Last week we unveiled a major new release of Interact Intranet – Interact 7, that is packed with the most innovative enterprise collaboration technologies to help ensure employees work more productively. This is the sleekest and most people-centric intranet we have ever developed, which is set to be a real game changer in the intranet world.

So, why did we create such a major new release? What are the theories behind the new features and how exactly can they help employees work efficiently? I grabbed a drink and sat down with one of the main drivers behind Interact 7 - Simon Dance, VP of Product Development at Interact, to get the inside information.

Hi Simon, can you tell us some of the main reasons you decided to build Interact 7?

Simon Dance“Every release we do at Interact, we do with our customers in mind and from our customer analysis survey that was sent out to hundreds of people we saw that there had been an increase of 21% in productivity in the companies that were using Interact. So, we wanted to make this improvement even bigger in Interact 7.

We know that this big productivity increase is due to the simple and intuitive tools in Interact that allow people in non-technical teams such as marketing and HR to quickly upload their own content without having to ask IT teams.

We also wanted to reduce costs in organisations by providing one place for employees to come to and get their work done. This is really important – people don’t want to be going to different places to fill in a form or to have a discussion so by having one central place to get work done and collaborate, reduces duplication of effort and reduces business costs.

Another reason for developing Interact 7 was that we think it’s really important to drive innovation and the way to do that is to make sure people know what is happening in their company. It’s really, really crucial that when you go to the intranet you get targeted, intelligent communications. So we’ve looked at fostering the tools that already existed in Interact, including Interact Recommends and Interact Suggests and refining them even more, making them more intelligent than ever in pushing relevant content to users.”

As intranets are increasingly being managed by non-IT teams, why is it so important to have a people centric intranet?

“Intranets should be simple to use and maintain. Anyone contributing to or even managing the intranet, should not require any assistance from their IT Team. If they do, it’s another reason not to use the intranet and adoption fails. Intranet’s should be as easy as sending an email, something everyone does every day.

Within Interact 7 we have ensured all of the new features are really simple for everybody to use so they don’t have to rely on their IT department.”

Why is it critical that employees have access to a blend of social, communication and collaboration tools in one central place?

“Social tools on their own are not enough. Collaboration that takes place on your intranet needs to be purposeful. Discussions should be used around documents, forms and projects that are happening in your company. So by having a blend of forms, communications, documents and knowledge in Interact 7, there is one place for people to come to and get their work done.”

Why do employees need intelligent communications on their intranet and not rely on serendipity?

“Serendipity is a current buzz word in the industry but we don’t agree with it. There should be no luck needed with an intranet if you have intelligent communication tools available. Your intranet should know what the user is interested in based on their interactions and then be able to push that information out to the user when needed. This cuts through the content noise on the intranet and means that employees avoid missing vital information they need for their work.”

How does the new People Directory in Interact 7 help employees to collaborate?

“With the new People Directory you can see who is online in real-time with the new ‘Presence’ feature. This is so useful if you have an urgent query as you can select that person to contact as you know they will be the one who will be able to get back to you quickly.

Also within the People Directory Interact intelligently suggests colleagues you may be interested in following, based on your job title, searches and skills – these are people you may not have even known before, which is especially useful in large organisations and for new starters. Interact tells you that these people exist on your company and then you are likely to interact and collaborate with them.”

The new Discussion Forums incorporates Interact Answers, what was the decision behind that?

“Interact Answers was a great feature in Interact 5 that intelligently pushed users answers to questions by searching the content on the intranet and then if the answer couldn’t be found it used crowd-sourcing abilities to suggest experts who could help you with that question.

This feature has now been merged into the new Discussion Forums because after feedback from our customers we found that it would be more beneficial to them if their questions were categorised into specific topics – for example sales, research or technical questions. This enables employees to find relevant conversations quicker. Also, now users can now see who of their co-workers are experts in the topic of their question and nominate them to answer the question so they can receive a reliable answer.

The new intelligent forums mean that employees avoid repetition, surface ideas through collaborative feedback and can ask questions from peers all in one place.”

Read the story behind how we made the new intelligent forums>>

How do the intelligent functionalities in the new Search help people get the right content they need as quickly as possible?

“Search always comes top of the list as the most important feature on the intranet for our customers, so we wanted to work on this to make it the best it’s ever been, so people find what they need quickly and what they do search for is relevant.

So in Interact 7, we have made it even quicker for users to find what they are looking for by having the search functionality always available in the top navigation bar. This means they have one-click access to their Search from wherever they are on the intranet. It also incorporates adaptive learning capabilities and continually optimises search results – ensuring that the intranet user always finds exactly what they are looking for by searching all types of content including pages, categories and gallery images.”

Why do you think it is now the right time to have responsive design on your intranet?

“By having responsive design it means you can view the intranet on any device you are using, whether you’re on the road on an iPhone or Android device or if you’re at home logging in from your iPad. It adapts to any device, at any time.

The true responsive design on Interact 7 means that people don’t have to be tied down to a particular application – it’s mobile phone device agnostic, so there’s no need for you to download an app with a sub-set of features. The majority of mobile workers don’t have a company laptop and just use their smartphone device, so the responsive design ensures that they are now able to access key features such as Workflow and Forms which means you can fill out a form when you’re on the road and send it back to the office, without any delays.”

 

Responsive Design

The Timeline is a new way of thinking for intranets – how will this help ensure people get the correct information they need to get their job done?

“Well most people are familiar with timelines from various social sites but our Timeline is different– it is a revolutionary way of thinking that has a real business purpose.

Interact Timeline

Based on the user’s interactions with the intranet, content is presented to them on a ‘Global Timeline’ which sits on the homepage. This content includes everything from documents, Forums, Teams and blogs that could really help them with their job. The Timeline is so intelligent that it will detect if something new has been added onto the intranet that it thinks the user may be interested in and this pushed this to you.

We have also moved the Mandatory Read tool into the Timeline so that the user is constantly presented with important documents that it is essential for them to read.”