Wagon Trains to the Cloud

This is the first post in a series(2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) on the challenges organisations face when 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 you on the steps you need to take.

In this first post we show you  the most common challenges that you are likely to face and how you may overcome these.

A fast migration path, to become tenants in a cloud apartment housing unfolds a set of business critical issues that have to be mitigated:

  • Wayfinding in a maze of content buckets and social habitats.
  • Emerging digital Ghost Towns due to lack of information governance.
  • Digital Landfills without organising principles for information and data.
  • Digital Litter with little or no governance or principles for ownership, with redundant, outdated and trivial (ROT) content.
  • With no strategy or plan, erodes any possibility to positive business outcome from moving to the clouds.

WagonTrn.jpg
WagonTrn” by Tillman at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia by SreeBot. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The way forward is to settle a sustainable information architecture, that supports an information environment in constant flux. With information and data interoperable on any platform, everywhere, anytime and on any device.

You need to show how everything is managed and everyone fits together.  A governance framework can help do this.  It can show who is responsible for the intranet, what their responsibilities are and fit with the strategy and plan.  Making it available to everyone on the intranet helps their understanding of how it is managed and supports the business.

The main point is to have a governance framework and information architecture with the same scope to avoid gaps in content being managed or not being found.

Both need to be in harmony and included in any digital strategy.  This avoids competing information architectures and governance frameworks being created by different people that causes people to have inconsistent experiences not finding that they need and using alternative, less efficient, ways in future to find what they need to help with their work.

Background

Building huts, houses and villages is an emerging social construction. As humans we coordinate our common resources, tools and practices. A habitat populated by people needs housekeeping rules with available resources for cooking, cleaning, social life and so on. Routines that defines who does what task and by when in order to keep everything ok.

A framework with governing principles that set out roles and responsibilities along with standards that set out the expected level of quality and quantity of each task that everyone is engaged and complies with, is similar to how the best intranets and digital workplaces are managed.

In the early stages with a small number of habitats the rules for coordination are pretty simple, both for shared resources between the groups and pathways to connect them. The bigger a village gets, it taxes the new structures to keep things smooth. When we move ahead into mega cities with 20+ million people living close, it boils down to a general overarching plan and common infrastructures, but you also need local networked communities, in order to find feasible solutions for living together.

Like villages and mega cities there is a need for consistency that helps everyone to work and live together.  Whenever you go out you know that there are pavements to walk on, roads for driving, traffic lights that we stop at when they turn red and signs to help us show the easiest way to get to our destination.

Sustainable architecture and governance creates a consistent user experience. A well structured information architecture that is aligned with a clear governance framework sets out roles and responsibilities. Publishing standards based on business needs that supports the publishers follow them. This means wherever content is published, whether it is accredited or collaborative, it will appear to be consistent to people and located where they expect it to be.  This encourages a normal way to move through a digital environment with recognizable headings and consistently placed search and other features.

This allegori, fits like a glove when moving into large enterprise-wide shared spaces for collaboration. Whether it is cloud based, on-premises or a mix thereof. The social constructions and constraints still remain the same. As an IT-services on tap, cloud, has certainly constraints for a flexible and adjustable habitual construction to be able to host as many similar habitats as possible. But offers a key solutions to instantly move into! Tenants share the same apartment building (Sharepoint online).

When the set of habitats grow, navigation in this maze becomes a hazard for most of us. Wayfinding in a digital mega city, is extremely difficult. To a large extent, enterprises moving into collaboration suites suffer from the same stigma. Regardless if it is SharePoint, IBM Connections, Google Apps for Work, or a similar setting. It is not a discussion of which type of house to choose, but rather which architecture and plan that work in the emerging environment.

Information Architecture for Digital Habitats

If one leans upon linked-data,  linked-open-data, and emerging semantic web and web of data standards, there are a set of very simple guidelines that one should adhere to when building a Digital Village or Mega City. The 5 stars, our beacon of light!

All collections and shared spaces, should have persistent URI:s, which is the fourth star in the ladder. When it comes to the third star of non-proprietary formats it obviously becomes a bit tricky, since i.e. MS Sharepoint and MS Office like to encourage their own format to things. But if one add resource descriptions to collections and artifacts using Dublin Core elements, it will be possible to connect different types of matter. With feasible and standardised resource descriptions it will be possible to add schemas and structures, that can tell us a little bit more about the artifacts or collection thereof. Hence the option to adhere to the second star. The first star, will inside the corporate setting become key to connect different business units, areas with open licenses and with restrictions to internal use only and in some cases open for other external parties.

