Why productivity isnt always the most important thing in the world

ChecklistAt the Future of SharePoint event in London the other day I got chatting to a developer from another SharePoint consultancy. The conversation turned to the SharePoint projects that our respective companies had worked on.

He began telling a story about one of his clients. This one is an engineering company that digs up roads and fixes gas and water pipes all over the country. My new friend went on to explain that each maintenance project generates various forms that need to be filled out. Risk assessment certificates, briefing documents, completion documents, etc.

The surprising thing at least to people like me who work on intranets and digital workplace tools is that these forms are printed out and need to be filled out by hand. Not only that, but once filled out, they are collected by a chap in a van whose sole job is to drive around picking up similar paperwork from other teams working around the country. More surprising still is that these pieces of paper are dropped off to a central office whereupon they are scanned and tagged into a document management system. This generates an inventory sheet which then needs to be printed, circulated, and signed by various superiors before being scanned back in and stored.

My digital focus isn’t the only focus

When paper is digitised and then resurrected back into paper we all know that somethings really not right. Or is it? Its easy for intranet professionals to raise our eyebrows at this. But this is because its our job to banish paper and automate processes. The company I talk about above is concerned with entirely different things. Their forms and audit trails are peripheral and entirely minor to what they really do and to where they add value.

When business is good and customers are lining up its easy to see why a seemingly antiquated process like that might get overlooked and continues to exist. Obviously, they know its not the smartest way to do it but they have other concerns, many of which you and I cant even begin to imagine.

The thing is, companies all over the world are in similar situations. On virtually every project we work on we discover such manual processes. Even large corporates with deep pockets and abundant IT resource can at times seem very unsophisticated in the way they do things. Our job is to uncover these processes and help redesign and digitise them. We do this by meeting with lots of people, asking them plenty of questions about their jobs and, above all, by listening.

If you want to learn more about how we go about uncovering pain points and opportunities to drive productivity then please get in touch.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.

Microsoft buys Linkedin: 14 SharePoint and Office 365 integrations

Following today’s surprising but exciting announcement that Microsoft is planning to buy Linkedin for $26bn here’s a list of things they could do integrate the service with their own tools. However, before getting into the list it’s worth looking at the bigger picture. This acquisition puts Microsoft in a unique position as a supplier of digital workplace tools. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will undoubtedly become more prevalent in the workplace in the coming years. With its access to the Linkedin database of people profiles Microsoft will be able to leverage data from both outside and inside the organisation in order to power its AI algorithms that drive tools like Delve and Office Graph. Owning this broader set of data versus its digital workplace competitors will allow Microsoft to make ever more relevant suggestions when it comes to content discovery, contact discovery and company discovery. Many of the items on our list below focus on the AI capabilities enabled by this acquisition.

1) Merge your Office 365 profile with your Linkedin profile. One less place to maintain a profile.

2) Suggest external Yammer groups that your Linkedin connections belong to.

3) Youre working on a project and Delve picks up on this due to the documents you are working on in SharePoint and suggests that you might want to talk to one of your Linkedin connections. Perhaps theyve got some valuable experience you could learn from or perhaps you could even hire them to work with you?

4) On a similar tip, Delve might suggest a supplier to help you with you project based on the reputations of its employees and the connections you have who are connected to some of those employees.

5) Again on a project tip, Delve might point you towards some news on Linkedin or content on Slideshare (part of Linkedin) that is related to your project.

6) Delve knows which of your external connections you have most contact with. When Delve notices a change in their profile on Linkedin it could alert you so you can congratulate them.

7) If you are losing touch with one of your Linkedin connections Delve notices this and prompts you to do something about it.

8) Compare your calendar appointments with the events and places that your connections are talking about on Linkedin. If theres a match you get alerted. Always useful to know someone you know is going to the same city as you.

9) Merge your contacts with your connections data found on Linkedin ensuring it is kept up to date.

10) Merge your company news feed on SharePoint with top items from your Linkedin newsfeed making it more personal

11) Bring Skype for Business presence into Linkedin with ability to call or chat to people right off the Linkedin page. Youd probably need to ask users permission to share their presence outside their own organisations.

