Interact Customer Workshop #iic13 – What Happened…

Interaction Intranet Conference is a big date in the diary for Interact Intranet customers and other intranet managers across the industry. Two days of intranet advice, case studies and best practice to help ensure intranet managers and companies maximise the use of their intranet to boost productivity, reduce costs and ultimately increase profits.

The Interact Customer Workshop was the first day, on the 24th September, kicking off with three excellent presentations from Interact Intranet customers, who shared their intranet success stories.


A tale of three intranets

Glasgow Housing Association

Wendy Jordan (@Wednesday_IC), Glasgow Housing Association’s award-winning Intranet Manager started the day with a bang by giving an energetic talk that shared how GHA managed to engage remote workers to use their intranet Holmes, with an 88% adoption rate and still growing.

See Wendy’s presentation below, which showed various screenshots of their brilliant intranet, which won this year’s Best Value Intranet for Employees at the prestigious Ragan Internal Communication Awards.

Wendy discussed various ways they have made their intranet crucial to employees:

  • Actively promoting Interact Teams to create a network of people sharing their experiences, talking to each other and building relationships
  • Making pay slips, timesheets etc only accessible via their intranet to keep pulling people in and putting everything in one place to make it a vital daily tool for employees
  • Adding a classified page, which she got the idea for at Interaction 2011 that has been hugely successful in driving people to the intranet and getting people to interact with each other
  • Putting all internal recruitment on the intranet, which has reduced overall recruitment costs and meant they no longer have to print and send out expensive job packs

Holmes has been incredibly successful in GHA and it is down to trusting employees to go and collaborate, share experiences and do what is right.

Read their full story on how they achieved social change with their intranet by downloading our free guide.

Business Environment

Joni Vass took to the stage to give insight into why their intranet became heavily featured in this year’s Nielson Norman Group Report on Social Features on Intranets and how it has helped them achieve 36th place in Best Small Companies Times Top 100 Awards.

Business Environment relaunched their intranet in 2011 and went from 60-70% adoption to 100% in a short space of time by introducing exciting new initiatives and ideas such as:

  • Handing out Smarties, which is their online rewards for acknowledging when a colleague has done great work or gone out of their way to help. Smarties are then traded in for monetary rewards.
  • Making it more ‘social’ with adding staff event image galleries, introducing polls on non-work related topics and having blogs from people regarding their trips or charity events.

Business Environment took the bold step to make their intranet very ‘social-led’ in terms of having content that isn’t all about work. For their workforce this has worked incredibly well because it has engaged them and pulled people in to their intranet and then over time social conversations have turned into work conversations.

Their concept was based on giving staff as much as possible to aid engagement and make Business Environment a place people want to work and stay for a long time, which has worked.

So why go ‘social’?

  • Everyone needs a place to go, to get away and to have their say
  • To give them a platform to have their voice heard
  • To chat to a friend, or ask for advice
  • To help open up conversations online and encourage collaboration
  • Provide a place where everyone feels equal


The final customer success story was by Jess Medling (@Owl_food),Head of Employee Communications at Cineworld. With 4500 people across the UK doing various roles, Jess discussed their internal communications journey to create a reliable network that would help people communicate and collaborate effectively across different channels.

Their old ‘intranet’ had two different homepages that were lacking anything engaging – just links to different documents and basically a shared file directory. They had 30,000 pieces of content and 23 folders. There were no metrics or stats, just lots of hoarding and only key intranet and content experts could easily find information, which meant they spent all their time answering questions from other staff members.

Their new intranet has helped to now engage employees across the company and is hugely supportive in all major projects and initiatives within Cineworld.

Although Jess only works 3 days a week she has managed to create an essential intranet. She discussed various successes like:

  1. Now all employees are always up to speed on latest films, allowing them to offer better customer service
  2. Getting every employee to upload their own photo by launch to breakdown barriers to collaboration with each other
  3. Having a ‘Cinepedia’ page which employees love because it gives them quick access to everything they need to do their job
  4. Putting their award winning L&D programme on Cinehub, which has made it now easily accessible to everyone and increased uptake on training
  5. Putting their engagement survey on Cinehub and as a result saw a 92% response rate, which is fundamental to giving everyone a chance to have their say and shape the future of the business

What next?

Cinehub has only been launched a year and the next stages are to introduce Interact Teams and video to their intranet to keep it engaging and maximise collaboration between users.

In the cinemas there is little space for employees and now the intranet gives them a virtual place where they can go; their Interact Intranet, it has become an extension to the business.

Intranets On Tour & Intranet On-Demand Sessions

The rest of the morning involved taking a look at the intranets of companies such as Midlands Cooperative, CrossCountry and Bauer Media in the event expo area.

Attendees could also jump in and out of different sessions hosted by Interact’s Intranet Strategists Kelly Freeman (@kellya_freeman) and Steve Osborne (@Steven_Osborne) and Interact’s Community Manager, Nigel Williams (@Footshort82).

