IntraTeam Event 2018 – looking back and looking forward

by | Mar 4, 2018 | Conferences, Digital workplace, Intranets, Reviews, Search

The arrival of snow in the UK and the inevitable disappearance of EasyJet flights out of Copenhagen meant that I had to leave the IntraTeam Event mid-morning on the final day and was not able to take part in the summary session. Having taken notes throughout the event I feel honour-bound to use them. This post complements the excellent summary by Steve Bynghall, and also serves as the text for the presentation that will be uploaded to the IntraTeam web site. I have already posted a review of the Event.

A decade ago I was undertaking around a half dozen CMS selection projects a year. The need to upgrade or replace an existing CMS also served as an opportunity for an assessment of user requirements and a review of the intranet strategy. Those days are over. Office 365/SharePoint 2013 is now the dominant platform. It is also the default platform. It is never specifically chosen; it just happens to be around. Justifying anything else is a huge challenge. There are four implications, all of them a concern.

  • The opportunity to review the strategy and scope is now removed from the planning horizon.
  • The upgrade path is decided by Microsoft, not IT and certainly not the intranet team.
  • Even if Microsoft gives you content management functionality it may not give you enough search functionality
  • The user experience may not be optimum. Certainly out-of-the-box options are becoming more powerful and elegant, but underneath most (not all) are still based on Microsoft code.

Intranet managers are now facing significant problems with channel management as enterprise social channels (the plural is deliberate) sit sometimes uncomfortably alongside the intranet. Collaboration support is now very important to be able to provide. There are welcome signs of a transition from a digital workplace to a digital experience, but that will raise even more strategic and operational issues for intranet managers. Where can they go to receive training and mentoring? Community groups have a role to play here but much more is needed.

I was impressed throughout the Event that presenters, and delegates in discussions, were prepared to say “We still have a problem with this, but we are working through it”. That would not have happened even a few years ago, when all intranet presentations were focused only on what did work. The message is “Try it, and if it does not work out, understand why, and try again”.

At last the intranet community is recognizing the importance of effective search to complement effective navigation. Search in SharePoint and Office 365 is different, complicated, changing almost every week, poorly understood by IT developers and managers and not at the level of sophistication of stand-alone search applications. The community is very fortunate to have Agnes Molnar to advise them and train them. But the demand far exceeds the supply. It certainly is possible to get SharePoint to work at an enterprise/federated level, as the presentation by Bayer demonstrated. However, few companies are able to match the level of investment required.

Then comes the issue of language management. Social conversations will always tend to be in the primary language of the employee. Certainly they will use English if they have to, but rarely will they have equal proficiency in speaking, writing, reading and listening. Working Out Loud is challenging enough when using our first languages, but far more so when we have to use our second language. As a community we should regard the support of multiple languages as deserving serious attention. This diversity should be an asset of the business, not a point of fragmentation. Language management brings with it the requirement to consider multi-lingual and cross-language search, the use of machine translation and above all the impact of language competence on digital conversations, team working and knowledge exchange.

IntraTeam has now matured and is well past the ‘show me your home page’ stage. (Turn to Intra2 for home page analysis). Strategic issues and roadmap management have now come centre-stage. Never have there been more opportunities for intranet managers to be at the very heart of the achievement of highly workable digital experiences. My concern now is where intranet managers are going to find the training they need outside of vendor training courses. I have recently highlighted how much of the research into the optimisation of ESNs is not easily accessible to practitioners. The IntraTeam workshops are very popular but there is a limit to how much learning can be gained in a three hour workshop. Fortunately Chris Tubb and Steve Bynghall (both with substantial experience as intranet managers) have started up Spark Trajectory, with a strong focus on training. This is also a feature of the support offered by James Robertson and his team at Step Two in Australia. There is a very significant market gap, and I hope that by the time of IntraTeam 2019 much more training will become available to support managers who want to develop their skills and their careers.

Martin White