Linking data-sets, that is collections or habitats, with different artifacts is the fifth star. This is where it all starts to make sense, enabling a connected digital workplace. Building a city plan, with pathways, traffic signals and rules, highways, roads, neighborhoods  and infrastructural services and more. In other words, placemaking!

Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being.

We will cover more about how this applies to Office 365 and SharePoint in our next post.

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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.

Why search and Findability is critical for the customer experience and NPS on websites

To achieve a high NPS, Net Promoter Score, the customer experience (cx) is crucial and a critical factor behind a positive customer experience is the ease of doing business. For companies who interact with their customers through the web (which ought to be almost every company these days) this of course implies a need to have good Findability and search on the website in order for visitors to be able to find what they are looking for without effort.

The concept of NPS was created by Fred Reichheld and his colleagues of Bain and Co who had an increasing recognition that measuring customer satisfaction on its own wasn’t enough to make conclusions of customer loyalty. After some research together with Satmetrix they came up with a single question that they deemed to be the only relevant one for predicting business success “How likely are you to recommend company X to a friend or colleague.” Depending upon the answer to that single question, using a scale of 0 to 10, the respondent would be considered one of the following:

net-promoter

The Net Promoter Score model

The idea is that Promoters—the loyal, enthusiastic customers who love doing business with you—are worth far more to your company than passive customers or detractors. To obtain the actual NPS score the percentage of Detractors is deducted from the percentage of Promoters.

How the customer experience drives NPS

Several studies indicate four main drivers behind NPS:

  • Brand relationship
  • Experience of / satisfaction with product offerings (features; relevance; pricing)
  • Ease of doing business (simplicity; efficiency; reliability)
  • Touch point experience (the degree of warmth and understanding conveyed by front-line employees)

According to ‘voice of the customer’ research conducted by British customer experience consultancy Cape Consulting the ease of doing business and the touch point experience accounts for 60 % of the Net Promoter Score, with some variations between different industry sectors. Both factors are directly correlated to how easy it is for customers to find what they are looking for on the web and how easily front-line employees can find the right information to help and guide the customer.

Successful companies devote much attention to user experience on their website but when trying to figure out how most visitors will behave website owners tend to overlook the search function. Hence visitors who are unfamiliar with the design struggle to find the product or information they are looking for causing unnecessary frustration and quite possibly the customer/potential customer runs out of patience with the company.

Ideally, Findability on a company website or ecommerce site is a state where desired content is displayed immediately without any effort at all. Product recommendations based on the behavior of previous visitors is an example but it has limitations and requires a large set of data to be accurate. When a visitor has a very specific query, a long tail search, the accuracy becomes even more important because there will be no such thing as a close enough answer. Imagine a visitor to a logistics company website looking for information about delivery times from one city to another, an ecommerce site where the visitor has found the right product but wants to know the company’s return policy before making a purchase or a visitor to a hospital’s website looking for contact details to a specific department. Examples like these are situations where there is only one correct answer and failure to deliver that answer in a simple and reliable manner will negatively impact the customer experience and probably create a frustrated visitor who might leave the site and look at the competition instead.

Investing in search have positive impacts on NPS and the bottom line 

Google has taught people how to search and what to expect from a search function. Step one is to create a user friendly search function on your website but then you must actively maintain the master data, business rules, relevance models and the zero-results hits to make sure the customer experience is aligned. Also, take a look at the keywords and phrases your visitors use when searching. This is useful business intelligence about your customers and it can also indicate what type of information you should highlight on your website. Achieving good Findability on your website requires more than just the right technology and modern website design. It is an ongoing process that successfully managed can have a huge impact on the customer experience and your NPS which means your investment in search will generate positive results on your bottom line.

More posts on this topic will follow.

/Olof Belfrage

Presentation: The Why and How of Findability

“The Why and How of Findability” presented by Kristian Norling at the ScanJour Kundeseminar in Copenhagen, 6 September 2012. We can make information findable with good metadata. The metadata makes it possible to create browsable, structured and highly findable information. We can make findability (and enterprise search) better by looking at findability in five different dimensions.

Five dimensions of Findability

1. BUSINESS – Build solutions to support your business processes and goals

2. INFORMATION – Prepare information to make it findable

3. USERS – Build usable solutions based on user needs

4. ORGANISATION – Govern and improve your solution over time

5. SEARCH TECHNOLOGY – Build solutions based on state-of-the-art search technology

Video: Search Analytics in Practice

Search Analytics in Practice from Findwise on Vimeo.

