Visitors

free counters

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Benefits of Good SharePoint Design

Mike Vinson

The Benefits of Good SharePoint Design

With the recent release of SharePoint 2010 and all its new functional goodness, the temptation to upgrade or install a new instance has become even more tempting. More and more companies are coming around to understanding the benefits that SharePoint can bring to their business and now that many have taken the plunge to roll out Office 2007 (or even 2010!) this is no longer a barrier to integration.
With the evolution of geographically-diverse offices and workers, thanks to the increased availability of broadband and mobile phone access, the case for SharePoint has never been stronger. According to a survey by  CitrixOnline - "70% of employees see access to mobility devices and applications as key to productivity". As connectivity options become more available, this can only increase further. Having access to corporate information whilst working from anywhere with an Internet connection is a very attractive proposition to employees and employers alike. Flexible working is something that is becoming more and more important in this modern world and offering such facilities can be a big advantage when attracting new recruits into the business.
Establishing a corporate intranet using SharePoint can help your business to achieve this objective. However, SharePoint's biggest strength is also one of its biggest weaknesses. Time and time again, I come across companies that have happily installed SharePoint within the business and have sat back and expected users to magically produce a fully functioning corporate intranet just through general use. SharePoint is extremely intuitive to most users and anyone with an understanding of how a web page works can come to grips with it. Here-in lies the problem - it becomes a sprawling mess very quickly. Sure, this can be managed via permissions but once 'Owner' permissions have been granted to a user at Team Site level, who knows how far down the rabbit hole goes in terms of sub sites, lists and libraries. Trying to find something specific? Good luck. Even assuming that search has been configured correctly, no doubt there will be three or four different versions of the same document in different libraries dotted around the place.
Designing a corporate intranet is not easy but it is something that is vital for a successful implementation. In order for the design to be correct, all the different parts of the business must be consulted and requirements gathered. These requirements should capture how users intend to use SharePoint functionality, how sites should be structured, what lists and libraries they will need and so on. These requirements not only help to establish a great foundation from which to build your SharePoint intranet but can also help to streamline your business and identify less than optimal processes. Holding user workshops will also raise awareness (and hopefully interest!) of the project and inevitably good ideas will come out of them which can be incorporated into the design. It is only once the requirements have been gathered that the SharePoint implementation can be designed in such a way that the structure of the intranet makes sense to those that are expected to use it.
A fully-fledged SharePoint implementation is designed to form the information backbone of your corporation. As such, it will touch upon and affect every area of your business. It should be viewed as a great opportunity to 'get your house in order'. For example, file shares should be analysed to establish who exactly 'owns' files contained within them. One advantage of doing this is that duplicate files and overlaps in information ownership can be identified and dealt with. The owner of individual files will determine under which area of the intranet they will live. Old files should be archived off and the remaining ones uploaded to the appropriate team site and library. If your Active Directory could do with some organisation, this is a great opportunity to get this ball rolling. Organisation Units and Groups can be created to mirror that of the SharePoint structure. This will also make user permissions easier to maintain in the long term.
The 'look and feel' of the SharePoint implementation is also very important. Sure, the vanilla theme is OK but it is important that the style of the site is fitting with your corporate branding and colour scheme. It needs to be an extension of your business rather than a separate entity. By approaching your site design in this way, you will get greater buy-in from your users and combined with promoting the site internally, you should start to see its use increase. Ideally, the goal should be to have SharePoint the first point of call when looking for information within the organisation.
Business Intelligence and the exposure of performance management information should also be incorporated into your intranet design. Typically, the implementation of a BI solution built on top of SharePoint is managed via a separate project but, nonetheless, it should be kept in mind when designing your SharePoint implementation. SharePoint 2010 has seen much tighter integration with other Microsoft enterprise products such as Office 2010, Visio 2010, Project Server 2010, PerformancePoint analytics and the SQL Server Business Intelligence stack. Management and operation performance information that was once contained within spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations can be made available via the intranet by publishing them to SharePoint. These documents can be viewed in the browser rather than downloaded to a client machine making access to information much easier and quicker for those working remotely with less than ideal Internet connections. PerformancePoint dashboards with analytical and interactive reports can be built to expose performance management information contained within databases or other data stores within your organisation.
Once you have consolidated all your corporate information into a nice, clean SharePoint intranet, the work does not end here. Good governance is critical going forward to ensure that all your hard work does not go to waste. Periodic reviews of the structure and content of sites should be conducted to ensure that information is not being duplicated across the site or, even worse, being saved to shared drives! Once the intranet is live, there is a compelling argument for removing access to shared drives for this very reason. Improving the site iteratively based on user feedback will go a long way in ensuring that users continue to use the intranet and increased productivity is maintained.
So what are the benefits of all of this hard work? This is a good question to which the answer depends on the extent of the effort that you went to. However, ultimately the benefits should be (at a minimum):
  1. Greater accessibility to information for those that have the right to it combined with increased security of information for those that don't.
  2. Elimination of duplicated documents and files.
  3. Greater content 'ownership' with information stored in intuitive locations.
  4. Removal of old, out of date information with a promotion of new and relevant information across the business.
  5. Increased productivity of workers by spending less time looking for certain information.
There are many other benefits that SharePoint can bring to your business when designed and implemented correctly. However, a SharePoint project should be taken seriously and investment in requirements gathering and design is critical in its successful implementation.
Published Jun 25 2010, 03:50 PM by MikeVinson Filed under:

