I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Intranet Now conference (or hybrid Unconference if you want to be more exact). Held in a London hotel right down by the Thames, there were around 170 intranet folk, mainly from the UK but with some flown in from different parts of Europe. While the majority of participants were practitioners there were quite a few consultants there as well as some sponsors and vendors.
However it’s a testimony to Brian Lamb and Wedge Black’s organisation and positioning that this still felt very much a community-led event, with the same relaxed and friendly vibe from last year. The venue and food were also very good and it was great that they have managed to keep ticket prices so low again.
Here are a few impressions from the various sessions, from consultants, vendors and practitioners. Some of these are very short (five minutes) but overall the talks were well-paced and all the vendors avoided being salesy.
James Robertson got the crowd going with a key note which focused “making the most” of the digital workplace across three different streams – technology, business and design. James illustrated his points with some winners past and present from the Intranet Innovation Awards (which I am heavily involved in) and a rallying call for us to look to the future.
Paul Zimmerman from Invotra looked to a more joined up future in the enterprise in part delivered by the internet of things, some elements which already seem to be here. Footfall analysis, sensors in meeting rooms and even a check on the food consumed in the canteen are on the way. Overall it’s clear that the merging of the digital and physical workplace will lead to some fascinating changes, as well as challenges.
Carolyne Mitchell from South Lanarkshire Council gave a great lightning talk about UX testing on a budget with lots of practical tips to make sure it goes smoothly. Hallway testing, live testing and filming reactions using smartphones were all used but they positioned the testing carefully to make sure users didn’t feel like that they were the ones being tested.
Kevin Cody from Smallworlders gave a short talk on why intranets fail and what to do about it, through a 5 part intranet engagement framework. The takeaway I got was that their analysis of those companies who they’ve benchmarked showed it was key to get the basics right (the intranet content you’d expect) if you want to engage the majority of users.
Aine Murphy from Macmillan Cancer Support gave us a run down on progress of their intranet redesign. User research uncovered a ton of issues so they focused on a new channel which employees can trust. A cross-functional approach is key.
Jen Hayward from Telefonica spoke about rolling out Yammer to knowledge and frontline workers in a company built up through acquisition. Yammer has proved a convenient global platform but there was some “pain-based learning” including winning over stakeholders. I loved a story about people in Spain sending photos of the sunny weather to colleagues in London to make them jealous. Jen also said that internal comms had to learn to give up control and the importance of having an expectation to make mistakes.
Luke Mepham gave an entertaining talk about laws from the internet and what it means for the social intranet. There were some good points here about how suppressing things sometimes brings more attention to it. Its also true that it’s very difficult to spot sarcasm and parody. Ultimately however you need to balance control without supressing creativity and innovation.
Tom Gillman from Crafted gave some UX tips around user research emphasising that one size doesn’t fit all and naming some very good online resources and tools.
Kristian Norling then gave us an upbeat and funny lightning talk on improving search with five tips. Each was true. Search is not a project and we definitely need deleters as much as we do contributors. I have already suggested a “delete Friday” idea in a web project I’m working on for a client.
And so we were still only in the late morning and my hands were already aching from taking notes. I’ll cover the rest of the Conference and give my general thoughts in a second post next week.