Creating consumerable content is key to maximising intranet engagement

“Where do I put my “stuff” so that it is secure, shareable, and searchable, so my organisation can accomplish its goals and [from the end user point of view] works the way I work and is useful to me in getting my job done?”

This was the core problem that John Mancini (@jmancini77) identified as being the one facing the Information Management community in his closing speech at the AIIM 2015 Conference.

Earlier he had identified that the “challenge of managing the intersection of people, processes and technology is not a new one” and that the ongoing problems were caused due to labels being unclear and is lack of best practice.

In my opinion one of the key elements of best practice is that Content Management should be viewed in such a way to suggest that it is an on-going activity, rather than merely being restricted to ‘content addition’ which suggests a one-off event. Intranet content should not be seen as a tick box exercise – “It’s on there” but rather as a tick and care exercise “It’s on there and I know why it is on there, and I’m looking after it”.

In this blog I’m going to focus on how Interact Intranet – both the product and the advice that the team of @IntranetExperts provide, can help address and solve the problems this challenge presents.

At the conference I was excited to be asked to host a roundtable discussion on “Unleashing People Power: A consumerised workplace” the topic of discussion was based on the changing expectations we have about work systems because of the rise in popularity of social sites and tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Outside of work we are becoming increasingly comfortable and competent in finding information and completing online transactions. We are now taking those expectations into the workplace and expect that the tools and systems we use are as user friendly and “consumer focused”.

Roundtable 1

It was clear from the discussion that there are two trends;

  • The need for Business leaders and managers to recognise and respond to this shift (see my earlier blog)
  • The presentation and organisation of information, content and processes should benefit the end user, not the content or process owner

The latter can be a significant challenge – as it may involve a behavioural change – one that might not be done willingly as it will probably require the adoption of a new way of thinking, as well as the acquisition of a new skill set. Clear identification of roles and responsibilities is something that we at Interact would discuss with customers as part of their Governance strategy (you might like to read more about this within Kelly’s blog).

Any content added to an intranet should be crafted and cared for. Never dumped on the intranet. Certainly never put on the intranet “just in case”. It should have a clearly identified audience and purpose. Content should be presented in context and not in isolation. When we work with customers on structuring and organising content we place a strong emphasis on ensuring that content pages are presented in context and have clear association and relationships with the content that it is presented alongside. There are various ways in which this can be achieved – all of which are subject to the demonstration of best practices that John mentioned.

Effective content management would ensure that the content is located in the right place in the first instance. It should be labelled in a way that makes it easily identifiable to end users and its findability can be further enhanced with the provision of an explanatory summary and keywords that reflect the user vocabulary. Whilst this ‘labelling’ is undertaken by the content owner it can be supplemented by user suggested keywords. This combination of a controlled taxonomy and user generated folksonomy can have a significant effect on boosting the relevance of search results so that a user’s information retrieval is successful. Not everyone will search for content – some will be more comfortable clicking through, so the signposts provided by content areas, category names and page titles are as important for them as is the page title and keywords for those who may search.

In addition to the labelling of content pages, the ‘content containers’ that content is organised into (categories, galleries, forum and calendars etc.) can also have keywords applied. This may include the intelligence drawn from the search analytics so that a user can be signposted towards the most likely place within the intranet that can help them. Tagging content with popular themes or topics can also be a way to present content to user and connect users to content. For instance a #tag of “#NewStarter” or synonym term such as “#Welcome” could be applied to all content and processes that may relate to information relevant to a new hire. A homepage could be set up to present this key content to them and the user themselves encouraged to search using the chosen term.

Interact can also suggest content to users based on their previous behaviour (pages visited, searches conducted etc.) this feature becomes even more effective if the pages that have been visited have had appropriate summaries entered and keyword applied – if the content manager is encouraged to think about who the audience for the content is and regard them as a consumer then it is more likely that they will write the content, design the process and curate, and care for rather than just add it.

Within Interact the product, recent innovations have seen “Best Bets” suggestions that can be associated with content to ensure that relevant content is displayed to users.

Best Bets screenshot

This shows intelligence within Interact Intranet at work. It knows what the content is and it knows what content is popular and what search terms are being entered, so it helps Content Managers to demonstrate best practice and improve the labelling of content. The next release of Interact in June 2015, will offer inline preview of uploaded files – such as Pdfs, Word and Excel documents – this is more satisfying to an end user as it gives them sight of the content without them having to execute a further click, or download a file that subsequently proves irrelevant.

So taking a cue from John, my closing question to you is how much of your intranet – the content; information and processes, has been written, designed and managed with the end user – a consumer in mind? Or how much of it has been added in a way to benefit the owner/author? The owner/author may be responsible for the “stuff” that John mentions but it is important that that “stuff” is not solely presented and organised in a way that makes sense to them, as the author. An intranet, or enterprise social network should be crafted and cared for in such a way to reflect a user’s experiences, expectations and behaviours.