Interaction opened this year with sad news that Nigel Danson, Interact CEO and Founder, wouldn’t be attending due to illness. But as they say, the show must go on, and it did…with a bang! There is so much to share, I’ve highlighted the top three tips from each presentation.

The beautiful and the practical: Developing and maintaining an award-winning intranet

Opening the workshop with a refreshing account of their intranet journey were Jason Parkes and David Groom of Mediterranean Shipping Company UK (MSC).

It’s been 20 months since MYWORKSPACE went live and it’s an impressive site which has been well received externally scooping up numerous awards, including a Ragan earlier this year. This surprises no one other than MSC themselves as the industry isn’t known for being at the forefront of technology.

Here are Jason and David’s top three tips:

  • Always remember the user. The big focus, and one that has remained, is people; it had to be about what the users want. There’s a risk that you can be a bit selfish with your intranet, using functionality that’s cutting edge, but may not necessarily make life easier. If it doesn’t – it’s not worth doing.
  • Understand your limitations. Business functionality had to come first, then social functionality was added to the site. In order to get buy-in from senior team, they needed to prove the business benefits, like improving the delivery of internal comms before introducing social elements.
  • Be brave. Something may not work as planned, but keep going as it will evolve. It may be down to user confidence, which can be built through department/project areas, and introducing non-work related activity, such as employees taking a teddy on holiday. Work with those using the site and others will follow.

The Intranet Derby: The race to solve your intranet challenges

We then went off to the races as Steven Osborne, Lead Strategist, introduced the Interact Derby presenting each table with an envelope that made them collective owners a horse. The horse, of course, was named after a common intranet challenge. The runners were Crowded House, Lone Ranger, Unguided Missile, In the Dark, Faded Glory, Spaghetti Junction, Magical Mystery Tour and Smoke Signals. The objective: to come up with an action plan of how to overcome this problem.

There were some great ideas, delivered in ways that would give John McCririck a run for his money, but Faded Glory was victorious. Their challenge: “Nothing has changed recently and user feedback is poor. It has just had a two year anniversary – that wasn’t celebrated.” Here are the three key steps from the winning team:

  • Attend a day at the races (#iic15 of course) to get ideas.
  • Muck out regularly and make sure your stable is clear. Set up focus groups to review content, revisit the strategy and use analytics to see what’s not been looked at and why.
  • Give people a hand getting on the horse. Go back to basics, assess knowledge, challenge perceptions, talk to people and find out what’s standing in their way.

Intranets in action

To enable delegates to tailor the day to meet their needs the morning broke into a mix of smaller stream sessions and the option to spend some time in the expo area with our customers, who took time out to take delegates on a tour of their intranets.

Interaction Intranet Workshop Expo

So what went on in the streams?

Homepage tips

Jo Sullivan, Intranet Trainer, kicked off steam one with some valuable tips and examples of how to build a great homepage. Jo shares 3 common mistakes that stand in the way of successful homepage and how to overcome them:

  • Making it too busy. Trying to add too much doesn’t work, it will just look cluttered. You are better to regularly review and refresh content than add everything at once.
  • Embedding content that will slow the site down or that users don’t have access to. Twitter or YouTube content can be an amazing way to convey information but not if the sites are blocked. Consider your employees’ access and location.
  • Creating ‘welcome’ pages on every homepage. If this is really necessary then use the in-built ‘Meet the Team’ widget to at least make it dynamic or have a page of @mentions directing you to peoples’ profiles.

Content areas, Teams and Tasks masterclass

Sara Burgess, Intranet Evangelist, takes to the stage to answer a common question around whether content managers should be using content areas or teams. Sara explains why the question is redundant because they work so well together:

  • Content areas push content to a wider audience and should be used as a formal place to present content, in an admin-controlled environment.
  • Content within team areas are seen if you are a member of that group. There is an owner, but anyone can create content to populate in the area.
  • Alongside these, the Tasks application provides a holistic solution as it can be added from content areas, linking it together and enabling transparency of content creation.

