Office Communication the 2.0 Way

Yesterday I gave a presentation at a special library on how to use the power of blogs and wikis to improve communication and collaboration within your organization. The slides are online, but if you’ve ever attended one of my talks, you’ll know that the slides are just a quick intro. The meat of the presentation was the live demo.

After giving this talk, I realized how much I miss have a great library intranet :( Guess I’ll have to start giving the same talk here :)

Screencasts of Intranet Presentation

At CIL I promised that I’d create a screencast for those who couldn’t see the screen – and those who weren’t there at all. I have just created my first 3 screencasts!! There is no sound and nothing fancy, but you can at least see what I did in my presentation. This is my first attempt at something like this – so be nice :)

On my server:

On YouTube (bad quality):

[update] Okay, I viewed these videos and they’re impossible to read – I’m up for any tips on how to record these screencasts so they’re optimized for YouTube. [/update]

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Intranet != Design

I just read this great quote on the Intranet Blog:

An intranet is about 20% technology, 80% people and process. To change or redesign the intranet has in fact little to do with design, and everything to do with change management.

This is very very important for library web managers to understand. You can copy all of the neat little things I did for our intranet – but it won’t matter without the support for your management and staff – without them there is no intranet.

Jenkins Intranet Mentioned on IntranetBlog

I guess it pays to go to these conferences and talk to everyone. Jenkins Intranet was mentioned on the IntranetBlog. I made sure to comment to address some of Toby’s concerns – I think sometimes people who consult big companies on their intranets forget that us little guys don’t really need as many bells and whistles – we just need something that works and makes things better (communications, fewer emails, collaboration, productivity).

KMW2006 – User Experience: Lessons Learned

Carmine Porco from Prescient Digital Media (whose company hosts the Intranet Blog) shared some case studies of Intranet redesigns with us. I want to preface this for the librarian readers that a lot of his suggestions apply more to big companies than little libraries – and I also think a lot of his suggestions apply more to our public sites than our Intranets, so think of his suggestions in that context.

Carmine started with a bad practice from August of this year. Radio Shack used email to fire 400 employees!! This was an example of bad use of technology within your organization.

Now into the meat!

#1 it’s not enough to be cool when designing your intranet (or website) – it needs to deliver value and if you can’t prove that to your higher-ups than the intranet is going fail. Keep in mind that success & value is more than money! Value is employee satisfaction, awareness and retention.

Carmine gave us an interesting example of a survey given to IBM regarding where they go first to find office information. In 1997 the number one answer was Co-Worker with 57% of the vote followed by 54% Manager and 28% Intranet. In 2003 that same survey got a much different result – Intranet was #1 with 71% followed by Co-Worker with 37% and Manager with 31%.

Next Carmine calls for a business plan before re-redesigning and intranet – this is where I think things get a bit too in-depth for a library intranet. But it does make sense that you have some sort of plan or report before designing any webpage. In my case I took the library’s strategic plan into consideration when making design and structure changes to our intranet. He also mentioned ROI (Return on Investment) – not something librarians worry about when it comes to an intranet. He gave us some interesting numbers – like the fact that an email box costs $20 a person in storage – so why not put the document you want to share on the intranet (in one place) and stop sending emails?! I’m all for that!

Like I said before, without executive support things will fall apart – so make sure your managers/directors/board (whoever) is behind you and is out there making the employees aware of the changes that are to come. This tip applies to all organizations – large and small – and really fits more with the intranet re-design project more than a public site re-design.

Carmine calls for governance – a hierarchy of people in charge of the intranet – this is probably not possible in small organizations – but if your intranet is also small it might be a good idea to think about this. In the model that Carmine showed us he had an Execututive at the top (director/manager), next a Council of people who will make decisions on behalf of the staff, then an Editor – Carmine notes (and I agree) that your webmaster should not be your editor – IT people are not trained to write content and they should not be writing the content for your organization.

Once you have a governance structure in place it’s time to do a content audit. This means going through the data on the old intranet and weeding out the junk. I can tell you from experience that this takes time and needs more than one person involved. In my case I needed to contact each department head and ask them to go through their documents – how am I supposed to know what’s important?

