We put our questions to Interact’s VP of Product Development, Simon Dance to get the low-down on what is new in the latest software release of Interact Intranet 5.1.
Hi Simon, can you tell us the major new features in Interact Intranet version 5.1 and how these features will benefit Interact Intranet users?
Well with every new release we try to balance requests for new features with enhancements in the existing feature set so that we can continually improve the end user experience. With Version 5.1 we have two new major areas of development and a number of product enhancements.
With Version 5.1 we wanted to concentrate on what we already know about companies and the social business process blend. The Activity Management module is a brand new feature that makes it easy for large enterprise organisations, based in different locations to give people business activities to complete via the intranet. Employees who are set an activity to complete have to indicate if they have completed the activity, which will then be displayed to the original activity owner. With this functionality integrated on your intranet, managers and head office staff can get full transparency on how employees are progressing with activities and can quickly identify if deadlines are missed, which is really critical information for any organisation.
Why Activity Management – what about BaseCamp?
The intranet is in a unique position as it already knows about the organisational structure of a company, how people are grouped and who has responsibility. This makes it the perfect place to set activities to project teams and departments really quickly. It is different to individual activity management tools like Basecamp as it’s not a place where people can simply create a list of their own ‘to-do’s’. It actually allows managers to assign activities to their staff and it links those activities to existing documents on the intranet, so that users can see why an activity is required – creating context to activities.
The Activity Management tool sounds really useful. How will this benefit organisations?
There really are lots of benefits for organisations who use the Activity Management tool. Firstly activities can be assigned to individuals, a group of people such as the HR team, or multiple groups of people – a number of departments, so it is a really quick and simple way of assigning activities to large numbers of people and only one member of the group needs to tick off the activity to show it has been completed. Now companies can stop depending on paper based activity sheets where they have no idea if activities have been received by employees or what stage they are at with that certain activity.
You can define activities as high, medium or low priority to ensure urgent activities are given focus and there is a useful verification process means that departmental managers can verify if their team member has completed the activity, ensuring quality control of activities.
If needed, activities can be assigned to managers who then have the ability to reassign to key members of their team based on their knowledge of who is best to handle particular activities in certain timeframes, which means that managers retain control over the activity in their department.
Users can leave comments against activities so that they can collaborate and share ideas with other users associated with that activity and there is also the ability to provide feedback to the original activity creator with any queries or suggestions.
Also with the module comes the ability for organisations to see real time reporting of all activities and identify overdue actions so you can act rapidly on urgent activities. This is critical in all organisations; especially if they have time bound projects or promotions. As all this functionality is all integrated onto your existing intranet, employees will be familiar with its functionality so there is no need for employees to learn a new system.
How does the Activity Management module contribute to achieving a social intranet?
Well if people collaborate on an activity, it is more likely to be solved quickly. For example if 50 people all have the same activity they are likely to have the same issues around completing that activity and have the same questions. All too often people end up duplicating questions and effort, therefore wasting resource and becoming inefficient. By allowing people to collaborate around common activities efficiency is increased and problems are solved more quickly. A truly successful social intranet is one that solves business problems through collective intelligence.
How do individuals know if they are set an activity? Most people are already overloaded with emails!
Well, when we developed this tool we made the decision that users wouldn’t receive email alerts with each activity they were assigned. So instead, all users with set activities will see them listed in the Activity Management app, which is displayed on the homepage of their intranet where they can view the activity and then tick off once completed. Managers have visibility of their own activities, in addition to any activities that have been assigned to people in their department.
What else is new in Interact Intranet Version 5.1?
With version 5.1 we wanted to make it simpler for Intranet Managers to navigate around the app area. As we announce many new apps in each release we have now integrated a search functionality within the app admin section, that makes adding and finding apps really quick and easy .
How will the improved app area help Intranet Managers with their role?
To further support the Intranet Manager, version 5.1 also offers best advice as to where it thinks you should position the app on your intranet homepage which makes designing the homepage less stressful! There is new system text in version 5.1 also, which provides Intranet Managers with a short summary of the functionality app they are looking at, including whether the app is AA compliant.
What are the new apps that are available in Interact Intranet Version 5.1 and what are the main reasons behind the development?
Interact Intranet has an increasing library of apps including the Twitter, Exchange and SharePoint apps. We have developed four new apps in the new release of Interact Intranet that all have the underlying purpose of adding an interactive element to the intranet and removing specific technical boundaries for Intranet Managers.
The Translation App lets companies that have a number of international users in different countries who speak in a non-English native language, get a quick and simple translation of their intranet content without going to a 3rd party website. This is different to the language tool in the Enterprise Edition of Interact Intranet that managers need to configure – it’s a quick way for the end user to translate the entire intranet into their language in one click.
Intranet Managers can also now embed YouTube videos and playlists directly into their intranet without the need for any existing coding knowledge by using the new YouTube App. This removes the technical headache some managers may struggle with and means you can have a compelling homepage on your intranet regardless of coding understanding. The app will also auto-size your selected videos to fit the app area.
The Google Maps App is a convenient app that allows you to add a simple map onto your home page without the need for API knowledge. Companies can display different office locations by simply pin-pointing multiple postcodes and then Interact Intranet Version 5.1 will build the map for you.
The Rotating Banner Widget provides an interactive way for Intranet Managers to display multiple items, such as images, text or html. This is ideal for companies who need to promote key company messages or educate users on how to use the features in Interact Intranet to their full potential, without losing valuable homepage real estate, which is usually in high demand!
Brilliant! So, what’s next for Interact Intranet?
Well that’s top secret at the moment! But what I will say is that we are currently developing one of the most innovative features in social intranets which will release the secrets hidden in your intranet.