Streamlining the new starter experience on your intranet

Kelly Freeman, Intranet Strategist, tells us the importance of ensuring new starters have a good experience as most employees choose to leave within the first 3-6 months. Kelly shares three ideas to help:

  • Create a page with 5 things new starters need to know on their first day, to keep it all in one place and signposted off to different areas. This can include meet the team, how to update profiles and most importantly where to get lunch.
  • Instead of giving new starters an abundance of paper forms to fill out, use workflows on the intranet and highlight key policies and processes with mandatory reads, so they know what’s important.
  • Promote the values, vision and corporate plan with links to the people directory and department areas, ensuring content and people stay together. Make it visual and be creative with videos and infographics.

Creating personality for your intranet

Nigel Williams, Community Manager, shares the important questions you need to ask in order to give your intranet a personality that ensures you achieve your objectives. Here are Nigel’s top three questions:

  • What is your intranet for? Decide what you want your intranet to achieve; streamline business process, increase collaboration, improve communication? Use characters to achieve your objectives and take the fear factor from user’s feeling they are asking silly questions.
  • What is your tone? Keep it simple. Use rich media to make your comms engaging. It’s something email can’t do and it helps to hook your users in. Don’t forget your audience though, as it may not be suitable if you have a lot of remote workers.
  • What does it look like? Your homepage is your shop window and needs to be engaging in order to get people to move forwards. News, forums and timeline feeds keep your homepage dynamic with no effort.

Launch your intranet with a wow

Vicky Keith, Customer Success Coach, talks glitter cannons and cakes, plus an array of top tips that will make sure your intranet launches with success and beyond. Here are Vicky’s top three:

  • Know your audience. Review the strategy and consider your employees when deciding how to promote the benefits. Posters are a great a tool to emphasis the key benefit for employees that’s going to encourage them to log-on. As are freebies to encourage employees to complete a task, such as headphones to listen to launch videos.
  • Don’t forget the importance of face-to-face. Showing employees the new intranet will be much more effective than just telling them. Go to regional offices so they don’t feel left out, or pop into team meetings for a few minutes where you can.
  • Don’t forget the launch is just the beginning. Add features to your site at a later date, whether that’s in a week or a month. Review the analytics regularly to see the areas you need to focus on to encourage adoption.

My sexy intranet. Making blogs engaging and intranets attractive

There is no holding back when Wendy Jordan of Wheatley Group takes to the stage. The audience are instantly mesmerized and when she compares their intranet, Holmes, to Gary Barlow – grown up and aging beautifully – it’s no wonder why.

As Wendy takes us through the re-vamped Holmes we can see that everything has a purpose. Although she is all about the sexy to keep employees engaged, it needs to be useful – form follows content. Whether delivering news or blogs, it’s got to be engaging. Wendy shares her top three tips:

  • Get straight to the point. Make it simple and don’t be elitist. You’re not trying to impress anyone, you are trying to communicate.
  • Give a damn. And if you don’t, shadow someone until you do and go out with them on their job to understand what they do day-to-day. If the subject is dry make it stand out, e.g. 10 reasons to xxx.
  • Know your audience. Get to know all employees, from frontline to CEO, so you can communicate with them – both on the intranet and face-to-face.

So we’ve successfully launched, what next?

With her usual wit, Jemma Goodman, Customer Success Manager, takes us through the customer success experience. She explains how easy it is for an intranet project to lose momentum. At the beginning of a project you have a lot of support with a team behind you. Six months in and the enthusiasm has dwindled and you are suddenly without the resource, time or energy to maintain a successful intranet. Jemma shares three steps to make sure this doesn’t happen (and will enable you to have a lovely holiday):

  • Complete a scorecard to get a good understanding of where you’re struggling.
  • Attend recommended training sessions.
  • Review your scorecard to assess improvements.

