Interaction 2014 kicked off on a sunny October morning in London with our fantastic customer workshop. The focus of day 1 was all about updating our customers on all things Interact – where we are now and where we are headed in the future along with both practical and theory based sessions from our intranet experts. This was delivered through a blend of conference sessions with our CEO Nigel Danson (@nigeldanson), panel debates that included some of our fantastic customers, fun challenges and exercises that kept creativity flowing with our intranet experts Kelly Freeman (kellya_freeman) and Steve Osborne (@steven_osborne) and hands on practical advice from our Community Manager Nigel Williams (@Footshort82).

It was my first ever Interaction and I didn’t understand exactly what I was in for but I can assure you it was a treat and I am not just talking about the food (of which there was lots!). The level of passion our customers have for what they do is astounding and infectious – I knew my colleagues loved intranets (not just because it said so on their t shirts – see picture below if you don’t believe me!) because they wouldn’t work for Interact if they didn’t but I wasn’t quite prepared for the customer enthusiasm which most definitely made the event the fantastic success it was.

we love intranets

So if you missed out here is my roundup of day 1.

Welcome address, Nigel Danson, CEO

The day started with a welcome address from our CEO. Setting the tone for the day Nigel talked about how well run intranets make a difference to businesses by:

  • Making it easy and fast to find relevant information.
  • Improving internal communication with one channel for all company updates.
  • Increasing employee productivity by giving employees the tools to do their job more efficiently.

The customer workshop was developed to provide more of a ‘how to’ rather than being entirely strategy focused so that delegates come away with practical ‘hands on’ ideas to help them improve their intranet or tackle an existing business problem.

I’m not an Intranet Manager but…

Hosted by Steve Osborne, one of Interact’s Intranet Strategists, this panel discussion used three customer volunteers from three different sectors and at varying stages of their intranet journey; none of whom are full time intranet managers, to tell the story of engagement and how they have driven users to their intranet both in the launch phase and long after.

The three volunteers were:

  • Michelle Baillie, Senior Communications & Marketing Manager, The Children’s Trust
  • Joanna Harvey, Digital Communications Officer, Magenta Living
  • Nicola Aram, Marketing & Communications Co-ordinator, Thorn Baker

This lively panel discussion saw everything discussed from chocolate used to engage the least technical of users to how a small cuddly yeti could encourage repeat usage. Here are some of my favourite quotes from this session:

On how to get users on board the Children’s Trust, Michelle Baillie used chocolate in just about everything – they had a chocolate named survey, when giving users demo’s they ensured they had bars of galaxy to give out and they even named their user survey the chocolate survey. Michelle said ‘When it comes to promoting the Loop I always ask for a chocolate budget as it helps to engage the users!’

The Loop in device

Joanna Harvey, Magenta Living when asked about how she got users to engage was very honest in her reply ‘basically I nag, persistent nagging is key to get people on board’ this was also backed up by Thorn Bakers Nicola Aram who agreed that persistency is key to pushing engagement.

The discussion then turned to characters as part of the engagement strategy – does your intranet need a character to encourage users to becoming involved? Apparently it really helps.

Magenta Living have named their intranet Yeti and this character has now taken on a life of its own and we were lucky enough for him to come along to Interaction and be part of the day. Joanna explained how Yeti has become a main fixture for the users at Magenta with him having his own travel page with users taking him on holiday and posting snap of him at a whole host of exotic locations.

Magenta in device

Joanna explained that the users have really bonded with Yeti as it is seen as a helpful friendly character that you can relate to, he even has his own Ask Yeti section.

Thorn Baker also have their own character Brian who helps with engagement but they also use the football widget to help engage their users. Nicola said ‘The football challenge really appeals to the competitive nature of our staff and it is this engagement at the social level which then helps to drive their attention to the mandatory reads and other business information’.

