Intranets2013 – Day 2

'Intranets Unite' sticker developed by StepTwo Designs for Intranets2013

It’s been a jam packed two days here at Intranets2013 and I have spent the afternoon since reflecting on the many wonderful presentations I heard and on the themes of the conference.

By some magic or ingenious design there were some common threads that played out through the two days for me:

  • Intranets Unite!
  • Asking why
  • What motivates people
  • Storytelling

I will run through my thoughts on the days presentation before exploring the above themes.

The morning began with  Kim Sbarcea the “founding force behind KM in Australia” and her keynote Creating trust and uniting staff at a global and local level. Kim shared with us a story of leadership and trust using Personas based on her team of horses. Just as in the business world, teamwork is important in the wild. The difference being that for Kim’s horses the teamwork comes naturally… not always the case in an office. Kim encouraged us to abandon traditional and unsuccessful leadership bootcamps (such as this one depicted by American Airlines) and take the approach of Appreciative Enquiry. Get the team to elicit positive responses by talking about great team experiences by saying “tell me about a time..”.

For us as intranet leaders, Kim thought it important we apply the golden circle and start with the Why (one of our themes), rather than the What. She referenced Simon Sinek’s work which is fabulous and his TED talk bears more than one viewing. In discovering this Why you need to have time, uninterrupted time for you and your team. Don’t just think it will happen, plan and create it. She also touched on the importance of leaders being fantastic communicators, and understanding the differences in people. Key to this is knowing how to motivate, and she recommends 3 things:

  • Autonomy (provide team with more time)
  • Mastery (increase team skills)
  • Purpose (get they are there for a higher purpose than cash)

Kim wrapped up by talking about her own team and the Community of Practice website they are building which is grounded in her team functioning from the benefit of her leadership and trust advice. She recommends the Marshmallow Challenge as a fun, tasty and effective team building exercise.

After the morning break Bridie Sampson discussed how you take an intranet from local to global. She broke it down for us into 6 key lessons which are important for a global intranet but should not be ignored in any intranet really:

  1. Bring people with you on the journey
  2. Participation is greater than governance – if you build it they won’t come
  3. Hold their hands and teach them to fish – don’t be a publishing house
  4. Maintain cultural awareness and find those hidden power structures
  5. Know your stuff and your people, get in with the IT crowd
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – know your strengths, prioritise, delegate

Some quotable quotes from Bridie’s presentation:

“We got them [the images] from Google, that’s okay right?” “Um no”

“If you use Comic Sans so help me God I will rip the mouse from your hand”

Next up James Robertson launched into How mobility is changing the way we work by presenting us with an old school mobile device that may not have been familiar to all of the conference crowd:

James Robertson shares an image of the Apple Newton mobile device
James asks the crowd what this device is… a solo voice responds ‘Apple Newton’

James’ presentation centred around the 5 layers of mobile design:

  • Access
  • Touch
  • Device
  • Context
  • Process

He took us through some seriously slick mobile solutions from diverse companies such as UK Parliament, Arup, Queensland University of Technology and the Department of Human Services. I recommend having a play with the Department of Human Services site, simply open in you preferred browser on your PC or laptop, then slowly resize the screen to see the magic of their responsive design.

QUT's mobile intranet for students
QUT’s mobile intranet for students (by Andy McBride)

The biggest takeout for me from James’ presentation was that enterprise mobility is our second chance to get the design right.

The after lunch sessions were 2o minute quick-fire sessions planned to avoid the lull that typically happens after the consumption of a great meal. Kicked off by Mattias Brunnert from Findwise who gave us the hot tips on How practitioners make search work.

  • Adapt the search engine to your needs
  • Design a modern user friendly interface
  • Add Metadata
  • Appoint a search manager
  • Hire or contract search experts
  • Get feedback
  • Your search strategy should include more than intranet search

Mattias reminded us that ‘information that cannot be found has zero value’  and supported this with some stats such as only 19% of people are satisfied with search (follow the Findwise blog to get the final stats when released).

Following closely was John Murphy with Tackling complexity with low tech experience. He advocated that in many cases the low tech approaches are better as they increase engagement because the user has something tangible and more relate-able to work with. It was a lesson in user experience 101 which he artfully illustrated by sharing some audio from an automated customer service telephone line “If you understand English, press one. If you do not understand English, press two”. Techniques such as personas, card-sorting  affinity diagramming, basic wire-frames  user testing can be done using paper, texta and blue-tack with sometimes a better result than fancy alternatives. Tying in nicely with James’ presentation John also advocated Luke Wroblewski’s  ‘mobile first philosophy’  which says that you should start with designing mobile and then take that simplicity of design to the desktop (Incidentally Jonathan Philips found that CCE mobile intranet began to dictate the desktop design based on user demand).

Finishing up the afternoon sessions was Ingeborg Hawighorst (Cellist and Microsoft MVP) with Out-of-the-box: re-designing a SharePoint intranet. I was really looking forward to Inge’s presentation after meeting her at the speakers dinner and hearing about her intranet and she certainly did not disappoint  I was so engrossed for much of the video demonstration that I barely tweeted or took notes… I am hoping that Inge will release the full slides. Inge took us through three high level steps to her SharePoint project:

  • Plan – Information Architecture
  • Build – Upskill, learn, explore
  • Deliver – Guide, show, enjoy

The beauty of this SharePoint 2010 intranet was in one of her self-imposed challenges: No custom code, just GUI and SharePoint designer, no touching the .NET on the server side, all on the client side. Funky features such as a Mega Nav (with smooth transition), office seating plans (using Visio services) and fully personalised quick links were all achieved without hard core coding. I’ll be looking closely at the office maps feature, it’s one of the requirements in our intranet project.

Afternoon tea came and went and then it was time for the final keynote of the conference. Sam Marshall from Clearbox Consulting closed the conference with Loving the intranet: Re-thinking employee adoption. Sam had a few quotable quotes of his own, the first “Adoption is for orphans and three legged puppies”, the point being that we should be taking our employees on a transition not enforcing adoption. Sam took us through the MARS model for adoption:

  • Mandated
  • Accepted
  • Rewarding
  • Stimulating

The idea is to stop talking about adoption and start talking about using the intranet to help people complete meaningful tasks. At this point I sadly had to step out of the conference to join an important project team meeting on the phone. But thanks to my friends in Twitterland I know that Sam rounded out his presentation talking about how important it is for people to have meaning in their work, another theme of the conference. To understand this concept he shared Dan Pink’s brilliant whiteboard video on The surprising truth about what motivates us, it’s a must watch:

The end

The end to the conference was quite abrupt for me, I was still in my meeting when the applause rang out and for a good half an hour after everyone left. Sorry to everyone I did not get to say goodbye to. Which brings me back to the themes of the conference as I saw them:

Intranets Unite!

One of the things I love when intranet people get together is the sense of community. Catching up with the intranet folk I know and getting updates, meeting the people who I tweet so often but have never seen in person and meeting new and freshly passionate intranet peers.

Asking why?

The concept of Why was threaded throughout the conference and at this late hour I doubt I can recall every time it was mentioned. From Joanne McBain’s presentation on business cases to Kim and Sam’s keynotes the thread of Why ran through the two days. Not just asking why of customers (why do you want to do that) but asking the why of ourselves (why are we doing this) so we can share that answer and spread the intranet love.

What motivates people

Realising that people come to work for more than just dollars that they are usually here for a higher purpose. Further to that, actually discerning what that motivation is and the using that as the magic formula to design them fantastic intranet solutions to help them be more effective in their work.


I didn’t attend Shawn Callahan‘s session on storytelling (I have been lucky enough to see it before) but I didn’t need to go to feel the strength of storytelling at this conference. Every speaker had a story, artfully constructed and passionately executed which shared personal and professional journeys for us to learn from (with a distinct animals and children flavour).

I feel as if this and my post about Day 1 have barely scratched the surface in terms of amazing content, but I have found it useful to get it all out in type. As the speakers slides are released I will share links at the end of this post, and to any other blogs that have covered the event.

Bring on next year’s conference, here’s hoping I can go.


Also check out my Day 1 summary and UX Sketchnoting workshop notes from Day 3. I will add links to any other conference blogs and information as I come across them…

2 Responses

  1. Thanks Rebecca! These overviews have been really thoughtful and witty and you’ve really understood the core of what the speakers were saying and transmitted that in your wrap ups.

    I will be re-reading these as I go through my notes when I get back to work too.

    Thanks again and look forward to seeing you at the next intranet gathering!

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