Tag Archives: Kate Elphick; Digital Bridges; USG; User Generated Content

Ten lessons learned from successful intranets

Not all intranets are created equal.

Great intranets increase productivity, knowledge sharing, collaboration, communication and delivery on strategy. Lousy intranets are at best repositories for leave forms, but more dangerously, with the advent of social media and employees’ concomitant expectations from their experiences on the web, they can become bottlenecks and a source of frustration and disengagement.

Here are ten lessons that we have learned from developing Intranet strategies for large corporates.

Hard code the organisational strategy into the intranet

Interactive tools on the intranet enable much more robust interaction between employees and departments. It lets employees do things far more effectively and quickly, including the wrong things…

The organisational strategy needs to be examined in terms of where it is going, how it is configured to get there and the key performance areas in order to support each employ on the intranet.

Profiling

By profiling each employee we can customise the intranet so that they only see what is relevant to them, this reduces information overload and communication fatigue. Profiling also enables us to attach employees to certain projects, track on line behaviour, understand organisational networks, or to search for employees based on their skills and experience and availability.

Process

Processes are the glue within the organisation. The more effective the processes, the more effectively the organisation functions. Buy evaluating which processes are responsible for creating the most competitive advantage and optimising them on the Intranet, you create high performance organisations.

It is important to bear in mind that technology must enable organisations, particularly with new social media functionalities. Organisations shouldn’t be squashed into processes within technologies.

Integration

There are other technologies in the organisation which could be integrated into the Intranet to provide useful data, for example MS Outlook could be integrated into SharePoint 2010 to ensure that only available employees are surfaced when searching for resources across the organisation for projects.

Other technologies which we have found useful to integrate include SAP which supports the organisational processes for servicing customers and SAS data-mining tools.

Have a strong content governance structure

An intranet is only as good as the relevancy and currency of its content. Ensure that roles are defined; owners, authors and approvers are trained; content management functions are built into the job responsibilities; and process champions are identified.

Ensure user adoption

Due to the federated structure of large organisations we recommend that you get inputs from all the different business units and departments during the course of the project.

Several rounds of usability testing should be conducted during the design and development of the intranet.

Road shows, timely communication through emails and web meetings and efficient internal marketing should be conducted throughout the roll out.

Reserve time for beta testing where users from different departments do multiple ‘test drives’ and provide feedback.

Technologies are better adopted when people see the purpose of using them, they are intuitive and when they make the user look and feel good, yet another reason to profile employees and map the digital processes to the way they work in the real world.

More isn’t necessarily better

A portal with a lot of outdated content has very little value.

During the planning stages of content migration, identify which content is outdated or irrelevant. Conduct content identification exercises with your departments using content architectures and migrate or create new content as applicable.

Strong search is important

Search is the most frequently used functionality on any Intranet, be it people search or content search. Provide different ways of searching, but keep it simple. The majority of users like to just key in a keyword, press ‘enter’ and be provided with relevant results.

The intranet should help many people be more productive, using their time to full potential instead of trying to find information for half the time.

If you are using SharePoint 2010 create document libraries which enable information to be created once and updated in one place despite multiple views, that way all the information on the intranet will be kept consistent.

Listen

Listen to what users have to say. Provide multiple avenues for gathering feedback and be open to feedback regardless of how harsh or positive it might be. Listening to the users is the best way of identifying user behavioural patterns and enabling you to keep improving the Intranet.

The intranet isn’t an IT-driven initiative

Many companies think of the intranet as an IT-driven initiative. This isn’t true and should not be the way an intranet is approached.

As the department responsible for improving communication, Corporate Communication is the champion of the communication, the same goes for the role of HR and line management in employee relationships, and operations in process optimisation.

It should be a partnership with IT bringing new ways of using technology to the forefront and enabling the company through tools that support their workflows on the intranet.

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

Blue Ocean 2.0

Blue Ocean Strategy is a business concept developed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne of INSEAD that promotes the creation of new market spaces or “Blue Oceans” rather than competing in existing industries which they term “Red Oceans”.

Red Oceans are industries in existence today—the known market space. In the red oceans, industry boundaries are defined and accepted and the competitive rules of the game are known. Here companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of the available demand. As the market space gets crowded, prospects for profits and growth are reduced. Products become commoditised and cut-throat competition turns the ocean bloody, hence, the term red ocean. The competition is this on the supply side of the micro economy.

“Blue Ocean Strategy” aligns innovation with utility, price and cost positions to create competitive advantage by influencing or creating demand. Value Innovation is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost, and focusing on the buyer to drive demand. It is the creation of an uncontested market space and makes competition irrelevant.

The powerful new web 2.0 is creating the opportunities for forward thinking organisations to change their competitive landscape forever. No longer are industry boundaries fixed, but with a little imagination they are nonexistent.

The four principles of blue ocean strategy formulation include how to create uncontested market space by

  • Reconstructing market boundaries,
  • Focusing on the big picture,
  • Reaching beyond existing demand; and
  • Getting the strategic sequence right.

These formulation principles address how an organisation can create blue oceans by looking across the conventional boundaries of competition, reduce their planning risk by visualising strategy, creating new demand by unlocking the non-customers and launching a commercially-viable blue ocean idea by aligning unprecedented utility of an offering with strategic pricing and target costing and by overcoming adoption hurdles.

The new economic principals of the web include

  • The law of abundance whereby things can be created once and sold many times
  • The networked economy whereby the value of a (social) network is increased with every additional member; and
  • Unfettered geographical constraints where we have access to audiences outside of our immediate environment.

Using these new economic rules we can break out of the traditional competitive (structuralist) strategic thinking and grow demand and profits for our businesses and the industry using blue ocean (reconstructionist) strategic thinking to redefine the business rules.

