Making a Digital Workplace Work #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

For 11 years, the global Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards have uncovered and shared remarkable solutions. This year is no exception! See the best of this year’s winners from the U.S., Europe, and beyond. They range from small ideas to entire platforms, giving something for everyone to take away. Ismail discusses the challenges of developing a rigorous and robust, efficient and effective digital workplace environment in a multi-cultural, decentralized organization and what means and methods can be used to create a viable digital workplace. A variety of different tools are recognized, such as the intranet, internal and external collaboration platforms, and enterprise search.

Speakers:

  • James Robertson, Founder, Step Two
  • Carlos Pelayo, Director, Lead IT Business Partner for Communications and Public Affairs, Shire
  • David M. Feldman, Associate Director Collaboration, Shire
  • Brian Duke, Senior Manager, Intranet Solutions, Thermo Fisher Scientific

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2017 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Fisher Scientific.  [Here is a link to their slides, including screenshots]
    • Following the example of consumer apps, they put their Yammer feed front and center on their intranet page. They did not shove it over on the side or hide it behind a link.
    • They are using Microsoft Flow to automatically post content to designated feeds.
    • They use tyGraph to collect and display their Yammer usage metrics
    • Of the 38K activated Yammer accounts, 31K were active on the intranet in the last month.
  • Shire. Governance First Intranet [Here is a link to their slides, including screenshots]
    • They found it really helpful to start with governance, rather than touching on it at the end of the intranet project
    • This project came out of an acquisition — Shire acquired a much larger organization. They grew from 7K to 23K employees.
    • They started by looking at the problems in the various legacy systems.
    • They wanted to reuse as much of the content as possible from the legacy systems.
    • As much as possible, they want to configure rather than customize
    • They gave people the freedom to do what they wanted — but within predetermined guardrails.
    • They used Microsoft Office 365
    • They created a consistent look and feel across all devices by using custom-branded webparts.
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Employee Experience — the Heart of the Digital Workplace #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

The idea of the “customer experience” is a powerful one, and it’s a strategic consideration for most big organizations. As a result, we’ve seen a huge degree of customer-centric digital transformation. Within the enterprise, the concept of the “employee experience” is equally powerful. Going beyond basic usability and UX, it takes a holistic view of how solutions are designed and delivered. This practical session outlines how digital workplace professionals and projects can use the employee experience as a strategic driver for change. Real-world examples of great employee experiences from around the globe are shared.

Speaker: James Robertson (Founder, Step Two)

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2017 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • James Robertson Slides
  • Horrifying Employee Engagement Statistics.
    • In the US, only 32% of employees say they are engaged
    • In the rest of the world, only 13% of employees say they are engaged
  • A digital workplace”. “A digital workplace consists of the set of tools you already have.” The problem is that it isn’t good. What’s a great digital workplace?
    • a holistic set of tools, platforms, and environments that enable work
  • Visa’s Digital Workplace.
    • delivers high functionality and a rich user experience
    • they provide a great mobile experience — they go beyond responsive design to provide a dedicated mobile app.
  • Coles Supermarket Chain in Australia.
    • Their intranet = “My Coles”
    • They wanted to provide high functionality for (previously underserved) employees in the field that is comparable to the functionality previously available only to office-based employees.
    • They provided a mobile app that could be used on personal devices on an opt-in basis. They have high rates of adoption.
  • Swisscom.
    • They provide 3 home pages
      • one is all about news — all the time
      • one is all about tasks — all the time
        • it is tailored to the individual user and their function
        • it includes the one piece of content EVERYONE wants: the cafeteria menu
      • one is “about us”
    • Through this approach, they demonstrate that they are interested in providing the materials that the employees care about most to do their jobs.
  • Telstra.
    • Their goal was to make their intranet so effective that they would be able to reduce the number of support calls
    • Their employees cannot be paid without submitting their time sheets. So they provide a visual display on the HR page of their intranet which shows the individual employee’s current level of time submission
  • What about allowing staff the ability to personalize their intranet pages?  In theory, this is a wonderful approach because it treats employees as engaged adults. However, research shows that only 5-10% of staff ever take advantage of the option and actually customize their pages.
  • A truly delightful employee experience is also effective for the business. The Mando Agency is a professional services firm that cannot bill its clients unless its own staff submits their time sheets. To manage this challenge, Mando installed an internet-operated beer fridge that was programmed to unlock on Fridays, but ONLY once everyone in the firm had submitted their time tickets. The firm provided a dashboard showing everyone how close they were to achieving an unlocked fridge AND which people were blocking progress by their delinquency in submitting their time. This gamification and extreme transparency work. In the five years since they installed the fridge, the employees have failed to open it only once.
  • How to provide a good Employee experience?.
    • Learn about how the employee works and what they need.
    • Have a deliberate digital approach that allows you to do all of the following three things simultaneously, but at different paces:
      • Projects: make sure you have at least one project for every budgetary period in order to make continuous improvements to the digital workplace
      • Strategy: this should enable the “big leap” that takes 3-5 years –it shows the trajectory of the combined effect of these projects
      • Vision: these big ideas about the future
    • Take ownership of your employee experience
      • don’t give this away to vendors, don’t let the vendors dictate what your employee experience should be
      • your needs are different from those of your vendors so if you are going to meet the unique needs of your employees you need to exert some control over the vendor offerings.
    • Establish Governance
      • Step Two provides an Intranet Operating Model
      • Governance is merely a means to an end
    • Take every (small) opportunity to improve your digital workplace and employee experience
      • but beware that every change has an inherent cost — it is disruptive, it asks for different processes or behaviors, etc.
      • Step Two provides a 6×2 methodology to help choose which changes are feasible and worth doing.
  • Dream Big, but iterate often!
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Intranet Ignorance is NOT Bliss