SharePoint - Business Benefits

SharePoint Business Benefits

 

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is the connective tissue - the glue - that binds together client-side outputs of office workers into a manageable, searchable, secure and accessible information environment.
It enables valuable business knowledge to be captured and encapsulated into an easily searchable information store.
It enables business owners and managers to see key performance indicators (KPI's) at a glance in provided templates or in custom web parts.
It enables business databases to be linked into a central information repository. It empowers you to run your business.
Of course you may well need expert guidance which is what Solvetech provide.

Facilitates Team Working and Knowledge Sharing

SharePoint facilitates team working by creating team spaces where team members can place all of the information tools and knowledge that they need to fulfill their objectives.
Sharing knowledge within the team enables everyone to gain access to tools and knowledge that best-of-breed team workers employ. This raise the quality and productivity of the team.
 

Improved Business Intelligence

Enable people to make better-informed decisions by presenting business-critical information in one central location. Office SharePoint Server 2007 makes it easy to create live, interactive business intelligence (BI) portals that assemble and display business-critical information from disparate sources, using integrated BI capabilities such as dashboards, Web Parts, scorecards, key performance indicators (KPI's).
 

Increased Efficiency

Enables people in the workplace to have easy access to all of the information they need to do their job. They can be located anywhere in the world so long as they have an internet connection.
 

Improved Productivity & Management Control

Boost employee productivity by simplifying everyday business activities. Take advantage of out-of-the-box workflow's for initiating, tracking, and reporting common business activities such as document review and approval, issue tracking, and signature collection.
 

Enables Legal Compliance

Help meet regulatory requirements through comprehensive control over content. By specifying security settings, storage policies, auditing policies, and expiration actions for business records in accordance with compliance regulations, you can help ensure your sensitive business information can be controlled and managed effectively. And you can reduce litigation risk for your organization.
 

Improved Access to Information

Simplify organisation-wide access to both structured and unstructured information across disparate systems. Give your users access to business data found in common line-of-business systems like SAP and Siebel through Office SharePoint Server 2007. Enterprise-wide Managed Document Repositories help your organizations store and organize business documents in one central location.
Facilitates the dismantling of information silos where key business knowledge is stored and lost when a member of staff leaves the organization - this saves time, money and improves quality.
 

Simplified Data Capture

Without coding any custom applications, you can use smart, electronic forms–driven solutions to collect critical business information from customers, partners, and suppliers through a Web browser.

Top 10 benefits of SharePoint

Top 10 benefits of SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 is a powerful collaborative tool that allows users in your organization to easily create, manage, and build their own collaborative web sites.

Improve team productivity with easy-to-use collaborative tools

http://sherweb.com/Assets/a46496e7829c4e39a4abad3b7fd20c18_improved2010.jpg
Connect people with the information and resources they need. Users can create team workspaces, coordinate calendars, organize documents, and receive important notifications and updates through communication features including announcements and alerts, as well as the new templates for creating blogs and wikis. While mobile, users can take advantage of convenient offline synchronization capabilities.

