Friday, August 16, 2013

So You Have A Dead Intranet, Now What?

Yesterday's post on Intranets focused on control issues and how to resolve them. It consisted of notes from a keynote presentation at Drupal4Gov featuring a three-year case study on this subject.

For the sake of focus I left a very important piece of the talk on the cutting room floor, and so will expand on it a bit in this post. This is the implementation portion of the engagement piece: How do you go from a website nobody visits or uses, to one that engages the workforce?

The basic idea is to think of your job as starting a conversation. "Encourage participation and don't interfere...start a discussion, build momentum."

You may think that not enough people are participating in the space but it takes time for people to work up the courage. Peltzer suggested the 1-9-90 rule: 
  • 1% are the talkers
  • 9% are the commenters
  • 90% are the watchers
"Whatever happens on user generated space, everybody will be watching."

But how?

It starts with the user profile: Make it extensive and make it consist of things that are both useful and easy for people to post -- not to mention conversation starters.
  • Skills
  • Hobbies
  • Colleagues
  • Projects
  • Experience
Expanded user profiles aren't just a nice-to-have but a way to build a Linked-In style database so that people can connect with other people who have the skills they need for a particular project. So make sure these functionalities are in place:
  • When the user posts something online, it should link back to their profile page so that peers can get an expanded sense of who they are, what they do and what they're good at.
  • Endorsements (voting), just like in Facebook. The fact that people can add "likes" is not trivial though it "may seem insignificant and small." The rationale is that "not everyone is brave enough to blog or add a comment, but a crowd of people is willing to vote." 
  • Skills pages - e.g. you can note that you are an expert in project management. Important: Link those skills to an aggregate page where you can find all the individuals who have tagged themselves with the same skill. 
  • Opt-in mentoring - on the user profile include a checkbox next to the individual's skills so that they can indicate whether they're willing to mentor others in it. That way when you visit the skills page, all of the people willing to provide in-house training at no additional cost are listed at once.
It's important to show stats on endorsements, said Peltzer, so that people get credit for popular content:

"Pride is a big motivator - give credit and visibility to those who share their ideas. they want to know people are listening, makes them want to post even more."

It took a long time for "confidence to build" in the intranet project: "People wanted to see, where is this going to go....started seeing that it wasn't that bad."

At the end of the day the point of the Intranet content + connection:
  • "Content is connecting people"
  • "Connecting people around your mission. Project, services, corporate activity, all the mission activity is documented and there - networking overlaid on that. Connecting people around your mission. Increase collaboration."
Having a system that facilitates collaboration helps to overcome the negative associations people have with collaboration, said Peltzer: Traditionally "collaboration is a dirty word."

The problem is not the technology: "Lots of tools exist." Rather, it's finding and recruiting the right collaborator: "I was in government for 13 years. All of my ability to pull off projects is because I know who to call when something goes wrong." 

  • "If we can give this capability (collaboration) to everyone in the organization, that's where collaboration is going to thrive."
  • "The web itself can provide this functional type of collaboration that can't be found in some other tools."
  • "It has to be available to all - merit based - and self-organizing."
  • "If we try to force people to work together, we rarely successful but if we can self-organize and those who contribute the most get recognized, you'll have the most success."
  • "It's about engagement."
  • "People want to be part of a common purpose and make a difference."
  • "By creating together you can achieve what's impossible on your own."
And so the ultimate business case is:

"Integrating corporate content with user-generated content leads to strong corporate engagement and keeps collaboration focused on the mission."

* No endorsement expressed or implied. All opinions my own.