Usability, content, search and analytics on the corporate intranet

Vision for a public sector intranet of the future

21 February, 2010 – Luke Oatham

I recently attended the IBF London Member meeting, a two day, confidential event for intranet professionals.  During the first day, one of the exercises was to brainstorm what the corporate intranet would be like in 5 years.  And I found the task terribly difficult to do.  That’s probably because I work on a public sector intranet and a lot of web 2.0 technologies that we take for granted on the web are just not available inside the firewall.

But it got me thinking.  

What if?

If we start with the idea of a staff microblogging tool.

The internal communications department can use it as a broadcast device to get across “must read” corporate announcements and campaigns.  Board and CEOs can be visible and connect to the staff.

Staff, already used to posting status updates on Facebook and Twitter, can microblog within the work environment, generating their own news.  And staff can “follow” other staff.  They’ll start to create links to other people, building relationships across the business, talking to each other.  Regions get connected to the central business.

They have opinions and knowledge.  The microblogging tool will capture it.  We’ll be able to dip into the pot of knowledge, the pot of opinion, to gain insight.  No more spending money on surveys and research.  We’d also be able to see current “trending” topics.

We’ll see the language that staff are using, enabling us to build the corporate taxonomy and improve intranet naming, labelling and search results.

Staff can rate and comment on intranet content.  Highlight out of date content.  Request missing content.  Tag and organise content.  They’ll be able to sift through recommendations, ask questions and get help from each other.  They can search for content and compare comments based on the wisdom of the crowd.  They can subscribe to content instead of having it rammed down their throats.  We can localise content and make it available where it matters.

And perhaps a solution to a problem that the majority of intranets must face; the staff directory. Since staff will have their personal profile in front of them, their contact details are more likely to be up to date.  And through microblogging and profile updates, staff can find other staff based on expertise and knowledge.

But what about frontline staff and those who don’t have desktop access all the time?  The microblogging tool will be available on handheld, mobile and tablet devices, outside the office.  So staff can still stay connected.

And that’s without thinking of blogs, wikis, or discussion forums.

Should we worry about moderation?  The general consensus is not to worry.  In most cases where social media tools are already in place or being trialled, we are getting reports back that staff have tended to manage themselves and adhere to posting policies.

We’re already seeing companies experimenting with these tools.  I saw a demo of the Thomson Reuters “Colleague Finder” on their intranet and it wowed me.  I know other companies are trialling Yammer.  Why can’t public sector follow suit?

The technology is clearly available.  Private sector companies, with similar security issues to the public sector are starting to use the technology.

Benefits

We’ve already talked about reduced costs for surveys and research.  Sharing information, collaborating.  More important, I believe, is the issue of employee engagement.  These internal social tools will help to improve employee engagement.  Staff will feel more involved and listened to, with more information at their fingertips. And engaged staff are more likely to perform better, be proactive and aligned to the organisation’s goals and as a result, stay with the company.  This saves money on recruitment, training & development and gives brand a better reputation.  What about lower helpdesk costs?  Staff will help themselves through shared knowledge and so won’t need to call helpdesks.

What if all this is hosted in the cloud?  Did away with inefficient IT departments and hosting companies.  How much money and time could we save?

Implementation

The experience of pioneers who are already experimenting with these tools tells us to manage and communicate the changes well.  Particularly showing what benefits there are for the business and what’s in it for staff.

See also:

3 responses to “Vision for a public sector intranet of the future”

  1. LouiseHewitt says:

    Hi Luke,

    I love this idea – what a good overview of the multiple benefits that could be derived from a microblogging tool.

    Especially like the focus on how other costs/overheads could be short-cut (e.g. taxonomy research, employee directory promotion).

    Nice to meet you last week. Hope to see you again soon.

    Lou.

  2. Nic Price says:

    Hi Luke, interesting post.

    What’s stopping public sector folks using Yammer?

    It pretty much does what you describe. Technically, not culturally, of course 🙂

    Is it a data security issue?

  3. Luke Oatham says:

    Technology is not the issue as obviously it’s theoretically possible to do, nor is security, as other “data-sensitive” organisations are doing it. I think what’s stopping us is culture and bureaucracy.

    This cartoon sums it up!

    http://bit.ly/bKHexk

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