Easily manage documents and help ensure integrity of content

http://sherweb.com/Assets/6abbbcd4e86944bc8561aa6dcd8e6802_documents2010.jpg
With enhanced document management capabilities including the option to activate required document checkout before editing, the ability to view revisions to documents and restore to previous versions, and the control to set document and item-level security, Microsoft SharePoint Foundation can help ensure the integrity of documents stored on team sites.

Get users up to speed quickly

http://sherweb.com/Assets/d0658d220056491c992458ce44c9f974_users2010.jpg
User interface improvements in Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 include enhanced views and menus that simplify navigation within and among SharePoint sites. Integration with familiar productivity tools, including programs in the Microsoft Office system, makes it easy for users to get up to speed quickly. For example, users can create workspaces, post and edit documents, and view and update calendars on SharePoint sites, all while working within Microsoft Office system files and programs.

Deploy solutions tailored to your business processes

http://sherweb.com/Assets/c7c54718b0d44512bd46e988a3278bd9_greencalendar2010.jpg
While standard workspaces in Microsoft SharePoint Foundation are easy to implement, organizations seeking a more customized deployment can get started quickly with application templates for addressing specific business processes or sets of tasks.

Build a collaboration environment quickly and easily

http://sherweb.com/Assets/12171372d5524d78aafcd66b4c44cf9e_collab2010.jpg
Easy to manage and easy to scale, Microsoft SharePoint Foundation enables IT departments to deploy a collaborative environment with minimal administrative time and effort. Because deployment settings can be flexibly changed, less planning time is required and companies can get started even faster.

Reduce the complexity of securing business information

http://sherweb.com/Assets/c2b7747e4cb1412eb4b76d80b20642f9_secure2010.jpg
Microsoft SharePoint Foundation provides IT with advanced administrative controls for increasing the security of information resources, while decreasing cost and complexity associated with site provisioning, site management, and support. Take advantage of better controls for site life-cycle management, site memberships and permissions, and storage limits.

Provide sophisticated controls for securing company resources

http://sherweb.com/Assets/bd695c93fc324c12816015dae8b5a381_control2010.jpg
IT departments can now set permissions as deep down as the document or item level, and site managers, teams, and other work groups can initiate self-service collaborative workspaces and tasks within these preset parameters. New features enable IT to set top-down policies for better content recovery and users, groups, and team workspace site administration.

Take file sharing to a new level with robust storage capabilities

http://sherweb.com/Assets/5c368b4bcb4b439385451556685bcb49_folder2010.jpg
Microsoft SharePoint Foundation supplies workspaces with document storage and retrieval features, including check-in/check-out functionality, version history, custom metadata, and customizable views. New features in Microsoft SharePoint Foundation include enhanced recycle bin functionality for easier recovery of content and improved backup and restoration.

Easily scale your collaboration solution to meet business needs

http://sherweb.com/Assets/afde9ae18d1849b7b816b2c1ee8a9908_folders-2010.jpg
Quickly and easily manage and configure Microsoft SharePoint Foundation using a Web browser or command-line utilities. Manage server farms, servers, and sites using the Microsoft .NET Framework, which enables a variety of custom and third-party administration solution offerings.

Provide a cost-effective foundation for building Web-based applications

http://sherweb.com/Assets/7035f92a2db5473586583b9f82812d30_checked2010.jpg
Microsoft SharePoint Foundation exposes a common framework for document management and collaboration from which flexible and scalable Web applications and Internet sites, specific to the needs of the organization, can be built. Integration with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2010 expands these capabilities further to offer enterprise-wide functionality for records management, search, workflows, portals, personalized sites, and more.

Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers

Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers

Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading.
Over a third of children in the U.S. enter school unprepared to learn. They lack the vocabulary, sentence structure, and other basic skills that are required to do well in school. Children who start behind generally stay behind – they drop out, they turn off. Their lives are at risk.
Why are so many children deficient in the skills that are critical to school readiness?
Children's experience with books plays an important role. Many children enter school with thousands of hours of experience with books. Their homes contain hundreds of picture books. They see their parents and brothers and sisters reading for pleasure. Other children enter school with fewer than 25 hours of shared book reading. There are few if any children's books in their homes. Their parents and siblings aren't readers.
Picture book reading provides children with many of the skills that are necessary for school readiness: vocabulary, sound structure, the meaning of print, the structure of stories and language, sustained attention, the pleasure of learning, and on and on. Preschoolers need food, shelter, love; they also need the nourishment of books.
It is important to read frequently with your preschooler. Children who are read to three times per week or more do much better in later development than children who are read to less than three times per week. It is important to begin reading to your child at an early age. By nine months of age, infants can appreciate books that are interesting to touch or that make sounds.

What is dialogic reading?

How we read to preschoolers is as important as how frequently we read to them. The Stony Brook Reading and Language Project has developed a method of reading to preschoolers that we call dialogic reading.
When most adults share a book with a preschooler, they read and the child listens. In dialogic reading, the adult helps the child become the teller of the story. The adult becomes the listener, the questioner, the audience for the child. No one can learn to play the piano just by listening to someone else play. Likewise, no one can learn to read just by listening to someone else read. Children learn most from books when they are actively involved.
The fundamental reading technique in dialogic reading is the PEER sequence. This is a short interaction between a child and the adult. The adult:
  • Prompts the child to say something about the book,
  • Evaluates the child's response,
  • Expands the child's response by rephrasing and adding information to it, and
  • Repeats the prompt to make sure the child has learned from the expansion.
Imagine that the parent and the child are looking at the page of a book that has a picture of a fire engine on it. The parent says, "What is this?" (the prompt) while pointing to the fire truck. The child says, truck, and the parent follows with "That's right (the evaluation); it's a red fire truck (the expansion); can you say fire truck?" (the repetition).
Except for the first reading of a book to children, PEER sequences should occur on nearly every page. Sometimes you can read the written words on the page and then prompt the child to say something. For many books, you should do less and less reading of the written words in the book each time you read it. Leave more to the child.

How to prompt children

There are five types of prompts that are used in dialogic reading to begin PEER sequences. You can remember these prompts with the word CROWD.
  • Completion prompts
    You leave a blank at the end of a sentence and get the child to fill it in. These are typically used in books with rhyme or books with repetitive phases. For example, you might say, "I think I'd be a glossy cat. A little plump but not too ____," letting the child fill in the blank with the word fat. Completion prompts provide children with information about the structure of language that is critical to later reading.
  • Recall prompts
    These are questions about what happened in a book a child has already read. Recall prompts work for nearly everything except alphabet books. For example, you might say, "Can you tell me what happened to the little blue engine in this story?" Recall prompts help children in understanding story plot and in describing sequences of events. Recall prompts can be used not only at the end of a book, but also at the beginning of a book when a child has been read that book before.
  • Open-ended prompts
    These prompts focus on the pictures in books. They work best for books that have rich, detailed illustrations. For example, while looking at a page in a book that the child is familiar with, you might say, "Tell me what's happening in this picture." Open-ended prompts help children increase their expressive fluency and attend to detail.
  • Wh- prompts
    These prompts usually begin with what, where, when, why, and how questions. Like open-ended prompts, wh- prompts focus on the pictures in books. For example, you might say, "What's the name of this?" while pointing to an object in the book. Wh- questions teach children new vocabulary.
  • Distancing prompts
    These ask children to relate the pictures or words in the book they are reading to experiences outside the book. For example, while looking at a book with a picture of animals on a farm, you might say something like, "Remember when we went to the animal park last week. Which of these animals did we see there?" Distancing prompts help children form a bridge between books and the real world, as well as helping with verbal fluency, conversational abilities, and narrative skills.
Distancing prompts and recall prompts are more difficult for children than completion, open-ended, and wh- prompts. Frequent use of distancing and recall prompts should be limited to four- and five-year-olds.
Virtually all children's books are appropriate for dialogic reading. The best books have rich detailed pictures, or are interesting to your child. Always follow your child's interest when sharing books with your child.

