Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A new "new Intranet" So what did we do?

We added another level to the hierarchy.

We had:

  • The Company
  • Forms
  • Health and Safety
  • Using resources
  • Working at ##
  • Arranging work
  • Status reports

Now we have:

  • Business Activities
    • Resources
    • Quality
    • Projects
    • Customer
    • Products
    • Schedules
    • Financial
    • Pre-Sales
    • Timesheets
  • Staff Handbook
    • Intro to ##
    • Personal Admin
    • Personal Development
    • Health and Safety
    • Benefits
    • Social
The Staff Handbook section is pretty much finished, the Business Activities section is where the work is. This is probably going to change quite a bit over the next year. Especially as most of it provides a way to access info which is in the new MIS system, or to post info to it.

For example we are just about to deliver online project time recording and are planning online expense claim processing and there's a lot more work to come.

Good things are that the cultural change is really noticeable. We've gone from people not regarding an Intranet as a useful tool to people actively regarding it as an information sharing point (after a social event, someone was heard to say "Well that's going on the Intranet").

That covers one (large) user group, the next user group is senior management.

The new structure has a new design too, I'll put up a screen shot to show the new appearance.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The new 'operational stuff' section means a new Intranet

Well, almost.

When we started the project we could see that there was an unknown quantity in the 'operational information'. This group - which we didn't have a useful label for at the time - was really a list of the things we knew we were going to have to do and things we knew would be useful but it wasn't the time (the mechanisms were unknown, the target users were guessed, the source of the info unestablished).

So we concentrated on the information we had to hand, which was administrative and internal communications - the content of the Staff Handbook (at the time a printed manual in a lever arch file, given to each member of staff - not ideal to update). Even sorting this lot of content took a long time. And the Company's internal newsletter.

Since this has been online and been refined and adjusted we've been able to look at the things we've been asked to publish and it has (mostly) all fallen into the group called 'operational stuff'. We managed (with working and re-working) to find some organisation in this group of content.

Then looking at the area we'd sort of reserved for it in the current structure, it just didn't fit. We would have been making the top level of the hierarchy too large.

We also had reports from people saying they were confused. We found a few reasons for this; they were looking for something which hadn't been published, the item's label was misleading or it was in the wrong place. In the majority of cases we found the item to be in the right place according to the philosophy of the structure but people just weren't getting it.

We'd run articles published on the home page explaining the information architechture, we'd told people where they could find things, we'd run training/presentation sessions, we made the presentation part of the Company Induction....

These things weren't working so it seemed to be time for a major change.

So that's what we've done....and I'm going to describe it in a new post cos other wise this one will be really, really long.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Settling in

It's been a while :o) 4 months, or thereabouts since the last update.

It's been a period of developing and publishing content, finishing the '"Company Handbook" style' sections off, helping people to produce content, trying to decide the best way to deal with incoming requests to publish things, keeping up with the editorial process.

We've also been adding to the list of things we'd like to do and looking at the next things to come... one of which will be using the Intranet to process 'live' operational data such as online project time recording (which will actually be done by the new finance system which is being implemented, it has a web interface which we have minimal control over).

We've also been checking the search logs to see what people can't find, updating the appearance of old systems which are still in use and available only via the Intranet.

It's a good time to take stock of things now and see how the thing is holding up and it's not doing too badly, however we are finding that people aren't getting the most out of it.

Currently we have all of the 'administrative' style information (such as booking annual leave) categorised and published. The names of items are still not entirely comfortable (but since we've not reached a conclusion on those in over a year they'll have to stay as they are for the moment :( ).

Things are structured and there is a clear logic to the structure, which has held up through all of the publishing we've done, but it's not 'in your face' enough for staff who only ever look at it for a few minutes at a time.

So it's time for a slight adjustment and as we're also approaching the time to design the 'operational' section it's a good time to review the overall structure and see if we can make it easier to see the logic in a shorter period of time.

Now the Intranet exists and people are talking about it and getting used to it and we are getting quite a lot requests to publish information, most of which will go into the 'operational' section which feels quite neat in the timing.

It will be interesting (and might be a bit time consuming) as it involves collaboration across the company and finding the time to get the necessary people together is going to be a challenge.

We're starting off with a plan...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

In defence

We've been doing a lot of work on getting people's things published. As the site structure gets looked at in detail by the people who's content we're publishing they start to think about it.

As they do you can see them go through a sort of digestion process. They see other parts of the site and wonder if they should be publishing their things elsewhere rather than where they are currently being put.

So we're defending the structure a lot at the moment and it's hard work.

It's really easy to wonder if it's wrong when so many people are asking questions about it.

But then after managing to successfully defend the placement of the information you're working on it solidifies the structure even further.

We're having to be really careful because we know that the structure is new and radically different to the old Intranet and people still aren't used to it. This is causing a lot of the occurences of the 'should this not go in a different section?' question.

We also know that some things may be in the wrong place and some things may need a different title because the structure is still settling and developing.

This is a hard time..... :(

Monday, May 08, 2006

So what's the plan now?

OK, so it's launched, it's been live for 3 months - just entering the 4th.

What next?

Keep it alive! Well, that's the idea at least.

We've had a bit of an unfocussed period

Everyone involved in the new news publishing process was getting used to it. It's really been a case of tweaking it as we go along for that. It has got a lot better. More refined, less re-writing and more actual editing in the editing phase and advance preparation of content.

Having an application that allows the news publication to be scheduled has made this much easier. We knew before having this that we needed to be preparing content well in advance but it was difficult to find the time to do it as some time had to be given to actually publishing the item - and remembering to do it on the relevant day.

Now that we have a system which allows you to publish an article and schedule when it appears we can write, review, edit and publish all prior to the publication date.

The feedback systems are also working. Although people don't make a lot of noise, generally only saying something when something goes wrong or is misreported, at least now they can and they do.

But it's taken a lot of guidance and support from us to get to here. And that has taken time.

We have also been swamped by the amount of content that we're dealing with.

The content owners have never had to prepare their content for publication in this way. On the old Intranet things either got published as they were - in office document format - or were prepared in FrontPage. Usually by someone who knew that this needed to be public but didn't know how or have the time to present it for on-screen publication.

This means all of the 'static' content needs to be prepared. This means collaborating with the content owners to make the necessary amendments.

Some people have taken to this quite quickly and easily, for others it's just not possible with their workloads.

Also, some people still haven't realised the potential of the Intranet.

I know it's up to us to promote it and educate people on its potential.

At the moment we're facing a long list of content to be prepared and published plus general tidying and maintenance, enhancements and future developments. With only one web designer and a colleage and manager working on it this is making very, very slow progress.

We have enough work to employ a content developer full time but for various reasons we can't.

So back into the pile we go...

Friday, May 05, 2006


There's been some discussion in various areas recently about names to call the Intranet. That's brand names not rude names... ;o)

I thought I'd make a note here of why we haven't given ours a name because I don't think I have....

We did discuss this and decided against a brand name because:
  • We would have like to choose one by running a competition - there wasn't time!
  • The old Intranet had been named by running a competition and ended up with a name that the majority of people hated.
  • The old newsletter had been named by running a competition - the 'non-process' that surrounded this publication was something everyone hated.
So, to avoid being associated with the old things and because there wasn't time we decided not to run a competition at that time.

That was with regard to the old Intranet and news.

What about the new Intranet?

The new one is radically different to the old one and we knew it would take people a long time to get the old one out of their heads so establishing a brand name for something which had no identity yet was going to be very difficult, if not impossible.

So that's why it's currently just called 'the Intranet'.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Information Architecture and the pain of getting used to things

We're experiencing pain now.

We knew this was going to be difficult because we've grouped the information in a completely different way to the old Intranet and are trying to change the old way of viewing the company. It's taking some getting used to.

On the one hand people are not aware that the content has been updated, don't feel the need to look so are barely using the Intranet. This means a lot of people don't know where to find things.

We plan to hold presentations to show people where things are on the Intranet. We did want to leave it for a while to allow people to get used to it but now we really need to make sure people are aware of what's there. We're also demonstrating the Intranet in induction sessions - until the Induction Sessions themselves are incorporated into the Intranet.

On the other hand people are seeing the benefit and potential and there's a very long, continuously growing queue of things to be added.

We're actually swamped by the amount of content. We're finding that we can't hand the items over to the departments who own them to publish without collaborating on what is presented and how. The content has never been prepared for publication on the web so it's mainly in print format and needs serious attention for it to be useful to people - and sometimes even for it to be publishable at all.

We're seeing the need for someone to work on content development full time because there's just so much involved with it...