Finding business values in the emerging digital workplace

How does one experience the promised business rewards of the emerging digital workplace (a.k.a the intranet)?

A group of renowned intranet professionals have taken on the task this question and offer sound practical advice as to how to achieve real business value in their new book “intranets that create business value” or in Swedish “intranät som skapar värde“,

intranat-som-skapar-varde-framsida

Today, in fact most days, end-users feel bewildered when using the intranet.It is to some extent impossible to navigate.There exists a hodgepodge of mixed user experiences, given that the intranet often serves as the access point to several tools. And findability too is low! With a coherent, smooth and interoperable workplace, users should be able to find information and data, peers and colleagues to solve their everyday tasks, in an efficient way…  anywhere, on any device and anytime.

The authors’ narrative describes how the intranet can best be used to produce beneficial business transformation, by including detailed chapters on: strategy, content & information architecture, search/findability, governance and stakeholder management, end-user engagement and adaptation. Measures and metrics are also included to qualify the sought after business values.

Findwise have contributed to the sections relating to organising principles. Put simply, it should be easy for a user to know where and how to contribute with information and content in a good manner, so that others are able to find and co-act on such codified knowledge.

Without sound and sustainable organising principles there will be no findability: shit in = shit out! Regardless of the technology platform employed for search or intranet

Buy the e-book today, in advance of the published printed version in May!

How it all began: a brief history of Intranet Search

In accordance to sources, the birth of the intranet fell on a 1994 – 1996, that was true prehistory from an IT systems point of view. Intranet history is bound up with the development of Internet – the global network. The idea of WWW, proposed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee and others, which aim was to enable the connection and access to many various sources, became the prototype for the first internal networks. The goal of intranet invention was to increase employees productivity through the easier access to documents, their faster circulation and more effective communication. Although, access to information was always a crucial matter, in fact, intranet offered lots more functionalities, i.e.: e-mail, group work support, audio-video communication, texts or personal data searching.

Overload of information

Over the course of the years, the content placed on WWW servers had becoming more important than other intranet components. First, managing of more and more complicated software and required hardware led to development of new specializations. Second, paradoxically the easiness of information printing became a source of serious problems. There was too much information, documents were partly outdated, duplicated, without homogeneous structure or hierarchy. Difficulties in content management and lack of people responsible for this process led to situation, when final user was not able to reach desired piece of information or this had been requiring too much effort.

Google to the rescue

As early as in 1998 the Gartner company made a document which described this state of Internet as a “Wild West”. In case of Internet, this problem was being solved by Yahoo or Google, which became a global leader on information searching. In internal networks it had to be improved by rules of information publishing and by CMS and Enterprise Search software. In many organizations the struggle for easier access to information is still actual, in the others – it has just began.

cowboys

And the Search approached

It was search engine which impacted the most on intranet perception. From one side, search engine is directly responsible for realization of basic assumptions of knowledge management in the company. From the other, it is the main source of complaints and frustration among internal networks users. There are many reasons of this status quo: wrong or unreadable searching results, lack of documents, security problems and poor access to some resources. What are the consequences of such situation? First and foremost, they can be observed in high work costs (duplication of tasks, diminution in quality, waste of time, less efficient cooperation) as well as in lost chances for business. It must not be forgotten that search engine problems often overshadow using of intranet as a whole.

How to measure efficiency?

In 2002 Nielsen Norman Group consultants estimated that productivity difference between employees using the best and the worst corporate network is about 43%. On the other hand, annual report of Enterprise Search and Findability Survey shows that in situation, when almost 60% of companies underline the high importance of information searching for their business, nearly as 45% of employees have problem with finding the information.
Leaving aside comfort and level of employees satisfaction, the natural effect of implementation and improvement of Enterprise Search solutions is financial benefit. Contrary to popular belief, investments profits and savings from reaching the information faster are completely countable. Preparing such calculations is not pretty easy. The first step is: to estimate time, which is spent by employees on searching for information, to calculate what percentage of quests end in a fiasco and how long does it take to perform a task without necessary materials. It should be pointed out that findings of such companies as IDC or AIIM shows that office workers set aside at least 15-35% of their working hours for searching necessary information.
Problems with searching are rarely connected with technical issues. Search engines, currently present on our market, are mature products, regardless of technologies type (commercial/open-source). Usually, it is always a matter of default installation and leaving the system in untouched state just after taking it “out of the box”. Each search engine is different because it deals with various documents collections. Another thing is that users expectations and business requirements are changing continually. In conclusion, ensuring good quality searching is an unremitting process.