Embarrassing Homepages by Steve Osborne

Started with an interactive element involving the audience holding up ticks and crosses to confess their embarrassing habits for homepage management.

Day One - Interact Customer Workshop

A great session which covered areas such as:

  • Problems experienced with homepage overcrowding and how to overcome that issue – do you have more than 6 different types of widgets?
  • Homepages that are too long and put important information at the bottom and static, irrelevant information at the top. Scrolling is not bad but put new content at the top and functional at the bottom.
  • Continually changing homepages, which has a negative impact on user experience. People like familiarity so it isn’t good to keep changing your intranet everyday. Instead, put dynamic content on there that shows new content and avoid changing your layout all the time.

Can’t Use, Won’t Use by Nigel Williams

In this short session Nigel covered how to get users to engage with their intranet, and helped the audience to formulate a plan of attack when back at the office after the conference.

Nigel gave some key tips such as:

  • Get people using discussion forums by starting off topics or questions that will engage people and encourage them to participate. A bit like if you walk past an empty restaurant you won’t go in – so get people starting the conversations and others will follow.
  • Get your hands dirty and talk to main users to find out what encourages them to use it and speak to those that aren’t to see what you can do to bring them on.
  • Use video to engage users and take the fear out of not knowing how to use the intranet and ensure you tackle frequently asked questions.
  • Train content authors regularly to ensure they keep their areas updated and content engaging to pull users in.

How to lose a user in 10 ways by Kelly Freeman

This time last year, Kelly sat where the audience was before joining Interact as an Intranet Strategist. As former Superdrug Intranet Manager, she had hands on experience at ensuring users kept engaged with their award winning intranet.

She highlighted there are probably a million ways to lose users (quite scary!) but Kelly covered the top 10 that you need to pay attention to:

  1. Don’t give the right tools – ask users, understand users. Are they sat at desk using PCS? Out of the office on phones? Give them the content to match whatever device they use
  2. Have no objectives – there has to be a reason to bring users to the intranet. Fill out holiday forms, expenses etc. things that people want and need. When users are engaged, then push content to them
  3. Make it complicated – intranets are not the same as commercial websites, on websites you want to have a look around and navigate, intranets are not the same. Users want to get in, get info and get out. If it is too hard users give up.
  4. Don’t keep content up to date – failure to keep homepages up to date sends a clear message to users – nobody cares about this intranet. If the organisation doesn’t care about the intranet, why should I?!

Get our intranet guide on all 10 ways to how not to lose your users.

How clean is your intranet? By Steve Osborne

Steve went on a mission to promote loving your intranet and keeping it tidy so that users can find what they need quickly.

Covering lots of handy tips such as:

1. Do a quick and full search on what users may search for and see what comes back. Is it what you expected? If not what can you do to improve?
2. Make sure you add Best Bets where possible to make content finding even easier for the user
3. Interact Analytics can bring massive improvements with:

  1. Document quality score – look at how much care and attention your content authors pay to putting content on to your intranet. Do they keep it healthy and delete if appropriate?
  2. Overcome overdue content – look at which documents haven’t been reviewed and ask owners to check and amend
  3. Review inactive authors and reassign – if no one is looking after your content then it won’t be maintained. This can affect user engagement in the long term if people are interacting with that page and not getting a response

Undercover Boss 2.0 by Nigel Williams

Nigel Williams highlighted that the people that sign things off for the intranet and control budgets are usually the people that don’t sign on to the intranet.

However, if used properly the intranet is a great way for senior managers to engage with employees and avoids them ever having to go on Channel 4’s Undercover Boss.

How can you uncover the thoughts and opinions of employees far easier:

  1. Add comments to key processes and allow employees to have their say on how things can be improved
  2. If your MD is collaborating, writing blogs, answering questions etc. then other employees will buy in. Hire a ghost writer on occasion if senior managers don’t have time to write blogs or respond so at least they can have a presence on the intranet.
  3. Always make sure questions are responded to and encourage ideas in forums
  4. Lead by example. Stop being a manager and start being a facilitator – encourage users to be something special, not just another number. Lead by example.

Piecing Together the Essential Intranet Puzzle by Steve Osborne

To get everyone motivated after a tasty lunch, Steve Osborne ran an Interactive session, putting everyone into pairs to try and complete a jigsaw puzzle which illustrated how to form the Essential Intranet Strategy.

Excited chatter grew as people in the audience slowly got their pieces to fit together – although there was some creativity, no right answer was actually achieved.