This presentation is about how to use search analytics to improve the search experience. A small investment in time and effort can really improve the search on your intranet or website. You will get practical advice on what metrics to look at and what actions can be taken as a result of the analysis.

Video in swedish “Sökanalys i praktiken”.

The presentation was recorded in Gothenburg on the 4th of May 2012.

The presentation featured in the video:

Search Analytics in Practice

View more presentations from Findwise

Video interview: How to Improve the Search Experience

Video interview with Kristian Norling at the Intrateam Event in Copenhagen 2012. Kristian talks about his former work at VGR and what he thinks is important for improving the search experience.

Kristian Norling

Watch the video

Mobile clients and Enterprise Search – What are the Implications?

As we all know the smartphone user base is growing explosively. According to www.statcounter.com, internet access from handheld mobile devices has doubled yearly since 2009 adding up to 8,5 % of all page views globally in January 2012. And mobile users want to be able to do all the same things that they are able to do on their PC. And that includes access to the company’s Enterprise Search solution!

The benefits of the sales force being able to search for vital customer information before a meeting or for field service personnel being able to find documentation quickly are quite obvious. So how can an organization tweak its search solution in order to provide convenient access for the mobile users? And above all, what will it cost?

Well, to answer the last question first: much less than you think. Providing for the mobile user is mainly about creating a new front end/UI. The main bulk of your search solution remains the same; indexing, metadata structure and content publishing, for instance, remain essentially unaffected.

But you do need to provide a quite different UI in order for the user interaction to work smoothly considering the specific characteristics of the mobile client primarily when it comes to screen size/resolution and text input. But the smartphone also has a lot of features that the PC lacks – it is always available and it knows exactly where you are, it always has a camera, microphone, speaker, possibly a magnetometer and accelerometer and of course a touchscreen with motions like pinching and swiping etc. And many of these features can be quite useful as the following examples prove:

Illustration 1. Google Mobile Voice Search on the iPhone. Courtesy of UX Matters, www.uxmatters.com

  • Google Mobile App for iPhone: in this app, the iPhone senses when the phone is lifted towards the ear and hence knows when to listen for a search command. Since the phone also knows where the user is, a search for “restaurant” automatically generates hits with restaurants in your vicinity.
  • Scanning a Barcode or QR-code: scanning a Barcode or QR-code with your phone is another way of entering a search string. An example could be a product in a store where the customer could open a price-search-engine and scan the QR-code of the product and see where the best price is.

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to be creative. But for the most part, the I/O will still be done via the screen. At UX Matters there is a great article by Greg Nudelman describing the considerations when implementing search for mobile clients and suggestions for various design patterns that can be efficient (see http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2010/04/design-patterns-for-mobile-faceted-search-part-i.php). I have included a brief summary below together with illustrations courtesy of UX Matters. But first, some general considerations for mobile clients:

  • Use Javascript code to detect what type of device is accessing your search solution and if it is a mobile client you display the mobile interface.
  • Native App or Mobile Web App: Creating a Mobile Web App is easier and cheaper than creating a native App – for one thing you don’t have to create multiple versions for different OS’s (although you still need to test your solution with different browsers/resolutions). Performance wise there isn’t a big difference between Native Apps and Web Apps and mobile browsers are increasingly gaining access to most of the phones hardware as well.
  • Authentication: SSO for mobile web applications works the same as for desktop browsers.  There are also new solutions currently being launched enabling usage of the company’s existing Active Directory infrastructure. One example is Centrify Directcontrol for Mobile enabling a centralized administration within Active Directory of all device security settings, profiles, certificates and restrictions.
  • Use HTML5 instead of FLASH: iPhones don’t support FLASH but HTML5 is a very capable alternative
  • Testing: How the design looks for different resolutions can be tested through various emulators but it is always recommendable to test on a limited set of real smartphones as well.
  • Access needs to be quick and simple: user interaction is more cumbersome on a phone than on a PC. Normally try to avoid solutions that require more than 3 input actions.
  • Menu navigation: links on the right side are normally used to drill down in the menu hierarchy and left up/towards the home screen
  • Gestures: is a very powerful toolbox that can be used in many different ways to create an efficient UI. For example, use “pinch to show more” if you want to expand the summary information of a specific item in the search hit list or “swipe” to expose the metadata (or whatever action you want to assign to that gesture).
  • Be creative: the mobile client is inherently different from a PC, limited in some ways but more powerful in others. So if you just try to adopt design solutions from the PC and fit them into a mobile UI you are missing out on a lot of powerful design solutions that only make sense on a mobile client and you are definitely not giving the users the best possible search experience. Also, since mobile design is still evolving you don’t need to be limited by conventions and expectations as much as on the PC side – make the most of this freedom to be creative!
  • W3C mobile: for more information about mobile web development, see http://www.w3.org/Mobile/ which also includes a validating scheme to assess the readiness of content for the mobile web

