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Intranets 2013 Conference, Sydney – Day 1


Live blogging from Step Two’s Intranet Conference 15-16th May.
Conference agenda

Introduction – James Robertson
The conference theme is “Intranets Unite”, both in the sense of Intranets uniting people in our organizations, and as an event for intranet managers to come together and share. A lively audience of about 160 have come together

James argued that on the theme of uniting mobile intranets, we don’t want 20 different apps – a SharePoint app, an HR one, a Yammer one etc. So a challenge to get ahead of the curve on for us now is to give employees a single front door on mobile devices (I’m not sure I agree with that one – but good to have the debate!).

Coca-Cola intranet: communication + collaboration + transaction + mobility. Jonathan Phillips – Coca-Cola Enterprises (UK)
Jonathan began with a gallery of how their intranet has evolved.
1996-2003 – a very basic looking site, but still some things ahead of its time, such as direct access to an ‘app’ to manage the production line.
2003-2008 – 110 links on the homepage!
2008-2012 – moved to SharePoint and a multi-lingual intranet.

To work out where to take the intranet next, CCE did a ‘digital audit’.

  • 2 week survey of 2000 ‘online’ employees – quantitative data
  • 17 focus groups in one week (phew!) – qualitative data
  • 30+ interviews with leaders – top down approach to where the organisation is going (unlike the survey, this took 3 months!).
  • From all this 4 initiatives came out:

  • IT enablement – new hardware for universal access
  • Awareness and adoption campaign – sometimes solutions already existed but were not being used
  • Targetted internal comms – smarter use of other digital and traditional channels
  • Communities of interest – a more social approach
  • But this wasn’t how the team pitched the programme, instead they lead with the drivers of the business – productivity, customer service, employee engagement etc. “A real breakthrough for us” says Jonathan.

    Governance – remarkably, the CEO, CIO and other C-level folk come along to their quarterly ‘Communication Council’ meetings. Employees are encouraged to self-provision team sites, so that the barriers to collaboration are very low. Team sites are not deleted, but are archived and removed from search – done for records management purposes. Inactive sites are automatically archived after 6 months.

    The new intranet is both local and global, highly targeted, with ’embedded social’ a a drive towards HR efficiency. Not just a big launch but a long wow – 60 improvements have been introduced post-launch too. The template has 3 main columns: Comms, Collaboration and Transactions.

    After some debate over local vs global, the comms are very much locally lead and in local language because CCE felt that this was what engaged people. Leader blogs and banner adverts are all integrated into the flow of this column. Likes and view counts are there, but Jonathan described them as “a little bit of intranet theatre”. Theatre is a recurring theme here – videos too play within the page, a nod to the kind of web-quality experience that employees now expect.

    CCE are about to integrate Chatter as their microblogging tool into the Collaboration column.

    The transactions column is targeted, for example a “new employee orientation” box for the first 6 months. They have done away with paper payslips, partly for cost savings and partly to give employees another reason to log in. CCE’s HR transaction goal is 70% of queries are dealt with directly by the intranet, 20% go to a call centre where people are referred back to the intranet, leaving only 10% that need special attention.

    “The mobile phone is the holy grail for us”. CCE asked, what should we distill from the intranet to put in your pocket? Comms news but not blogs, Chatter and Lync, Transactions. Decided to just use the native Chatter and Lync apps, as they have had a much bigger investment in development than they could do in-house.

    Mobile just uses 2 columns. SAP is integrated with single sign-on, re-skinned to work simply on a mobile phone to give payslip and leave management. It worked so well that lots of people asked for the same simplicity on the desktop version.


    CCE spent half a day to invit users to think how social tools would fit into their day. Feeling was that if leaders use it, then people reporting to them will tend to use them too as it legitimises the channel.
    The team also put effort into explaining how the different tools fit together:


    When social business, collaboration and the intranet meet. Luke Sinclair – AMP
    Social been part of AMP’s approach for a while. They were one of Yammer’s first clients in Australia. Over half of 6000 employees signed up voluntarily. Problem was it was separate to intranet, collaboration platform etc. Employees confused about where to go, so AMP decided they needed a single, unified place [are you listening Microsoft?]. Original inspiration to change was a demo from Google of Google Wave.

