoption is a big failure point irrespective of the software tool of choice. Michael’s book on Adoption Strategies covers many approaches (it’s a great book, by the way!).  One example is ‘Exemplar Stories’ – a kind of “how will things be different” illustration.

Michael did survey of what is effective as an adoption strategy and found that things like classroom training, web training and intranet help  had low effectiveness but were widely done. Whereas exec support and on-on-one coaching had much higher success rates.

The Intranet Launch Survival Guide – Genevieve Potter, Bauer Media

…or “How I made friends with a vending machine”.

Bauer Media were the stars of the Interact Intranet awards last night, so looking forward to this one. Bauer covers magazines (55 titles), radio (43 stations) and digital TV. With so many teams, it is easy to end up working in silos.

Bauer’s intranet was sponsored by HR, and run by a team combining IT, HR and Design.

For the business case, Bauer focussed on showing how the intranet would solve specific business problems. They also wanted to make sure that employees would care, so ran a competition to re-name the intranet and got over 500 entries. “MediaVine” was the winning name. The team also put in the effort to jump on other meeting agendas to share what they were doing and gather feedback.

To recruit content managers, they were scored on the quality of the content they look after and could win up to 3 days extra holiday as an incentive – 27 out of 32 met the grade. [I have to wonder how sustainable this is – you could end up with the content manager role getting more holiday every year and alienating other staff, but at Bauer it’s seen as a fair reward]. At launch people were given “Ask me about MediaVine” lanyards to identify them as on the spot help.

Launch week in numbers:

  • UT Helpdesk calls   626
  • Vending Machine visits – 15
  • Number staff uploading pictures of selves in swimwear – 9
  • Crashes – 1 (but they blame Active Directory)

There were hints that MediaVine worked really well to get people collaborating across boundaries. It would have ben great to have heard more about that. The implication seems to be that it was a natural cultural fit.

Glasgow Housing – Wendy Jordan

How Holmes gave Glasgow Housing Association a voice by Wend (@Wednesday_IC).

GHA began their intranet just with core pages that people really needed and then slowly brought other things online so they could have new things every 2 weeks or so.

The promise of Holmes is: “We’ll talk if you listen, we’ll listen if you talk”. Such openness is alarming to some. So GHA created a whole stack of guidelines and policies – but nobody looked at it. So instead they boiled it down to 5 things to do, 5 not to do. For example, don’t talk about customers or share their information. In 18 months, nobody has broken these rules.

 Sharing best practice and feedback

One campaign they had was “Think Yes”, to encourage staff to delight customers by cutting out bureaucracy and responding to problems. They use Holmes as a may to anonymously report ‘blockages’ on things that stop people ‘thinking yes’ and mangers respond to remove the blockages.

They also let staff ask anonymously about organisational re-structuring. Without anonymity the questions wouldn’t be honest. Questions were gathered in and published with answers, along with exec blogging. As a result, feedback from staff was very positive, that they had been well consulted about the changes.

Call centre restructure

As part of the restructuring, some frontline workers were asked to move to call centre working. This didn’t go down well as it was seen as a highly-controlled place to work. To reassure them, Wendy asked someone in  the call centre to blog about what it was like to work there over 3 weeks. He had over 150 comments, and it turned around the perception from “battery hens” to “great place to work”.

Usernomics – Matt McCourty & Nigel Williams, Interact

Re-thinking how we value intranets. Nigel (@footshort82) began by confessing to being a reformed ROI addict!


  • Take care with ROI
  • Make use of Usernomics
  • Measure Return on Engagement

The problem of ROI

A simple change sounds like a big return, but often it’s based on saving 5 minutes. That sounds good, but they’re often not a 5 minute block but fragments here and there. Better ROI examples are thing like replacing manual processes with automated ones where the transaction cost goes down.