image002If you ever have the opportunity to hold an off-the-record conversation with law firm knowledge management personnel, ask them if they are delighted with their intranet. Many will confess that they are not. Equally, they will tell you that they did not have much choice about the software because their IT colleagues did not believe there were credible alternatives, and everyone agreed that it would be too expensive and time-consuming to build an intranet from scratch. Consequently, they defaulted to the standard law firm approach to software.

Law firms generally use three types of software:

  1. Purpose built: Software that was created specifically for a legal practice. Examples of this would be Diligence Engine, Exemplify and KM Standards. These applications were created by lawyers to address specific challenges that arise in the practice of corporate law.
  2. Client preferred: Software that law firms use because doing so makes it easier to share information with clients. The leading example of this would be the Microsoft Office suite of tools. There is nothing about those applications that was created specifically for the practice of law, but we use them because the results are in a form clients recognize.
  3. Herd default: Software that was not created for the practice of law, but we use in the legal industry because other firms use it. This is software that was not designed to address the challenges of legal practice and may present its own challenges to lawyers and law firm administrative staff, yet we contort ourselves to make it fit. A perfect example of this type of tool is Microsoft SharePoint.

Using the first two types of software makes sense: In the first case, because it makes the lives of lawyers easier and, in the second case, because it makes the lives of clients easier. So what is the rationale for using software that was not created for law firms and is not required by clients? In the case of SharePoint, there seem to be several reasons that, taken together, can make the decision nearly inevitable in some firms:

  • No CIO of a law firm was ever fired for buying Microsoft products.
  • Some firms received SharePoint “for free,” in that it was bundled into the enterprise Microsoft license for no additional cost upfront.
  • A survey of IT colleagues indicates that SharePoint is “industry standard”.

If everyone else is using it, how bad can it be? An honest conversation with knowledge management colleagues working in firms in Australia, Canada, England and the US suggests that it can be pretty bad. This does not mean that they are unable to create something that works, more or less. However, few truly are delighted with the results. And even fewer are happy with the actual costs of implementing and upgrading SharePoint, much less the logistical challenge of finding and keeping experienced developers and administrators to maintain the resulting intranet.

So why do we adopt the herd default? Often it is because we simply lack information about alternative options. This would be excusable if information about intranets was hard to find, but the reality is that a simple search online will turn up many credible alternatives. In fact, the Nielsen Norman Group (who are leading intranet experts) reports that there are lots of credible alternatives to SharePoint:

Many organizations are happy to report that a variety of tools, including open-source tools, are catching up to their needs. Everyone cannot necessarily afford to integrate and support large, complex intranet portal solutions such as SharePoint. But as technology matures, the barriers to entry are lowered, and more portal technology options become available.

This is not a new concept for intranet portal design. In 2000 when we first began studying intranets, open source was used heavily. Not until 2008 did we see SharePoint taking a strong hold. Even that year, our 10 Intranet Design Annualwinners used 41 different products for their intranet technology platforms. In our most recent (2014) Intranet Design Annual, 5 out of 10 winners used SharePoint. In our intranet behavioral-research studies, organizations used about 20 different portal-software tools. So there has never been a paucity of intranet portal technology that can produce worthwhile portals. What’s different today is that technology has advanced to a point where a fairly nontechnical team can create a highly functional portal without an advanced design team in-house.

Here’s the rub: according to the Nielsen Norman Group, it should be possible today to implement an intranet without significant technological expertise. Tell that to the law firm KM departments that struggle daily to modify and maintain their SharePoint intranets. It would be their dream to be able to create, modify and maintain an intranet without any intervention by their IT staff once the active directory was hooked up. Sadly, they consider this to be an impossible dream.

In fact, this dream is not only possible, but the reality for organizations that have chosen intranet software that does what good enterprise or consumer-facing software should do: it does all the heavy lifting so that the user can work more productively without getting bogged down in development challenges.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about one of the alternatives to SharePoint. It is intranet software created by Interact. The folks at Interact retained me to learn about their software and then write about how software like theirs might be helpful to law firm KM departments. I have done that and the resulting white paper will be available within the next few weeks.

While I don’t want to steal a march on the white paper, I must confess that seeing the Interact software in action made me sad for my colleagues in law firm KM departments. When I compared the sheer ease of implementing and administering Interact’s intranet with the stories my colleagues told about their own intranets, it was clear that many were struggling unnecessarily. Given the general approach of law firms to software, I realize that moving away from Microsoft may be a challenge. However, before following the herd, do yourself and your firm the favor of investigating the alternatives. It would be a crying shame to resign yourself to unnecessary struggle just because you did not know there were better alternatives within reach.

Intranet ignorance is NOT bliss.

[This blog post was cross-posted on the Interact blog.]

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