    AMPs Intranet vision: Discover. Connect. Collaborate. Share.
    They always felt that employees should design the intranet. Ran a series of design cafes – card sorts, employees drawing wireframes, contextual enquiry. Findings:
    * Employees have very creative ways of getting around broken things
    * They expect dropbox, google drive like experiences.
    * Visuals very very important – every page has an icon
    * Access anywhere, any time matters.

    Moved to SharePoint 2010 + Newsgator. Social – the activity stream – is great majority of the homepage. [design is very clean, flat, Windows 8 style]. News is driven by the activity stream too. You can filer it to only see the view you want.

    Now no sense of ‘leaving the site as you move from collaboration, social and information.
    Every employee is an author – anyone can create a news article, so long as it is targeted.

    Site is also fully mobile – entire site uses responsive design. at the moment this works well for info consumption, less so for content creation. on the social side they use the Newsgator app. You can log in from any device, not VPN, tokens etc. and everything is accessible.

    For launch, AMP created a very polished video called “Work better” with a video of 150 employees taking part. [It features keywords like share and collaborate flying off screens and people following them Pied-piper style to a big swirly word vortex in the lobby — think you have to see it so hopefully Luke will share it!]. To create a buzz it was released as a ‘chain mail’ email saying “something strange has been happening…”. Luke’s advice “do things wouldn’t normally do – or is against IT security policy”

    They did a roadshow with a hub pop-up cafe and a pro photographer to help get good pro photos on profiles. They also did a reverse-mentoring programme for execs on how to use the hub.

    Final tip – don’t call metadata ‘metadata’ – its too techie. At AMP they just talk about tags and settings, and to users they just see attractively-designed forms with each field clearly explained with help text.

    Secrets of Successful SharePoint Intranets. Michal Pisarek – Dynamic Owl
    “SharePoint has no inherent business value unless you apply it to a business problem or opportunity”. Dynamic Owl has delivered intranets for orgs up to 225,000 people. [They have a great blog too SharePoint Analyst HQ]

    Memorable quotes from Michal:
    “If you don’t know where you’re going with SharePoint, every path looks like the right one”
    “SharePoint can be many things but it doesn’t have to be everything”
    “To get it right, you need to think of it as being a Change Management project with SharePoint as the enabling technology.”
    “The power of SharePoint is in its breadth, not its depth”

    SharePoint Intranet Pitfalls:
    1. An intranet and collaboration can be vastly different things
    2. The easy things can be costly, the difficult things cheap. e.g. making SharePoint look attractive.
    3. Don’t boil the ocean – ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’

    Why is it so difficult to get people to use SharePoint?
    1. People have alternatives like email and Google drive. Unlike, say, an HR system.
    2. Uses have unclear expectations of the benefits of things like team sites
    3. Lack of training. SharePoint is not intuitive, and people need to understand the WHY as well as the HOW. Don’t assume people even really know how to search – for example how to filter results.

    SharePoint Tips
    1.Don’t sell content management as being like using Word. Train content authors really early – halfway through the project, not just before launch.
    2. Intranets can grind to a half after the staff party – 10Mb images are still 10Mb even if you scale (unless you use SharePoint 2013).
    3. Every department name you have should be a best bet pointing to their ‘about’ info. Same for common actions like travel, holidays, locations and training.
    4. In SharePoint 2013 you can target content to people based on people’s’ interests listed in their profile, such as sending a message to everyone interested in tennis.
    5. The power of forms in SharePoint is under-exploited.
    6. Don’t just use a Team Site. We tend to think every collaboration problem is solved by a Team Site. but the original idea of the Team Site was that it was just an example that organizations would customize.