Other great tips from our panel included:

  • Personalising your intranet with space to congratulate and commend colleagues not just on a job well done but also for birthday greetings, new baby updates and new starters to give your intranet a human touch.
  • An intranet is about transparency – you have to trust the users and allow them to have a voice. It seems that giving users the freedom to decide what they post helps them to feel part of the intranet and all in our panel agreed that users do stick within the guidelines with none of them having any major user content issues to date.
  • Lead by example – senior management buy-in is key to driving engagement. Everyone needs to be on-board so having senior executives blogging, liking and @mentioning all helps in encouraging adoption.

Steve finished the session by stressing the need for tenacity to help drive engagement and listed 5 key behaviours that should be adopted by anyone responsible for managing an intranet:

  • Be creative
  • Be energetic
  • Be encouraging
  • Be positive
  • Be challenging

5 Business Problems Your Intranet Can Solve

Hosted by Nigel Williams, our very own Community Manager, our second panel included:

  • Jon Weedon, Internal Communications Manager, Rational Group
  • David Groom, Optimisation Specialist, Mediterranean Shipping Company
  • Ayesha Graves, Intranet Manager, Federation of Small Business
  • Jean Waller, Database Manager, The Children’s Trust

Nigel incorporated live polls throughout this session giving the audience the chance to feedback on the questions posed which was really interesting as you could see live audience feedback on the questions being discussed.

Q1. How do we improve the way we communicate across our business?

Jon Weedon from the Rational Group made a very good point with this first question about appreciating other people’s time by providing them with relevant content. He pointed out that if we want people to engage we have to realise that their time is important so if they can’t find what they are looking for in a timely fashion then why would they bother coming back?

Ayesha Graves also highlighted high jacking existing communications as a way to get people on board such as posting the quarterly CEO update on the intranet instead of sending it out via other channels. She also made a great point that the intranet is not good communication but merely the tool to enable it

You can see the poll results below:

Poll 1 - day 1

Q2. How do we effectively on-board new starters and engage existing employees?

Some of the key points that came up during the panel discussion for this question was the difference in the type of comms a new starter might need to that of an existing user.

David Groom from Mediterranean Shipping Company discussed how they are looking to use a dedicated homepage for new starters which promotes the corporate information that they need but which an existing user no longer requires access to on a regular basis.

Jean Waller of the Children’s Trust talked about The Loop using video and dedicated intranet guru The Loop as sources of information that users can access after induction to help them stay engaged and give them the confidence to move forward.

Ayesha Graves discussed how FSB use different homepages to meet the varying requirements of their users plus it has also helped her to engage various areas of the business to post content for example HR now posts a welcome message for any new employee which not only welcomes the employee into the business but also gives existing employees visibility of new starters which is useful if they are not based at head office.

You can see the results from poll 2 below:

day 1 poll 2

Q3. How do we encourage employees to live our values instead of laminating them?

Jean Waller started this one off by sharing how the Children’s Trust celebrate the successes of the children to help give recognition to the staff using picture galleries and news stories. This gives everyone a real feel good factor to see how the charity is helping children with brain injury every single day.

David Groom discussed how MSC uses their intranet :MYWORKSPACE as a tool to reinforce their values by visibly rewarding staff who are providing excellent customer service.

Jon Weedon talked about how their values are reflected in everything they do. They are very people focussed and make a point of highlighting successes and excellence in customer service. They also understand their staff drivers and use competitions to engage their employees who are quite competitive.

You can see the poll from this question below:

Day 1 poll 3

Q4. How do we enable and communicate change?

David Groom started this off by saying how they show people rather than tell people something has changed.

John Weedon talked about how they don’t use email to direct people to content on the intranet. They allow information to gradually cascade through word of mouth. They also use people managers who are on hand to discuss any changes face to face so employees can ask questions and gain a better understanding of why the changes are being made.

Jean Waller from the Children’s Trust said that they looked to make things relevant for the user so the intranet will help you because (insert relevant information about them or their role) to encourage adoption and reduce negativity.

