Usability, content, search and analytics on the corporate intranet

Could this be the start of a social intranet?

14 December, 2011 – Luke Oatham

It’s 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon, the day after our office Christmas party and I’m very much looking forward to going home. Just as I’m packing my things away I’m approached by one of the comms team…

“The Director General is going on the road next week and wants to be able to tweet progress and display it on the intranet,” he demands.

“I want to go home and if she waits another few months for our Twitter policy to be approved then perhaps I can do something,” I think to myself.

So after explaining that nobody in the organisation is actually allowed to access and view Twitter I do a bit of “requirements gathering” to find out exactly what the DG wants to do.

There is a requirement to send posts from outside the firewall and have them appear on the intranet so that staff can feedback and interact. And they want to be able to crowdsource ideas from staff. Whoa there! We’ve already got a crowdsourcing platform (see my blog post on our Staff crowdsourcing pilot) – the system has been live for a few months now – but I’ll take any help I can get to promote it within the organisation – especially from one of the Director Generals.

So, after straining my brain for a quick and workable technical solution, I spent early Friday evening plugging in a Disqus widget to a page on the intranet. We’ve used Disqus (as it’s meant to be used) before, as a commenting tool for pages on our Making Sense of Criminal Justice site. We already had an account to create the comment thread, and it took only seconds to setup the DG with a Disqus account, who can now access Disqus from the smartphone and post comments while on the road and they will appear on the intranet page. The first few posts are now coming through. It’s all looking good.

Of course not all staff have adequate browsing software let alone privileges to access internet content. Some versions of Internet Explorer are so old that Disqus displays a message recommending people to upgrade and also warns that you might not be able to post comments. The state of our IT systems is appalling – but that’s another blog post 😉

Nevertheless, having spoken to a few people in the far outreaches of the organisation, the quick Disqus plugin solution seems to be working. Staff are able to see the messages coming through from the outside world.

But, no responses from staff yet. Perhaps their browsers cannot handle the plugin. Perhaps the messages aren’t engaging them. Perhaps they’re too scared to reply openly to the Director General. However, it’s early days and this could be the start of something very positive for the intranet in terms of social functionality and digital conversations between staff and senior management.

I know Disqus isn’t the most perfect solution. It’s not the most accessible solution. But for now it does provide a solution. It’s great that we have interest in social media from the top of the organisation. Maybe next year we’ll have staff micro-blogging and updating their status inside the firewall.

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