Design patterns for mobile UI (with courtesy of Greg Nudelman/UX Matters)

Mobile faceting can be tricky but by using design patterns like “4 Corners”, “Modal Overlays”, “Watermarks” and “Teaser Design” the UI can become both intuitive and easy to learn as well as providing reasonably powerful functionality. As mentioned, these techniques are summaries from an article written by Greg Nudelman for UX Matters. If you are eager to learn more, feel free to check out Greg’s website and his upcoming workshops focused on mobile design http://www.designcaffeine.com/category/workshops/

4 Corners: instead of stealing scarce real estate by adding faceting options directly on the screen together with the search result, semitransparent buttons are available in each corner enabling the user to bring up a faceting menu by tapping in a corner (see illustration 2).

Modal Overlays: the modal overlay is displayed on top of the original page. The modal overlay works well together with the 4 corners design – tapping a corner opens up the overlay containing faceting functions like filtering and sorting (see illustration 2).

Illustration 2. Four Corners and Modal Overlay patterns. Courtesy of UX Matters, www.uxmatters.com

Watermarks: a great technique for guiding users and showing the possibility of using new functions. The watermarks, possibly animated, show a symbol for the available action, for instance arrows indicating that a swiping gesture could be used (see illustration 3).

Full-Page Refinement Options Pattern: gives the user plenty of refinement options to choose from (see illustration 3).

Illustration 3. Two variations of the Watermark pattern and a Refinement Options pattern. Courtesy of UX Matters, www.uxmatters.com

Teaser Design: show part of the next available content so that the user is aware that there is more content available (see illustration 4).

Illustration 4. Teaser design pattern facilitates the discovery of faceted search filters. Courtesy of UX Matters, www.uxmatters.com

Persistent Status Bar: always maintain a persistent status bar containing the search string together with applied filters in the search result page. This helps the user maintain orientation. Note that all of the illustrations above have a persistent status bar.

Conclusion

Although Best Practices for mobile UI design are still evolving, plenty of progress has already been made and there are several solutions and design patterns to choose from depending on the specific circumstances at hand. So an implementation project need not be rocket science, as long as you learn the right tricks…

Bringing enterprise information to the field, readily available in a mobile handset or tablet, will mobilize your employees. The UI requires rethinking as we have seen. And security needs to be addressed properly to avoid having sensitive data compromised. But other than that, you are ready to go!

Findability, a holistic approach to implementing search technology

We are proud to present the first video on our new Vimeo channel. Enjoy!

Findability Dimensions

Successful search project does not only involve technology and having the most skilled developers, it is not enough. To utilise the full potential and receive return on search technology investments there are five main dimensions (or perspectives) that all need to be in focus when developing search solutions, and that require additional competencies to be involved.

This holistic approach to implementing search technology we call Findability by Findwise.

Search Driven Navigation and Content

In the beginning of October I attended Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2011 in Anaheim, USA. There were a lot of interesting and useful topics that were discussed. One really interesting session was Content Targeting with the FAST Search Web Part by Martin Harwar.

Martin Harwar talked about how search can be used to show content on a web page. The most common search-driven content is of course the traditional search. But there are a lot more content that can be retrieved by search. One of them is to have search-driven navigation and content. The search-driven navigation means that instead of having static links on a page we can render them depending on the query the user typed in. If a user is for example on a health care site and had recently done a search on “ear infection” the page can show links to ear specialist departments. When the user will do another search and returns to the same page the links will be different.

In the same way we can render content on the page. Imagine a webpage of a tools business that on its start page has two lists of products, most popular and newest tools. To make these lists more adapted for a user we only want show products that are of interest for the user. Instead of only showing the most popular and newest tools the lists can also be filtered on the last query a user has typed. Assume a user searches on “saw” and then returns to the page with the product lists. The lists will now show the most popular saws and the newest saws. This can also be used when a user finds the companies webpage by searching for “saw” on for instance Google.

This shows that search can be used in many ways to personalize a webpage and thereby increase Findability.