Be an intranet action hero – advice from the morning speakers at Interact Intranet conference

We’ve held a client-only intranet conference for several years, but this was the first time we’ve opened up our conference to non Interact Intranet customers. We not only had top-notch speakers, who I hope you’ve heard of, but also participatory attendees – the conversation flowed and tough questions were asked. Check the #iconf hashtag on Twitter (no account necessary) for the backchannel banter and smart / sharp observations.
So much was said, so much was shown; it’s difficult to express everything I learnt or everything that was offered, but I’d like to share some actions that all intranet managers should consider taking.

How to make an intranet essential – James Robertson

James Robertson, of Step Two Designs in Australia, spoke about how intranets can be less than useful and how they must become essential to the company, supporting core business. James struck a chord when he said the biggest threat to intranet improvements wasn’t resistance to change, but apathy.

To create an indispensable intranet, it has to become essential to doing work, to supporting the core processes of your business, the products and services. Success should be rated against impact on the business, not merely page views. It isn’t just about ‘saving time’ (which James feels is not a useful metric for ROI calculations) it’s about productivity. The work you have to do today should be on your home page – meaning that different groups of people will need different things on their home pages – one single home page layout and content does not suit everybody.

We need to be smarter in how we push out information on our intranets; few people care to read a ‘news story’ that a policy has been updated, yet such information might be crucial when it comes to executing a task related to that policy. Information should be presented at the point of need, e.g. when using a travel form, the intranet should let you know right then if the travel policy has changed since you last used the form.

James Robertson

James Robertson of Step Two Designs at Interaction 2011

Mobile versions of the intranet should be focused on what people need when they’re away from their desks. Focus on just six to eight things that will make people’s lives easier when out and about – nothing more.
James would like to see intranets deliver joy and surprise – attempting to just reduce people’s frustrations is not ambitious enough!


  • Write a list of six things you will improve or develop on the intranet in the next six months – keep it with you;
  • Talk to people about their jobs and tasks, learn how the intranet could support them (don’t ask what they want; instead, learn what they need);
  • Develop different home pages for different groups of people around the business (think about groups of people, rather than merely departments);
  • Consider how to deliver updates and news when people need to know, rather than just when you can publish it on the home page;
  • Have a mobile intranet that only does six to eight things that are relevant to people away from their desks / office.

Good governance equals engaged people – Mark Morrell

We always say ‘Mark Morrell, who used to manage the BT intranet’, but it’s time we introduced him as ‘Mark Morrell, intranet pioneer of the IBF‘!

Although there were different reactions to the screenshots from BT’s intranet, I’ll succinctly focus on the core messages of Mark’s presentation around governance.
Governance is about enabling people to do more. In order to write your intranet governance, you will need to:

1. Know the goals of your business (the intranet must directly support them);
2. Identify risks (for managing and mitigation);
3. Know the stakeholders and their objectives;
4. Communicate the benefits – express what’s going on and promote ways of working online;
5. Educate and train people – show don’t tell!
6. Help build the right culture for engagement by developing relationships across the business.

I challenged Mark about the idea of building the culture, as I’m unsure how an intranet manager builds culture. I feel that an intranet can only support the culture, or support culture change activities (e.g. more open comms). Mark answered that his point is to prepare the company for intranet improvements and and that intranet managers need to build relationships across the business.
The brilliant thing that Mark said that I hope will spread, is that when writing governance, make ‘let everyone use…’ be the rule, not the exception.

Social business – Lee Bryant

Lee Bryant, of Headshift, dared to use the word ‘social’ (whereas I might soften the message by saying ‘collaboration’ or ‘knowledge sharing’) but he kept it all focussed on business impact of course.
Lee reminded us that intranets should not be about merely publishing, but about doing your work right there on the intranet or digital workspace. Sharing what we do or what we know, should be a by-product of our work, not an additional task. In my mind, Lee is talking about ‘activity streams’, which I’m a big fan of.
The intranet should support ‘in the flow collaboration’, and let people create / curate the flow of information – both the updates they ‘create and send’ and the information that comes to them.
And all because these little snippets of knowledge sharing creates “better decisions based on ambient signals” – an awesome justification!


Lee Bryant at Interaction 2011

Lee Bryant presents Social Business at Interaction 2011


  • Define or demonstrate the purposes for status updates / micro-blogs / activity streams;
  • Don’t just ‘roll out’ new features, share invites and create some buzz;
  • Focus on the usability – a “consumer-grade experience is the first priority”.
  • Check the #iconf hashtag on Twitter (no account necessary) for people’s reactions.

“Fabulous couple of days. Thanks everyone who put it together. Off home inspired by what I’ve heard and what’s poss.” ~ Mark Morton

“I would just like to pass on my congratulations and thanks for Interaction 2011. Both Charlotte and I found the event to be both enjoyable and inspiring – an excellent event all round.

The two days were a great mix of Interact clients and people using other systems and the mix of speakers was also excellent – a balance of theory and practical, future development and current issues, cultural challenges and technical ideas for the future.

I found that the session lengths were spot on and the organisers did a great job of making sure people stayed to time and that there was enough Q&A time.

Both Charlotte and I particularly enjoyed the expo part as seeing what others have already done with their installation of Interact has left us with a long list of ideas of how we can use some of those ideas to solve similar issues we are facing.” – Paula Martin, G4S

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