Category Archives: Semantics

Hard-coding the organisation’s strategy into your Intranet

In the past, Intranets have been, at best, archives of potentially useful information like leave forms and what is on the lunch menu at the cafeteria, covered in a strategic veneer of the organisational vision, mission and values on the landing page. In many organisations, Intranets are mausoleums of unfindable and outdated documents.

With the advent of the interactive web (web 2.0) we have the ability to hard code the organisational strategy into an organic ecosystem which forms the backbone of the enterprise, surfacing knowledge and behaviour in ways impossible before. The secret lies in data modelling.

Because web 2.0 enables employees to engage with the Intranet, they are generating metadata about how they are using the information and connecting with each other. There are a number of data sets that we can combine in the same way that DNA is structured to make the intranet dynamic and far more useful.

These datasets include information from people’s profiles, who they are, what interests them, what they are working on, their key performance areas etc. Other datasets come from the metadata in documents, what they are about, who is creating, reading, updating and commenting on them, the taxonomy how the information is categorised and stored.

When infusing these datasets with meaning, we use data architectures to inculcate the organisational strategies. These architectures are generated by translating the organisational strategy into a matrix configured according to KPI’s and organisational design.

So how do we do this?

We start with the organisational strategy, what is the vision is for where the organisation is going and how it will get there? What products and services it sells, which geographies, where its competitive advantages are, what are its strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats?

Then we examine how the organisation has been configured to do this, what is the organisational design, what are the employees key performance areas, what processes are in place and which technologies are being used?

At a deeper level of granularity, we translate the employee data into profiles from which we get the information about how they deliver on the strategy. Typical data includes variables about where they fit into the organisational structure, what information they need, what tasks they need to perform, the knowledge and skills and experience they have.

The categories of information that employees need to do their work is translated into a taxonomy and site structure which is intuitive and web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and blogs are added to enable them to engage with each other and create read and update information and knowledge.

Making it easy to find what they need is ensured by using semantic and predictive search. This is important because unless employees find the Intranet useful and easy to use, they will not use it.

Next we map the organisational processes for delivery on the strategy and relate them back to the employees using data. We also examine the other tools that we have to hand for data input, such as the technologies which could be integrated including ERP systems etc. Workflow is built into the processes on the Intranet.

Metadata is created for documents, online conversations and behaviours. This can be automated in applications like MS SharePoint 2010, and will feed into the search.

We can also identify additional external datasets which could enhance the employees ability to deliver, such as RSS feeds from the Dow Jones or the latest updates from industry research bodies.

A word of caution

Projects like these should not be undertaken lightly, the development of Intranet strategies can take a couple of months and requires executive commitment.

If the organisation is dysfunctional, or the processes are not optimised, you can wind up coding inefficiencies into the DNA of the organisation.

It is important to ensure that whoever facilitates the development of the strategy is a business minded person who understands how organisations function and be optimised.

Technologist often understand the software and could fit the organisation into the software, where because web 2.0 is all about people, the business must define the technology requirements.

Benefits of this approach

The benefits of this approach are numerous:

  • A data driven approach enables agility within large organisations because as they change, it is possible to code new directions, processes and innovations into the strategic backbone of the enterprise;
  • Communication, information and knowledge can be pushed to employees in a bespoke manner based on their specific requirements.
  • It is possible to create an individually customised view of the Intranet to ensure that employees only see what they need to see which increases the relevance to each employee, and reduces information overload;
  • Knowledge can be created once and used multiple times;
  • Organisational networks can be surfaced for succession planning, and to understand who is networking with whom; and
  • Performance can be managed through an understanding of what individuals are doing.

By using a data driven approach we can now code the strategy and the way we do things into an organic, expanding Intranet and truly drive competitive advantage.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Semantics

The changing role of public relations

There is no doubt that web 2.0 is changing the traditional role of the public relations practitioner.

In the past, PR was all about creating press releases and finding novel ways to get information into the public domain through the media or events etc. In fact for many, PR stood for Press Releases rather than Public Relations, and PR companies could get away with very junior writers who churned out press releases in the background to be spammed to journalists in the hope that they would appear in print somewhere.

These days our relationships with the world are much more directed. Companies need to manage their relationships directly with their audiences, not through disseminated one way messages in third party channels, but through conversations; bilateral, and in some instances multilateral flows of information and knowledge directly with the audience.

Digital curation in the past has been about the selection, preservation, maintenance and collection and archiving of digital assets. It is the process of establishing and developing long term repositories of digital assets for current and future reference.

Assets are what an organisation uses in order to generate revenue, they may be people, material, buildings or brands.

Today one of the most important assets an organisation can have is its relationships. In an attention deficit world, the most effective way to get people’s notice is through trusted relationships. Relationships become trust filters for sifting through what is valuable to know and what should be ignored. So the concept of digital curation is extending beyond the management of the website and social media pages into digital relationship asset creation and management.

