What do YOU call Home(page)?

HomepagesweethomepageThe first page I see when I open a browser on my work laptop is the intranet. That was the case in my previous job and in my current one. When I see peers open a browser window, I rarely see another page, like a search engine page; it is generally an intranet homepage that opens first.

When discussing our new digital workplace the other day, we wondered which page should open when you open your browser. With Office 365 you have a number of options.

  • One person wanted the intranet homepage to be the first page shown, like it is today.
  • Another suggested the Delve page, although he realized that will not be the best page for launch since it needs to fill up with relevant content before people will see the benefits. I personally like the Delve-page, but not as a browser home page. To me it feels too much like a “filter bubble”.
  • A third colleague thought that the SharePoint homepage would be the best option, since it would have all your sites in one place.
  • I preferred the Office 365 landing page since I think that is the best representation of the Digital Workplace. It has all the tools I need on a regular basis: Email, Yammer, Office, SharePoint. With the recent improvements, however small, I think there is a great potential to turn that page into a very useful dashboard to start your working day.

We clearly did not agree so I decided to ask the question in the Office 365 network on Yammer.

The results surprised me!

  • Most organizations have “a specific SharePoint page” as their browser homepage. I assume that is the “intranet homepage”, because the people who voted “Other”, mentioned their intranet homepage as well, but those were not (yet) on Office 365.
  • A surprisingly high number of organizations (19%!) leave the decision to the user. This is totally unthinkable in my corporate world so perhaps these answers were given by smaller consultancies.
  • A disappointing 14% had the Office 365 landing page as their browser opening :-(.

Poll

I have given my feedback about the new Office 365 landing page to Microsoft. I hope they will develop this quickly so I will get my way one day after all 🙂

BTW, since then we decided that the new intranet homepage will be the chosen page.

If you are on, or planning to move to Office 365, what have you selected as your browser homepage?

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Celebrating more than 200 intranet promotion videos!

FireworksUsually my intranet videos deal with a new or revamped intranet. This time I am getting a little meta by sharing some videos about celebrating the launch of the intranet itself.
I think having more than 200 videos in my collection is cause for a celebration. When I started my first investigation I was surprised to find more than 30 of the kind. But new ones are being uploaded every week and I have a backlog, so I think we will reach 300 soon! That is, if they are not withdrawn faster than I can upload 🙂

Not every organization can do this, of course. If you are a dispersed company it will be impossible to get everyone in one place to serve pastries with the intranet’s name on it. (Yes, this appears to be a theme). Perhaps you can have a webcast and have some non-perishable goodies distributed in time.

This one is from Skanska, a building and construction company from Sweden. Watch the cupcakes!

A similar one from KEARN, a Dutch health and social services organization. It is in Dutch but you will get the idea. There are special “intranet-ladies” that help you walk through the intranet, and there are pastries with the logo.

This intranet is celebrating its first anniversary! It is more a case study than a launch party, but I wanted to include it because celebrating and evaluating are a sign that the intranet is important. Especially after the first year you will be able to extract many lessons!
This intranet has won awards, an extra reason to celebrate.
EDP is an energy company.

I hope these examples will inspire you to make (and share!) a video of your intranet launch party as well!
See my complete collection here.

Image courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The deconstruction of the intranet

Deconstructed-PuzzleJust after publishing my last post, I found three interesting things that increase my belief that we are currently “deconstructing” the intranet and making it into something different.

1. No more Internal Comms department.

A Dutch bank and insurance company reported they have done away with their Internal Communications department. The rise of enterprise social networks (two-way communication – I wrote about this earlier) as well as the large number of customer-facing employees in webcare and other business processes had made them decide that communications is no longer a role for one department but for all the company.
English version of article.

Why is this important? Because it is often Internal Comms that has been the department that has introduced intranets to their employees as a communication tool for all the company. They have made sure intranets looked good, that people got training and that the corporate news got the best real estate on the homepage.  🙂

Most of them have realized that the intranet is no longer only a communication tool, but a tool to do your work. In that respect, it may be time to hand over the ownership of the intranet to a different part of the organization, and the digital workplace team may be the best candidate. They can take care of a proper technical installation, governance, training, app selection and development, usability etc. (which, incidentally, apart from the technical installation, are all things I really like to do :-))

If Internal Comms is no longer the owner of the intranet/digital workplace, it means that we can finally use that prime real estate for the most important work stuff, regardless of what that is. Perhaps we can also be less fanatic about design and branding, 🙂 and focus on usability.
But of course this is just one company. I have no idea if (m)any others will follow suit.