Ayesha Graves made a valid point of saying once the change is on the intranet you can’t forget about it – progress needs to be updated. News becomes old fast and can quickly be removed from the homepage as new stories become available so it is important to give people updates on what is happening as it happens.

The poll for this question is shown below:

Day 1 poll 4

Q5. How do we identify the value of our intranet and prove its worth?

Jon Weedon identified the use of stats but did highlight that you can normally find a statistic to back up anything you want to prove. You should look to see what issues are being raised and how once you have taken measures to address the issue see if it still appears as a discussion point, if not job done. Jon also went on to mention how he is currently aiming to reduce the level of time users spend on their intranet as that means he will be achieving his objective of making it easier and faster for employees to find the information they are looking for. A novel approach that no one else had considered as a measurement for showing improvement.

Ayesha Graves also considered the use of efficiency measures as a great way to show value. Highlighting workflows and forms as one way to do it she also suggested having objectives that you are able to measure performance against.

The poll from this question can be seen below:

Day 1 poll 5

Every stream and intranet tells a story…

To enable delegates to tailor the day to meet their needs the morning broke into a mix of mini intranet sessions and the option to spend some time in the expo area where delegates could spend some time looking at intranets from the companies below and speak to their respective peers who are responsible for managing them.

Banner pic

I was really excited about the expo area as it was a unique opportunity for you to see actual live intranets – not a recording or demo, which is something that you don’t normally get the opportunity to do. Our lovely customers took the time to show any interested delegates their sites, discussing any issues they may have faced along the way and how they overcame them. A fantastic insight that money can’t buy and something that all of our delegates really enjoyed.

So what happened in the mini intranet sessions?

6 easy ways to spark collaboration on your intranet with Steve Osborne

In this session I learnt a new word ‘Entitativity’ which is the extent that a group is considered to be one entity rather than a group of many individual entities which Steve used to set the tone for the session. He discussed the difficulty in getting people to change behaviour and how the influence of a group we perceive to belong to can have, and how this can be used in the adoption of technology such as an intranet and our contribution to its success.

The key points included:

  • Changing behaviour
    • Explain why we need to do things differently
    • Demonstrate how it benefits the user not the business
    • Overcome people’s insecurities and give them confidence in their abilities
  • Following the crowd
    • We are more likely to try something new if we see others doing it and benefitting from it
    • Identify early adopters/ trend setters and get them on-board
  • Show don’t tell
    • Remove the obstacles to change that people put up – the fear of the unknown
    • Show them how to do it don’t tell them, this can remove the fear as it doesn’t look as scary when you are actually doing something
  • Useful tools
    • People only use something that makes their life better
    • Identify what tools can be used for what and what the benefits are for using the tools.

See Steve’s presentation here.

Work smarter, not harder with Kelly Freeman

In this workshop Kelly Freeman tackled the subject that has long been a buzz phrase in the intranet industry by asking the question ‘how many companies can actually say that their employees are more productive at work?’

The session focussed on how to turn your intranet into a critical business tool. The first step being getting the basics right:

  • Have a complete and up to date people directory with all contact information
  • Ensure information and documentation is titled and tagged intuitively and returns in a search
  • Simple and intuitive navigation
  • Keep documentation and information up-to-date and maintained
  • Ensure your homepage is up current and updated regularly

Doing this will help to generate trust in users and ensure that they see the intranet as the place to go for the information they require. Other key points included:

  • Using expertise and endorsements to make sure users can find the right person with the right expertise easily
  • Simplify employee administration with tools such as absence manager or online forms to help streamline processes
  • Use teams & tasks to reduce duplication of effort and keep your projects moving forward smoothly
  • Make your intranet accessible regardless of location or device

You can see Kelly’s presentation here.

