Focussing on the reasons for your digital channels

On Thursday I attended the 2017 Intranet Now conference in London –  a day of talking digital with a room full of people responsible for intranet development. As always, the day was filled with 9 and 15-minute talks from a range of companies, experts and organisations.

So, what were the themes this year and what were my top takeaways from the day?

Task based content is king

It was amazing to see all the different intranets out there, and how some have been changed and adapted over the years. This is what I love about this conference – it’s the only place you can see behind the firewall and into the intranets of other organisations.

The example from Standard Life Aberdeen was the best example I have seen of changing to task based content – just six months after launch. You can see from the images below the change they made to the top level and the mega menu – it’s not a small change!

The need to focus on tasks when designing menus and the overall IA of the intranet is a definite shift from previous years and something to consider for anyone reviewing their intranet.








The six things we want from an intranet

The team at Barnados presented a great case study of the journey they have been on and shared the six things people identified in their discovery phase. Both Rachel Miller and I commented that based our experience – this could be any organisation. Those six reasons are:

  • Simpler processes
  • Easier connections
  • Saving time
  • Personalise
  • Single source of truth
  • Feel part of a bigger story

Finding the right solution to meet these six themes will vary for every organisation but taking them as the principles for the rationale for an intranet platform is a great starting point for anyone.

What was interesting about this example was the need to combine a social platform like Facebook Workplace with an intranet platform that allows for the single source of truth – I hope the team come back to share how the final solution came together and how the launch went!

Remember the reasons for the platform

The presentation from Sarah Moffat was a real highlight for me. Partly because it echoed some work I have done in the past to use digital solutions to engage managers, but mainly because it was ultimately using the technology to solve a particular challenge and integrating it into the wider channel mix. The line manager page with a supporting email cuts through the noise, provides everything in one place and saves time.

My definition of internal communication includes the need for efficiency and using digital platforms to do this should be part of any internal comms strategy today.

There were other presentations throughout the day that echoed the importance of the goals of the project. Don’t create something as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

There are always some big themes and some smaller takeaways from events – here are my smaller takeaways from the sessions:

  • Consider just how much governance you really need and don’t create rules and processes for the sake of it
  • Everyone learns at a different pace so make sure you have time in the plans to build people’s confidence in the platform. The stats around computer skills were a real eye opener!
  • Being the most senior person in the room doesn’t mean you’re the most powerful anymore
  • Accountability and the RACI model are important. I use RASCI – Responsible, Accountable, Support, Consult, Inform. Support is a useful addition
  • We have yet to really solve the challenge around search. It seems to be the thing people complain about most
  • We are creating an intranet that is a front door to the digital campus
  • The theory behind change projects hasn’t changed – we saw a model from 1987 which is still very relevant today

I was lucky enough to join the panel at the end of the day and there was a question on personalisation and collaboration that has stayed with me – further blog to follow on that theme!

So, if you’re working with intranets do check out @intranetnow and be sure to look out for the tickets next year. This event is a must-attend for those working in digital.

The future is now

Today, comms agency theblueballroom hosted their first Future Story event at RADA in London. Over 40 professionals linked to the comms world came together to hear about what the future holds for us and our businesses. The keynote of the day was Olivia Solon from Wired magazine who talked about four challenges/issues:

  • Personalisation and customisation

Hyper personalisation is not only applicable to the digital space. More and more companies are looking at ways to personalise your experience and your product. Examples from Heinz about creating your own soup label and fashion label Trikoton making clothing linked to voice patterns. The one thing to make sure is that the personalisation is not creepy and doesn’t go too far.

  • Transparency

Companies should have nothing to find. With the increasing desire to bring CSR to the table we need to make sure that our house is in order before we talk about it publicly. CSR allows you to align purpose and profit and be honest about what you’re fixing and managing. Some great examples about how brands engage in the online space being honest and transparent (O2 and Patagonia were some examples)

  • Privacy

Surveillance and privacy go hand in hand. Some interesting insight into some of those big games companies and how they wanted to use their tech that allows you to be in the game, for bringing you into the adverts. Creepy.

  • Automation

Talk of bots, software that can take data heavy information and turn it into copy, and how we can no longer tell the difference between reality and automation. Make sure you’re adding value beyond what a computer can do but also take note of how some of this stuff can really help our jobs.

There were three sessions in the afternoon and I went along to Euan Semple’s session on relationships in a connected world. Euan chose to run his whole 90 minute session through each person introducing themselves and talking about how they use social tools in business and in their personal lives. What we were part of, was an organic discussion about social that was aided by a facilitator who could add more insight than anyone I know….

  • We are in danger of turning social media into an initiative – we are professionalising it which we shouldn’t be doing
  • There were a lot of people in the room who ‘lurk’ on Twitter – Lurking is a long and honorable tradition!
  • Organisations are lunging at social media. It is like watching your dad dancing; you’re proud of him for trying but wish he would stop
  • Social media is one person at a time and it is for their reasons, not yours
  • As comms professionals we are still very focused on our leaders blogging – does it really matter? Why are we clinging onto the guy at the top that knows everything. He doesn’t exist and hasn’t for a long time
  • We lack patience for these tools to deliver
  • Transparency of the organisation has to link to transparency of the individual
  • BYOD: If your organisation wants to get on my phone as an internal comms tool it needs to behave itself
  • Measuring social media? How do you measure good conversations with interesting people?
  • The internet is like talking to yourself but better. It is like walking side by side with someone rather than across a boardroom table
  • Be visible, accountable and trustworthy
  • We have stopped being curious. The web is about learning and we need to remember that there is so much out there for us to find out
  • Social media works through a basic desire to be part of something. Through the need to be liked
  • Adoption is not about age or gender. It is about outlook.
  • The internet is just a thing. If you don’t like what you do with it that is more of a reflection on you as a person than the internet

While I didn’t take away any practical stuff for the day job, the event gave me time to think and reflect on some of those challenges we face every day. It gave me the chance to meet some people I have only ever met on Twitter and for once, I feel like I attended an event that really looked into the future!