Knowledge workers main tool?

Intranet has become a comprehensive tool used for companies goals accomplishment. It supports employees commitment and effectiveness, internal communication and knowledge sharing. However, its main task is to find information, which is often hide in stack of documents or dispersed among various data sources. Equipped with search engine, intranet has become invaluable working tool practically in all sectors, especially in specific departments as customer service or administration.

So, how is your company’s access to information?


This text makes an introduction to series of articles dedicated to intranet searching. Subsequent articles are intended to deal with: search engine function in organization, benefit from using Enterprise Search, requirements of searching information system, the most frequent errors and obstacles of implementations and systems architecture.

The Curator – how to cultivate the habitat

This is the fourth post in a series (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7) on the challenges organisations face as they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud.  We will help you to consider the options and guide on the steps you need to take.

In the first post we set out the most common challenges you are likely to face and how you may overcome these.  In the second post we focused on how Office 365 and SharePoint can play a part in moving to the cloud.  In the third post we covered how they can help join up your organisation online using their collaboration tools and features.

In this post we will cover engagement and how sorting and categorisation of artifacts, according to a simple-to-understand and easy-to-use standard, will form the bits and parts of the curation and cultivation process.

CultivationAll document libraries should have one standard listing of all items – with two very distinct audiences: being either actors within the habitat or the people contributing, acting and joining the daily conversation; and secondly, those visitors who pass-by the habitat to collect, link and act upon the content presented within the habitats realm.

This makes it very easy for visitors to find their way around a habitat, if the visitors’ area (business lounge) is pretty much aligned to the overarching theme of the site… and all artifacts that the project team like to share wider, have been listed in a virtual bookshelf, with major versions only. The visitors’ area, has all the relevant data, presented upfront. Basically the answers to the questions set when starting the project. The visitors’ area shouldn’t be a backdrop, but rather a storefront. The content has to be of good quality. Then there should be options to engage with the inner-living-room of the habitat, and enter the messy on-going conversations, depending on access-rights. But the default setting, should always be open for unexpected “internal” (within the realm of the organisation) visitors. If the visitors’ area is compiled in a nice and easy to use manner, most visitors are just happy to pick the best-read from the bookshelf, or at least raise a questions for the team! The social construct for this is “welcoming a stranger”, since that visitor might link to your team’s content, cross-linking into his social-spaces.

The habitat’s livingroom and social conversations, will address new context-specific organising principles. A team might want to add new list-items, sort categories or introduce very local what-goes-where themes. This may be especially so when the team consists of actors who have different roles and responsibilities with regard to the overall outcome. And because of this, there may be a certain mix of tools or services in this one habitat of many, where they hang-out for project tasks.

The contextual adjustment is where the curator has to work on a cultivation process that glues the team together. The shared terminology within a group conversation, is what match their practices together. At inception, the curator picks a bouquet of on-topic terms from the controlled vocabularies. Mixing this with everyday use, and contributions from all members, this can be the fruitful and semantically-enhanced conversations with end-user generated tags or “folksonomies”. The same goes for interior design of links, tools, chosen content types and other forms of artifacts that the team will be needing to fulfill their goals and outcome.

The governance of the habitat, leans very much on the shared experiences in the group, and assigned responsibilities for stewardship and curation – where publishing standards, guidelines and training should be part of the mix.

We will cover more on governance and how content should be managed in the cloud in our next post.
Please join our Live Stream on YouTube the 20th November 8.30AM – 10AM Central European Time
View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog
View Mark Morrell's LinkedIn profileMark Morell intranet-pioneer

New look for the GSA-powered file share search at Implement Consulting Group

The file share search on Implement Consulting Group’s intranet is driven by a Google Search Appliance (GSA). Recently, with help from Findwise, the search interface was given a new look, that integrates more seamlessly with the overall design of the intranet.