Now that your content is ready create a wire design – this is a design without the bells and whistles that shows the users where the content will lie on the page – this way they can move things where they think make sense and all of your hard work isn’t down the drain. The design is the final step – as Carmine says it’s the lipstick! When it does come time to provide designs – only due 2 designs and make the users pick from the 2 – otherwise you’ll end up with way more work than is necessary. Carmine said “Design by committee will kill a project!” – can you disagree? I can’t.

Lastly, think about personalization before you go all out with detailed sessions and databases to store settings. Will users really use it? Do the staff in your office change their default Windows settings? If not they’re probably not going to customize the intranet. Carmine shows some examples of customization that don’t involve the user. When the user logs in they see a weather box specific to their location (this works for big organizations spread out across many areas).

Overall, a very interesting session (and my first here at KMWorld & Intranets) – I’m going to poach some of these ideas for our website redesign and a couple sound pretty handy for our intranet as well!

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KMWorld & Intranets – Here I come

I leave tomorrow to return to California – this time I’ll be in San Jose at the KMWorld & Intranets conference. I will speaking on Thursday the 2nd about our Project Blogs on the Jenkins Intranet & I’ll be moderating the search track on Weds the 1st. If you’re there, come say hi!

[update]I forgot to mention that my schedule is available on the conference wiki [/update]

Hear me Speak at KMWorld & Intranets

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Blogging at Jenkins

I have finally gotten around to reading the latest Library Technology Report by Michael Stephens – Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software. I’m in the chapter on blogging and Michael is talking about blogging internally for communication within libraries. I’m thinking – “Boy its shame that I didn’t get to talk to Michael about our Intranet before this was published” – and then I hit page 21 – and there I am talking about our Intranet blog! I swear I do not remember talking to Michael – but apparently I did!

He writes:

Nicole C. Engard, Web Manager at Jenkins Law Library, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and author of “What I Learned Today…” (, told me an interim internal blog is in place at her library “to keep staff up to date for a few months now as a primer to the release of our new Intranet, which will include an internal news blog and an infinite number of project-specific blogs.”

Since he brought it up I thought I should give you all an update (9 months later) on how blogging is working internally at Jenkins.

Most importantly – I think – emailing is declining! Emails sent out to the entire staff are limited to emergencies (missing books, server outages, etc) only. Our news blog includes several categories to help the staff organize their posts – they are:

  • Accolades
  • Events
  • From the Community
  • HR News
  • In House News
  • In the News
  • IT News
  • Just for Fun
  • New Books
  • Outreach News
  • Research News
  • Tech Services News
  • Tips & Tricks
  • Volunteers Needed
  • Web Updates

The most frequently used is In House News (which you could probably guess). Most of the staff has posted at least once either in a comment or as a new post – some of our staff is happy to just sit back and read what we have to tell them. I have found that the blog (if nothing else) makes it much easier to find information down the road, it’s a must more powerful archival tool than email.

The most productive addition to our intranet would have to be the project-specific blogs. These are blogs that anyone can start – one for each ongoing (and completed) project within the library. These blogs are very active! And once again they are an amazing archival tool – I am working on a project now with our ILL and Reference departments and it is HUGE! This project itself has hundred and hundreds of comments and posts on it – all searchable by our intranet search engine and organized by topics (of our choosing). This makes it very easy for the web team to go through and make sure that we have completed everything that was asked of us. It also ensures that everyone who wants to know about the project does – if this were email it’s likely that conversations would go on between me and one person in ILL and then again between my assistant and someone else in ILL – which is not very productive.

A lot of people ask me what software we’re using – and the answer is “We’re not”. We are using a package developed by my team specifically to meet the needs of our librarians. We wanted features that we couldn’t find in free packages including a very robust WYSIWYG editor (we chose WYSIWYG Pro). This has allowed us to add features that you normally only find on forums – such as watching a thread to see if it has been replied to, seeing all of your comments and posts on one page, editing of your own posts at any time, and so on.

Overall I have to say that our staff is very pleased with this new way of working – and I’m ecstatic that everyone is collaborating with ease!!

If you want to learn more about our Intranet read my article from ONLINE Magazine – or come talk to me at Internet Librarian (my schedule is listed on the wiki).