Building a social workplace? It’s all about business change

swconf logoYesterday saw the second Social Workplace Conference hosted by Crexia take place in London. With a bigger turn out than November we had some great discussions and saw some great case studies about what works and what doesn’t in the world of social tools in the workplace. Here are some of my highlights…..

The biggest thing to think about has to be business change and culture shift. The tools are one part of getting the conversation going but so often we focus on the technology before anything else:

The 6 pitfalls we often fall into when embarking on a social project

  1. Avoid creating silos of info
  2. Technology must not be only focus
  3. Viral adoption strategy is not enough
  4. Not the cheap option
  5. Avoid too much too soon
  6. You don’t need to replace email completely

Social tools simply allow dialogue across the business. Let’s not over complicate what they help us achieve

So if better collaboration = better business what blockers should be consider as we start the journey?

  • knowledge is power
  • habits are hard to break
  • lack of time
  • what’s in it for me?
  • collaboration tool fatigue

Social tools need to enable spontaneous collaboration. People need to want to be in the conversation. If you put people in communities they won’t engage with them so unless you’re changing how you communicate and how your business operates the project is going to be an uphill struggle.

68% of IT projects fail or are challenged.We heard about some key reasons why IT and social collaboration projects fail:

  1. No business case
  2. Allocation of resource is misplaced
  3. We don’t ask people what they want. Centre decides on the need and delivers something they think people want
  4. Wrong product for your scenario
  5. Incorrect budget: People only really budget for the software, not the added extras and resource to tailor the product to your needs
  6. Business process aren’t mapped
  7. Training (how to use the tool) and education (why we are building the tool). Two different things but often forgotten.
  8. The roll out. Big band will give you a big blow up
  9. Stakeholders want different things from the tool. Define these and measure success by them

The last panel of the day looked at the 7 habits of an open and socially collaborative business. After a lot of discussion around the tools they have introduced the panel talked about several habits companies needed to adopt. These are my favourite 7:

  1. Take the risk and be prepared to fail
  2. Have the desire to be open and share knowledge
  3. Give people permission to get involved and be part of conversations
  4. Don’t add a tool unless you remove another one
  5. Educate and train people – nurture their collaborative skills
  6. Respect and trust. The on-line office space is no different to the actual office space in terms of etiquette
  7. You need support from senior leaders to get the tool and senior leader activity on the tool

And as the day drew to a close, drinks were shared between the delegates and i reflected on what has once again been a great day with some real food for thought. As i tweeted all day there were some great quotes from the presenters – here are my favourites:

  • ROI should stand for return on involvement when looking at social tools in the workplace
  • “A social workplace is a professional environment that enables employees to become social individuals” – Rita Chambers, Sodexo
  • The project is not the implementation with technology, the project is business change
  • Never waste a good crisis. It’s a great time to make a change

Thanks again for the team for a great event. To see the full Twitter feed check out #swconf

Taking extraordinary measures can make all the difference

measuring tape on whiteOver the bank holiday weekend I settled down to catch up on some of the TV I have missed recently. One of the films was Extraordinary Measures with Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser; based on a true story as a family try to find a cure for Pompe disease that infects two of their three children. It was a great film, and the part where they are trying to create the new drug struck a chord with me and no doubt fellow internal communicators. One of the biggest challenges to overcome was the internal structure of a large pharmaceutical company, they needed everyone to work together but they were structured as different divisions and therefore ‘in competition’. Sharing information across the divisions was unheard of and almost laughed out of the boardroom.

Whilst this was a film, it is something we struggle with everyday and in the company I work for there are six divisions, all in need of support from internal comms. Since I arrived here last year I have been talking about the fact that we are one business and we can draw on experience from different operations and different teams – something that has often been met with comments like ‘we are separate businesses and all operate in different ways’. So, anyone out there trying to get people to work together, and in the age of online communication here are my top tips to overcoming the barrier:

  1. Be respectful of the different businesses and understand them
    I took a year to get my head around the business before I even started looking at the tools to put in place. Whilst I was of the initial view that we are one company, after further investigation I understand where the differences lie and where there are similarities. It has meant that when looking at the tools to create the internal comms infrastructure I have been able to deliver something that helps the business move forward.
  2. Understand the structural differences
    The way people are structured might be different between each division – understanding the layers for cascade communication and the numbers can help work out your influencers and your decision makers.
  3. Learn the different management styles
    If there are different divisions there are likely to be different managers and therefore different management styles – spend time getting to know the people in charge, understand what drives them and what they are looking to achieve and use these to sell in your ideas.
  4. Spend time on the shop floor
    Whether you work in a pharmaceutical company, a bank or a restaurant business spending time in the different divisions will help understand the difference to the people on the ground, how they hear news and what they want from the business. Do they want to know what is happening in another division or are they already trying to network using other tools?
  5. Create one plan with six versions – or how ever many divisions you have!
    I am now looking at the internal communications plans for next year and to do this, I will use the overall messages from the business and then spend time tailoring them to each division. Whilst this takes more time, it will deliver more for the business and will show where to use the same messages, where to get everyone together and where to inject some fun and engagement along the way.

Working with lots of different leadership styles and lots of heritage can make it hard to create engaging and innovative internal communications plans. Watching that film highlighted this and whilst senior management are seen as the biggest stumbling block, infrastructure and heritage can play an even bigger part as the internal communicators role moves to encourage more dialogue and collaborative working.