By swilson | February 6, 2014
I just got off the phone with a company trying to reach a multi-generational employee base. They’ve had a large influx of new employees, nearly all of whom are millennials. These young people have been tossed into a conservative company with many soon-to-retire boomers.
The client’s questions about how people of different generations consume information got me thinking.
First, you should know that willingness to adopt new technology actually has more to do with prior experience and familiarity with technology than it truly has to do with age. So, my two children growing up in a house full of technology will be apt to adopt new things more readily. Children in homes absent of technology will be less inclined.
I saw this first hand when I spoke to a college communication class at one of our Denver-area community colleges. In a room of 20 kids there were 2 Facebook users. Most hadn’t grown up with technology in the household.
Second, think about how those in different generations consume news. Just start with news and you get a good picture of the challenges the corporate communicator is up against. The decline in print newspapers that started some time ago continues (The transition to digital journalism, Feb. 2, 2014). Meanwhile, the rise of social technologies in the media market changes how journalists approach their craft.
For example, Pew research uncovered that30% of American adults get news from Facebook while 8% get news from Twitter. All the other top news sources are web-based, some still hanging on to a print edition that churns out longer feature stories and nice-to-know content.
What constitutes good internal news?
I’ve written about this before in an article for IBF, or what is now the Digital Workplace Group (DWG): Creating a better intranet news experience in SharePoint.
The top points made there all still apply:
- Employees put all the news into one bucket. We see this when we do usability testing. But, they want to be able to filter it to find what they pursue.
- Most employees don’t set up alerts or use RSS feeds effectively. This takes training and guidance. Even some prodding.
- Employees search by topic, not channel or date. A news search space must deliver such functionality.
While I mention other important functionality in the article, let’s just focus on these three. And, because I’ll be talking about this in Copenhagen in a couple weeks at the IntraTeam Conference, let’s talk about them in the context of a SharePoint intranet.
One news hub
I cannot tell you how important this is. Employees do not parse the news out into separate buckets. They do not put regional news in a regional bucket and department news in a department bucket. They lump it all together.
SharePoint enables communicators to drop news web parts – or in 2013 “apps” – anywhere. Fine, but. If a user is intent on consuming news, they will not troll from their region site to their department site to their benefits site to see everything they seek. For those who refuse to create a more customized view (still the majority of employees), one central view with the right search and filtering is crucial.
In organizations with shift workers, both front-line and leaders, this is even more important. They may not be able to monitor current news feeds while off shift. When they return to work, they need to catch up with what they missed. One central news hub is the easiest way for them to accomplish this.
Getting people to establish alerts and RSS feeds is a pain. It takes training, time and patience. The advent of mobile news apps that are typically easier to configure and easier to use is pushing us beyond this limitation.
Organizations willing to make the leap to mobile access are reaping quick benefits of more education employees who can make better decisions faster. And don’t think that your organization is too backward or conservative; we have clients in the conservative industries of mining, petroleum and gas and manufacturing who are making this move.
But don’t assume there isn’t still a training requirement. To get the most from the mobile news apps, you need to deliver news in narrow streams. This means it is still important for employees to pick the streams that mean the most to them individually. Again, teach them to customize so they can be more productive.
Microsoft has created some new mobile apps for use with SharePoint 2013. Start there and customize where necessary.
I spoke recently with a manager who works shifts. When he’s on shift he sees all the news (which they deliver primarily via email). When he’s off shift he sees nothing. He could be off shift for a week at a time. He wants to see what he missed, sifting through by topic to get to what he believes is most important.
Enter good search and filtering. We’ve uncovered several important filters in our research:
- Communication channel – as in the quarterly e-magazine, the monthly safety meeting, the leadership blog, the quarterly sales report, etc.
- Department or function – either the publishing department and/or the department the topic is primarily about
- Geography – region and office location can be good filters; relative importance varies by business and industry
- Social filters – author and top contributors, for example, can be good filters for news
Great search and filtering demands good tagging and taxonomy. Getting the proper tags into your content is paramount to delivering a good user experience. SharePoint 2013 helps you do this well with content typing and the term store.
Get more insight
Want a good example of what news in SharePoint can be? Eloquor lent expertise and insight to the team at Coldwater Software for ElevatePoint News, a SharePoint add-on that makes news creation, consumption and management better. While you are at it, check out ElevatePoint Plan and get your communication planning under control too! This planning tool is based on Eloquor’s methodology grounded in more than 2 decades of experience.
Learn even more at my conference session on news in SharePoint at the IntraTeam Conference this month.
By swilson | January 23, 2014
Content migration can be slow, time consuming and expensive. I have one client that dumped its global SharePoint implementation because departments refused to do the content work. Another spent heaps of money and time, but let content owners abdicate their responsibilities resulting in poor tagging and search results.
Part of the problem with content migration is using a one-size fits all approach. Different content and different teams require different approaches. Rob Colwill at Coldwater Software has helped me hone my thinking around this during our current collaboration for a client.
This revelation comes just in time to present at IntraTeam’s February Conference on Intranet, SharePoint and Enterprise Search. So, let’s preview this part of my talk for that conference and you tell me if it feels on target.
Three Content Tales
The first of three groups had a smallish pile of content valuable to their small team. It needed to be moved to the company’s new online workspace so the content could be used by the team members
A second group had a large volume of content valuable to all employees. The content was already in good condition (well written). This content might also help drive adoption of the new tools, so it was important to have there for launch. Tricky part was that the owners didn’t have the resources to get the migration done by launch time.