2. More talk about an app-store on your intranet.

I came across an article about Neil Morgan’s work for an intranet app store at Richemont. And that was done in 2012!

3. More proof that the app intranet exists! 

And then I found another intranet teaser video featuring a Windows 8 tile view with apps! This is the screenshot. (Please click to enlarge)

Screenshot of the desktop
A screenshot from 19s into the video shows the desktop, with various apps. Source: http://vimeo.com/98925422

Once again, all kind of tools are displayed on the desktop and several elements from the intranet are there (news (in the centre – prime real estate!),  time and weather, an HR app). But there appears to be no integrated website called “intranet”.

[Update October 17th, 2014: Unfortunately, the video was suddenly made private, so I removed the embedded link. I am glad I made that screenshot! ]

This feeds my theory that the “intranet” will be replaced by the individual building blocks of the intranet-as-we-have-come-to-know-it + other tools. I will call it the “deconstructed intranet” 🙂
This term has already been used earlier in a blog by Russell Pearson. I am not sure if he meant exactly the same thing though.

Is this the same as a Digital Workplace? I do not think so – this may be part of a Digital Workplace or a stage towards a Digital Workplace, but I think the Digital Workplace has more to it than just a set of tools.

Have you seen other examples of “deconstructed intranets”? I am ever so curious how this will develop!

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The pick-‘n-mix app intranet

PicknMix-JellyBeansLong ago, our intranet was custom-built because there was no intranet software available. We always spent a lot of time integrating our third-party applications nicely into the intranet. Any application, e.g. travel booking or ordering office supplies, was built with the same user interface and style as our intranet, and of course they were all single-sign-on!

Later, budget restrictions, the availability of intranet platforms, our management’s decision to buy rather than make, as well as the rise of internet-enabled third-party applications resulted in a mish-mash of different color schemes, user interfaces and password requirements on our intranet. I hated the fact that our employees could not move frictionless from one application to another. But I learned to be happy with small things like seeing our company logo on the travel booking system. 🙂
I strongly believed that a consistent user interface is a prerequisite for an effective digital workplace.

Is consistency in design and user interface still relevant now?
That belief has been shaken recently by an intranet introduction video (unfortunately it has been deleted) where the intranet was replaced by a collection of different apps (Office suite tools, general apps and custom intranet apps) on the desktop in a Windows 8 tile view. The intranet as an integrated website no longer existed.

Although I was shocked at first, I now think this is not such a strange idea. In our private life we are managing many different apps with different interfaces without thinking. We love spending time collecting them on our devices, moving them around, updating them and learning different interfaces, because we want or need to use them. With the rise of Bring-Your-Own-Everything, is designing your own workplace not a logical next step?

What did I see in that video?
I have tried to recreate the video’s concept.  Since I know Microsoft Office suite and SharePoint best, I have used those elements, but of course this concept works with any Office and intranet suite.

At the moment, we generally make these big blocks of functionality available to our (new) employees.

New employee desktop
1. This is the software on the desktop for a new employee.

Over time, most employees adjust that by adding individual links to Office and other tools to their desktop or task bar.

This is the workplace that the video showed. All suites and the intranet have been broken up into building blocks to create a personal digital workplace, in this case for a Sales-type role.

The new toolset as seen in the video.
2. This is what I saw on the video – a selection of all kinds of specific tools, without any mention of the word “intranet”.

What are the implications of this concept?
I think this is a plausible direction, but it raises many questions:

  • If it is pick-‘n-mix, will some apps be mandatory or will you leave it to the employee? Or will you have mandatory or recommended sets for different roles within the organization?
  • Will people have the same patience to create their own start page and learn different tools in the work environment as they have in their private life?
  • Will more employees spend effort in personalizing their start page than the reported 5% that has ever personalized their intranet homepage?
  • Who will be responsible for management and governance? Will it be one role or will every department have responsibility for their own role apps? Or a mix?
  • Will the responsible have any influence on a consistent user interface for internal and external apps? Or will they only be responsible for a set of design standards that every department will have to stick to?
  • Will  “consistent design and user interface” still matter, or is it sufficient that apps adhere to common usability and accessibility standards? (And what would those standards be?)
  • Will the responsible brand apps and if yes, which ones? (after all, we all love email and spreadsheets, and nobody has ever branded those)
  • Will it mean that the employee can pick-‘n-mix another set of apps for their mobile or tablet device, if that works better for them?