GSA comes with a default search interface similar to the Google.com search. The interface is easy to customize from GSA’s administrative interface, however, some features are simply not customizable by clicking around. Therefore, GSA supports the editing of an XSLT file for customizing the search. GSA returns the search results in XML format, and by processing this file with XSLT we can customise how the search results look and behave.

Custom CSS and JavaScript was used for integrating GSA’s search functionalities in the look and feel of the intranet. Implement’s new intranet is based on thoughtfarmer.com and the design was delivered by 1508.dk.

— And here is the search results page with a new look:

icg-gsa-screenshot-findwise

The new look of the search results page on Implement Consulting Group’s Google Search Appliance powered search

Intranets that have an impact

Recently I attended Euroia, the European information architecture summit, where experts within the area meet up to discuss, share, listen and learn.

For me, one of the highlights was James Robertson from Step Two Designs, presenting some of the results from their yearly intranet awards. Intranets are fascinating in being large systems with such potential to improve daily work. However, more often than not they fail in doing so. As James Robertson put it “organizations and intranets is the place where user experience goes to die”.  So, what can we do to change that?

Robertson talked about successful companies managing to create structured, social and smart intranets. Two examples were the International Monetary Fund and a Canadian law firm. Both needed easy and secure gathering and retrieval of large amounts of information. Part of their success came from mandatory classification of published documents and review of changes. Another smart solution was to keep a connection between parent documents and their derivatives, making sure that information was trustworthy and kept up to date.

Companies that excelled at social managed to bind everything together; people projects and customers. I was happy to hear this, as we have been working a lot on this at Findwise. Our latest internal project was actually creating our own knowledge graph, connecting skills, platforms and technologies with projects and customers. What we haven’t done yet but other successful companies have, is daring to go all in with social. Instead of providing social functionality on the side, they fully integrate their social feed into the intranet start page. This I’d like to try at Findwise.

The ugliest but smartest solution presented by James, combined analytics with proper tagging of information. Imagine the following; a policy is changed and you are informed. However, you don’t need the policy until you perform a task months later. Now, the policy information is hidden in a news archive and you can’t easily find it. Annoying right?

What CRS Australia does to solve this problem is simple and elegant. They track pages users visit on the intranet. Whenever someone updates a page they enter whether it is a significant change or not. This is combined with electronic forms for everything. When filling in a form, information regarding policy updates pop up automatically, ensuring that users always have up to date information.

These ideas give me hope and clearly show that intranets needn’t be a place where user experience comes to die.

Query Rules in SharePoint 2013

Leaving both the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas and the recent European SharePoint Conference in Copenhagen behind, Findwise continues sharing impressions about the new search in SharePoint 2013! We have previously given an overview of what is new in search in SharePoint 2013 and discussed Microsoft’s focus areas for the release. In this post, we focus more on the ranking of the search results using the query rules.

Understanding user intent in search is one of the key developments in the new release. The screenshots below, showing out-of-the-box functionality on some sample content, exemplify how the search engine adapts to the user query. Keywords such as ‘deck’, ‘expert’, or ‘video’ can express the user’s needs and expectations for different search results and information types, and what the search engine does in this case is promoting those results that have a higher probability to be relevant to the user’s search.

Query rules

Source: Microsoft

 

The adaptability of the search results can seem remarkable, as we see in these examples, aiming to provide more relevant search results through a better understanding of the user intent. Actually, this is powered by a new feature in SharePoint 2013 called query rules. Even more interesting maybe is that you can define your own custom query rules matching your specific needs without writing any code!

The simplest query rule would be to promote a specific result for a given search query. For example, you can promote a product’s instruction manual when the users search for that product name. Previously, in SharePoint 2010, you were able to define such promoted results (or “best bets”) using the Search Keywords. The query rules in SharePoint 2013 extend this functionality, providing an easy way to create powerful search experiences that adapt to user intent and business needs.

When defining a query rule, there are two main things to consider: conditions and corresponding actions. The conditions specify when the rule will be applied and the actions specify what to do when the rule is matched. There are six different condition types and three action types that can be defined.

