Join our mailing list for intranet and digital workplace links from around the web.

We’re careful with your personal information. Read our privacy statement for more about how we manage your details, and your rights.

Get in touch

Make your intranet work harder for you. Contact us to see how we can help.
+44 (0)1244 458746

IntraTeam Intranet Conference – Day 1

IntraTeam Event Copenhagen 2014

Live blogging from the IntraTeam Event 2015 in Copenhagen. See day 2.

Wedge Black will be presenting on Content Tactics – Executing Your Strategy on the Page at 15.00, with insights developed during the creation of ClearBox’s Intranet Content Guide.

How Design Thinking is Transforming Intranets – James Robertson

@s2d_jamesr Step Two Designs

James began by stating that ‘design’ now has powerful business attention thanks to the high profile Apple, Samsung and others have given it.

Design is: usability – visual design – branding – design thinking as a whole (see James’ latest post)

A surprising number  in the room had done UX testing, around ⅔ had done card sorting and user testing, a few less have done tree tests (Treejack recommended).

Design that engages evokes reactions. “What emotions do our intranets evoke?” asked James. “Frustration”, “Rage”, “Puzzlement”. Its not enough for an intranet to be useful if it is ugly. Even SharePoint can be made to look attractive these days!

Take a look at the intranets of Calgary Board of Education, Prophet and Accolade from the Intranet Innovation 2014 Awards.

Delighting the user

Simple things can have a big impact. A few years ago PwC Australia re-designed its HR page and noticed that many people were going in to check how many days they had left for annual leave. Rather than just link to another system, they pulled the number into the HR landing page.

Telstra saw this and went a step further, creating an attractive, dashboard view. They even have a tiny bar chart showing how many hours worked each day. This makes it very easy to spot odd days where the hours are short. Is this level of design over-engineering? No, it has created a drop of 20-60% in calls to the HR Helpdesk, each one of which would have incurred a cost.

[As an aside, isn’t it odd that of we outsource our HR helpdesk, then saving people’s time has a hard ROI, but normally when you say an intranet saves time, it gets dismissed as a soft benefit?].

Non-office Staff

Coles, an Australian retailer, put together an intranet for store shift workers. It combines strong branding with key tasks, such as leave applications, ordering uniforms and staff benefits. It has transformed previously clunky paper-based processes.

Lakewood High School in the US have an intranet designed by students. It includes a way to administer hall passes – permission to be out of the classroom. It works with a card reader and an app for teachers to validate hall passes. Pupils not only suggest improvements, they also implement them and maintain the SharePoint servers.

James ended with the challenge that if school kids can do this with minimal resources, what excuse do large, well-resourced, highly skilled companies have for not achieving comparable levels of design.


Evaluating Mobile Platforms for the Enterprise – Theresa Regli

@TheresaRegli from Real Story Group (RSG) has a nice Digital Workplace and Marketing Vendor Map (though it only really covers the CMS end of digital workplaces).

Big vendor or specialist?

Many of the mobile platforms pull content from your intranet and other source and then push it out via a mobile app. They focus on a hybrid approach (see below). Specialists like Netbiscuits typically support a broader set of devices. The large players only do Android and iOS, not even Windows Phone. The platforms tend to be B2C oriented, so much of what they do is about publishing on app stores, social media integration etc. It may be that you have the platform for a consumer app and can use it to develop for an intranet too.

Use cases

Use cases range from simple B2C style to location-based, offline apps and mobile web sites. You need to consider:

  • Device and OS support (some developing markets still have many Symbian devices)
  • Content adaptation to the target device such as transcoding from flash to iOS formats
  • Integration with CMS/portal systems
  • App deployment
  • Security.

An example is Expensify, an expenses app. It has to be an app (rather than mobile web) to make use of the camera for scanning the receipts. You can still take advantage of many mobile features in a web app. Theresa showed a video of an image management web app taking full advantage of multi-touch screens to select and manipulate images.

