Sunday, May 31, 2009

Intranet usage: what really needs to be tracked?

A colleagues asked me what I would consider to be the most important factors of intranet usage to track, considering both the need to demonstrate the effectiveness and ROI of the intranet, and also to use tracking results to drive future intranet development.

My short answer is:
  1. To demonstrate so called 'ROI', it is always useful to show overall usage (e.g. no of hits, no of contributions). Coming from a library and information science background, information and lbrary professionals know that usage/hits does not mean 'users getting the help they need', however, many senior executive/board members do like to read the numbers, so give it to them.
  2. I find the tracking of search query useful, as I look at the search queries every month and ask myself 'if users are looking for something using these search queries, does our intranet give them what they want?'
  3. To drive continuous improve, I think intranet team need to really understand what users find useful (or not) as part of their day-to-day work. Look through the users' eyes (not the intranet designer's eyes). Ask users to talk about their work and how they got help (and see if the intranet is even mentioned!). Don't ask them a direct question such as 'how does the intranet help?' The intranet should come out naturally if it does help them to solve problems, get ideas, access information.
In ERM, myself and my team have been collecting stories from users on a regularly basis. They all going into a narrative database (thanks to David Snowden and Steve Bealing who help to set it up, having said that, a good excel file works as well). Listening and analysing the patterns from these stories tell us where we are lagging behind. I use these stories to inform our quarterly planning exercise, to identify areas of improvement and to challenge my own assumptions.

So here is my suggestion, give the quantitative figures to decision makers, and listen carefully to your users' voices if you want to drive continuous improvement beyond looking at usage figures.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New change management approach: emergent meaning or prescription?

David Snowden has posted a blog titled 'Emergent meaning or prescription?'. I reflect on my own experience, and have to say I can't agree with it more.

From my experience, change management consultancy typically starts with the leaders wanting to change the staff. Communication is about telling staff what to do (even if some user research is included in the scope of work). This new approach starts the change management program by changing the leaders/experts' mindset, ie the consultants have to be changed, and the senior leaders have to be changed. This is the tough part, as not all the leaders who commission the consultancy work expect this. I also think really good consultants (not driven by consulting recipe) who are regarded as trusted advisors, who can bring controversial ideas to the table to add value has a higher chance of making this happen.

Monday, May 04, 2009

To make Web2.0 work, we need Leadership 2.0

This is a typical question I got very often ever since my company Environmental Resources Management (ERM) has received the World's Top 10 Best Intranet Award.

'Dear Bonnie, We're now looking to re-launch our intranet as part of a wider projectalso involving our website and extranets, and in advance of this I had one particular question I wanted to ask you. I can foresee that there isgoing to be particular aversion from key members involved in this project to the use of various web2.0 technologies, particularly the useof social media internally...'

Here is my thought which I have shared with many colleaques whom I met in conferences. Simply speaking, I think we are not only asking our employees to change, we are also asking the leaders to change.

Projects often hinge on getting the buy-in of senior managers. As important as it is for end users to buy into a system, they often look to senior leaders and follow their lead. If senior managers use and rely on the intranet, in encourages the rank and file to do so as well. I wanted to make sure that the managers understood this imperative prior to launch of the new site.

Before the launch of ERM's intranet, Minerva, I conducted a workshop with the top senior managers to prepare them for the launch. The focus was not merely to train them to use Minerva, but also to discuss the new leadership required to truly embrace the intranet.
During the workshop, I offered them two options: (a) you are in it; or (b) you are still in it. The point I was trying to make was that the leaders had to be committed to supporting Minerva, and its range of Web2.0 features. They could not delegate the need for change. I was trying to make the point that they had to change themselves and lead by example and most importantly use the tool themselves as well.

Let me share some of the highlights of the leadership workshop:

  • Be prepared for the consequences: Allowing employees to share and communicate openly and online comes with its pros and cons, so leaders/managers really need to be prepared for the consequences. On the one hand, it can allow new ideas and lead to innovation and on the other, it will surface diverse views, dissent and challenges also, challenge people in power. Many organisations out there are struggling with the latter and have decided to 'suppress' and/or 'manage' these diverse views and have failed to implement Web2.0.
  • Embrace Web 2.0: To embrace Web2.0, the organisation has to open up communications and promote the following ways of working:• New ideas / input• Praise / Support• Innovation• Engagement• Dialogue• Clarification• Deeper understanding• New learning• Multiple perspectives
  • Be prepared for the challenges: The organisation has to be aware of the challenges that come from an open and transparent communication culture. Some of the key words to describe those challenges include:• Diversity• Challenge• Dissent• Sub-groups• Surprise• Uncertainty• Emergence• Unable to plan too much• Less control
  • Be prepared for challenging dialogue: Since the launch of Minerva, ERM has seen some controversial dialogue in the CEO’s blog. Some comments were direct and blunt while others outlined gaps they see which can hinder company’s growth. The negative comments could be hard to hear especially when they are posed in the public intranet space.
    In a case where members of staff are not willing to share their views publicly, they are encouraged to email senior managers directly. This has also resulted in leaders having to face the questions and find ways to make improvement.
  • Accept the “inconveniences”: ERM leaders truly believe that in order to grow the business to the next phase, we must connect all the ‘brains’ within the organisation, and use them to serve our clients’ needs. It may come with some ‘inconvenience’, but the leaders truly believe the benefits can outgrow them. Our leaders are still learning. Most importantly, they are willing to learn. They see this as a way to increase competitive advantage and to allow ERM to deliver world-class solutions to the clients.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Hosting a webinar with Steve Denning on High Performance Team

On the 6 May 4pm London time, I will be co-hosting a webinar with Steve Denning who will be talking about 'High Performance Team', a topic of personal interest to myself, and I hope all my team members at work can benefit from. Steve asked me a few weeks ago if I would be happy to be the host, and I said yes, partly for my own learning. To prepare for the event, that means I have to read his latest books/articles and I also want to use this experience to prepare for an online conversation which I will be hosting internally within ERM to allow senior management and all employees to have a genuine two-way dialogue about the economic situation.

Let me give you a preview of the webinar, Steve will share with the audience ten big surprises in his research about high-performance teams:
1. High-performance teams are quite common.
2. People already know what high-performance teams are.
3. These are not teams of extraordinary people: these are teams of ordinary people who become extraordinary.
4. High-performance teams are mainly self-organizing teams.
5. People instinctively know how to create high-performance teams.
6. Cognitive diversity is a key ingredient in most of teams.
7. Many people and firms are already creating high-performance teams in large numbers.
8. The improvement in performance that comes from getting into a high-performance mode is dramatic—they are differences in scale.
9. High-performance teams usually don’t die of natural causes: they are killed by management.
10. High-performance teams are geographically distributable and scalable. so that large projects and even whole organizations can be run on this basis.

All for now.