The third and final group had a large volume of content valuable to all employees like the second group. The difference was this content was in poor condition. Originally drafted for printed delivery, it used twice the words necessary and was housed in various Microsoft Word documents of 100+ pages each. Usage was low on this material in all the years it was posted. To get employees to use it, comprehend and act upon it, the content would need improvement.
Three very different scenarios; calling for very different approaches.
Why Migrate Content
What is content migration really all about anyway? Viewed through my rosy strategy glasses, it looks like this:
- Leverage valuable legacy intellectual property
- Clean out old, out-dated material
- Keep it from surfacing in search
- Enable more efficient use of IT resources such as servers
- Reduce exposure to legal risk
- Make broadly-used content more usable and actionable
- Ensure comprehension
- Drive improved decision-making
- Improve productivity
- Tag content well so it shows up in search appropriately in the new intranet
- Assign content types so content can be properly governed going forward
There are obvious business benefits to doing this well. But, this can be the single greatest business expense/time consuming activity in a move to a new platform. Which is precisely why most organizations take a pass. They set up the new thing and dump the old stuff into it. What makes companies think that bad content inside a new platform makes for good user experience? And, more importantly, good decision making.
A Flexible Migration Approach
If you use the three scenarios outlined above as a guide – and you acknowledge the value of the effort with funding – the resulting model looks a little like a fish. How appropriate that we’re talking about migration.
Let’s dissect this a little:
- You start with an inventory, which is sometimes captured electronically, but with old systems is often done manually
- In the process of educating the content owner, you discover what can be archived or deleted, then make a plan for what to do with content that needs to migrate; the plan will point to the most appropriate migration stream
- Prioritization is crucial because you can’t work on everything at once
- Content Improvement is the most intensive migration stream as it involves the greatest work on the content itself; this is expensive and time consuming, so reserve it for the stuff used by a majority of users on a regular basis
- Supported Migration is for content that is important and used by many, but doesn’t need to be edited or presented in a dramatically different way
- User-driven migration is the cheapest, but relies on the attention of the departments and teams to get done; this is for content for an individual team (won’t be used by those outside the team)
Rob at Coldwater Software says any migration project, or launch of a new digital workplace including intranets, isn’t done until you shut down the old sites and servers. This is where IT finds its ROI. Fewer servers is savings. Cheaper, less responsive storage for archived content is also savings.
The trick is getting past 3 key decision points:
- Deciding what to archive or delete
- Making decisions about what to do with what must migrate
- Prioritizing what must migrate, because you’ll never get it all done at once
To get our decision questions for these three key points – plus a lot more about content migration – you’ll have to join us in Copenhagen next month. Register for the IntraTeam’s February Conference today!
More to come on that burning question, “How do I improve my intranet content?”
By swilson | October 10, 2013
This remarkable health journey that my husband, Allyen, our kids and I embarked on earlier this year together has taught me some important lessons already. One is that just like home remodeling snowballs into something bigger (e.g., repair the toilet becomes take-the-bathroom-down-to-the-studs), health crises happen the same way just faster.
This is what happened to Allyen. Without warning, a blood clot formed in his leg, broke off, traveled up to and through the heart, coming to rest at the juncture that feeds the lungs. He couldn’t breath, but what happened next was actually far more dangerous. Without the breath and therefore the oxygen, his heart stopped.
When your heart stops, and during the necessary CPR, the brain is deprived of the important oxygen it needs to survive. It doesn’t take long for damage to occur. It was a cascade of physical crisis.
Ensuing problems such as kidney failure, lung problems, etc., can often be addressed and resolved over time. But what happens to the brain becomes the long-term issue for recovery. It’s called an anoxic brain injury.
I read a medical study from April 2011 that indicated that just 3% – 7% of those suffering brain injury after resuscitation from cardiac arrest return to their previous level of functioning.
The initial physical cascade happens without you really being aware. Then, there is the physical cascade in the early days following: kidneys get unhappy; new medications are introduced; lungs struggle to repair. You start looking at every little number on the monitors and in the labs. It is a cascade of information and, for someone not medically trained, its tough to know what is important.
The communication cascade also begins immediately with friends and family. Calls generate more calls. Facebook frankly saved me on this one. Sorry to those not connected I reserve my Facebook for family and close friends but it was the easiest way for me to work through this part of the cascade. My messengers kept my wider network and Allyen’s network apprised.
So, where did we land in the neurological part of the physical cascade? We sort of lucked out. Allyen’s memory is sound and cognitively he lost remarkable little function. He’s performing below the amazingly high level he was before, but still so high the docs have had difficulty measuring him. He’ll always be above average!
What is still fighting him is his body; but even this constantly improves. He’s even doing ballroom dancing lessons!
Lessons for the communicator
Now that I’m back to work, and really digging into a new client’s intranet, I’m seeing a cascade of information in a whole different context. In my user research with them, there is a constant expression of exasperation with email use. It’s used to secure approvals, changes to documents, major decisions, and idea generation. Round and round they go with the emails, many with attached documents. Errors are made, people are missed, changes and decisions not captured.
One executive told me he handles as many as 600 new emails every day. How can he possibly be expected to deliver quality leadership, strategy, attention and decision making?
If you aren’t already on a crusade to limit this ineffective information cascade, you should be. I know I am!
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