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Intranets & Digital Workplace at IntraTeam 2016 (Day 2)

Intranets & Digital Workplace at IntraTeam 2016 (Day 2)

Live blogging from Copenhagen. See also Day 1

2016-03-03 09.13.23

The Intranet’s new role

Brad Whitworth – Cisco

“When you work from home you learn how to look good from the waist up”

We no longer need to be at a desk in an office to work. At Cisco they have a dermatologist that can do 95% of diagnoses via telepresence with the help of an on-site nurse. Even receptionists don’t have to be there – they appear on a  screen at the door, but one receptionist actually covers four entrances.

Boundaries are getting blurred, and we need to think of intranets as part of something much bigger. 80% of Cisco’s revenue comes through channel partners, so the partners have to be as clued up about the products as employees.

Ultimately, if we have an internet of everything, then your intranet will be part of that too. Cisco predict there will be 50bn smart objects by 2020. Cisco employees share their iPhone health app data with the company and gets a health incentive in return [has he never read The Circle?]

2016-03-03 09.33.56

Brad Whitworth: Your intranet will be part of an internet of everything

In the future, intranets will be the way to connect, but we need to shift away from a mass-media mindset.

International Knowledge Sharing

Jean-Luc Abelin – Lafarge

“Searching is important but finding is better”

Lafarge has around 63,000 employees in 65 countries. They had hundreds of information silos. Jean-Luc’s vision was to remove all information hierarchies and put them into a single space where everything is accessible to everyone as a way to enhance individual and team performance. A Jive intranet acts as the entry point, with Knowledge Plaza serving up the content and Google Docs for collaboration.

To really bring about a KM change, Jean-Luc put in place a team of knowledge managers, both for central functions and in each country for local content validation. Post launch, there was much to change and adapt:

  • it was only in English, but 55% didn’t speak English
  • Resistance to ‘yet another log in’ lead to single Sign-on
  • Content mistrust – is it still valid? Is it official?
  • A desire to keep things confidential

To help make it multi-lingual, the same tag is translated into a range of languages.

There were cultural barriers and Lafarge implemented a communication campaign over several years to encourage sharing and re-use. It included for example, workplace posters, intranet success stories and a video called “We all have something to share”.

There are now 350,000 documents on their knowledge base!

Intranet brand compliance

Richard Gera – GSK

“SharePoint’s great because of its flexibility. It is also awful because of its flexibility”

Richard spoke about an award-winning rebrand of their intranet. They have over 450 SharePoint site collections and 1000 sub-sites with over 1000 content publishers, so it is large and decentralised.

GSK is very ROI-focused, so the team were tasked with aligning the brand but also demonstrating that there was a financial case for it. By standardising the template and implementing a common layout, the new brand saved GSK over £2.5m. Much of this was avoided costs on agency work.

Their goal was to reduce the variance between page layouts so that only the content differed. However, they recognised that different layouts were needed, so took a ‘freedom within a framework’ approach where there were some fixed and some flexible zones. It didn’t have to be perfect, it just had to be good enough for people’s needs. Technically it was fairly easy, the challenge was adoption.

The new template was mandated for ‘Top Level’ sites and any new sites, but optional for every other site. In practice over 900 sites have adopted it. 60% of content had not been viewed or updated in a year. So they also took the opportunity to simplify sites by cleaning up and improving metadata.

Another useful tactic was a PowerPoint deck called a “Blueprint planning tool”. It had the ready-made components and let people drag them across onto a framework slide to create very quick mock-ups.

Extreme working out loud

Filip Callewaert – Port of Antwerp

Filip has a clear and very passionate view of what knowledge work should be, and I was struck that this is what we really should mean by  collaboration, and working out loud is just one element of it:

  • Wikis not documents or emails
  • Narrate your work to make it visible
  • Include feedback loops
  • Continuous collaboration not meetings

The only material knowledge workers have is information. It is complex, collaborative and it needs feedback loops to make improvements. We have optimised many production processes, but not knowledge work processes because knowledge work is much harder to observe. This is why we need them to work out loud.

