Features vs functionality.

Features vs functionality

Features vs functionality.

One of the best tweets I’ve seen recently about web usability is simple and direct.

Like most things the simplest approach is usually the most effective. Tristan gets his message across in less than 140 characters and after reading it, we instantly get what he means. No further words are needed. That’s what Twitter has done really well, as has Tristan.

This rule can, and should be, applied to all websites if they’re to be used as intended; both internally and externally.

I have nothing to add. Do you?


What is an expert?

relax I'm an expert

Wikipedia states that an “expert”  is “someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.”

It goes on to say an expert is….

…. more generally, a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study. An expert can be, by virtue of credentialtrainingeducation,

professionpublication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual’s opinion.

Historically, an expert was referred to as a sage (Sophos). The individual was usually a profound thinker distinguished for wisdom and sound judgment.

I’ve spoken at many conferences and seminars about the intranet industry and what works and what doesn’t work, based on my personal and professional experiences. Does this make me an expert? That’s not for me to judge; that’s for the audience to determine.

There are many “experts” who tout their services within the intranet/digital workplace industry, who basically expound their views of how things should be done, based on their previous dealings with a variety of companies, and the supposed lessons learnt along the way.

There are also many companies who bring together like minded people to discuss how things should be (usually for a large fee), and provide “keynote speakers” (I dislike that phrase) to share their views and experiences, and based on whatever success these individuals have had, they are then deemed to be the “experts”. The paying audience are usually looking for an answer to their problems, and see the expert as the panacea to providing it.

An alternative approach would be to use the large network of contacts we all have access to and discuss our common problems. We may work in different industries, but our intranet issues and challenges are largely the same, dependent where we are on our journeys.

In my view an expert is merely someone who has an opinion, backed up by the relevant knowledge and who has earned the respect of their peers to share it in a considered way. It maybe right or it maybe wrong, but we all have an opinion, so surely that makes us all experts?

The difference between having a knowledgeable opinion and being an expert is therefore negligible surely?


So next time you’re looking for some advice, guidance,  the answer to a problem, or just want to bounce some ideas around, discuss it with your network. Not only will they be happy to help you, they will also probably get something out of the discussion too. And then you can both become “experts”.

An Intranet is actually LEGO

Yes; you read that right.help-us-build-our-new-intranet

I love this blog post by digitalworkplace, that has used an imaginative way to engage users to describe what the component parts of a perfect intranet should be. By using LEGO blocks.

We have all had experience of LEGO, either in our childhood, or because of our own children, so to use these familiar and wonderful learning toys to get users to explain what an intranet should mean for them, is simply inspired.

My recent personal experience of building LEGO with children over the past couple of Christmases has renewed my awe in this fabulous toy. But hats off to Ernst Decsy at UNICEF, for this approach which presumably allowed the users who got involved to release their inner child, whilst also providing some great insights.

As Ernst points out “The Intranet is not something that’s made out of stone, it’s made out of lego”

And the conclusion to all this fun? Users want;

  1. content (38.3%),
  2. social (19.7%),
  3. collaboration (17.2%),
  4. news & events (16%),
  5. activity (8.8%).

With thanks to Ernst for reproducing his content. © digitalworkplace



Twitter grows by 40%

twitter logo

So Twitter usage is growing faster than Facebook or Google +, globally according to a new study.

What are we to make of this “revelation”?

My first thoughts are “what will this mean to business social media and collaboration?”

In reality, probably very little in the short term. After all, most companies are still awaiting the arrival of an effective micro-blogging, or other social media tools internally to supplement the more traditional communications methods. Whilst more organisations have an intranet of some description, and most are still in different stages of maturity, very few have really embraced the value offered by social business, according to Nielsen; although these numbers are increasing – albeit slowly.

This doesn’t come as any surprise to me to be honest.

Whilst the intranet industry advancements are swifter than other disciplines, and can be measured in dog years, it seems to me that only the more innovative communication leaders who are willing to consider on-line discussions and accept feedback in an open and collaborative space, will help drive their organisations to be even more successful.

Who would you prefer to work for? A “secretive” company that merely “tells you things”, or a forward thinking organisation that engages with its people on a regular basis?

It’s a no brainer surely?

New approach, new opportunities.

groupm logoHaving left the BBC behind, last March, I went to work for GroupM, which is the parent company for six advertising media companies.

I was responsible for deploying social business collaborative software (Jive) to all the agencies and during my time there, learnt lots of new things and really immersed myself into the world of social collaboration. I had a great experience and thoroughly enjoyed myself working with a great group of people and got to understand how social business software (SBS) can help to change the way a company communicates internally.

I’ve now moved on again and am currently looking for a new opportunity to transform a company’s intranet from a primarily static entity, into a social space whereby all employees can easily find people, experts and information using an interface that’s not only intuitive but also fun to use.

This new approach will improve efficiency in organisations, so if you’re looking for someone to help you transform your intranet, then please get in touch.

You can get me on 0784 213 9463 or edwardm@btopenworld.com



The festive period is over; it’s back to work.

About the BBC

About the BBC website

So what will 2012 bring us, here at BBC intranet HQ?

Well lots of organisational changes for a start. Changes at the (near) top of the IT organisation will impact on the Gateway team, and me personally. Whilst the final details are being sorted, it’s business as usual and we have clear plans stretching into the summer that will provide the team with new challenges, and incorporate exciting new opportunities to get more involved in activities that don’t usually fall under the remit of an intranet team.

In addition to continuing with intranet management and associated technical development, the team will be taking on the responsibility for the development of the BBC’s corporate internet activity. Some have already been done http://www.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/ and http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/ with plenty more on the way.

Our approach, building on the successful implementation of intranet templates, means we will offer editorial teams a restricted number of  templates to use externally, to meet all their functional requirements, which will mean less money being spent on external design agencies, and ultimately save the BBC money. It’s a no brainer; why spend money trying to satisfy all the needs of everyone, when seven templates adequately meet the needs of the majority?

I’m in the process of clarifying the level of service we’ll be offering to the editorial folks, and we’ll be fully open for business in April 2012, whilst we ramp up our activities over the next couple of months.

So what are we going to be doing for the intranet? Plenty.

  1. looking at what the Gateway homepage offers BBC users and making some suggestions to improve it even further
  2. implementing improvements to our search engine
  3. finalise version four of the intranet templates (which offers horizontal navigation, along the lines of the corporate sites) and make them available to publishers
  4. assisting project teams in upgrade plans for existing technologies and agreeing the future role of the Gateway team
  5. understand and manage the organisational changes to ensure no disruption to the current level of service/support and the Gateway team are clear what their roles and responsibilities are, and the business agrees and understands them.
  6. manage the transition period to ensure additional corporate activities are successfully implemented with no impact on existing intranet support and development activities

So plenty to do, both internally and externally.

Our priorities

to-do-list A few posts ago, I outlined what we had on our “to-do” list following the launch of the BBC’s new Gateway homepage which included;

  1. Creation of templates, used with the content management system to allow publishers to make use of a consistent approach and design and concentrate on the content, not site development. These will be inline with the BBC’s internet.
  2. Fix the reported errors/bugs.
  3. Research how people use the search engine and make improvements accordingly.
  4. Look to see what additional functionality we can introduce using Sharepoint 2007.
We’ve done these, except the Sharepoint functionality, which is being constrained by ongoing commercial discussion with our IT supplier, so now what’s next?
Some of our priorities for the next three/six months – in no particular order;
  • move further toward more effective “self service” for the publishing community. Beef up our on-line support materials and increase the range of “how to” videos online to further help and reduce calls/queries from the publishers.
  • reduce further the number of intranet sites not managed by the enterprise content management system – delete those sites that aren’t being managed.
  • improve the performance of the content management system. It’s running like a dog at times. Beef up the engine and pour more petrol in it. Not literally obviously.
  • increase the number of existing sites that use the recently introduced templated approach which also includes improved measurement tools and the inclusion of the common Global Navigation Bar and standardised footer.
  • widen the scope of the intranet development team to take on corporate internet activities. We’re planning on being fully “open for business” in the new financial year, and we’re currently adopting a similar business model for our development activity externally as we are internally; one content management system, a set of templates providing a wide range of functionality and clear ownership of content by editorial teams. This will reduce overall development and ongoing operational spend.
  • analyse intranet survey results and recommend next set of deliverables to the business.
  • understand and implement forthcoming organisational changes.