20 ways to a healthy intranet with Nigel Williams

A healthy intranet is key to encouraging repeat usage but how do you maintain the health of your intranet? Nigel gives you 20 top tips based around 5 key priorities to show you how you can ensure your intranet doesn’t falter and keeps your users coming back for more. He also stresses about the need for good behaviour as this is what leads the way to a great intranet.

The 5 key priorities include

  • Enabling employees to self-serve
  • Enhancing knowledge management
  • Quality of content
  • Increased engagement levels
  • A simple form of reporting to management

See Nigels presentation here or for more information why not watch the webinar.

The Collaboration Challenge

Kelly Freeman kicked off the session straight after lunch with a fun filled activity that got people interacting with each other to show how collaboration can happen if you have a shared purpose. A Kelly identified in her opening many interact customers; both new and established, list ‘improving collaboration’ or ‘working more collaboratively’ as objectives for implementing a new intranet.

One of the challenges they face, and we face with them, is establishing what this really means; both conceptually and in practice and how to encourage collaborative working.

To demonstrate how collaboration can be achieved Kelly used the Marshmallow Challenge which was a great way of getting people to think outside of the box. Each group had eighteen minutes to build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow which had to be on top. The results where amusing to say the least.

marshmallow challenge

Kelly highlighted after the challenge that kids tend to do better than business executives or university students as they start to prototype and play straight away whereas execs and students spend too much time talking about it and not giving themselves enough time to correct failures.

Kelly concluded with identifying the 6 basic principles of successful collaboration:

  • Define the ultimate goal
  • Tactics AND tools
  • Enlist the right people
  • Lead from the top
  • Encourage a new mind-set
  • Start right and maintain momentum

You can see Kelly’s presentation here.

Achieve the AEIOU of an awesome intranet page with Steve Osborne

In another interactive session Steve Osborne used the vowels to get everyone thinking about good words to describe what an intranet homepage should be. For each vowel Steve used a customer example to demonstrate the words he had thought of to show how this can be achieved.

The audience interaction was a crucial part of this session with them contributing their own words for what makes a successful homepage with Steve likening it to a beautiful baby competition i.e. everyone thinks that theirs is the nicest even though that may not be necessarily true.

See Steve’s presentation here including examples of some of Interact’s customer homepages.

Looking ahead: Interact Intranet Roadmap with Nigel Danson

Nigel Danson, CEO of Interact Intranet gave us an insight into what we can expect from Interact Intranet in early 2015 and beyond.

He summed up what we are trying to achieve in the following sentence “Make it quick and easy for people to find information to get work done whilst intelligently promoting relevant communications, purposeful collaboration and valuable knowledge sharing”.

The four key drivers for Interact over the next 12 months will be:

  • Simple
    • Quick add’s – less clicks and an easy to use interface with top tool bar functionality
    • Bulk uploads – make it easy for users to add content including drag and drop for group of documents including pdf’s
  • Fast
    • Continue to improve performance across all browsers
    • Quick loading homepage and other content rich pages
  • Social
    • Improve rewards make it easy to give for tasks on intranet
    • Showcase recognition on homepage to encourage user productivity and morale
  • Intelligent
    • Continue to improve intelligence store by taking it to the next level so content is promoted to the right person at the right time.

Nigel also expressed the importance of the Interact Customer Community to the development of Interact Intranet over the years with over 494 ideas coming from the forum and 152 of these ideas being implemented.

See Nigel’s presentation here.

Day 1 closed with the presentation of our finalists for the Interact X Factor Intranet Manager of the Year.

Presented by our VP of Sales – Scott Hitchins, the finalists included:

  • Michelle Baillie and the team at The Children’s Trust (winner)
  • Ayesha Graves, Federation of Small Businesses
  • Amanda Robinson and the team at Silver Chef (Australia)

Interact Excellence Awards

That evening we also celebrated our customer successes with our annual excellence awards. A great night was had by all and you can find out all of the winners in Nigel Williams blog.