Having heard so much about the J Boye conferences I decided it would be a good idea to attend this year and see what all the fuss was about. Plus it was a handy half-way stop on-route to our new Dallas office and a chance to enter the Web Idol competition.

I was particularly interested to hear ‘real’ stories from leading world organisations on the problems and experiences they faced when rolling out their intranets.  The overall theme of the conference was ‘Sharing is Caring’, a message that came through many of the talks. I’ve split my overview for each day of the conference below for easy reading. Enjoy!

Day 1

The first day was a little more informal and included interesting talks from Michael Edson, Direct or of Web and New Media at the Smithsonian Institution, and Merete Sanderhoff, Researcher at the National Gallery of Denmark, on how these traditional institutions have changed their whole attitude and approach on sharing public content.

Lau Andreasen also ran a great workshop on ‘Intranet Killer Apps’ getting feedback from Intranet Managers on what works and drives traffic. It was not surprising to learn despite the fantastic intranet technology out there, it’s the traditional tools that are still attracting users such as booking rooms or even ordering their lunch.

Day 2

This was the start of the main conference with a formal keynote presentation and multiple workshops. The main keynote being an inspiring talk by Michael Edson on the history of technology and the world of sharing.

Tracy Green, a fellow brit and Head of Online Services in UK Parliament, also gave a fascinating presentation of the journey of the intranet for the UK parliament. Trying to balance the benefits of new technology under the scrutiny of the UK media is a tricky thing. Often only the negative numbers are published and not the true savings Tracy and her team are making.

One particular story involved iPad’s which are being introduced for all MP’s. Although initially this seems a large expense, it’s actually a huge cost saving over the paper that was previously being wasted with huge amounts of printing.

The final part of day 2 also included the infamous ‘Web Idol‘ competition. The wigs certainly made an impression:

Day 3

The final day of the conference included some great workshops on intranets and the sharing of real business stories.

It started with a collection of ‘superheroes’ presenting their views on changing technology. In particular the talk Michael Fienen, Senior Interactive Developer for @aquentn, on user-centric design was inspiring. He pointed out a quote by Steve Jobs which made everyone smile:

“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”

From an intranet software perspective this really hit home. It’s extremely important to get user-interface design right so users enjoy using the software. It’s something our Product Development Team work hard on at Interact.

Sean Winter, Senior Manager of Intranet and Collaboration at Capital One (58,000 employees and contractors) provided a really excellent insight into the journey of going from static to social. The journey they made went from simple functionality to a full social platform. The journey is as follows..

  • 2009: Simple functionality including comments, polls and profile, & blogs
  • 2009 / 2011:  Full self-service model including blogs, wikis, micro-blogging, user-generated videos, and training videos
  • 2012 / 2014: Consolidating into one social intranet with activity streams, expertise location, spaces and groups, ideation, project spaces, recommendations, friending and following, integrated document management, and mobile

A lot of work also went into the planning which is crucial for such a shift. This included mapping out the social goals such as:

  • Transparent decision making
  • Citizen editors sharing info to the organisation (liking and sharing content)
  • Expertise location
  • Cross-functional communities
  • Ideation channels – best ideas rise to the top
  • Q&A crowd sourcing – correct answer over a timely response

They also hugely benefited from creating:

  • Use Cases focused around users which could be measured
  • Creating ‘Internal Advocates’ across the organisation to ‘spread the word’
  • Creating an internal beta testing team which provided valuable feedback

A lot of the above work meant that Sean and his team could really quantify the benefits of this shift from static to social, something that can be very tricky to provide to your CIO if not planned correctly.

Nathan Bricklin @socialbrick and Darius Miranda @dariusmiranda also provided a great insight into the benefits of being social at Wells Fargo. As a bank they have over 270,000 team members and 25,000 contractors. Quite a large organisation! Their main business drivers for social were split over 5 categories and have a been a great success;

  • To drive cross-selling – ‘sales’
  • Provide better support – ‘service’
  • Foster thought leadership – ‘knowledge’
  • Efficiency, reduce spend – ‘productivity’
  • Working better together – ‘engagement’

There were also other fascinating presentations from Joanne Jackson from Endo and Becky Kaplan Farone from Group Health on their SharePoint journeys and the hurdles they faced.

Overall the conference really highlighted two issues for me…

  1. Sharing is Caring… the movement of sharing is so prominent in the outside world is naturally moving inside organisations. Traditionally knowledge is power and sharing that knowledge was deemed to be dangerous. However this perception has now shifted. To be the one sharing information with others to empower decisions and get work done is now becoming the norm.
  2. True intranet traffic is still being generated by the simple tasks! As mentioned above, many users are still visiting the intranet to perform simple business processes such as ordering their lunch. The challenge is to shift the perception and prove that intranets can do so much more for today’s workers.

I believe that intelligent tools that push information to user automatically, as provided in Interact Intranet, is certainly one great way to help engage users. With limited time, intranet users want information extremely quickly. Pushing relevant content to them saves time and builds a level of trust ensuring repeat traffic.

So whilst a user drops into the intranet to order their lunch or process some information, tools like Interact Suggests are working hard to push information to them and get their attention in that limited timeframe.

Finally, a huge thanks to the team at J Boye for organising a great conference. Hopefully I’ll see some of you again at Interaction 2012!

Photos of the entire event can be seen here: