Collaboration in Action

I’ve been really busy recently moving back from Paris, setting up for freelance contracts and setting up a house here again. Whilst I was sorting through my ‘stuff’ I came across a whitepaper I wrote a couple of years ago whilst I was at theblueballroom. It made for interesting reading so I thought I’d bring it out again and share it.

It looks at social media and collaboration platforms from an internal communicators perspective. A fair bit has changed since this was published but it’s still worth a read. The contents includes an introduction and evaluation of tools such as twitter, wikis, blogs and RSS as well as examining multi-functional collaboration platforms such as SharePoint, Jive, Socialtext and Huddle.

You can download the paper here;

Collaboration in Action

If you have any comments on the work please do  add them to this page.

Tagging content within an organisation

My last post looked at the importance of search as the main function of an organisational intranet. Search capabilities on any platform rely on the correct tagging and categorisation of the data added onto the platform. So how does an organisation ensure the correct tagging and categorisation of content? Whilst there will always be an element of human error, there are simple ways to minimise the risk of erroneous content tagging.

The easiest way is to predefine and predict what content is going to be uploaded and offer predetermined tags and meta data for content editors to use. This is by far the simplest way, but it is pretty basic in terms of the variety and the creation of new tags and new categories.

There are more refined options available. Firstly the emergence of intelligent platforms, which suggest tags and relevant categories based on the core content within the data. This is a great way of correctly tagging content based on actual content. The issue here is that the suggested tags have to be predefined otherwise there could be an infinite amount of tags and categories.
The third option, which develops on the previous two points is to ‘crowdsource’ the correct tags and let the users decide how the content should be tagged and categorised. Again I’d offer recommended master tags but then it would be over to the audience to choose the most relevant tags. This works as the audience actually engages in the content as they have an interest in the task they are doing. This also keeps the tags current and relevant to the audience.

The importance of tagging is essential to the success of any contemporary intranet. These are a few of the methods used in encouraging correct content tagging and categorisation. There are more sophisticated methods of data categorisation in which platforms use both intelligent suggestions based on the data and crowdsourcing but the above methods are the fundamental methods used across all platforms.

Intranet Architecture – search then social

Intranet Architecture

I’m a bit concerned about the ‘buzz’ around the social enterprise at the moment. Whilst I’m a champion of social platforms within organisations and I’m firmly in the camp of more collaborative and social workplace, I’m a little concerned that one of the primary goals of intranet resources is starting to get overlooked: That of Search.

The current thought leaders in the field (Don Tapscott, Charlene Li et al) are right in saying the increased socialization and networking capabilities are fundamental to the success of an organisation. The movement back towards collaborative working principles, which are further enabled by these capabilities, also show no abating with success stories popping up everywhere about how teams/individuals collaborated successfully on projects. This is great and is where we should be going but we must remember that a large percentage of everyday users of internal platforms probably just want to be able to search for information in an effective and logical manner.

That is to say the most fundamental thing an intranet has to do is to offer the quickest way for an employee to find information. Failing that it should provide (through socialization) the quickest way to find another employee who holds the key to that information. In my eyes this is what intranets should be judged on. Collaboration on projects should exist as a way of working and can be built into platforms in form of Wikis etc, but fundamentally any intranet architecture should prioritise the quickest and most user friendly way to get from a question to an answer – be it on a data library or through immediate responses from colleagues.

This is where the socialization of intranets gets interesting. If you are searching for an answer in a contemporary platform you have two choices: 1) get your answer from a qualified and approved source, be it a directory or learning resource or 2) get your answer from your colleague. The trouble with this is the information you receive from your colleague may not be the correct information and it is unquantifiable in some cases. I have my own thoughts on how to deal with this and how to foster internal ‘Maverns’ (not my words) but that is for a future post.

Back to the importance of putting search at the heart of every decision made concerning the intranet. The workforce online behaviour doesn’t change as soon as they step through their office doors, so why are so many intranets treated differently to external platforms? If people are used to opening up a page with a single search field on Google then I’d be tempted to examine whether this would work internally. Yes it would involve tagging the data and a more conscious approach to meta handling and categorization, but it would pay off in the long term.

The counter argument is that the workforce wants a dashboard and needs to be served information and anayltics on their desktops. This is a bit passe now if you measured message recall and engagement on this type of content delivery against ‘involved’ content delivery I’m pretty sure I’d know which one will come out higher. The increased mobilization of the workforce will put pay to the cascading of information onto desktops in a few years anyway.

So what am I saying? Treat an intranet like Google – its primary focus should be delivering information based on a pre-defined algorithm. Like Google, add social and collaborative functions to enable new process, new design and new idea generation. Choose other channels to deliver information; Email (Email is not dead, the new priority inbox features on gmail is a fantastic shift in email control), Internal social networks, town halls and the other traditional offline ways.

If an organisation develops their intranet to be more like the Google offering, I predict an increase in the level of cluster knowledge internally i.e. groups developing deeper knowledge about certain parts of the organisation or about the organisation. This ‘deeper knowledge’ will then create the specialists and specialist groups enabling the human search process and the validation of ‘human’ search results to be more effective.

Media Owned Agencies.

Have a look at this and if your still interested this Now I know I’ve blown the usual protocol of keeping readers on your page out of the water. But it was important to get a bit of background on this post first. So i’m thinking why the hell would any one go to a media owner to come  up with creative campaign?

Well, the first advantage I can think is that the media owners ‘agency’ gets the audiences mindset totally. The knowledge on tap inside the building through the content makers, the marketing guys and communications teams puts the media owners at a distinct advantage over external agencies (include the more niche agencies). The the record I’m assuming that it would be a luxury brand using the Conde Nast agency and not KFC.

Blue Sky Thinking - Ha

I’ve worked in agencies and the best the best ideas didn’t necessarily come from the AM/Ad’s who knew the clients universe inside out but also from people who have not worked in that vertical before bring fresh ideas and practices with them and cross pollinating (oops) these ideas across the business. Now I’m on the other side, I look for client diversity in an agency rather than expertise within one market. As a challenger brand/New entrant what other choice do I have?

I’ll be watching this development closely, I’m not sure it will be the best thing for creativity, but with the budgets behind them the ‘Inhouse’ agencies will no doubt be given a good crack to prove themselves.