A poll conducted by the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) LinkedIn group showed that 34% of the 305 respondents wanted a more interactive and collaborative intranet as the one improvement for 2012. This was the most popular response from the 5 options available.
This is backed up by WIC research which shows that interactive intranets are more valuable than those that simply provide static content.
So what is the secret to delivering a more interactive and dynamic intranet?
nSynergy, an Australian based global consulting company specialising in Information Management, recently participated in the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) (the WIC is an online survey that allows organisations to obtain feedback from their intranet end users and then compare this feedback with other participating organisations).
Perhaps, not too surprisingly, nSynergy dominated the rankings for questions related to the interactivity. In fact, of the 8 questions about intranet interactivity, nSynergy ranked either 1 or 2 (from more than 100+ organisations) in 5 of them.
The following list shows nSynergy's rankings for questions about interactivity:
- Publish Content - #2
- Upload or download documents - #2
- Discuss work topics (eg. Using discussion forums or blogs) - #1
- Collaborate with other staff (eg. Using online work spaces) - #1
- Provide feedback or comments about intranet content - #2
The WIC spoke to Peter Nguyen-Brown (left), nSynergy’s Practice Manager about what it takes to deliver an interactive intranet.
Were you surprised that nSynergy ranked so well in these questions?
Specifically in relation to interactivity, we weren’t surprised, but we were certainly pleased to know that we ranked number 1 globally in this area against some highly reputable organisations. Our core business includes delivering effective Intranets for organisations – and just like the advice we give our customers, we also have to incorporate a phased approach for our own Intranet.
Connecting our eight offices globally with the best available collaborative tools was our primary focus, so we are very pleased to have achieved our internal goals.
Why do you think you received such a good response from your end users for these questions?
For our business to succeed we rely on maximising the expertise across our teams globally, rather than on any one individual or project team. The culture we continually look to improve focuses on the power of team dynamics regardless of location, so I think our consultants really appreciate being able to call on others for their opinions and expertise wherever they may be located.
Given we have offices in locations that enable us to provide 24 hour support to our customers, being able to interact and collaborate consistently and instantly via our Intranet and collaboration tools is vital.
What was the process or steps you went through to improve interactivity of the intranet? Was there much focus on training, communication, or change management? Or was it case of build it and they will come?
We identified as a business in 2009 that Enterprise Social Collaboration was going to be a hot trending topic in the years to come based on the way we saw social collaboration impacting people’s lives outside of work. We implemented SharePoint 2010, and worked closely with our now partner Newsgator to implement their Social Sites add-on to extend the existinginteractive collaborative features of SharePoint.
We certainly kept communications high leading up to the deployment, but the key to success of Enterprise Social Collaboration is in simplicity to ensure User Adoption, and providing a familiar User Experience which minimises the need for training– we achieved this very successfully.
What do you think is the relevant importance of providing the technical capability for interactivity versus non-technical qualities such as culture, training, incentives, etc?
We have a business philosophy which extends to our customer projects, in that the true measure of success of deploying a business solution such as Intranet is ultimately about User Adoption and interaction. This makes the technology less important in our opinion, however we do feel that starting with a SharePoint platform is a great start.
Users shouldn’t need to know what technology they are using to make the solution effective, users should feel comfortable in the solution and instinctively know how to use it. As per our company vision, we believe that “enabling” technical solutions form a part of overall company culture, our people are absolutely the centre of our business and we constantly train, incentivise and encourage better use of our technology.
What benefit or value to your organisation do you think this provides to nSynergy? Do you have any stories or examples of how the intranet has added real or measureable value?
There are some great stories of how the Intranet has added real measurable value, but perhaps the best examples are by referring to scenarios we find ourselves in quite a lot. Consultants often ask a question via our Intranet or search for specific expertise. It is amazing the number of times this process has led to 2 consultants who previously didn’t know each other, to learn more about other people’s experiences and capabilities which has then led to other discussions about completely different topics than what the original process was intending to find.
One of our Principal Consultants (Ali) in London has recently completed his Masters in Entrepreneurship, and when one of our Managers in Australia was searching our Intranet for people with expertise in Information Architecture, the search led him to Ali’s user profile page which highlighted his recent Masters completion - this then led to further discussion between the two which enabled them to solve other relevant business needs relating to Ali’s recent Masters program.
A good Intranet is not just about helping to find information you are looking for, it is also about connecting you to information you didn’t necessarily intend to find that can be used for other purposes.
What tips or advice can you give other organisations who wish to make their intranet more interactive and dynamic? Both from a technical and non-technical point of view?
There are some really interesting trends in the modern Intranet, and they often focus on providing a comfortable and familiar User Experience. In relation to technology, definitely consider the use of an Enterprise Social Collaboration tool - we however would not recommend using any tool that is free and cloud based as you lose the benefits of connecting internal information such as documents and tasks with the social collaboration elements.
We would highly recommend the use of Newsgator with SharePoint due to the way the 2 platforms seamlessly integrate. Also seriously consider a Unified Communications platform that integrates with SharePoint such as Lync for enabling Instant Messaging, Video Conferencing, Desktop Sharing and people search – in our opinion if you mix SharePoint with Social Collaboration and Unified Communications, you really can’t get much more interactive and dynamic.
From a non-technical point of view, setting up an internal “Steering Committee” or similar is vital to continually review and improve the platform. These are often the times when discussion on new ideas comes up for the creation of sites and content for areas such as internal Social Groups, fund raisers, company initiatives etc – keeping the platform evolving maintains interest with end users, but most importantly the Intranet needs to be relevant to the user and intrinsically linked to their productivity tools and solutions.
Intranets should not be a burden, they should be relevant to how a user does their job. There are many other techniques which we are happy to share with interested organisations.
Do you have any plans for the future to ensure you continue to receive good feedback from your end users for this question?
We continually ask for informal feedback, but we will be leveraging the WIC for further benchmarking and analysis. The only true way in our opinion to measure the success of an Intranet is to ask the users and to look for both intangible and tangible impacts.
To this extent, we are highly recommending the WIC to our customers before beginning Intranet projects to measure their current Intranet, and to re-survey users after we assist with building and deployment their new Intranet – this is a real tangible measurement of how we have improved the way our customers do business and service their teams.
We also have persistent global icons from the Intranet that allows users to provide feedback at any time.
And finally, we have implemented an Innovation Centre which we call “Think Tank”, which allows any person in the business to submit ideas on how they would like to see the business improve – others can then vote on these ideas and the business can then respond to what is most important to everyone.
nSynergy intranet - NewsFeed and Communities screen shot