12) Based on positive internal interactions suggest colleagues you should connect to on Linkedin

13) By identifying positive sentiment in your interactions with internal contacts who are also connections, suggest to them that they might want to give you a recommendation on Linkedin, and vice versa of course.

14) Allow you to put a block on calls and emails from certain categories of people (e.g. recruitment agencies).

If you thought the hamburger was bad, the waffle icon in Office 365 is worse

Building a usable intranet on SharePoint is easier than ever before owing to Office 365 in the cloud. Microsofts cloud subscription model has made the power of SharePoint available to organisations that previously would not have had the IT support necessary to deploy such enterprise level software.

But organisations of every size have to consider the user experience that out-of-the box SharePoint offers, and theres a problem: people cant get home.

Hamburger menu iconHow do you feel about the hamburger icon that you might notice when using a mobile site? When I first started seeing this web furniture I was happy to touch it to explore, and not unexpectedly, there was a menu. These days, Im happy to see the hamburger menu, and ignore it, until I want to explore the site. Do you feel the same?

But if youre keeping up with design trends and user research, you might know that the hamburger menu does not appear inviting to everyone. Many people do not notice the icon, cannot interpret the three horizontal lines, and do not ever touch it.

User research shows hiding menu items means they dont get used

Ive been conducting rough and ready user testing in recent weeks, looking into how people think and feel about their Office 365 intranet. One striking finding that I cant ignore is how difficult people find returning to the home page is.

Many people, it seems from my research, like to start a fresh task from the home page; but getting back to the home page from wherever they are within the Microsoft cloud is a challenge.

Microsofts cloud SharePoint offering expects everyone to think in an app way OneDrive is an app; Delve is an app; Word is now an app all accessible from the main waffle icon.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.

How many homes are there?

Think about how people access the home page of the intranet. From log-in, a person might land on your intranet home page or, depending how they logged in, the Office Home page.

Office Portal home

From here, they have to click on SharePoint. This brings up SharePoint home. This is perfect if you want to dive into your teams collaboration site, but it isnt the intranet home page that comms people might expect.

SharePoint home

(SharePoint was named Sites up until June 2016.)

To reach the true intranet home page, the person has to click on a link or the tile / card called Intranet (highlighted above). Now they get to experience the company home page (but in a new tab)

Once deep within the intranet, people can click the company logo to get to the home page (if they know this trick) but what if they are in an app?

Imagine youve just performed a people search and have found Vikrams phone number and maybe office location. Now, you may well be inside Delve now looking at Vikrams Delve profile. Its likely that all the intranet-specific menu items are not shown, as this is just Delve. How do you return to the home page? The back button on your browser should work (unless you’re in a new tab), but do you really want to click that 12 times, each time checking to see where you are?

How do you quickly get from Delve to your intranets home page? Theres no logo to click.

Theres left-hand menu item that just says Home but this is Delves home. Take a look at some research results, below.

Delve heatmap

Half of my research was conducted during usability testing with me sat right there with the person, but the above heatmap shows online testing where the person worked alone.

Waffle iconYou can see that, when a person is in Delve and they need to return to the home page of the intranet, only 39% first think of clicking the waffle icon. The majority of people click the Home link and why not? It has a house icon and everything! But this is Delve home.

The answer is supposed to be the waffle icon click the waffle and the paddle menu offers you SharePoint. Youre supposed to know what this word means…

While every day users of the Office 365 environment may well become confident in getting around, those people new to the platform, or just those who only use the intranet every so often, do not find the basic navigation intuitive.

Office paddle menu - app launcher

The waffle icon offers a paddle menu of coloured square icons (the ‘app launcher’) including something called SharePoint, which takes you to to master index page that lists out all the intranet and project sites you personally have subscribed to or have access to. This is not an intuitive page (although its very useful); most people expect the real intranet to guide them around.

Next to the waffle icon is a big menu item that just says Office 365. If you click this, you land on a page that offers you the exact same coloured square icons that the waffle icon offers. Because this is the Office 365 home, not your intranet home.

