Up close and personal – the rise of the social intranet

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Up close and personal – the rise of the social intranet

Digital Workplace 24 is taking place from tomorrow (14 May) and includes some seriously smart intranets. If you’ve never come across it before, it’s a free online extravaganza that takes viewers on a 24-hour journey through some of the world’s best intranets and digital workplaces.

There are 24 sessions and it’s a packed schedule. It includes live tours and studio guests from London, New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Amsterdam and Mumbai to name a few. Check out their website to find out more and get your free pass.

DWP24I’m going to be treated to a tour of Accenture’s intranet and will be offering my thoughts on what I’m shown from 4-5pm BST. You can follow the conversation via Twitter #digitalworkplace. To find out more, read a guest post by Steve Bynghall for my blog last week: Inspiring intranets are go!

I heard of an event recently that looked at social intranets and I asked the organisers if they would share the conversations via my blog. So I’m going to hand you over to Louise Barfield, Development Director at SAS. You can follow her and the team at @SAS_Insights on Twitter.

Over to you Louise…

Up close and personal – the rise of the social intranet

You may remember an old car ad for Citroen’s Picasso, the one where a rebellious robot on the production line artfully decorates an otherwise blank car before quickly covering up its work before the boss walks past (you can see it below – Rachel).  Before social media became mainstream during our working lives, ‘nipping out’ to social sites or the internet in general felt a bit like that robot – going beyond the confines of the job.

As we all know, social and collaborative channels are seeping through our internal communications practices with the aim of making us all seamless and smart. But intranets?  Aren’t they a bit of a different challenge?

At a breakfast event hosted by my company, communications and engagement specialists SAS, the issue of the ‘social intranets’ was under the spotlight, with everyone in the room having a vested interest in getting the best from ideas and resources alike.

In many ways, it’s a case of adapt or die – as the old ‘push and publish’ model becomes irrelevant. As we turn to collaborative platforms to connect with colleagues, intranets simply have to compete for our attention.

The presenters all picked up on this and talked through ways of balancing the ‘art and science’ of successful internal engagement, as well as the technical barriers.

Paul Marsh, from technology specialist, Content and Code set out the 3 basic ‘Cs’ of intranet development:

  • Content
  • Collaboration
  • Corporate communications

Plus the weighty factor of security. Paul also flagged up the need to get savvy with process consistency and documentation – often dismissed in the excitement(!) of redevelopment. Paul also pointed out that, although the build cycle may have become shorter, we have to be realistic when it comes to IT resources, as redeveloping an intranet can take as long as 36 months to complete.

But away from the tech talk, where do us humans fit in?
According to Nick Fine, head of UX (user experience) at SAS, this is where some organisations get off on the wrong foot.  Rather than build solutions to process problems, Nick’s view is that firstly we need to instead focus on the needs of users themselves.

Why?  Nick set out three reasons:

  1. Intranets aren’t just an internal version of the web – they need to fit the ‘footprint’ of each organisation, its strategy and culture;
  2. Our hierarchy of needs is different at work to that of our life outside the workplace – so communications channels should be tuned in to how we operate at work and what makes us more effective. Nick literally redrew Maslow’s pyramid to reflect how psychologically we expect different outcomes at work and in our personal lives;
  3. People simply behave differently at work – online and offline. Our relationship with data, knowledge, being managed and how we manage other people is driven by a radically different set of protocols. Similarly, there are subtle differences to how we conduct ourselves on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and internal work communities.

In other words, we’re in danger of replicating the social media models and diversity of online data to intranets – an approach that’s doomed to fail.

Social intranet How Diageo encourages employee contributions
However, taking learnings from online communities and social behaviours has been applied successfully for Diageo, as Ciara O’Keeffe, @commsokeeffe its corporate communications manager for global channels and digital strategy talked through at the event.

Through a combination of highly visual content, great design and leadership, Ciara showed it’s possible to build relevant and timely contributions from employees – from innovators to luxury marketers. With famous brands and the likes of David Gandy in ad campaigns as core content, you got the impression that Diageo employees have a head start when it comes to posting content….but Diageo has developed a clear strategy.

As Ciara O’Keeffe points out ‘employees often come to me and ask to create a new community, but we always ask why  – what do want to achieve, what do you want people to do and what do you hope to have achieved six months down the line?’

How insurance companies create connections
A different, but not less global, challenge was shared by Tim Morrison and Pam Goodman from leading insurance underwriter, Catlin, whose business outside the UK has moved from 15% two years ago to 55% today – highlighting the need to create stronger connections between teams.

Tim shared lessons learned from what he readily admitted started as a ‘left brain’ exercise: ‘people needed to be connected and our systems simply weren’t fit for purpose’. The first lesson: securing senior sponsorship from start to finish is vital, with a sense of momentum key to keeping everyone on board. Secondly, everyone has to be talking the same language, rather than a cross-wired idea of what success looks like from IT, HR, communications and the leadership.

It struck me that the more you talk about how personalised we expect our communications to be – the less we can rely on being ‘spoon fed’ everything from the portal. In the case of intranets, more intuitive, personalised versions, with a ‘dashboard’ look and feel, experts predict will be here within months.

From all the speakers and delegate comments, it’s clear that although intranets are evolving and becoming more social – losing some sharp edges along the way – the real creativity is combining human insight with  hard-nosed tech.

Unless you’re a robot called Picasso, that is.

Post author: Louise Barfield

Thank you Louise. I know you can’t beat actually being in the room to experience an event, but I think readers will agree there were some interesting insights shared there. What do you think about what you’ve read? You’re welcome to comment below or tweet me @AllthingsIC, Rachel

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