Meet Novel

Paddy Johnston of publishing group, Hachette, gave a delightful account of their journey from Harriet (the previous intranet only briefly revealed due to the audible gasp) to Novel (the current visually exciting, engaging and intuitive platform). Paddy shares his top three lessons:

  • One homepage. They previously had a different homepage for every publishing division. Now they have one homepage including links to the other 8 publishers, which the users prefer.
  • Encouraging social. Although social features are proving slow to take off, content managers continue to encourage comments and the homepage includes non-work related elements, such as book of the week and aid the refugee crisis.
  • Assign content managers. Each publishing division and group function has their own content manager which makes keeping the site fresh and accurate manageable.

Smart content re-purposing to drive user engagement

Ashley Rudge and Gregor Henderson-Begg of Wandle went back to basics to relaunch their intranet into a trusted place of information, improving comms and promoting cultural change. Flo (as in the flow of information) was getting an upgrade – name included. So they relaunched in three months to keep people engaged and momentum going. Here are their three top successes:

  • Keeping policies all in one place under the library, rather than in departmental content areas means they can control permissions and be without fear of duplication and inaccuracy.
  • Mobile workers can access information on smart phones and tablets enabling them to provide answers immediately and confidently.
  • Team areas has given different teams a platform to openly share what they are doing with people that need and want to know.

What’s on the Interact roadmap?

Simon Dance, CTO and Martin Malone, Product Manager, took us over the planned product developments over the next 12 months and beyond. These have all come from comments and suggestions from the Community. Here are the top 4 (there’s just too much going on to choose 3):

  • System text feature. Customers have asked for greater coverage, management tools that are easier to use and the ability to embed HTML, and improve import and export capabilities.
  • Notifications. There will be improvements to the content of individual notifications, end user filtering options so people can decide what type of notifications to receive and multiple URL support, where customers use different URLs internally and externally.
  • Native mobile app. External access to an intranet has always been a barrier to moving forward with a native mobile app. With the shift to cloud for the majority of customers this is now a possibility and a native mobile app will be coming in 2016.
  • Application builder. In 2016 Workflow & Forms is being taken to the next stage, providing the ability to build out simple applications: connect multiple forms, edit existing form data and separate permissions.

Day 1 closes with Q&A

Hosted by Nigel Williams; Scott Hitchins, Vicky Keith, Kelly Freeman, Steven Osborne and Martin Malone take their seats on the stage ready to answer questions from the floor.

  • How do you measure efficiency?

Steve: producing more content doesn’t mean it’s better. Can you produce resource cost savings, such as storage capacity and less post?

Kelly: you need to establish what users are reading and what about. Similar to Ragan, by putting comms stories into topics you can measure what’s popular and what’s not. Then you can start to look at what you can do differently. The hit rate on a random story is not going to tell you if it has improved comms.

Nigel: Check out Kevin Cody from SmallWorlders. He is changing perceptions of what to measure.

  • How do you engage senior managers? Could you share examples of best practice?

Nigel: people aren’t training their senior team enough. They too are users and need an explanation as to how the intranet will make them more effective. Everyone hates change, even your senior team. Having to learn something is a pain, so make it quick and easy.

Kelly: don’t make it too onerous. Spread the tasks out amongst the whole team, for example, one blog a month from the senior team as a whole, so they can take it in turns. You’ve got to hold their hands. Just because they are leaders they may not be comfortable blogging. Ask a question at the end and invite comments. If necessary add moles who respond so they feel loved and want to do it more.

Scott: come prepared with the impact it’s having on the business. Talk bottom line.

  • Intranets can be content graveyards. How do you do a working practice which gets people to do audits and tackles those who ignore notifications?

This one opened up to the floor as members of the audience shared how they did it:

Will Burnett (Oxford Innovation): We started being gentle and ended up letting the document expire. Those who wanted the document did the chasing for you.

Floor: If users don’t add a picture and description they are exposed as a newbie on the intranet which just says ‘working on it’. This is embarrassing so we find people don’t leave it for long.

Floor: We don’t let anyone else add anything as it’s easier. We will ask different departments per month so we’re not inundated.

That rounded up day one, so it was a quick spruce up and on to the Intranet Excellence Awards (more on that to follow)…

Interaction Intranet Conference Awards Team