It is no longer the job of just one person in the organisation, but in high performance organisations it is the job of everyone in the organisation.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Unlocking the Business Value of Microsoft SharePoint 2010′s social computing tools

In 2007, Microsoft bought 5% of Facebook, a very wise move indeed as it has enabled its SharePoint 2010 developers to work closely with the Facebook developers to understand Social networking and to build this knowledge into the SharePoint 2010 release as Social Computing tools.

These intuitive social networking tools create enormous value at an enterprise level within large organisations, however, unless we recognise that SharePoint and Social Computing has the power to change the very way we will be doing business in the future, we will never realise the potential social computing affords us.

Businesses should avail themselves of this opportunity to re-evaluate their strategies and processes to take advantage of the power of this collaboration platform and, in the words of Gary Hamel, innovate themselves into the future.

Competitive advantage does not come from technology, but how we use that technology. After all, the competition can easily acquire SharePoint 2010, but it is the firm which unlocks its business value most effectively which will benefit from the competitive advantage. This means investigating their collaboration requirements, interrogating their innovation processes, developing new Digital Marketing strategies and evaluating their people management across the modern interactive Intranet, and that is just a starting point.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Macroeconomics 2.0, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Profiling for Effective Enterprise 2.0

To many organisations an Intranet is merely a repository for documents and some kind of informative web interface where news can be published. Unfortunately, this thinking governs how modern Intranets are being designed for the future and limiting their potential value to the organisation.

Despite having access to web 2.0 tools such as wikis or blogs, the teams have not realised that the modern Intranet is an incredibly powerful tool. Often a decree will emanate from the IT or Financial Manager that employees will not be given their own profiles because they will waste all their time socialising.

Employee profiling is what gives the power to the Intranet. These days we employ knowledge workers for their intellectual ability to ensure competitive advantage in a rapidly changing business world. These knowledge workers are required to collaborate and innovate our organisations into the future.

When we profile employees we bring additional abilities to the system and enhance the value of each knowledge worker.

Employee profiling consists of attaching various data to an employee profile which could include name, department, contact details, skills, experience, projects worked on, thought leadership areas etc. depending on your organisational strategy.

These profiles enhance the user experience of the Intranet because we can use the variables to enhance the search functionality based on where the employee fits in the organisation, for example the kind of information a marketer is likely to be looking for is going to be different to what a corporate governance official will need. By profiling the individual, it is possible to filter the search results to suit the employee’s requirements. In the same way we can improve collaboration by matching experiences, positively impact project success rates by identifying skill sets from elsewhere in the organisation.

Employee profiling is also a very effective way of engaging on a personal level with employees because peoples profiles are an extension of their personal brands and by acknowledging their value through a public profile within the organisation, companies can go a long way to growing employee loyalty.

Segmenting employees by functional area, skills, projects, experience, seniority or interests will enable us to communicate in a much more granular way, with the employees having their own customised view of the Intranet based on what they will find relevant and useful. This reduces communication fatigue and the spam of “all at” eMails that are deleted along with the eMails that we want our audience to read.

Assuming your employees profiles are a nice-to-have is very short sighted, employee profiling is critical to the future of your organisation.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Business, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

The Role of the Intranet in the Modern Organisation

The Modern Intranet is changing the way that organisations conduct business, providing them with operational support, employee profiling, transparency and collaboration abilities that we have not seen before. As an integral part of how an organisation operates day to day, the Intranet should essentially serve five purposes:

  • Decision Support
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Innovation
  • Learning
  • Employee Engagement

Decision Support

Organisational flux, rising competitive pressures and the expanding global reach of many organisations place a premium on information that helps executives to make the decisions required to manage a company. New demands for transparency from stakeholders and regulators magnify the need for better and more timely information.

The Intranet needs to provide two kinds of decision support;

  • pull support when executives actually go out and look for the information they need in order to make decisions; and
  • push support where the information is pushed to the executive by way of creating awareness, or educating or as an early warning status which requires action.

Pull Support

When people need to make decisions, they need to have access to the latest information, be able to find the most up to date version of the document, relevant reports etc.

Document management used to be the domain of the individual on his own C-drive (and prior to that in his filing cabinet), later documents were posted to share drives in whatever categorisation made most sense to the individual. Gradually project managers started imposing some structure on the share drive and people began using the shared information to inform their decision making.

Today’s business environment has become infinitely more complex and it has become necessary for people, not only to look for what they need based on how they expect the information to be categorised, but to be able to actively search using key words on the Intranet.

It is possible, using the modern Intranet, to enable employees to surface the information they require to make decisions based on a search functionality as well as individual profiling. This means that if one employee is profiled as a “marketer” and another as a “technologist”, when they search for documents and type in the words “networking event February” the marketer will get the latest plan for a breakfast she organised for senior staff members to network with clients, and the techie will get a list of disruptions on the company network during the month of February.