For example, a query condition can be that a query keyword matches a specified phrase or a term from a dictionary (such as ‘picture’, ‘download’ or a product name from the term store), or that the query is more popular for a certain result type (such as images when for example searching for ‘cameras’), or that it matches a given regular expression (useful for matching phone numbers for example). The correlated actions can consist of promoting individual results on top of the ranked search results (promoting for example the image library), promoting a group of search results (such as image results, or search results federated from a web search engine), or changing the ranking of the search results by modifying the query (by changing the sorting of results or filtering on a content type). Another thing to consider is where you define the rule. Query rules can be created at Search Service Application, Site Collection, or Site level. The rules are inherited by default but you can remove, add, configure and change the order of query rules at each level. Fortunately, it also allows you to test a query and see which rules will fire.

There is one more thing though that you need to take into account: some features of query rules are limited in some of the licensing plans. Some plans only allow you to add the promoted results, and the more advanced actions on query rules are disabled. Check TechNet for guidelines on managing query rules and a list of features available across different licensing plans.

With the query rules, you have the freedom and power to change the search experience and adapt it to your needs. Defining the right keywords to be matched on the user queries and mapping the conditions with the relevant actions is easy but the process must undoubtedly be well managed. The management of the query rules should definitely be part of your SharePoint 2013 search governance strategy.

Let’s have a chat about how you can create great search experiences that match your specific users and business needs!

Tutorial: Optimising Your Content for Findability

This tutorial was done on the 6th of November at J. Boye 2012 conference in Aarhus Denmark. Tutorial was done by Kristian Norling.

Findability and Your Content

As the amount of content continues to increase, new approaches are required to provide good user experiences. Findability has been introduced as a new term among content strategists and information architects and is most easily explained as:

“A state where all information is findable and an approach to reaching that state.”

Search technology is readily used to make information findable, but as many have realized technology alone is unfortunately not enough. To achieve findability additional activities across several important dimensions such as business, user, information and organisation are needed.

Search engine optimisation is one aspect of findability and many of the principles from SEO works in a intranet or website search context. This is sometimes called Enterprise Search Engine Optimisation (ESEO). Getting findability to work well for your website or intranet is a difficult task, that needs continuos work. It requires stamina, persistence, endurance, patience and of course time and money (resources).

Tutorial Topics

In this tutorial you will take a deep dive into the many aspects of findability, with some good practices on how to improve findability:

  • Enterprise Search Engines vs Web Search
  • Governance
  • Organisation
  • User involvement
  • Optimise content for findability
  • Metadata
  • Search Analytics

Brief Outline

We will start some very brief theory and then use real examples and also talk about what organisations that are most satisfied with their findability do.

Experience level

Participants should have some intranet/website experience. A basic understanding of HTML, with some previous work with content management will make your tutorial experience even better. A bonus if you have done some Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for public websites.

Enterprise Search and Findability discussions at World Cafe in Oslo

Yesterday we (Kristian Hjelseth and Kristian Norling) participated in a great World Cafe event arranged by Steria in Norway. We did a Pecha Kucha inspired presentation (scroll down to the bottom of this blog post for the presentation) to introduce the subject of Enterprise Search and Findability and how to work more efficiently with the help of enterprise search. Afterwards there was a set of three round-table workshop with practitioners, where search related issues were discussed. We found the discussions very interesting, so we thought we should share some of the topics with a broader audience.

The attendees had answered a survey before coming to the World Cafe. In which 83,3% stated that finding the right information was critical for their business goals. But only 20,3% were satisfied with their current search solution, because 75% said it was hard or very hard to find the right information. More stats from a global survey on enterprise search that asked the same questions.

Unified Search

To have all the information that you would like to find in the same search was deemed very important for findability by the participants. The experience of search is that the users don’t know what to search for, but to make it even worse, they do not know where to look for the information! This is also confirmed by the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey that was done earlier this year. The report is available for download.

Trust

Google web search always comes up as an example of what “just works”. And it does work because they found a clever algorithm, PageRank, that basically measures the trustworthiness of information. Since PageRank is heavily dependent on inbound links this way of measuring trust is probably not going to work on an intranet where cross-referencing is not as common based on our experience. Most of the time it is not even possible to link stuff on the intranet, since the information is not accessible through http. Read more about it in this great in-depth article series on the difference between web search and enterprise search by Mark Bennet.

