Tag Archives: Interactive Intranets

Innovation at the Edge

Innovation is the currency of the future in the modern enterprise. Much has been said about companies needing to create competitive advantage through Innovation, but how are they harnessing the innovative power within?

In these economically challenging times many companies are looking for ways to innovate themselves down the cost curve. Selling products more cheaply might buy market share now, but it is not a good long term strategy because it is easy to cannibalise future capacity at the altar of immediate bottom line returns. The companies that create innovative solutions for the future are going to be granted corporate longevity, because they are creating capacity for real growth.

There are many types of innovation; product innovation, process innovation, business model innovation and most recently, renowned specialist Gary Hamel, has added management innovation to the list.

Modern enterprise 2.0 technologies, like SharePoint 2010 are significantly enhancing our ability to identify, harness and manage innovation and creativity across organisations, because of their ability to link information to individual profiles to behaviour and enable us to see what is going on. Now we can identify innovation as it occurs across the enterprise, look for collaborative opportunities, put together the right people and information to surface ideas that work better together than as discrete entities.

In the past organisations would try and build innovation capacity through a centralised innovation department tasked with identifying innovation capturing technologies and creating innovation assessment processes. This lead to bottle necks as stage gates were built into the process and centralised executive sponsorship was required. Centralised innovation is often not immediately related to short term business imperatives and can easily get put on the back burner.

Modern innovation starts on the fringes, this is called “point innovation” and refers to innovation at the point of accountability for the success. Point innovation can then be cascaded upwards into a “federated innovation model” which is the state and capacity for innovation across the organisation and recognises that organisations are ecosystems and that everything influences everything else.

What makes tools like SharePoint 2010 so powerful in the Innovation space is that with profiling and metadata, it can recognise Innovation as it is occurring within the organisation and push the right ideas and support to the right person or team. It does this through RSS Feeds, document recognition and pushing and introductions to people who could contribute. Through its powerful collaboration tools it also provides the ability for people to work together and the BI tools can be used to identify opportunities.

Innovation’s time has come and if we harness the power of enterprise 2.0 tools, we are in for an exciting ride.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create business cases, 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, Innovation, Interactive Intranets

The Importance of Process Mapping when defining Interactive Intranets

Many companies are looking at Interactive Intranets to improve business performance, maximise employee relationships and enhance innovation and communication. But without careful evaluation, companies can end up incorporating unnecessary, cumbersome business processes and functionality, which leads to employees rejecting the Intranet.

Interactive Intranets are Intranets that have been enabled with web 2.0 capability which allows a two way dialogue between the users on the Intranet and the organisation. Interactive Intranets also make good collaboration and knowledge management tools because they capture the digital conversations in the business context.

In order to be sure that employees adopt the Intranet and use it to its full advantage, you need to ensure that it is easy to use, useful in their day to day work and supports their personal brand amongst their peers. This is achieved through careful planning when specc’ing the Intranet

Here are a few steps to deploying an Interactive Intranet that achieves true business benefits while building a foundation for future success.

1. Develop an Intranet Strategy which delivers on the organisational strategy

The first step is to understand the organisational strategy and mandates. A Balanced Scorecard is a useful way of breaking down what the business’ and therefore the employees’ deliverables are. This should give some indication of the extent of the potential of the Intranet, and determine what the employees should ideally be able to do on it. Will they collaborate on projects, communicate with each other, learn and develop their skills, access other systems, receive information about the business etc.?

2. Understand the existing processes

Few companies have a well-documented, current record of their core business processes. It can be time-consuming to detail daily business activities, but it is time well spent: A well-documented set of business processes makes it far easier to deploy an effective Intranet, and it provides insight into the entire business workflow.

It is important, however, to remember that there will always be two sets of processes, those that the management think are there, and what the employees are actually doing. Both should be documented because often employees can find much easier ways in practise to solve problems than the best processes in theory.