Working out loud = Observable Work + Narrating your work

Think of pilots in a cockpit. They have a series of call-outs like “flaps out” so that the crew are co-ordinted. It creates situational awareness and feedback. The voice recorder ‘black box’ also uses this as a way to work out how to improve air safety. Efficient professional kitchens are the same. If you’ve ever watched Hell’s Kitchen you’ll know how important it is that people communicate. “Yes, chef”.

The tools for this are not databases or ERP or even documents but Web 2.0 tools – wikis, feedback and hyperlinks. Port of Antwerp use Atlasssian Confluence plus Jira for a process called Adaptive Case Management (ACM).

The idea behind ACM is that all issues start as a case which becomes more and more structured though dialogue and iterations. The dialogue happens through margin discussions and then captured as a new or changed case note. The case only gets closed when solved. [I’d never been really convinced at the value of #WOL, but here it makes sense if the people who tune into it are only others working on the case].

Information is for action, not for storage

The skills of a manager shift to facilitating the conversation, getting people working out loud, critical thinking, empathising and design thinking. In turn, the teams are more engaged and result-driven because they have shared responsibility and clear communication.

Most days I get only five emails

The best search is no search – information zen is when everything you need is there in the case. If you really want someone to see something, you can @mention them. If they need to do something specific, you can allocate them a task.

Search driven intranets

Jeff Fried – BA Insight

7 Patterns for search

  1. Sites & portals with search. These are very information rich, like intranet libraries and have a traditional search page, often with refiners.
  2. Content by search web part. In SharePoint for example, the CSWP shows content based on embedded search queries pulling from a list (catalogue). Jeff showed a ncie example of a dashboard built from around a dozen CSWP pulling information in from different areas.
  3. Virtualized content. Making content look like a complete set when it is actually fragmented, e.g. a Policies library when the policies actually sit in HR, Finance, Legal etc.
  4. Topical Navigation. Navigation menus that are actually search filters. This allows you to change the menu without changing the physical location of the content. In SharePoint this is done via metadata in the term store which is mirrored as a navigation structure. To ‘move’ content you just change the metadata on content.
  5. Recommended content. Common on the web, less so on intranets, but Delve is making it more popular.The problem with Delve is it assumes everything is on Office 365 and that’s never true.
  6. Finding/Connecting with people. 
  7. Cloud social/mobile. Search is increasingly acting as glue between on-premises and cloud.

Enterprise search – more than ‘a bit like Google’

Steve Sale – AstraZeneca

Whenever employees complain about enterprise search they say they want it to be more like Google. But there’s so much more to search than that. The start point was a neglected intranet called Your.AZ  with search bolted on the side and not maintained. Your.AZ’s replacement was designed to be a social intranet for sharing but not document storage [Disclosure: ClearBox developed the original digital workplace strategy to replace  Your.AZ].

The search is based on Sinequa. It was developed in 8 weeks and launched to 60k users in multiple languages, indexing internal, external and cloud content. Post launch they did a UX lab to improve it, with the development team listening in. 40 quick fixes were applied in 5 days based on user testing and feedback.

Search results show content but also a ‘quick links’ option, as a kind of best bets. AZ also index video, using Microsoft Azure for speech to text analysis.

Inspired by the way Google also lets you do calculations as a search query, AZ have started exploring the idea of Search Cards For example you can search for vacation days and get the result as a calendar showing the next vacation you have off. They are planning to apply it to the IT helpdesk, so a search will show all open tickets that you have.


2016-03-03 14.10.19

The great thing about cards is that they aren’t restricted to the search results page, they can be embedded on any page. For example, line manager approvals also work on the mobile app, and because all systems are indexed into one, many kinds of approval can be done from a single app.

As enterprise search gets better we risk unearthing old rubbish faster. @IntranetFocus #IEC16


Speaker’s Reflection on Themes:

  • A greater focus on user experience
  • A much broader perspective on search
  • We’re still talking a lot about enterprise social networks
  • We’re using SharePoint but the talk isn’t focussed on SharePoint

That’s it folks! Another excellent event. Well done IntraTeam. It isn’t easy getting fresh speakers and perspectives every year, but I really enjoyed the mix of topics.


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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