So how can we make search inside the firewall as good as web search? I think by connecting the information to the author. Trust builds between people based on their views of others. Simply put, someone has the authority over her peers either through rank (=organisation chart) or through trust. The trustworthiness can be based on the persons ability to connect to other people (we all probably know someone who knows “everyone”) or we trust someone based on the persons knowledge. More reading on the importance of trust in organisations. How to do this in practice? Some ideas in this post by BIll Ives. Also a good read: “How social is Enterprise Search?” by Jed Cawthorne. And finally another good post to read.

Metadata

By adding relevant metadata to information, we can make it more findable. There was discussions on the importance of strict and controlled metadata and how to handle user tagging. For an idea on how to think about metadata, read a blog post on how VGR used metadata by Kristian Norling.

Search Analytics

Before you start to do any major work with your current enterprise search solution, look at the search log files and analyze the data. You might be surprised in what you find. Search analytics is great if you want insight into what the user expects to find when they search. Watch this video for an introduction to Search Analytics in Practice.

Other subjects

  • Access control and transparency
  • Who owns search?
  • Who owns the information?
  • Personalization of search results
All these subjects and many more were discussed at the workshops, but that will have to wait for another blog post!
As always, your thoughts and comments are most welcome!

Findwise at the J. Boye 12 conference [Updated]

It is with great pleasure we can announce us as a partner of the J. Boye 12 conference in Aarhus (November 6-8). The J. Boye 12 is a conference focused around web and intranet to give practitioners and experts an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and experiences in a professional, yet informal atmosphere.

Findwise will contribute to the conference with a speaker. Kristian Norling, our Market Communication manager, will give his view on future findability trends in “Enterprise Search and Findability Trends 2013” and will also offer an expert tutorial. The topic of the tutorial will be “Optimizing Your Content for Findability“.

Hope to see you there!

Findability day in Stockholm – search trends and customer insights

Last Thursday about 50 of Findwise customers, friends and people from the industry gathered in Stockholm for a Findability day (#findday12). The purpose was simply to share experiences from choosing, implementing and developing search and findability solutions for all types of business and use cases.

Martin White, who has been in the intranet business since 1996, held the keynote speech about “Why business success depends on search”.
Among other things he spoke about why the work starts once search is implemented, how a search team should be staffed and what the top priority areas are for larger companies.
Martin has also published an article about Enterprise Search Team Management  that gives valuable insight in how to staff a search initiative. The latest research note from Martin White on Enterprise search trends and developments.

Henrik Sunnefeldt, SKF, and Joakim Hallin, SEB, were next on stage and shared their experiences from working with larger search implementations.
Henrik, who is program manager for search at SKF, showed several examples of how search can be applied within an enterprise (intranet, internet, apps, Search-as-a-Service etc) to deliver value to both employees and customers.
As for SEB, Joakim described how SEB has worked actively with search for the past two years. The most popular and successful implementation is a Global People Search. The presentation showed how SEB have changed their way of working; from country specific phone books to a single interface that also contains skills, biographies, tags and more.

During the day we also had the opportunity to listen to three expert presentations about Big data (by Daniel Ling and Magnus Ebbeson), Hydra – a content processing framework – video and presentation (by Joel Westberg) and Better Business, Protection & Revenue (by David Kemp from Autonomy).
As for Big data, there is also a good introduction here on the Findability blog.

Niklas Olsson and Patric Jansson from KTH came on stage at 15:30 and described how they have been running their swift-footed search project during the last year. There are some great learnings from working early with requirements and putting effort into the data quality.

Least, but not last, the day ended with Kristian Norling from Findwise who gave a presentation on the results from the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey. 170 respondents from all over the world filled out the survey during the spring 2012 that showed quite some interesting patterns.
Did you for example know that in many organisations search is owned either by IT (58%) or Communication (29%), that 45% have no specified budget for search and 48% of the participants have less than 1 dedicated person working with search?  Furtermore, 44,4% have a search strategy in place or are planning to have one in 2012/13.
The survey results are also discussed in one of the latest UX-postcasts from James Royal-Lawson and Per Axbom.

Thank you to all presenters and participants who contributed to making Findability day 2012 inspiring!

We are currently looking into arranging Findability days in Copenhagen in September, Oslo in October and Stockholm early next spring. If you have ideas (speakers you would like to hear, case studies that you would like insight in etc), please let us know.