  1. Governance – the corner stone of an effective essential intranet. As an Intranet Manager you need to be keen about governance and use it to aid you.
  2. Intranet Objectives – need to know the purpose of your intranet and why it exists. Sits closely with governance.
  3. Business Objectives – intranet objectives support your business objectives. What does your intranet do to help you achieve what you want it to achieve?
  4. Roles & Responsibilities – who are your stakeholders and ensure you get them on-board . Look at your Intranet Team, Intranet Managers, Content Managers, Content Editors and Users
  5. Knowledge Management – not just about traditional content but how you are going to capture expertise of users. Connect people with experts so you can access all the knowledge in your company. Let users catalogue their expertise.
  6. Information Architecture– once you know what you want to organise and present then look at how you put it together. Do you look at end users or come up with a proposal and test structure? Interact advise having users test it in the early stages so they are involved in development
  7. Toolkit – what tools are allowed? Are you going to hold some features back after launch i.e. get people to do 4 key things with their profile at launch and then more after launch.
  8. Brand – functionality has to take precedent but a bad looking intranet may put people off. Look at how you can make it your own by changing widget titles and get everyone involved in selecting a new name
  9. Engagement – don’t just look at who has visited but how they contribute to the intranet. How many users have read a blog, added a blog, filled in their profiles, commented etc.
  10. Analytics – very last one and critical to setting SMART objectives. Need to be able to measure success and set objectives such as “By x date 60% of all users will have completed their profile by adding a summary, profile pic and completed their expertise.”

Be realistic in what you want to achieve and do little steps to get there

Intranet Apocalypse – Kelly Freeman

Another interactive session followed that put everyone into groups to work on proving the worth of their intranet.

The scenario – Your existing management team is wiped out and a new management team is in place. You have to present a convincing, powerful and realistic business case for your intranet to a new stakeholder group.

Teams had to think about and write down:

  • What is the purpose and objectives for the intranet?
  • How does this fit with the overall business objectives?
  • What is your strategy to help it achieve its objectives?
  • How will you prove they have worked?
  • What resources do you need?
    • Time
    • Money
    • People
  • What challenges do you anticipate?
  • How will you overcome them?
  • What is your roadmap for development?

Three teams were then chosen by our judging panel to present to the whole audience. The successful teams had managed to connect business objectives to their intranet objectives and linked everything to improving the experience for the customer.
The overall winner was team Doogle who won a free review of their intranet homepage with an Interact Strategist and also lots of wine!

Looking Ahead: Interact Intranet Roadmap – Nigel Danson

Nigel Danson, Interact’s CEO & Founder, discussed the exciting year Interact have had with the launch of Interact Intranet 7.

He showed the audience how Interact 7 is focused around being simpler to use, more social and focused on intelligent communications.


Nigel highlighted some of the exciting new features that were launched in Interact 7, including it’s new top toolbar that gives quick access to everything employees need and how responsive design ensures your intranet is accessible on any device.

Looking back to the early days of Interact, Nigel said how in 2004, Interact focused on connecting employees, reducing costs and streamlining processes and that is still our commitment today to our customers.

We want to ensure a social layer runs through everything in the intranet and the intelligence then focuses the content to the individual person to bring an essential intranet that people want to use.

Looking forward to 2014 we can expect to see;

  1. Rise of self-serve portal – linking to other key systems but making sure people go through the intranet to get to those other portals
  2. Mainstream adoption of cloud – more IT moving into the cloud and starting to trust it. Bringing many benefits such as no time constraints from the IT department so you can deploy quickly as well as easy access via mobile device

Interact customers were left delighted with what is coming up in 2014 for Interact Intranet 7 and many questions were asked as the audience become fully engaged with what is coming next.

Intranet X Factor hosted by Scott Hitchins

The final part of day one was great fun with three Interact customers pitching why they should win Intranet Manager of the year.

The three shortlisted from the Interact Intranet Excellence Awards were; CrossCounty, Gwalia and March of Dimes.

Geoff Garcia, Intranet Manager for March of Dimes unfortunately couldn’t make it over from the US so sent an animated video showing how they have created an intranet that is invaluable to the charity:

CrossCountry’s pitch was by Malcolm Cotterell, Employee Development and Engagement Manager and Kate Barnes, Employee Engagement Manager. They gave a great ‘This Morning’ style interview on stage that told their amazing story on how their intranet has transformed, how employees are communicating and collaborating at CrossCountry.

Chris Peters-Bond from Gwalia Housing Assocation, gave a hilarious presentation showing how, as Internal Communications Officer he abandon SharePoint and moved to Interact Intranet and then managed to get all 1500 staff from 120 different locations engaged with their intranet.

Opening the vote up to the audience everyone tweeted or text their favourite. It was a close call but Chris from Gwalia edged in to the lead in the end and was crowned Intranet Manager of the Year 2013. Well done Chris.


Day one drew to a close with a final audience Q&A to our expert panel.

It seemed everyone had a great day, with the energy in the room being electric from start to finish with the non-stop note taking and twitter interactions at #iic13 making it an invaluable day for many.

See the tweets from day one on our Storify blog