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Intelligent communication in a social world

Recent statistics show productivity within an organisation can increase by 25 per cent “with the right technology.” I shared this information today with internal communication (IC) professionals at a client forum hosted by Sequel Group in London where I gave a presentation on using social media for IC.

It sparked a discussion about the language choice of IC pros when it comes to describing using social media inside companies and the typical conversations that take place in the boardroom and beyond. You can see my slides from today via SlideShare and at the foot of this page. I enjoyed hearing the experiences of other comms pros and debating the options and choices that are available.

That stat was published by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm that advises the world’s leading businesses, governments, 
and institutions. The full report is called The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies. If you’ve not read it before, I encourage you to take a look.

What does information like this mean for companies? Nigel Danson, CEO and founder of Interact (pictured) has written an article looking at how intranets should be “both social and intelligent to ensure optimum productivity in the workplace, particularly as workers are spending approximately 28 hours a week searching and collaborating.”

I thought I’d feature his thoughts here and I welcome your feedback on what you read. Do feel free to comment below or tweet me @AllthingsIC. I’ve included links at the foot of his article to case studies as there’s some good resources on their website that I think other IC pros will find interesting. I also discovered a link to Flickr profiling lots of intranets. I know how much IC pros love comparing intranets and seeing what other people are doing, so thought I’d share it.

I’ll hand you over to Nigel…

Intelligent communication in a social world

For far too long intranets were viewed as the poorer relation to the website. The website, which is the external face of a company, was long perceived as having a greater impact on sales and therefore more imperative to business success. Meanwhile the intranet was given a secondary placing in comparison.

I believe this downgrading of the intranet was due to a fundamental issue with the way intranets traditionally operated which made them ineffective, inefficient and subsequently redundant to a productive workforce. Intranets were managed by one person, usually in the IT team, who made the decision on what and when information was pushed out. The problem with this traditional approach is far too often the information is not tailored or suitable for individuals with different needs within the organisation.

However, over the past few years there has been a massive step change in both the perception and use of intranets. As a result, investment levels in intranets have increased significantly relative to corporate websites.

One of the biggest developments which kick started the intranet evolution was the ease by which anyone can upload content, which happened around four years ago. Many organisations have introduced ‘Intranet Champions’ in various departments in the workplace, such as marketing, finance and HR, which has decentralised the way content is added. It has also made the updating of intranets less of a technical nightmare, meaning that an up to date intranet is no longer dependent on the IT department.

This decentralisation of the intranet has led to the next step in the evolution of the intranet, as many organisations have begun to realise the benefits that a collaborative intranet can bring in helping people to get work done.

The evolution into a social intranet

interactA report from evidence-based user research company, the Nielsen Norman Group shows that social features within an intranet are essential for supporting employee collaboration and knowledge management. The report also highlights the ease at which users are taking to social tools when used for the right reasons and in the right work context.

As organisations continue to adopt a ‘social’ intranet, it is not uncommon to have hundreds, if not thousands, of people contributing to intranet content on a daily basis, through blogs, comment on documents, Likes, Shares and status updates.

These social capabilities of an intranet not only aid knowledge sharing, but are particularly important when someone leaves an organisation, and they take with them their valuable knowledge and experience. A social intranet makes conversations more public and structured so knowledge is kept within the company.

However, the social intranet has in turn created a problem; there is an abundance of information which employees have to sift through to try and find the content relevant to their specific query. This not only causes people to become frustrated and in turn leads to a lack of employee engagement, but also individuals are likely to miss vital information which can help them do their work. The creation of this ‘noise’ can therefore have great detrimental effect on an organisation’s productivity. (I’d love to know your thoughts on this – do you agree? – Rachel)

Increasing productivity through people-focused communication

People want to be able to get work done and achieve results quickly. But when an employee requires information to do their job effectively, knowing who to approach in an organisation to find relevant information can be a minefield, whilst searching on intranets can be a time consuming process. McKinsey recently reported workers spend approximately 28 hours per week searching and collaborating.

The report from the Nielsen Norman Group shows that knowledge within a social intranet must be carefully managed to effectively support employee collaboration. Also, an integrated search functionality which searches the entire social layer on the intranet in addition to other content is essential. Most notably however the report highlights that social intranet projects must be driven by business needs to make them most effective (I second that! – Rachel).

Far too often intranets are technology-focused, when to be most effective they must focus on the specific requirements and needs of the business, the employees and the tasks they need to do.

In a business world where time is critical – not least due to the current economic environment, the demand for accurate and relevant content which supports specific business and employee requirements to enable people to get work done efficiently is more crucial than ever. I therefore believe for a modern day intranet to become essential to an organisation’s success, relying on social alone is not enough.

Social alone is not enough – a blend of social and productivity tools with intelligent communication is key

Statistics from McKinsey show that productivity within an organisation can increase by 25 per cent with the right technology and culture. However, we have seen with a number of our customers this increase in productivity levels can not only be reached but surpassed. This can be achieved by using a blend of social and productivity tools which can aid internal communication, collaboration and carry out key business processes. This in turn reinvigorates employee engagement and interaction, empowers staff and perhaps most importantly for the boardroom, increases productivity.

Intelligent filtering

ArivaThe benefits of a social intranet are numerous, but for the collaboration that it brings to be both effective and efficient, the noise must be intelligently filtered to make content more targeted and therefore appealing to its intended audiences. A prime example of this type of technology is Amazon recommendations, which makes suggestions to consumers based on previous searches and purchases.

To truly aid productivity, intranets must take the same approach and use the data from social tools to look at an individual’s connections, interactions, intranet behaviour and profile data and from this information, construct a unique profile DNA for each intranet user and filter the most relevant content accordingly. The end result is a social intranet which works intelligently to make the right content find the right people.

As the intranet has evolved, it has become a powerful digital workspace that is constantly accumulating content, people, collaboration and services. Whilst the power and importance of intranets has continued and will continue to grow, the task has got even tougher to ensure an intranet is equipped to play an essential role in carefully aligning itself to an organisation’s long-term success.

Post author: Nigel Danson.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts Nigel. What do you think about what you’ve read? Do you agree with his ideas or is your experience different to this? There is a lot of info on the Interact website that is worth checking out, I particularly like the case studies and spotted there is a webinar taking place next week.

As promised, here are my slides from today, Rachel

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