Office Portal home

Click on SharePoint and you land on an index page, offering you all the sites you have access to. From here, youre supposed to know to click on Intranet or whatever your company has called the intranet. Only now do you reach the home page.

So from doing a people search (a very common task) it takes three clicks to get to the home page, rather than one. The hardest click is the first one; very few people Ive worked with ever explore the waffle icon. It does not indicate that its a button or that its hiding a menu.

This seems awkward, and the people Ive been working with felt that they were not experienced enough to understand the intranet. They graciously excused the intranet and said they needed more training. This is horrible, when the intranet has failed them, and made them feel lost and frustrated.

Help people get home with a custom icon

Custom app icon
You (your intranet administrator) can add a custom tile (app icon) to the paddle menu found within the waffle icon.

So you could add an icon for the home page of your intranet, reducing confusion and the number of clicks needed to get home when a person finds themselves in Delve or some other app.

But, and its a big but, your new icon only shows up on the My apps page (where a person lands if they click View all my apps in the paddle menu) until each individual chooses to add it to the paddle menu by hand. In other words, every employee needs to visit the My apps page and select the new Intranet icon and use the Pin to app launcher function. Is this something everyone will do? No.

The take aways

  • Dont expect people know whats in the waffle icon, or even realise it is clickable.
  • Understand that home can mean different things to different people; Search has a home; Delve has a home; Office 365 has a home; SharePoint has a home.
  • Tell people that things often open in new tabs – help people be aware of what their browser does.
  • Introduce the waffle icon to people as part of your adoption and engagement activities. Highlight it in training. Explain how to reach the home page of the intranet, and how to reach other SharePoint sites.
  • Consider beatifying your intranet with a brand design that suits your company, and that adds rich navigation features (like better, more obvious menus). Such brand designs do not affect the SharePoint code and are easy to install.

Its this last item that needs careful consideration. While many smaller organisations are happy with the vanilla look of out-of-the-box SharePoint, medium and large companies almost always talk to us about a suitable design for their brand. Some people have concerns about customising SharePoint, but adding an attractive design isnt customisation, its merely design.

Joe explains how easy it is to brand SharePoint, even in the cloud take a look. A good brand design doesnt just make your intranet look more pleasing, it can help with the usability and UX adding much needed navigation aids and helping people do what the most want to do go home!

Intranet governance and contributor engagement

Dan ends our video series by exploring the people elements of intranet governance. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more.

Dan Hawtrey, Managing Director
+ 44 20 7471 8500 | [email protected] | LinkedIn

Governance is a big word. It carries connotations of centralisation, power, control, and authority. But actually I think it’s perhaps a bit of a misnomer because today’s intranets are very social systems with ownership distributed across many different people.

Yes, you do have to define a strategy, put in place a steering team, think about policies and processes; I’m certainly not trying to downplay those pieces, they’re very important. But getting governance right is also about putting the right support structures in place, in particular support for content owners and site administrators.

The key aim of modern intranets is to get plenty of contributions from lots of different people. On top of that you want contributions to be high quality, so that they’re engaging and useful. But that’s only half the battle, you also want your content owners to keep things up-to-date and to continue contributing after their initial burst of activity. It’s all about maintaining high levels of enthusiasm.

Stats graphA great way to do this is to share with them analytics about how their section is doing, and perhaps even show them how it’s doing versus other people’s sections. After all, who wouldn’t be interested in knowing how many times their piece has been read.

You could give them a login to Google Analytics, but I’ve always found that GA is pretty opaque to people who aren’t familiar with it. A better way to do it, is to take the time to create a report yourself, something that is going to be quick and easy to read and digest, rather than letting them drown in data.

Giving support and analytics on a regular basis to your content owners is not only providing positive reinforcement, but it’s also giving you a chance to keep up the dialogue between you and them. This is going to help reduce the chances of empty sections and content growing old and outdated.

View Joe’s previous video: making life easy for your content contributors.
Browse all ‘intranet planning’ videos.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.

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