3. Review Each Process

Once you have established the “what” of your business processes, it’s time to understand the “who” and the “why.” Who is responsible for each step? Where does the information flow? Why does your company follow this particular process? If the process does not support business objectives or improve business performance in a meaningful way, then it might be time to jettison it. There is no room for “we’ve always done it this way.” When too many bad, superfluous or repetitive processes become ingrained in daily operations, a business stagnates.

This is a difficult part of a technology deployment for several reasons. It takes time that companies often haven’t budgeted for their Intranet rollout. It can ruffle a lot of feathers internally when the team responsible for deployment continues to question how and why people perform their jobs.

Some companies avoid the step entirely and force technology often at great expense for modifications. However, employees will reject the Intranet if it doesn’t meet their needs and make their work better. If business performance improvement is the ultimate goal, it’s vital to question the validity of each process.

The ultimate advantage to mapping the processes from the coal face backwards is that the employees get an understanding of what you are doing and they feel like they are part of the scope, this goes a long way to getting buy in to the new Intranet.

4. Managing Performance Improvement Points (PIP)

It’s one thing to reject a bad process; it’s another to protect a good one. Your Interactive Intranet must offer an easy way to manage a good process, it’s worth it to invest in a custom modification, particularly if it supports your core business objectives.

Modifications can quickly get out of hand, as people come to understand the power of the Interactive Intranet, and suggest ways to improve the performance. You need to institute a formal change review/approval process which controls the prioritisation of requested changes and one member should have final-sign-off authority for any request. This is the only way to avoid “scope creep,” where project costs escalate out of control and deployment dates get continually pushed back.

The team that manages the change review process is responsible for measuring needs against wants, and identifying the changes that will deliver true business benefit. This team must establish firm ground rules to avoid spending time and money on unnecessary modifications. It can be a tough job, as the team will have to deny users’ requests to modify the software rather than their routines or processes – but a list of “Performance Improvement Points” can quickly add up to a long list of custom programming. Also, each “little change” has the potential to impact some other mission-critical aspect of the deployment.

5. Take It One Step at a Time

It is important to prioritise the deployment of the Interactive Intranet, so that you maximise the value as you roll out. This is determined on a case by case basis, depending on the business’ priorities, however, generally we recommend the following sequence.

Start with a generic Intranet to replace the existing one, but include the clever use of some web 2.0 tools to provide an immediate improvement. Pull in news feeds, create an organisational blog for the CEO.

Next create Intranet Portals for each of the functional divisions which facilitate their value to the rest of the organisation. For example leave-management workflow must sit in the HR portal, and booking IT training in the IT portal. Each division also needs to have wiki’s and blogs for interacting with the organisation.

Now it is time for each individual employee to get his or her own profile, with a photograph, contact details, qualification, experience, interests etc. When you have these three layers in place, you can enable collaboration, such as letting employees create groups around specific projects.

Another important step is to understand how other applications can be brought into the Intranet, for example, each employee could have a performance dashboard, pulled through from the HR performance management software, the ideas are endless.

By phasing in system functionality, companies can maximise return on investment by making immediate improvements in their operations. They can address critical needs right away and enable users to become familiar with the system, easing the adoption of future changes. Phases can be separated by as little as two to four weeks, creating a continuous stream of process improvement with minimal disruption to the organisation.

Implementing these steps can make a big difference in how successful a company will be with an Interactive Intranet roll out. However, choosing the right business partner is just as important as managing the process.

External partners such as Digital Bridges have worked with multiple companies and can provide invaluable advice on which business processes make sense and which deserve a second look. While you might not want to take every piece of advice the vendor offers, make sure that the company you choose to work with has experiences to share. It makes a lot of sense to listen when the vendor pushes back on modifications or programming requests – they can save you time, money and disappointment.

The winning combination for an Interactive Intranet deployment is the right business partnership plus the commitment to define and refine your business processes.

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 is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

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. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

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 Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets