When faced with the task of building an intranet – or really solving any kind of collaboration/information sharing challenges – most people look for big sweeping solutions. Bad idea. Start your journey by looking at what’s already working and replicate it like bees. The trick, of course, is finding the “bright spots.”
Supporting the Connectors
Some people are better than others at finding bright spots, but there are simple steps you can take to support those who are already good at it and become better at it yourself. Be careful of just going to the people who have the most followers or who posted the most on your leaderboards. Start with the intended audience – who needs to be involved and engaged – and work backward. Some questions you can ask:
- what are the commonalities of the roles between the intended user?
- who provides support to these end users?
- what existing structures connect these people?
- how else do these people communicate and get in touch?
You don’t need to hire a consultant. Take charge!
Look beyond dashboards
Dashboards give you performance metrics for teams, but may not help you find stories where individuals are making a difference. This is the key message – a small group of people, working together outside team structures, are much more likely to provide insight into what is working well. Their work will not show up on dashboards, polls, or even end of year measures of success. That doesn’t mean their stories are hidden.
A simple social layer
I hear a lot of grief about Yammer. From what I’ve read and in conversations, the main issue is two-fold:
1) lack of intelligence – it’s not particularly good at making recommendations
2) lack of integration – it’s outside of work processes, and therefore something “extra” you need to do
3) noise – as more people join the fray, the conversation moves from business to clutter. Kind of like Facebook.
All of these are true. The question becomes does Yammer still provide value? Unquestionably. Yammer, and like minded simple social layers, are great at helping you find and follow up on bright spots. They’re also free to use. Yammer, notably, is also becoming less of an extra. Read more about how the Activity Stream is meshing with other enterprise processes.
A quick story: in August, Melissa sent out a message asking if anyone knew a teacher who could serve on a panel about environmental science. Within 2 hours she had four responses – not just “i think you should talk to Josh who might know someone” but actual leads and email addresses.
Bright spots are stories. Stories are shared by people. Yammer is a way to connect people to stories in a way that’s searchable, simple, and fast. Bingo.
How to build this into your routine
What most people don’t realize is how little time you need to use something like Yammer or Chatter valuable. Here are a few basic tips:
- schedule time in your day to review the stream. Popular posts with a lot of ‘likes’ and comments will show up at the top. This is always a good place to start
- search by topic. Not only can you search by tags and keywords, but you can actually just search like you would on a regular search engine. The search tools keep getting better. Don’t just log on, be strategic in what you’re looking for.
- follow groups. Groups are some of the best way to stay connected. You’ll find some more emergent than others.
- watch the people who get a lot of responses to their post. Even if they’re not on your team, they’re very likely to be connected to some of the biggest and newest ideas.
How to digest the information
You know what to look for, where to look, and have a plan to set time to do it. Time to put it all under the broiler for the golden crust. The key to turning the bright spots – both people and stories – into a strategy or product is to sort through what is scalable so that you can apply it to other teams. This comes in two forms:
1) a truly scalable practice that is context-agnostic
2) a practice that is rooted in context but can be translated to others with similar challenges
Take these two instances.
- One team set up a Google Site to help manage an organization-wide survey. The site was hyper-specific, but its advantage lay in just that – the owners could focus their support and content through quick iterations revolving around a very specific topic. While the survey itself wasn’t particularly scalable, the model they had developed of Q&A paired with templates and tools on a specialized topic worked perfectly, and was highly scalable. Even the “human” capital model behind the support was replicable.
- Another team built a tool in Microsoft OneNote to create a “data dictionary,” meant to build consistency of definitions and methodologies. We saw this as an opportunity to leverage OneNote as a Google Doc alternative when multiple dimensions and types of content needed to live within one document (e.g. spreadsheets, text, tables, notes, etc.). I’m still not 100% bought into OneNote, but for other teams with the multi-media needs, we were able to help share the practice.
Pulling it all together
Bright spots help you find what’s working and who the leaders are. Support, follow, and embrace the connectors to find scalable and contextualized solutions. The best evangelists will be those who already have seen success with a tool.