What a beautiful intranet looks like

15 January 2013

By Matt Wilson – Originally posted on Ragan.com.

Judges for the Digital Workplace Group’s ‘My Beautiful Intranet’ competition said looks aren’t everything. A look at who won, and why.

Like Plato, the judges of the Digital Workplace Group’s “My Beautiful Intranet” determined they had to define beauty before they could recognize it.

“We had quite a theological debate about what ‘beautiful’ really is,” Louise Kennedy, usability evaluator and benchmarking program manager at Digital Workplace Group, told the hosts of Digital Workplace Live, the forum’s monthly broadcast about intranets.

'Love your intranet' imageRather than focus on slick graphics or big, bold pictures this year, the judges decided to look beneath the surface for well-embedded features, engaging looks, and social interactivity.

“We really did pay attention to the social bit when we were doing the judging,” said Luke Mepham, global intranet and user experience manager at Aviva.

The intranet that ended up winning this year’s competition, International Enterprise Singapore’s, doesn’t have a ton of flash. Instead, it puts content from employees front and center. A world map in the top-center displays micro-blog messages from employees all over the globe, and a prominent text box on the home page encourages employees to collaborate.

“It gave up space for pretty pictures and gave that space over to what people were saying,” Mepham said. “We thought, if we were a new starter here, we’d feel welcomed.”

Rebecca Richmond, managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Melcrum Communications, said looks are great, but you have to persuade people to collaborate.

“It’s the practical application that’s so key,” she said. “It can be beautiful, but it’s got to be useful. If people don’t feel empowered to collaborate, no matter how sexy your platform is, they won’t connect.”

Other topics in this month’s IBF live broadcast included:

Being a ‘pilot light’

Encouraging collaboration is “really the most cost-effective thing you can do in 2013,” Richmond said. You don’t need a fancy platform to do it, either. All you need is something that gets people use to the idea of collaborating.

Even better, find the leaders in your organization who are already collaborating with employees, online and in person, and use them as a “pilot light,” she said. Have them lead other leaders to do the same.

Sparking conversation

Del Green, manager of health care organization Bupa’s intranet, Bupa Live, gave a tour of his organization’s intranet, which includes an “Ask the Crowd” feature, where employees can ask anything. It doesn’t have to be work related. For example, one recent question from an employee was about whether she, a Mac fan, should consider buying a Google Chromebook.

Digital Workplace Group founder and CEO Paul Miller asked whether those kinds of conversations were actually productive for the company.

“Getting the conversation started is the first thing; then you move on to make good use of the conversations that are happening,” answered Mepham.

Green clicked over to a different thread about recognizing employees for good work and other achievements. He also showed the landing pages for the Bupa Global Challenge, in which employees collaborated to walk “around the world” and posted videos of themselves walking, as well as live news and video from the 2012 Bupa Business Forum. In the past, the forum was merely something the bosses went to every year. Now, employees watch the videos and talk about them.

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