Last week from the relative comfort of my own lounge I was able to view selected speakers at the 2013 Social Intranet Summit hosted by Ragan in Chicago that was based on creating irresistible content, increasing collaboration and starting conversations employees can’t ignore.

This blog contains some key points from selected speakers;

First speaker was Dux Raymond Sy a Partner at Innovative-e (@meetdux)

He started by reassuring us that social is not about pretty pictures of cats – which most of those present knew there were many more benefits but the challenge can be to show those who doubt or fear social that it has clear tangible benefits.  Social allows business agility, doing less with more and recognising that in our everyday life social collaboration is the new norm.

He identified that the problem we often encounter is we focus on the social behaviour and the tools, rather than the purpose we are trying to achieve. He shared a statement from Gartner who believe that “80% of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology”.

He revealed his 4 steps to achieving sustainable adoption;

1)    Secure stakeholder buy-in.  To help with this you should identify your vision and tie the social purpose of your intranet into your organisational values.

2)    Initiate a pilot program.  Dux is a firm believer in not doing the big bang – work with a smaller group to determine their needs, map those needs to the software and then train the on the effective use of the software to achieve that purpose.  Success is easier where you look to maximise the use of familiar tools – as change is hard!

3)    Implement Enterprise wide – engage key business groups and identify champions.  The other challenge is to be able to support the excitement – so that the initial buzz is maintained.

4)    Facilitate Engagement.  Gather feedback, have regular adoption activities where you showcase how other use the tools and the success they achieve.

Pat Miller (@PatZMiller) from American Family Insurance (AFI) then shared her experiences on “How to Win support for and create a powerful social intranet” and how AFI went from “a top down intranet to a bottom up one.”  She injected a note of realism to the challenge – AFI has 18,000 users “18,000 people is a town” she went on to show how they went about introducing new tools, encouraging adoption and monitoring use.  Key to allaying the fears of senior managers was  the creation of a “What if …” document that listed all the things they feared may happen, and then highlight what the process was for responding to it if it did occur.”  Pat was erudite source of intranet truisms; “a community is only as successful as its manager”

Karen Lee (@KarenMLee) from SAS (known for its presence on FORTUNE’s “Great Place to Work” list 15 years running) then shared insights into a newly launched intranet that she had to fight to get seen as a business priority.   She recognised that a major issue facing SAS was that not everyone that worked for the company knew what the company did, she also confirmed the way that social activity has become part of everyday life; the average person checks their phone 150 times a day and that there are more Android devices activated daily than children born (NY Daily March 2013)

Her motto was “Think mobile, social and digital for everything you do, or don’t do it”. The new SAS intranet had shifted towards more video content rather than text pages and this was seen as a cause and effect for a 300%  uptake in readership.  SAS had reached the conclusion that “people don’t want to read, they want something short and quick and they like to view it or hear it”

Vida Killian (@VidaK) from Starbucks then spoke of how they engaged employees to show them that they owned the intranet, rather than the organisation they worked for.  Starbucks, like SAS had recently relaunched an intranet as they recognised that there was a disconnect between expectations and reality – the old intranet disappointed and failed to deliver or delight.

Vida shared 6 milestones on the Starbucks journey and 6 takeaways.

1)    Aligned approach with key stakeholders

2)    Definition and creation of “inner circle” – Vida identified “Launch Partners” that were similar in concept to Dux’s key business groups.   Starbucks’ Launch Partners were those departments or teams (such as HR) that were responsible for the content that people needed.

3)    Engage Everyone – an initial step in this process was a naming competition

4)    Prepare leadership.  2 months out of launch they held sessions with  managers to make them aware of what they would need to do – as a minimum all were expected (and shown if required) to complete a profile.

5)    Create a pre-launch buzz – this was 2 weeks out from launch – teaser campaigns, ongoing communications through regular channels, display booth at staff event.

One idea that they had which I though was really good was a life size example of the profile page with a “cut out” where the user’s photo would be displayed. “A space for your face” if you like

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6)    Make a big deal of launch – a really effective part of this was an “In Memoriam” video to the old intranet in which people said what they would miss.

Starbucks’ Takeaways were;

1)    Branding and usability are important

2)    Mobile is huge win

3)    Be prepared but don’t expect to solve everything

4)    Expect the unexpected

5)    Change Management takes time and effort and doesn’t stop at launch

6)    Guide and govern but don’t define

Marge Medd from Microsoft HR showed how to shift your intranet from information to action, and how to transition your intranet from telling to doing.

A key element to this was a structural redesign that focused on user needs rather than departmental approach.  They redesigned the anatomy of a homepage, as if you want the intranet to promote self-service then the homepage has to deliver it. To prepare for his they had to blur the lines of ownership for content and transactions and those who were the owners had to appreciate that users don’t think of it as clearly as the support function might be.  A user might expect that a change of bank details is something that is actioned by HR, and not the Finance department as might be the case.  The approach that Marge took was “you can keep the back end [of the process] but we are going to redesign the front end”

This meant that some content had to be rewritten to cut through the clutter and simplify the task – which initially unnerved some content owners but has seen to be welcomed by end users and increase the efficiency and self-service element

The final presenter that I enjoyed listening to was William Amurgis (@wamurgis) in an engaging and interesting presentation he showed how the trust of an intranet could be built.  The context of his talk was that experts (colleagues) are more trusted by employees than the CEO and that the intranet could be a very effective channel for individuals to achieve higher levels of trust.  Interspersed with M&Ms (for those physically present) William shared his 12 tips.

1)    Show Respect. Trust begins with trust

2)    Be Accessible. Let me access it whenever and wherever I need to access it.

3)    Load Quickly.  Speed is important.  Users aren’t patient

4)    Be consistent.  In navigation. In messaging.

5)    Follow Consumer Trends

6)    Pay Attention to details. Be precise and accurate

7)    Be fresh and timely.  Users should see something new and something happening now on each visit.

8)    Bring the Outside Inside.  Feature external sources.

9)    Encourage Dialogue.  Have “React to this” as a call to action.

10) Welcome dissent.  It is OK to disagree but still be respectful

11) Monitor All Activity.  Know what is going on, what people are thinking.

12) Respond to feedback.  Every last piece.

Read about William’s 12 tips further in his recent Ragan blog “How to create a social intranet employees will love”

His overall belief is that you should continue to strive for the intranet to be a trusted source of information but also enable people to use it to become more trusted personally.