Companies tend to go for a full native app when it would be simpler just to do a mobile-friendly HTML5 site. Most intranets are generally about content publishing, so fit this model. Some even say the future of apps is the web. However, one company found a native app greatly simplified secure authentication, so made it worthwhile.

Hybrid apps are also possible; they are web-based but can take advantage of camera and other built-in features. The Facebook web site for mobile does this. Hybrid Wrappers can be used to make a mobile web ‘feel’ like an app in that it is in an enterprise app store and appears as a device icon, but is really just a web site inside the app. Or some companies decide they will do a native app for their dominant OS and everyone else will have to use a mobile web version.

Cathay Pacific did an entirely mobile-first intranet because employees, like flight crew, are much more central to their work than office workers.

Martin White commented that printing from within a mobile device is really important in business, but currently hard to do.

Why are mobile intranets emerging so slowly? Security concerns, such as the need for remote wipe is in tension with the growth of BYOD where IT don’t control the device fully. What seems to be moving things forward now is actually companies issuing tablets on a large scale and then realising that they need to adapt their internal systems to work with them.


Stress and Bureaucracy 2.0: The perils of the digital workplace – Jonas Söderström

Jonas presented some excellent examples of how design falls short in the workplace. On example was a PC in a waiting room running a survey. Next to it was a mouse on an automated rocker, normally used for mixing test tubes. The reason was that the system was set to shut down after 4 minutes of inactivity, so the rocker kept the PC running, negating all the intended energy benefits of the automatic shut down.

Another example was a restaurant booking system.  The head waiter appeared to be using a special light pen on a screen when tables were taken. In fact it was just a normal white board pen and he was drawing on the screen and then wiping it clean at the end of each night. To log the table as taken on the system required at least 4 clicks, taking attention away from the customer.

 “We have cognitive load on an entirely new scale” – Jonas Soderstrom

Stress caused by poor tech experience affects the business. A Sand Hill survey in 2012 revealed a 17% productivity loss from poorly designed systems . The cost was greater than the total IT spend.

We need to recognise that digital systems make more ‘things’ possible, but they are not always about value but power. As such they become systems of bureaucracy because they enable the exercising of control. This would explain why we tolerate such badly designed systems in the workplace.

We should demand consumer grade usability in the workplace. This isn’t just usability and design, but an attitude of wanting to empower users. We need to fight bureaucracy, even when it is wrapped in IT. Even if it feels like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube! Indeed in Sweden, there is a law saying that technology, the organisation of content and work, shall not subject the employee to mental stress.


Round table discussions

Reflecting on some informal discussions, I’m struck by how much mobile intranets are being held back by the basic concerns of device management, security and BYOD policy. The very knowledgeable Paul Hagan of Liverpool University commented on the tension between the corporate desire to secure everything and the ‘consumer’ expectation of employees that phone apps store passwords so there is no need for an additional login. Mobile Device Management wrappers, like Good, can undermine the immediacy of mobile which is a key part of its appeal.


Yammer in a Corporate Context – Frederik Zebitz, H. Lundbeck


Despite the title, Frederik was keen to focus on the business case for enterprise social, rather than Yammer specifically. As a pharmaceutical company, producing new knowledge is essential as patents for medicines expire and end as a revenue stream.

SharePoint is great for connecting people with content. Enterprise social is about connecting people with people.

Fred had a nice slide on ‘what to use when’ illustrating a sweet spot between intensity and complexity of interaction. (Thank you, Frederik, for letting us share this).

We need to think about ROE – Return on Engagement. This operates at three levels:

  • Personal – e.g. stay updated at any time on any device
  • Group – e.g. knowledge sharing
  • Organizational – e.g. minimizing boundaries.

What can be challenging is when there is ROE at the group level but not the personal level.

The biggest challenge is in changing work processes. Even when people want to use Yammer, they still revert to using email.

That’s all for today folks. More intranet delights to come tomorrow.

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.

Post a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.