Web-led Usernomics

We’ve moved from hit counters to journey paths to usernomics on the web. This is beyond traffic as the focus towards asking “how are people interacting with each other?”. For example Coke’s “Share a coke with…” campaign was not about website views but getting people to talk about Coke, and in a small way becoming an ambassador. Similarly, consumer forums like Sky have people who give time free to help solve Sky problems just to get  up the author league table.

What does it look like on an intranet? It means cultivating intranet champions that can show people “did you know you could do this on the intranet?”, rather than it always being the intranet manager driving this.

Return on Engagement

It’s a nebulous thing to measure, but possible metrics are

  1. Answers to questions  – how many submitted, how many responding, how long to get an answer.
  2. Endorsements for expertise
  3. Document quality  – scoring document metadata for example.

ROE does lead to ROI. A 2% increase in engagement can give a 1% increase in retention (Forrester – Benefits Strategy and Technology Study).

Empowering Mobile Workers – Dan Lewis, Judge Group

Dan (@dantheITman) worked on the UK Parliament Mobile Intranet.

Dan asked “Who can’t get corporate email on their mobile device?”. Only 2 out of 80ish couldn’t. “Why not?” Asked Dan. “I don’t know what I’ve done wrong” came the plaintive reply. Whereas only 15-20% can do other activities such as calendaring, staff directory or collaboration.

We need to stop thinking about just pushing content out there – people want to DO, not just consume. Though an interesting cross-tweet from another stream reported that Coca cola enterprises had a 50% rise in reading news since going mobile.

Dan advocated:

Device-agnostic apps in HTML5 rather than Android/iOS-specific ones. Otherwise you will struggle to keep up with evolving trends e.g. Firefox OS likely to be big where very low cost devices are growing like Brazil.

Easy security – really need single sign-on with mobile. Apple now supports it, though coming to the party late.


CNN created ‘iReport’ – a citizen journalism app for the public. They then created an internal version to collect leads from all staff, everywhere. The app lets you take a photo, video etc and upload stories. The goal was to empower non-newsroom personnel and there was a reward scheme behind the scenes.

Growing trend is use of geofencing so that e.g. a sales manager will be given sales figures for the store they are in at that moment. Or construction app where the picklist is prioritised to show projects within a 10 mile radius. Problem is a lot of content isn’t appropriately tagged to exploit this at the moment.


Start by looking at browser stats and work out the 10 most use OS/screen combos to test. What you should really avoid is break points that say “this is when we go from phone to tablet designs”. That said, Android fragmentation is an overblown issue.

Digital Workplaces – Lunchtime Informercial

A few speakers have mentioned Jane McConnell’s Digital Workplace Trends survey (@netjmc). Participation for the 2014 survey is currently open and well worth doing – you get a fantastic free report rich in data and analysis – see my review of the 2013 DW Trends Report

 World’s most user-focused intranets – Andrew Wright

Andrew (@roojwright) runs the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC)

What’s the most important factor in contributing to a valuable intranet? Andrew asked the crowd to stand up

  • 0% Look and feel
  • 40% Ease of finding information
  • 1% Intranet governance
  • 40% staff able to interact
  • 1% Performance and availability
  • 15% Help completing work tasks
  • 1% Quality of Content

Looking at WIC data, he correlated user-perception of value and a more detailed list of activities like the one above. Finding info actually ranked pretty low. Interactivity is the highest ranking set. [Steve Osborne suggests that this is because users see finding stuff as a given, not a value-add].

Is more time spent on an intranet a good thing? Yes. There’s a good correlation between perceived value and time spent. You could argue that bad intranets lead to longer visits because people can’t find stuff, but this isn’t what the data shows.

Are intranets social yet? Approx 50% of WIC participants said they never contribute to their intranet, 90% said they rarely do. Why? Andrew suggests

  1. Not enough priority given to persuading people to contribute
  2. People don’t know what they should contribute
  3. Not enough priority given to change management

Case Studies

1. nSynergy

Managed to reduce email by 50%. Every day the 2 bosses contribute content – setting a strong example for others.