What do you think?
I am building this theory on the basis of one deleted video, so I may be completely off the mark. 🙂  On the other hand, it may as well be a plausible and tangible example of a digital workplace of the near future. I certainly have never seen something like figure 2 in real life yet, and I am very curious if this will ever happen. Have you seen anything like it, or are you working on something like this? Or do you think this will take a different direction altogether? Please share!

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rest in peace, dear colleague.

InMemoriamI am posting this on the day that the Netherlands have a Day of National Mourning for the victims of the horrible MH17 airplane tragedy.

I have a reason to do that.
Many passengers were not only a partner, a family member or a friend, but also a colleague.

Recently I visited an intranet team who showed me how they use their internal social network to announce the passing away of a colleague, and to give everyone in the organization the opportunity to share their memories about that person.

Of course the immediate colleagues would be informed by their manager. Other employees had to rely on the printed newsletter, so they often learned quite late about the death of their colleague. In many cases, the funeral service had already taken place.

Since then, they have chosen to post the sad news on the social network, in a special “Obituaries’ group. The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.

  • All employees are informed timely, and can attend the funeral service if they want to.
  • Many people value the opportunity to share their personal memories and stories about their colleague; the responses are many and long.
  • All reactions are collected and sent to the family, which is highly appreciated.
  • It draws people to the social network that normally do not go there.

Technology-wise it is quite straightforward: the main message is a copy of the printed card, with a picture of the colleague, a short message from management, and the reactions underneath. You can imagine it. It does not feel good to recreate screenshots.

I was very touched to see the internal social network being used for this purpose, it was new to me, and I wanted to share it. Perhaps you may need to deal with this one day. Perhaps even now…

My sincere condoleances to everyone who has lost a loved or liked one in this terrible event. My thoughts are with you.

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Create your own intranet promotion video

Making movieSo, you want to celebrate your new  or revamped intranet with a video?  Great idea! But what do you do and how do you go about it?

I am not an expert in video or in communication. I also do not know the purpose and effect any of the videos in my collection have had in its organization. Have they been broadcasted widely? Were there targets for intranet adoption, and if yes, what were they? Have targets been met and if yes, was that solely the video’s doing? I do not know.
Still, after seeing so many assorted videos, I think I can give you some tips:

  • If you have the budget, hire a professional. They have better equipment, more creative ideas and they will spend less time than yourself.
  • If you do not have money, prepare to spend time. You will have more to learn and more to practice, and most likely more to re-do as well.
  • Have you thought about making this an internal competition? You may have some talent in your organization that loves the opportunity to shine.

No budget? No competition? Time enough? OK, let’s go!

1. What is the story?
What do you want to say and what do you want to achieve?

2. What message type do you want to create?
A demo? A teaser? Something with a person? Do you want to amuse people or do you also want to teach them something?

3. What can you learn from others?
Global collaboration, 24/7 availability of content, access from anywhere, better document version control, one-stop-shop are frequently occurring themes in my video collection, so just borrow ideas from them. (especially the Animations have some nice visualizations of these topics)

4. Write a script and rehearse it.
Do not think you can improvise. You will need to write out the complete text, check it with others and rehearse it a few times. It will help you fine-tune the message and keep time.

5. Always review the end result critically and redo if it is not up to standard.
Remember this is an important message for a large audience! And if you publish it on the intranet, you do not want to be included in my collection with some critical remarks. 🙂

