Picking up where I left off, here are more details about the speakers:
Sara Redin talked about the perfect intranet business case, recalling some recent work she had done with a Danish retailer. Her case study was interesting. I loved her observation about the correlation between the level of compliance for some fairly clunky processes store managers had to go through and the store’s proximity to the organisational HQ. The further you got away from the centre, stores went being from “compliant but grumpy” to only “superficially compliant.” She also observed that store managers were too focused on sales and margins to ever see the intranet as truly critical. In reality the perfect intranet business case is knowing your users and how they really operate.
Eric Klein from Seibert Media covered a study which is providing a structured way of evaluating intranet solutions. You can find more information at www.intranet-compass.com.
Francis Rowland from the European Bioinformatics Institute looked at some key UX tips and factors in an intranet implementation. He was spot on when he mentioned the importance of eduction and getting some heavy-weight allies on side. I also agreed with his view that sometimes its better to make changes and wait for the consequences rather than never get anything done.
Richard Hare’s short talk was based on theme “50 ways to foul up online communities” although, like in the Paul Simon song, he only covered six reasons. Takeaways for me included a salient reminder to focus on removing barriers and that most communities fail so you don’t have to set the bar too high. Indeed online communities are about being “open, findable, work-focused and self-organising” and if you can’t achieve that you might as well get on the bus, Gus.
Dan Thompsen from Webtop gave us a positive but realistic view that intranet professionals can bring change to their respective organisations but that it is hard. He explored the barriers from IT departments through to too much complexity. He suggested cloud solutions were making things easier and, while clearly this was a vendor pitch, I enjoyed his talk.
Up next was Martin Pope from Barclays who walked-us through the bank’s new Learning and Development platform. It looks more like Pinterest than a traditional LMS. This has won an Intranet Innovation Award so I know the solution pretty well, but it was good to see some additional developments like the building up of individual themed academies.
Susan Quain from Care UK gave a very interesting talk on how she had to refocus her intranet implemention project half way though because the company decided to restructure with 4,000 redundancies. This wiped out most of her key stakeholders and also altered the perception of the project from users. Ultimately Susan was forced to refocus the project with more emphasis on managing the change. Susan’s observation to “Devise a proper plan that delivers in the short term, not just long term” resonated with me.
After lunch (great Creme Brulee by the way!), we had a couple of short award ceremonies for the UKeiG information manager of the year and also for the Intranet Innovation Awards which I’m involved in. Congratulations to the winners.
We then had a talk from Shaula Zanchi from Robin Partington and Partners talking about their award-winning digital workplace. I really like what Shaula has done at RPP involving lots of design (architects gave input) and how it is obviously built for the massive wide screens used by the architects. I also like how it’s been built up a little like a building, brick by brick. Shaula’s delivery – almost a stream of conciousness with a very dry sense of humour – also went down very well with the audience.
In the afternoon session the “Unconference” element of Intranet Now kicked in. I’m not a huge fan of the Unconference term given that unstructured break-out sessions suggested by participants are now commonplace. People took to the stage to make suggestions. My contribution was “Is ‘intranet’ a toxic brand?” and I found myself chairing two sessions on it. After a short talk by Luke Mepham on intranet user experience, the sessions started. There was a really healthy level debate, more so than last year I felt.
The conclusion seemed to be that people thought yes, intranet is a toxic brand within their organisation. However currently there wasn’t a better term and it really more about communicating value. My view is that the toxicity depends on where you go and that most stakeholders see some operational value in the intranet but few recognise its strategic contribution.
I also enjoyed sessions about what we can learn from Buzzfeed for intranets and also about the digital workplace.
After the sessions we congregated back into the main hall to see Sam Marshall collect the Intranet Diamond Award for contribution to the intranet community. Well done, Sam. And then it was up to the hotel bar where the free wine was quickly consumed. It was great to catch-up with lots of people and meet some folk whom I’ve worked with virtually but not met face to face. Eventually about 20 of us ended up eating in a nearby pub. A very pleasant end to a great day.
Would I change anything? Probably not much. I’d think I’d make the break out sessions slightly shorter (perhaps three rounds rather than four), and perhaps create an area where people can demo their intranet to others. I’d probably also cut down the number of lightning talks and give some speakers a little longer. More 15 minute slots than 5 minutes ones. And I’d drop the Unconference term, but that’s probably just my personal bugbear.
Overall I really enjoyed Intranet Now. Congratulations to Brian and Wedge and see you next year!