Intranet benchmark results

Our core intranet team spent the last 2 years working on a project to overhaul and improve the intranet (in addition to publishing daily content and building other sites.)

Project outline (2008-2010)

  1. Research
  2. Information architecture and cardsorting
  3. Wireframe designs and user testing
  4. HTML and CMS build
  5. Content audit and migration
  6. Comms & launch
  7. Evaluation

Benchmark results

We launched in the new year and last month we had our annual benchmarking review. Results are in.

We use IBF as our benchmarking company and we’re members of the Europe group. The MoJ intranet 2010 was benchmarked on “design and usability”.  Our expert evaluation score elevated us into the top 20% of  Europe group members. We also managed to produce the highest score of all IBF members on the expert evaluation of our “design” metric (so, so proud of that one!)

We got some great advice at our feedback session with IBF earlier this week. There are several areas to improve. Some areas we can get to grips with immediately by making quick incremental tweaks. One particular page layout problem brought our usability testing score down – but at least we know what is wrong now and can fix it. Others are going to take time and careful planning and overcoming of obstacles.

Moving forward, we need to tackle intranet strategy and governance and look at ways of introducing collaboration, staff engagement, knowledge sharing, peer to peer and staff to management communication and customisation/personalisation on the intranet. Also a call from stakeholders for intranet stats and analytics.

I’m over the moon that the efforts of the intranet team have paid off and that we’ve been recognised as achieving major steps in improving overall design, findability and accessibility.

The project involved users from the start in research and testing and a lot of the groundwork, in terms of information architecture and site wireframe designs, was in place before we started building HTML prototypes and got the paintbrush out. (I hate working on projects when, at the first meeting, someone says “So, what colour do we want?”) Our coders managed to make the best use of our limited *flat* HTML platform with jQuery and javascript. And our in-house CMS experts developed the news delivery section of the intranet (which was a miracle based on my quirky design specifications and the limited functionality of the CMS platform).

Looking forward to the next phase of evolution…

End of purdah and election 2010

It feels like I’ve had my online mouth clamped for the past month or so due to “purdah”, the rule that prevents civil servants from expressing opinions which might influence election results.  So, to continue…

April and May have been eventful in the intranet team.  Since the announcement of the election date, we have tried to plan for every eventuality, including a name change and a hung parliament.  Now that the new government is in place, we’ve updated details of new ministers and archived news stories from the previous administration. We’ve got new Twitter, Flickr and YouTube accounts.  And a brand new website (but still with no ability to share news stories.)

We have completed our annual intranet usability benchmarking exercise with IBF and also an intranet satisfaction survey using Gerry McGovern’s “Customer Centric Index”.  Should get results in next week.  Can’t wait.  The research will serve as a good benchmark against industry best practice (where I hope we’ve done well) and will give us valuable insight from our users and key stakeholders (where I fear we have a lot more work to do).  I’d like to use this research as a basis to draw up a plan for the next six months using Step Two’s 6×2 methodology.

Meanwhile, back at Headquarters, our IT security department has shut down access to Google Analytics.  An action that will impact on our ability to evaluate and gain insight from staff intranet activity and communications campaigns.  They claim that it’s possible for people outside the firewall to rewrite the intranet.  This is from a department that still installs Internet Explorer version 6 as the corporate browser and who employ third party companies who leave sensitive data on buses.

There are rumours that another government department has shut down access to Yammer, the internal micro-blogging tool.

Despite having a vision of how the intranet could slowly start to engage staff more, allowing them to interact with each other and influence the direction of intranet development, my hopes of ever introducing a collaborative/digital workplace are dwindling in this environment where you just can’t make any progress with IT behind the firewall.  The whole of the civil service is being asked to do “more for less” yet we are forbidden from using modern digital tools that help to increase productivity and staff morale.  Why is it that government is promoting social media and digital innovation but won’t let their own staff use it in the workplace?

Ok, rant over. On a positive note, June should kick off with a great start on the 2nd and 3rd with IBF 24 where I’m looking forward to seeing some great examples of progressive companies who are introducing social media into the workplace and turning over power to the people.

Intranet redesign or drip-feed improvements?

I’m noticing a lot of talk around whether to go for a major redesign or implement small improvements little by little.  I thought I’d give my view on the subject.

I’ve been in my current job for two and half years. In that time the intranet has had a rebrand due to major changes in the organisation back in 2007, a homepage redesign in 2008 and a complete site redesign released at the start of 2010.

We are warned against the dangers of “big-bang” redesigns because staff can’t handle too much change all at the same time. Because of this, when we released our new intranet in January, I was expecting either a great big fanfare and applause or a load of boos and hissing. I got neither. It was business as usual, almost as if nothing had changed. The intranet had a complete new look and feel, a totally reorganised structure and navigation system (based on intense user testing) and still there was very little reaction from the user base.

Having spoken to a few intranet professionals, apparently I shouldn’t be alarmed and this is a good sign that staff are just using the intranet as usual. Unsurprisingly, we haven’t had bags of positive feedback, but neither have we had lots of complaints.

I feel that we are now at a point where we can start to make incremental changes. The intranet is now in a state where we have consistency across the board, all the content is organised. It is not perfect, but I don’t see the need for any further “big-bang” redesigns. Now it’s time to tackle the smaller issues as well as plan for future enhancements such as an improved staff directory and integrating feedback and collaboration features.

I don’t see any harm in a big redesign project in itself where it is appropriate. Sometimes it’s just best to start again rather than try to do lots of smaller fixes. So long as it’s not repeated again and again.