The winning organisations will be those whose leaders can overcome the key organisational hurdles that prevent even the best strategies from being executed – the cognitive, resource, motivational and political hurdles that prevent people involved in strategy execution from understanding the need to break from status quo, explore the opportunities provided by the modern internet, commit the resources to implement the new strategic shift, keep people focused on implementing the new strategy and from overcoming powerful vested interests that may block the change.

Extra demand is out there, largely untapped, the problem is how to create it. By exploring the value of web 2.0 and questioning our traditional thinking around business models and what is and isn’t possible we can shift of attention from supply to creating new demand, from a focus on competing to a focus on value innovation. The simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low-cost a model is ideal on the internet. Competition is rendered irrelevant. By expanding the demand side of the economy using the modern web, new wealth will be created.

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, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Macroeconomics 2.0

The power of viral expansion loops when building robust social networks

When we build social networks we are gathering groups of like-minded people together for a reason. That reason may be that we want to monetise that social network by advertising to them, or to sell them widgets, applets or products on line. Another reason that we build social networks is to manage relationships with people around a common interest, this may be brand building for a motor vehicle brand, or employee relationship management for a large bank. Whatever the purpose, a social network will be most successful when we have the highest penetration of suitable members possible, active within the social network.

The concept of the “network effect” relates to the fact that the more members there are in a network, the more value that network has for the individual member. The quintessential example is the phone. If only two people have a phone, the phone has less value to you than if thousands of people have phones, because you can contact so many more people.

Online social networks are subject to the network effect, if there are too few people in the network it will not have any value to the individual member and they will abandon the network pretty quickly. Therefore when we build social networks, we want to populate them as rapidly as possible, so that people can derive value by networking, sharing, communicating, collaborating or conducting business.

Viral expansion is when the members of a community actively recruit new members and is an extremely effective and cost efficient way to build powerful social networks.

A “viral expansion loop” occurs when virality is incorporated into the function of the product, in other words a company grows because each user begets new users, just by using a product they spread it. This concept is explored in detail in a fantastic book by Adam Penenberg (2009), called “Viral Loop The power of pass it on”. In the book Penenberg says “What’s the sense of being on Facebook if nobody uses it?”. The value of the community is inherently incorporated in its size.

Tupperware was one of the first viral businesses. When one housewife hosted a Tupperware party for six of her friends, they were each given the opportunity to host a Tupperware party for another six friends and so on. This viral distribution network proved more effective and created more sales for Tupperware than any organised retail chain.

One of the ways to build robust social networks is to focus on the “viral coefficient”. The viral coefficient is the ratio with which community members attract new community members. In other words, on average, how many additional members does each network member recruit?

If the social network’s viral coefficient is less than one, it will be self contained and very soon will stop growing. For example if the viral coefficient is 0.5 and there are 20 people in the network, then they will invite an additional 10 people who themselves will invite another 5 people who themselves will invite 2 people who invite 1 person. We can see with a vital coefficient of less than one that the network plateaus very rapidly at 38 people.

If the viral coefficient equals one the, 20 people invite 20 people who invite 20 people and we see a linear growth pattern from 20 to 40 to 60 to 80 in total in round four.

The real secret to growing social networks is to cultivate a viral coefficient of greater than one. Let’s assume that the viral coefficient is two then 20 people invite 40 people who themselves invite 80 people who invite 160 and so forth. By the fourth round, we have 300 people on board. We see exponential growth in viral networks with viral coefficients higher than one, and the higher the coefficient the exponentially higher the growth. Just by doubling the viral coefficient from 2 to 4 we see that the social network grows by 80 to 320 to 1280 and in the fourth iteration we have 1700 members. In other words having a the viral coefficient is the equivalent of compound interest in the world of social networking.

So how do we increase our viral coefficient? Well there are basically three ways;

  • Make is useful for members to spread the message;
  • Make it easy for them to spread the message; and
  • Make them look good for spreading the message.

Making it useful for members to bring more members on board

Offline examples of this include multi-level marketing such as Amway, online you could create products where members actively encourage their friends to come on board in order for them to sell more. An example could be a charity whose members actively recruit more people to donate money to a good cause, or a political party raising funding for a campaign.

Making it easy for members to bring more members on board

There are a number of ways to do this, clearly an “invite friends” button which automatically eMails friends the link to the social network is easier than expecting the person to type in the URL.

At Digital Bridges we have a saying “The more virtual you are, the more real you need to be”. The same holds true for social networking. People still network socially in the real world, you could use a real world networking tool, such as a business card, to bring people into digital communities.

There is tool called a poken which does exactly that. It is a sort of electronic business card which looks like a memory stick with a receiver and transmitter built into it. When two pokens are touched together they exchange information which has been pre-populated onto the poken. This information includes the standard name address and contact details, but it also contains data pertaining to the social or business networks that people participate in. When the poken is plugged into a computer it automatically populates all contact details and links people within the various networks that they are members of.

Making the member look good for spreading the message

This should be the easiest part if you have bespoke special interest social networks. You need to create content and encourage your users to create content which appeals to like-minded people within the network and let them share it with their friends, peers and colleagues. So for a scientist social network you might post some provocative comments about the Hadron Collider which they can respond to and share with their friends. On a joke website they could forward the latest joke to potential members.

A word of caution

It is important to remember that particularly in South Africa, we don’t have sufficiently large, digitally literate communities to become self sustaining and that although we need to focus on maximising the digital coefficient in order to approximate saturation, we also need to have dedicated resources managing these social media networks to reduce churn at the same time as raising the viral coefficient.

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, Interactive Intranets, Web 2.0, Web Marketing