Push Support

Push support is generally in the forms of RSS feeds which are set up in order to ensure that the latest relevant information from outside the organisation is reaching the right executive. This may be economic data, technology development, trends analysis etc.

Push support also includes aggregated information about the company in the form of regularly updated news portals or progress reports etc.

Knowledge Management is also an important part of decision making. All to often companies deploy knowledge management tools without thinking about the kinds of decisions it may support.

Risk Mitigation

In order to be fully equipped to make any decision it is clear that the executives and employees need to have the correct information at the correct time. Care must be taken with version control and other document management activities to ensure that this is the case.

Company Policies are also incredibly important when it comes to risk mitigation and of course the documentation pertaining to governance must be easily findable and accessible on the Intranet.

It is also important to build corporate governance into the operational processes on the Intranet. For example if certain people may not speak on behalf of the organisation, they should not be able to post on the corporate blog, some employees might need to be moderated and some actively encouraged to create thought leadership blogs etc.

Risk can also be mitigated by building flags into the Intranet, for example when a senior engineer resigns, anyone who is working on a project with her is immediately notified and can proactively co-opt a new resource onto the project. Another example could be when a supplier has let the company down, that the system alerts the accounts manager that there may be a delay on delivery to the client.

Innovation

We all know that the pace of change is rapidly increasing and the Intranet is a fabulous collaboration tool for different employees from different parts of the organisation to become aware of Innovation projects and participating in innovating into the future.

Well designed Intranets let the employees attach all the related documentation to the Innovation project as well as the profiles of the individual participants, so that in future this data can be interrogated to understand the innovation process or to identify people will great innovation skills. This is a great knowledge management tool.

Learning

The Intranet can incorporate workflow which enables the employees to identify gaps in their knowledge and to book themselves on courses. It can provide on-line material and the succession plan can also be built into the individuals profile as they learn and progress through the organisation.

Employee Engagement

The Intranet is a fantastic tool for connecting and communicating with employees, whether it is providing them with interesting content, rewarding them for contributions or enabling them to see how they are performing or just letting them network and up-skill each other within professional communities of interest.

The ability to profile employees leads to all kinds of opportunities from improving their search experience, enabling people to find certain skills within the organisation.

The days when an Intranet was a nice to have are gone. The modern Intranet is a critical strategic and operational tool which no medium to corporate business or public sector organisation should be without.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Semantics, Web 2.0

Web 2.0 and the Brand

Marketing is evolving toward a new thought-framework where the intangible experiences, transactional processes and relationships are becoming central to the brand and the customer has become a ‘co-creator’ of the brand rather than simply just a ‘user’.

The logic of branding is shifting from the conceptualisation of brand as the collection of attributes determined by the organisation, to the brand as collaborative, value creation between all stakeholders including organisations, employees and customers. This shift in logic is important when considering the Internet as a brand-building medium because its modern interactivity or web 2.0 places the user as a co-creator of the content and therefore the brand.

A strong brand provides a series of benefits to both buyers and sellers, simplifying the buyers’ search process and simplifying some of the sellers’ tasks, and enabling competitive advantage through preferential pricing.

Branding is defined as the process of creating value through the provision of a compelling and consistent offer and customer experience that will satisfy customers and keep them coming back1 . Companies are beginning to realise that brands are among their most valuable assets.

The Internet has had a transformational impact on business shifting the balance of power from companies towards customers  adding further complexity and dynamism to branding strategy. These days brands are socially constructed by consumers who are actively involved in brand creation.

Consumers respond to brands within communities, where the members of the community have a sense of shared consciousness, personal stories, morals and traditions that are all associated with a branded good or service. A great example of this is the new mums community on the Pamper’s community platform. Their brand conversations are not limited to nappies and creams, they are part of building the Medical Aid brands as they share experiences and provide advice on which Medical Aid to choose.

Brand communities have the ability to influence members’ perceptions and actions and can lead to a socially embedded and entrenched loyalty. Although negative implications involving brand communities exist, such as the ability for negative rumours to pervade the community, competitors gaining information through the community’s internal communication and normative community pressure, brand communities offer an effective method for building brands. Companies are able to advance customer engagement with the brand, foster the creation of stronger brand relationships and in so doing mitigate customer exit barriers resulting in increased competitive advantage.

The development of a strong brand community significantly influences brand loyalty and as a result positively impacts on a company’s financial performance and competitive advantage. Online community members potentially have stronger commitment to the brand and are more likely to buy the brand repeatedly, spread more positive word-of-mouth information and provide useful information to the company.

Web 2.0 simplifies the development of an online brand because it facilitates the creation of user-generated content by the community and the interactions of its members around this content.

1 Aaker, D. (1991) Managing Brand Equity: Capitalizing on the Value of a Brand Name. New York: Free Press

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing