Intranet Now 2014 – the morning session

by | Sep 4, 2014 | Conferences, Intranets, Reviews

It’s just not possible to summarise the fourteen (yes, 14!) speakers in the morning session of Intranet Now,  and then seven in the afternoon.  This is very much a personal highlights post and not even a reasonable attempt to write a full conference report. In addition to this post I have also written an overview of the event. reasons of space I am not covering all the 5 minute papers. Sorry!!.  For the first time at a conference I used a separate Logitech Bluetooth keyboard on my lap with the iPad itself on the table to take notes and it worked very well. Apart from not having to prod at a screen it also meant that I could see the full screen all the time.

First up was Gerry McGovern talking about the need to focus on tasks. His research across multiple clients showed that the tasks typically supported by intranets were employee self-service, finding people and then 15% about the products and services offered by the organisation. Gerry suggested that this category should be 60%+ if the intranet was going to have an impact on organisational performance. He also talked about the importance of building bridges between silos (why are so many intranets carbon copies of the organisation structure) and the challenges of finding content that people do not want to be found because it may mean they will get interrupted. A very high energy start to the day. He was followed by a superb double act from Elisabeth Marsh (Digital Workplace Group) and Kate Simmons (Allen & Overy). Elizabeth talked about nine key elements of the shift from an intranet to a digital workplace and for each Kate described the experience at her firm. It was all a great encouragement for intranet managers contemplating a digital workplace initiative.

Sam Marshall spoke about seven things he has learnt about intranets the hard way in the course of his career both at Unilever and as a consultant. Sam has posted these on SlideShare, which saves me some words. My favourite quote was that intranets need leaders, not managers. He was followed by Gabriele Sani (Oxfam) who caught everyone’s attention by describing the use he and his team made of an automatic testing application from Selenium in developing a new intranet for the 17 associate national Oxfam charities working within the Oxfam Federation. Aysha Graves (Federation of Small Businesses) brought smiles to faces with the way in which Norris, a chicken, made a substantial contribution to the adoption of a new intranet. The story is too good to try to summarise but sums up the ethos of the day.

The importance of high quality, trustworthy, content was made by Gerry McGovern at the start of the event and reinforced by Luke Oatham (Helpful Technology) who reminded people of the quality of the guidance in the Gov.UK style guide, and I might add in the Clearbox Consulting Guide developed by Wedge. Reg Lewin (Consumers Association) set out the benefits and challenges of adopting open source software based on his experience with Drupal and Lucene/Solr.

The final two papers in the morning session came from Michelle Baillie (The Children’s Trust) and Virginia Henry (UnLtd). The Children’s Trust intranet had been built on Interact Intranet as the result of the charity winning a competition set up by Interact. My main takeaway from this presentation was the need to really understand users in developing a launch/engagement strategy, though  Michelle was still concerned about getting everyone to make use of The Loop. Then it was time for lunch, notable for three things. The quality of the food (thanks to sponsorship from Interact Intranet), the speed with which it was served (excellent organisation by the Radisson) and the way in which everyone left the restaurant inside 5 minutes to get back to the afternoon sessions on time.

Martin White