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.

One thought on “Intranets that have an impact

  1. I was also impressed with the Austrailan law firm, when that example was published some years ago in the Intranet Innovation Rewards.
    A key issue, though, is their “mandatory [ and very extensive! -JS] classification of published documents”.
    In many organisations, it has proven very hard to get people to tag and classify documents in that very rigorous, structured and detailed way.
    I think a crucial point here is that a law firm will actually charge their clients a nice high hourly fee for the time to file the papers from a case, making it a highly profitable activity.
    In many (most?) other organisations, this will not be the case. The careful filing of documents will compete with many more pressing tasks. Time spent on rigorously classifying documents will be seen as a loss, compared to spending it on more directly productive /invoiceable activities.
    (And the “but-we-will-benefit-from-it-in-the-long-run-because-it-increases-out-structured-knowledge-capital”-argument doesn’t really have the same ka-ching!! power.)
    Hence the real-world examples of huge benefits from document management systems are rather few, btw.

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