Perfect Human Resources intranet page

Welcome again to the Human Resources section of the intranet

Human Resources reports to the Corporate Services business group, just so you know who you’re dealing with.

These pages contain reference material and information about your employment with the company, plus help and advice and useful forms. We know that may come as a surprise.

We  have designed these pages to be easy to use, and feel the need to tell you about it. In fact, they’re so easy that we even give you detailed instructions on how to use them.

We aim to review this site on a regular basis and to keep these pages up to date.

You’ll find all the options that you actually came here for, hidden way down below the bottom of the screen because to tell you about us and what we do and how fabulous we are and how to use this site is more important than you actually finding what you wanted.

Please bookmark this page so that when we restructure our pages, you’ll get a broken link if you try to come back.

We hope you enjoy your visit to Human Resources.

Thank you for flying air intranet. Good bye now. Good bye. Thank you. Goodbye.

Page updated: 3 May 2008

I woke up in London 2012

London, 8 August
9.47AM
It’s taken me 15 minutes to setup my laptop at work, in my flexible workspace. But now the intranet homepage has loaded. I’ve got my morning coffee and croissant. I say the intranet homepage, but it’s actually my homepage with my newsfeed. There are little thumbnails of my colleagues running down the screen.


I can see that Chris is out of the office this morning doing some filming. He probably posted his status via his iPhone. I post a comment on his status: “Don’t forget, NEVER walk backwards with the camera!” The coffee tastes good this morning.

10.20AM
There is a meeting at my desk scheduled with some HR people in 10 minutes. They just phoned from their offices in Birmingham. Going to be a little late. Can we make it 10.45 to give them a little time to refine their comments on the document that we are collaborating on. No problem, gives me time for a cigarette and another coffee!

10.45AM
Back at my desk, the online meeting is starting.  Just 3 of us. I’m doing a demonstration of how to add metadata to job vacancy documents. I can see that Matthew is interested in “3D screens at work”. Might have a chat with him later…

11.12AM
After the meeting, I need to contact Stace. She’s on my friends list. I follow her on my newsfeed. I speak with her every few weeks but I don’t know her number and haven’t actually met her. I found her through my cousin’s profile, who, like Stace, works up in Essex. She’s recently dyed her hair. She’s now dayglo orange and very proud of it. She had 457 comments on her new photo and was allegedly “trending” in Chelmsford for a day or two! Her number is next to her photo. It’s still nice to talk to people.

During the conversation, Dianne direct messages me. “Out with us for lunch today?” I finish off with Stace and reply to Dianne: “Book me a place pls.” She’s over in the team farm workspace today. I’ve chosen a quieter booth on my own as I’m taking part in a chat this afternoon and need a bit of peace.

12.30PM
Being part of the digital team has added bonuses. We get an iPhone to play with. We’re “piloting” the use of them in the workplace in preparation for rolling them out to the frontline. Not everyone will get one, but with nearly 100K staff, we’ll get a good deal on the phones.

I’ve been to this restaurant twice before but I still can’t navigate my way around the backstreets of Victoria.  So, iPhone a-go-go, I tune into Jen’s beacon and start walking with my earpiece turned up. The girls left 15 minutes ago to get the table and I’m late as usual. I send an automated message to Jen with my tracking beacon and ETA. We’re on a strict timetable today. They’ll know what to get me for lunch, I always share the vegetarian platter.

2.09PM
I’ve been following one of the core intranet production managers over in one of our subsidiary organisations.  Their core content and structure has been in a state for donkey’s years, but they’ve recently seconded someone who I’ve been working with over the years to manage the department. Anyway, José is having problems. He’s got a few discussion threads going about how to go about the redesign and at 3 o’clock we’re having a closed whiteboard session. There’s a group of information usability people on the “stream”.  We’ve all got together and are going to do some kind of intranet makeover in real-time.

3.51PM
The session went well. There was a good consensus of opinion from the wisdom of the group. We also managed to mock up some initial ideas in the sandbox and they can start testing pretty soon. I also got 3 “Lovelies” added to my profile – that’s 7 I’ve notched up this week!

Everyone is a little excited today. There’s going to be an announcement a little later this afternoon as our Permanent Secretary is appearing live on the C-link to talk about the recent staff survey. We’ve all been voting and taking polls and taking part in discussions over the past few weeks. What with the Olympics on and the great weather, everyone has been in high spirits.

I’ve got a little time before I login. I type into the search box “eye test voucher”. Top of the list is the guidance page. It’s always had a load of 5 star votes. It’s well written and you can download the form. Ah, the realness of paper. I also need to prepare for my appraisal. They call it something else here. I managed to find the guidance page on the intranet. And I add a few tags to the page: “appraisals, review”.

4.23PM
I’ve never known the place so quiet. Everyone is tuning in. The channel is playing the current trends from the stream. #efficiency and #savings are high in the charts. And #responserate just moved up.

Tomorrow I’m going to be analysing what’s been going on in the public debate. A bit of a row has broken out recently. Some goings on in Newham. A conversation has started on the public website and there’s a ripple that might turn into a wave.

Nevertheless, life has been so much easier since we had the stream. And our tribes. And our mobile technology. Little groups have popped up all over the place. You know who to contact if you need help with something.  And there’s no end of interaction with people from all over the organisation. You can still have a little fun an work. A little social life. We’ve all got our business to do. But today it’s about people. The brave and happy people.