6. Select the video type.
I would suggest one of the following options if you go for DIY.

  • Demo of the functionalities.
    This can be done on your PC with Webex, Camtasia, Screenpresso, Lync or another screen recording tool.
    Before you start, close down all other programmes, remove distracting popups like email or chat notifications, and turn off your phone.
    Use a demo account so you do not have to reveal personal information on the internet.
    Check with IT that they are not going to do software updates and mandatory reboots during your recording. (I have experienced that while giving a training for a worldwide audience…most annoying!)
    Examples (mostly professional from the look of it) can be found in the videos tagged with “Demo”.
  • Talking head(s) video or interview.
    This can be done with any good video camera.
    Select someone who feels comfortable in front of a camera. Better have a manager who feels at ease in front of recording gear than the CEO if he or she does not feel comfortable – it shows!
    Remove all clutter from the environment. Lots of personal belongings in the office, unpacked boxes in the background or a cluttered desk all distract from your message.
    Rehearse the texts and project the words on a computer screen during recording, if possible.
    Ask your actors to switch off their telephone or any other potential disturbance during the recording.
    You may want to add in some screenshots or text slides for variety afterwards – just a talking head can be a little boring, especially if the video is more than 2 minutes.
    Please check the videos tagged with “People” for inspiration. These are not all DIY-efforts, though.
  • Animation.
    There are various tools for that, such as Powtoon, Videoscribe, Explee, a recorded Prezi, a document camera, Moovly or PowerPoint-saved-as-movie.  For iPads, there are YouTube Capture and Adobe Voice  apps.
    Now these tools all look very simple, and promise you that you will be able to create animations in an instant, even without any training, but please take that with a grain of salt. You will still need a concept, a message and a script, drawing or other visual talent, patience and a lot of time in making mistakes and doing iterations to get it right.
    Check my Animations videos for ideas about common concepts such as 24/7, one version of the truth etc. You will also see a few Powtoon videos there, as well as very professional animations.

You may want to read StepTwo Designs’ article with more helpful tips for creating intranet videos as well.

And this list of Video Creation tools may be useful as well, or this list of all kinds of Video tools.

Good luck! And remember to share your results with the world.

Have you created an DIY intranet launch video of your own and if yes, did you use any of these tools or do you have other suggestions?

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

SharePoint White Magic

White-magicianIf you are not a qualified designer, and/or SP Designer is not available, you sometimes have to find other tricks to design your pages properly. That is why the colour white is an important ingredient in my SharePoint page recipes. Used as image, web part or text, you can use it to make your pages look better. Here are some I have learned over the years:

1. The “White Space” webpart.
This is an empty Content Editor webpart, that you can import to a page to create some more vertical distance between webparts in a zone.
How? Add a Content Editor web part to a page, name it “White Space”, remove Chrome, and export the web part as a .dwp file to your computer. You can import it whenever you need to add some vertical space between two web parts.

No vertical space added
No vertical space added
With vertical space added to right column
With vertical space added to right column
White space web part
The White Space web part

2. The white (or transparent) image as space bar.
You can use a white picture of exactly the right amount of pixels to make one of those nicely-but-sometimes-annoyingly-flexible-web-part-zones behave better. You have to be careful though. First of all, it will only work if the content webparts in the zone are of identical or smaller width than your “space bar”. Secondly, your page will look different on different devices and with different resolutions, so the design you so carefully crafted on your own PC may look strange on other PC’s.
How? After you have created your pages, create a white picture of the desired width and a few pixels height, add it to an Image or Content Editor web part that lives at the bottom of the zone-to-be-fixed, give it a memorable name (e.g. “Spacebar”),  and remove Chrome.

3. White letters for vertical alignment.
Do you have two Content Editor webparts side by side, that contain different amounts of text? That will mean all web parts under those web parts will start at different heights, which may look a bit messy. You can add white text to the webpart with the least amount of text to make it appear of equal height as the other one.
How? In the CE webpart with the least amount of text, add as many extra lines of “blah” as the larger amount of text has. Make the “blah” text white.

4.  The “white news image”
I once talked to an Internal Communications manager who was complaining about his News functionality. A picture was required for every news item, but publishers did not always have the time or motivation to look for a proper picture. There was no image catalogue or any guidelines, so it frequently happened that people used outdated logos or used a picture from the internet, without looking if they were allowed to use it.
I suggested to make a white or transparent image easily available, for those occasions where a picture was not necessary, not available, or the publisher did not have time. A news item without a picture does not look particularly attractive, but at least they were no longer infringing copyright. (And worse, they once showed their intranet news to an audience containing representatives from their caterer, and the caterer said: “Hey, you are using the logo we replaced 3 years ago”…).
How? Create a white or transparent picture with the correct size and upload it to the library you use for your news images. Copy the link and add that to the description field of the Picture column. See screenshot.

Adding a White Picture made easy
Having a White Picture easily available saves time and helps the company avoid copyright issues

Mind you, these are all simple workarounds that are not a replacement for proper design. Some will no longer be necessary or available in SharePoint 2013. But in certain circumstances these tricks can help you create better-looking pages without too much effort.

Do you have similar tricks you would like to share?

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net