Your questions answered…

Earlier this year I spoke at the Melcrum summit, and as always I posted a blog about the event. As a speaker, I was asked several questions about the launch of our new intranet (the hub) and I promised to answer all those I couldn’t once I received them from the team at Melcrum. Whilst a little delayed, here are those questions answered:

Now you are a more mature audience in terms of comms would you go back to yammer?
Great questions, and no. I still don’t believe it is the right tool for our business. People are very keen to engage in conversations but they want to talk so everyone can see and have a community that is more tangible. We are still looking to launch discussion boards or forums on the tool as and when it is appropriate timing and this is something that will drive conversations in an open forum, without the need for followers.

How does your new intranet contributes to reduce emails? And convince people to send less emails?
We are still challenged with emails. We have just changed from generic emails to personal ones which is a very different way of working. It is somewhat of a vicious circle as those that haven’t adopted the technology are asking for information to be emailed, subsequently the authors get frustrated that people are looking at it and it feels like more work. This was always a long term strategy for the business, with 3 years bedding in time, and we have only been up and running since August 2011. I’m hoping that in the next 6 months, with some improvements to the site email will continue to fall. We have certainly seen a decline in mass communication through email.

How much did the hub cost and how long did it take to develop?
We started the project in January 2011, launched in August 2011 and the cost was under £40k. We are doing development work this year but the total cost of the tool will fall under £50k.

What platform does your new intranet sit on?
We used WordPress as a foundation, included Buddy Press and added customised features based on the requirements of the business.

Does the colour coding on the hub mean anything?
The colours of the topics are there to add some element of difference. UK news is red, divisions are green and departments and locations are blue.

How easy is it to maintain your user database on the hub? Ie. New employees, people leaving etc
At the moment we manually manage this. We get daily reports from HR on people leaving, joining and moving and update the pages about each location and manually remove users. New starters can create their own profile without any support from the centre. The process of doing this on the system is very easy though.

Did people personalise their hub profile? How did you encourage them to do this.
They have to fill out all the relevant fields and can add any picture they like. Not everyone has done this but we are encouraging them to do so. We will be switching on some gamification which will recognise those with a complete profile.

Can it be made job role specific?
We are looking to tailor communication to job roles once we can segment the data we have. All very manual at the moment but we hope to make it more intuitive in the future.

Can the hub be accessed from home and is their security to prevent public access?
When I presented at Melcrum this wasn’t done, but now it is! Accessible from home and mobile but you do have to log in with your username which is authenticated through Active Directory.

With over 80 percent of your workforce offline, how did you get senior level buy in and budget approval for this initiative?
We needed a tool that allowed managers to have content in one place. Content that was searchable and a directory of people and locations. We have relied on spreadsheets for years so having something online was a big step forwards. The hub allows managers to print weekly updates for their teams, encouraging communication about the wider business to be funnelled through a cascade process – touching everyone in the business.

The audit I conducted when I arrived meant that we have enough analysis to prove the need for this. People wanted less email, relevant and timely news as well as the ability to access information on the move and at home. Getting buy in was not as difficult as you might think because we had all the evidence from the business about why we needed it.

Did you consider a name change considering the negative perception of hub?
Yes I did! I was all for a name change but then several departments pointed out that lots of material had been printed mentioning the hub and the cost of changing that would have been too much. Plus I thought if Skoda can do it, why not the hub?!

What is the impact on the business? Have you measured it?
I go out to departments and operational meetings as much as I can to get their feedback. I also have a reporting system on the hub so I can see what people are looking at and when they are looking at it, what they’re searching for etc. Then I can tailor the site even more to their needs. We haven’t done any formal measurement yet but I believe what we are doing at the moment is enough.

Please feel free to get in touch with any other questions. It is still very much a focus and something I am still passionately developing to ensure it is doing what my customers want it to!

A little less conversation, a little more action…

Over the past few years the internal communications industry has been buzzing about social media. Questions and statements like “How do we use this inside a business?” or “We need to embrace these new tools and find a way to make them fit!” have filled offices around the country as we get to grips with the speed of technology and the opportunities it presents. Then somehow, over the past six months to a year, SharePoint has appeared (not for the first time) as the biggest and best tool for the job – but how?

Just a few weeks ago I got an email from Melcrum – leaders in the industry – who asked their community; What are your SharePoint priorities for 2011?  Which made me ask, why are they SharePoint priorities and not just internal communication priorities?

The answers were:

– 37% want to increase the use of collaboration tools;
– 25% are concerned about governance;
– 22% want to increase adoption and uptake across business units;
– 16% are focusing on global deployment and integration.

Now this to me is not a SharePoint priority, but objectives for a team of communicators. I am looking to increase collaboration and adoption across the business I work for but that has nothing to do with one tool – it’s to do with what the business needs, and once I have established what the business needs I can then look at the tool.

For years we have looked at the purpose, message, audience and then tool so why all of sudden, when looking at social media are we reversing this process. When social media hit the industry a few years ago I was working with theblueballroom and we produced white papers and research on this topic – it went through the online community like wild-fire and was a real starting point for  many when it came to looking at the tools on offer. Since then we have seen social media for internal communicator conferences boom, social media benchmarking groups pop up all over the place and case studies about what you should and shouldn’t do everywhere – but when will this stop being hype? When can we actually say I have listened to the business, the people and the culture and I have found the right tool. This tool will give you a platform to talk to your colleagues, share ideas and work together – just what you’ve always wanted. and yes, it is social media but never has the word been said.

It is not about the hype, the buzz or the shiny tools, it’s about getting something that works for you. So please, isn’t it time for a little less conversation and a little more action?

How do you choose a CMS?

This week I have been looking into the new intranet project and it is all things go.  It has been a few years since I looked into intranet building and things have really moved on, the ease of uploading information, the cost when looking at open source and the opportunities are amazing.

But when you’re looking at launching a new intranet that is hoping to revolutionize the way the business communicates how do you know you have picked the right one? Do you stay traditional or try something new? When your needs can be met by different options, what should be the criteria that makes the decision?

Intranets are huge for internal communicators, and for me it really is going to make a different to the business, productivity and culture – so getting it wrong is not an option.

So what factors should play a role? I am hoping the following will make the decision:

  • Cost – initial, annual, support
  • Hardware requirements
  • Ease of use (especially for non CMS users)
  • Ability to link to current IT platforms
  • IT’s requirements; what do they need from the system

Some interesting thoughts on the open source debate are covered by Michael Marus in his blog and I would be interested to know what both IT and Comms have on their list when it comes to making a decision…