What employees really need from our intranet

Following the advice from James Robertson (@s2djames) in his book “What every intranet team should know“, I have conducted interviews with 11 of my co-workers to find what they really need from our intranet. So, instead of asking them “Which features would you want?” resulting in answers like “a feature like Apple’s Genius”, we spoke about what they do daily, where the challenges lie, and how those could be dealt with. Many answers had nothing to do with our intranet, while others did (summarized below). This proved to be a great way to see if our intranet can make the daily work smoother.

Here are the major intranet subjects all 11 gathered around. Some of them can be matched to things we already plan, some are already around without people knowing it (the wonderful challenge of internal communications) while others need to be developed further.

  • Who knows what, and has which experiences?
    Our company is growing quickly and it is harder now to know who knows what. People just want to search for a subject, a competence, an experience and see a clear image of who does what. This includes current experiences and knowledge, as well as earlier work. And who is person X e-mailing me about this? Where in the organization is she, and what is her profession?
  • What did we do in project X, who did it, and what did it lead to?
    We already document what we do in the projects, but when growing, we need a central place to save this documentation, tagged with more than just the project name. “Here it is! You just needed to look for the Cinderella project…“.
  • What happens in project X, Y and Z now?
    Individual project managers already have the knowledge of what happens in their projects, but when there are hundreds of projects, how can a manager get a quick view of them all without meeting all the project managers every time?
  • How can I contact person X to ask a short question?
    People are tired of needing to e-mail each other for everything, resulting in full inboxes where things high and low gather. They want a global chat, where they see who is online, so they can reach out when needed for those short questions. Several chat platforms are already used, but it requires you to know a) which platform person X uses, b) what their cryptic log-in name is (“Ah! So, shetlandsheepdog76 is you?”).
  • Sorting what I want to listen to
    People want to see only what is relevant to them instead of more generic send-outs via mail or global news lists. The intranet should tell me what is new – I don’t want to look for it.

To most people working with intranets, this is nothing new under the sun. Meanwhile, the interviews were informative and refreshing. And I believe they are at the core of what people expect from a modern workplace. The answers create a framework for the future development of our intranet, along all the functions we in the team or the users already have asked for. Therefore, I can highly recommend others to do the same.


I Wish I had an Intranet Mentor – Oh, I do!

Working as the editor of an intranet can be rewarding, and it can be hard. Many times, I have wished that I had a mentor who could engage in conversations regularly, and guide me when building an excellent intranet in SharePoint 2012 from the ground up. Until I have this mentor by my side, I can share some of the people who act as my mentors already, but without knowing me:

–          James Robertson and his team at Column Two including Rebecca Rodgers. Twitter: @s2d_jamesr  and @rebeccarodgers. Provides invaluable guidelines on how to take care of an intranet.

–          Gerry McGovern at Customer CareWords. Twitter: @gerrymcgovern . The Task-Based Intranet guru.

–          Scott Belsky at Behance and the 99 percent. Twitter: @scottbelsky. For providing new and inspiring ideas on how to make ideas a reality.

–          The Internet Time Alliance. Twitter: @jaycross, @C4LPT, @Quinnovator, @hjarche and @charlesjennings. Five very smart people guide us into the new work life.

–          Kurt Kragh Sørensen and his colleagues at IntraTeam  Twitter: @IntraTeam. For their guidance on handling intranets.

–          Michael Hyatt at MichaelHyatt. Twitter: @MichaelHyatt. For his guidance on how to become a better person in business and privately.


Diving into the TermStore for metadata in SharePoint

It is time to fill SharePoint’s TermStore with useful tags, so people can find the correct material. Luckily TechNet has created an intro to metadata and the TermStore. Now, all I need to do is engage in meta discussions about the meta information.

Update: Metadata is now even more central to SharePoint 2013, and here is the intro to planning managed metadata in SharePoint Server 2013. Of course, this is only the technical walk-through of how to do it. The biggest challenge, for me, has been letting the organization understand the value of metadata. Such as leaving folders behind and using metadata instead.

You can also read more about using folders or metadata in SharePoint 2013, and see best practices for SharePoint 2013, including which 10 blogs to follow. Although I would definitely add Tobias Zimmergren’s blog also.

Five Things I Learned When Migrating Our Intranet

When moving from our decade old intranet, to a modern platform, there have been many lessons. Here are five of them:

1.  Being a Global Intranet Editor is a job closer to being an organizational psychologist, than being an engineer. Migration is far less about moving files, than it is about understanding a culture. People more seldom ask me “When will our files be moved, and which database feature is the best for us?”, but more “What will this change mean to us, what are others doing, and how should we go ahead?”. Always start with the business goal in mind, and the rest will follow.

2. Daily execution, and long-term planning are different animals, but they should like each other. Every day, I am often engaged in small and detailed work  – meeting and training  people, changing a website, adding a metadata keyword, creating a tutorial. But as long as I have synchronized this detailed work with the overall vision of the intranet, everything is fine. It is ok to do “just small things” all week-long, as long as they move you in the right direction.

3. I will feel totally out of my field, and I will like it. Sometimes, I exit meeting feeling more stupid than when I entered them, since I realized what I don’t know. I cannot and should not  know all the complex details a business unit is handling. But at least I then know what I don’t know. And as long as I have captured what they need from the intranet, we are on track.

4. Notice the patterns of what people ask you, and build on that. After a while, there will be a pattern in the questions people ask you. Convert the most frequently asked questions into tutorials, FAQ pages, recorded sessions, presentations, and more. Refer people to these right at the start, and then you can start your meeting with them on a higher level. This way, you do not spend the first 15 minutes of every meeting explaining why you are changing platforms, and where the edit button is.

5. Have fun, or go home. Migrating a company from one intranet to another can be really tough, and can involve heated discussions and demands which all are “super important”. As an editor, you must allow yourselves to have fun while working. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your vision, and laugh when you can. The support from others, and the fun moments act as counterweights to the heavy rain that can strike you as well. And if it does, bring an umbrella, work with the details, and soon the sun will shine again.