2. Government Dept

Their intranet is centred around “Work instructions”, a page for each workflow. Includes feedback and “what’s new” information. An automatic “related content” area helps break down silos by cross-referencing.

There’s a personalised page that automatically gives a dashboard view showing popular tasks, scheduled tasks and changes tailored to each person’s profile.

3. Weston Solutions

Did WIC as a before & after and jumped from 77th to 1st. Their homepage actually isn’t that attractive, but what matters is everything else it does. The company put real focus on the change management side (following Kotter’s 8 step plan).

The Workplace of the Future in 2013 – Luis Suarez, IBM

Luis (@elsua). Covering how the workplace will change in the next 5-10 years. Living the digital workplace, Luis lives in Gran Canaria, but most of his team are in the US. As he puts it “Work is not a physical place, but a state of mind”.

IBM see a generational issue in meeting needs and preferences of each generation of worker. Long-tenure workers not as comfortable sharing knowledge, yet they’re the ones with most knowledge to share. One of the biggest hurdles is getting people to give up control – more entrepreneur than chief.

IBM really promoted device flexibility, personalised portals, listening and communicating, collaboration and social.

List of components in IBM's digital workplace

IBM Collaborative workplace

Collaborative activity: There are over 500,000 people at IBM. They send 50M IMs a day- compared to 40M emails. This has grown hugely since 2006 when it was 1M.

Notably in IBM people do help each other and answer questions without any gamification element or extrinsic rewards scheme. Their forums have over 1.05M topics.

Sentiment: HR run several analytics internally to assess sentiment dynamically and in turn measure engagement. This isn’t just social content, but based on a whole range of activities.

Transparency: Leaders have learned to open up and tell people where the company is in terms of progress. If people aren’t happy then they take in the feedback and try to fix it. Key element is that if you are challenged, you need to be able to respond too. Transparency also runs to the level of all status updates being visible to everyone, even down to Luis’s boss reminding him about an important deadline ‘in public’.

IBM’s blogging policy was created in 2 weeks by active bloggers using a wiki. It worked so well that neither HR nor Legal asked for changes. This has now evolved into their social business governance plan. Such is the maturity in IBM now that even Legal have started blogging.

The Intranet. People didn’t like a homepage that loaded too much content in a single page – it slowed it down too much. The old “Activity feed” that was front and centre has been replaced by 3 main columns in a responsive template: “News for All, Your News and Get Connected”. To see the activity feed you need to click through to the social platform.


Gap while I gave my own talk on the Digital Workplace Manifesto [Digital Workplace slides on SlideShare]


Making sense of your intranet – Richard Hare

Richard (@RichardHare) shared his experience of introducing collaboration at BAT. A lightbulb moment for Richard was Dave Snowden talking about how to organise a children’s party. The complicated way to do it is to have gantt charts, gates and processes. The better way to do it is to have attractors that get people to self-organize.

On an intranet this applies in particular to social tools. As an example of over-constraining: one company constrained their discussion forum to just 6 threads. What it meant that just about any search returned a hit on one of those threads because everything sat underneath it.

We need to design experiments to learn. This isn’t a pilot – pilots we usually expect to succeed. Learning experiments you should expect most of those to fail.


The day ended with a lively panel discussion. One question that ruffled feathers was whether intranets are too complacent about  business leader’s needs such as driving innovation, or to prarphrase “are intranets a solution looking for a problem”. The panel’s response was that much innovation happens not at the leader level but from front line employees, and that intranets do facilitate this. That response and a follow up one about field workers underlines the need for intranets to engage with knowledge workers who are not desk-bound however. And indeed, for us to not get too hung up on where the intranet ends, and where the baton passes to other tools that let us innovate, carry out transactions and manage information.

Overall kudos is due to the Interact team for another excellent event. There were some fantastic speakers and great insights from  both strategic thinkers and very hands-on intranet managers.  To me it is the main gathering of the UK intranet community. Let’s hope 2014 is even bigger.

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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