    Creating a Digital Workplace – Jo McBain, Wannon Water
    Jo talked very openly about the psychology of becoming an intranet manager. She began by explaining her decision to start seeking out opportunities and deciding to be pro-active in her organization [always interesting to hear how people end up in this role].

    Jo talked about the frustration of feeling invisible – for example when IT strategy decisions are made without involvement of the intranet team. It took a leader to intervene in the mis-alignment and join people up. But getting there again required that shift of mindset to keep putting yourself forward and raising your hand to become more visible rather than just feeling frustrated at being overlooked.

    A step forward was putting a working group in place. Initially, working out role descriptions and definitions was creating barriers, so in the end the group just got going without
    a clear structure and that is actually working well.

    Tip from Jo: When seeking buy-in, don’t forget to include Executive Assistants, they often want to change things too and have the ears of the leaders.

    Large organisations, large intranets. Tamsin Stanford
    Tamsin is formerly from ANZ and Australia Post and shared things she wished she’d advised herself to do in her projects. She had 5 different attempts to get funding to update the ANZ site… then moved to Australia Post.
    1. You need to keep executive on board so that support doesn’t stop when the funding starts. They can help buy you time during change where not everything can be delivered in the first phase. Avoid the generic presentation shown to all the execs, you need to tailor it to show you understand their strategy. For example, talk to call centre managers about how quick answers to employee questions makes staff more available to answer calls.
    2. Build a team. You’re going to need emotional support! Like Jo, Tamsin advocated talking to PAs, they are often the people others go to when they can’t find answers, so will know what needs fixing on the intranet.
    3. Start small. Tamsin’s team did a before-after analysis of time taken to find answers on key pages. By fixing IA and re-writing, they showed $5.8M of productivity improvements.

    Influencing stakeholders with stories. Shawn Callahan, Anecdote
    [disclaimer: my main lesson from Shawn’s talk is that we learned a lot from all the stories he told, not from the lessons we infer from the stories. However, I can’t type enough to capture the stories – and writing them doesn’t work anyhow – so here’s the lessons, but I recommend you try to hear Shawn instead].

    Shawn began talking about trust as:
    Credibilty – are you skilled?
    Reliability – will you deliver on your promises?
    Intimacy – you trust the people closest to you
    divided by self-interest.

    For us, stories are no the Hollywood-blockbuster epics, but the small day to day anecdotes we tell.

    A lot of the time people say things are stories but aren’t. Try thestorytest.com. Real stories
    1) Have a time marker. Even if it’s “A while back” or “Just the other day”. “Once upon a time” works less well in business…
    2) They are made up of events. What makes them powerful is that we infer causality from this.
    3) They are about people. We care about people, not divisions or products.

    Overall, a story is a promise that something will happen, that you will learn something. Contrast this with offering an opinion where people naturally push back. We tend to react to stories by wanting to draw out the ending.

    It can help if the story shows that we are like the listener. We tend to trust people like us – a ‘who am I?’ story.

    Beware of writing stories out. When we write them we feel compelled to make them more like prose paragraphs and not how we actually speak. For example repeating ourselves. That means you can’t put them on your intranet and have the same effect. Moreover, stories are much more about pictures than words when it comes to having emotional impact. If you want to put them on your intranet, unpolished, verbatim video perhaps works best.

    Future stories.
    These work great in workshops, but if you try to share them with people outside the workshop then people won’t believe it. But as William Gibson said “the future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed”. So find the example of where the future is already happening and start talking about that. It helps people believe it can happen elsewhere.

    Eliciting stories
    Begin with when? and where? If you begin with Why? you get opinions and justifications. Get people to share experiences and work out why yourself.

    Intranet Mythbusters
    The day ended with a panel session where 4 of the speakers were given a common intranet myth to despatch. The very talented Matt Magain from UX Mastery did a spledid job of capturing it in a cartoon:
    Intranet Mythbusters

    End of Day 1. See Day 2

    For another view, Rebecca Jackson did a splendid summary of her experience at the conference too. Rebecca’s blog

    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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