A technique that works

Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. We have found these effects with hundreds of children in areas as geographically different as New York, Tennessee, and Mexico, in settings as varied as homes, preschools, and daycare centers, and with children from economic backgrounds ranging from poverty to affluence.
Dialogic reading is just children and adults having a conversation about a book. Children will enjoy dialogic reading more than traditional reading as long as you mix-up your prompts with straight reading, vary what you do from reading to reading, and follow the child's interest. Keep it light. Don't push children with more prompts than they can handle happily. Keep it fun.
Permission for this article was provided by Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, Ph.D., Director, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

Friday, October 14, 2011

RIM fails to answer key questions about outage | Computerworld Hong Kong

http://www.cw.com.hk/content/rim-fails-answer-key-questions-about-outage?section=breaking_news&utm_source=lyris&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=cw_daily

RIM fails to answer key questions about outage
 
By Antony Savvas | Oct 14, 2011

BlackBerry manufacturer RIM fails to answer a series of key technical questions about its catastrophic three day outage, though its email and BlackBerry Messager (BBM) have been up and running again.
 
In a letter to customers, Robin Bienfait, RIM's chief information officer, said email systems are operating and the company is continuing to clear any backlogged messages in the US, Canada, Latin America, and EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa). BBM traffic is online and traffic is passing successfully in all these regions, he added.
 
Browsing was however temporarily unavailable in EMEIA as the company's support teams monitor service stability and continue to assess when the service can be safely brought online. Browsing was however available in the US, Canada, and Latin America except for customers serviced by three carrier networks in Latin America that use infrastructure in EMEIA, Bienfait said.
 
RIM hasn't found the problem
In spite of RIM issuing a statement Wednesday that a switch had caused the problems, Stephen Bates, the company's UK managing director, said staff at the Slough data centre did not know the cause. They "thought they had found the problem but had not", he said.
 
As the outage spread to the US and Canada, Computerworld UK asked RIM a series of questions about the outage, but received no response.
 
In spite of the three day outage hitting millions of customers around the world, RIM has not answered:
 
1) The exact nature and location of the problem
 
2) Which vendor made the switch device, if this was the cause
 
3) Where the failover site is located, and why a failover did not happen
 
It also failed to state if an upgrade preceded the problem. The Guardian newspaper reported recently that the initial outage may have followed a software upgrade to a RIM database that led to corruption problems. Attempts to switch back to an older version of the database led to a collapse, it suggested.
 
In 2008, a major RIM outage in the US disconnected 12 million BlackBerry customers. Following that incident there were criticisms that the large US customer base was too reliant on RIM's main data centre in Waterloo, Canada. In 2009, RIM opened an extra data centre in Texas and started building another one in Atlanta. Other regions appear to rely on the single data centre in the UK.
 
As Bates apologised at an 'innovation' event today to his seven million UK customers for the ongoing three day service outage, the company is facing growing calls for possible compensation for customers.

Cutting Through the Clutter: What Makes an Intranet Successful?

Eleven years of portal development at the Wharton School yields successful strategies for enterprise information management
Most large enterprises now have some type of portal to organize their internal information services. Few, however, have the long history of the SPIKE project at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Originally developed during the 1994–95 school year, SPIKE was an intranet information portal before the term "information portal" became common, and it was one of the first enterprise information systems in higher education.1 Updated each school year in response to feedback from current students, Wharton's SPIKE has expanded beyond the Web to include everything from large video screens throughout the Wharton campus to students' handheld devices. Through more than a decade of development, the school has learned a number of lessons about what makes a successful intranet information service.

A Brief History of SPIKE

The SPIKE project began in 1994 when a group of Wharton MBA students approached the school's IT organization about revamping the school's information environment. At that time Wharton provided the usual set of electronic information services, including e-mail and
NetNews discussion groups using text-based interfaces to UNIX systems. Although many academic and administrative departments maintained Web sites, these exhibited little overall integration and were primarily organized around the school's administrative structure. The students wanted something easier to use that presented information in one place, arranged according to their needs.
While the students and staff working on the project explored several proprietary solutions, Wharton's IT staff believed that the Web and Internet technologies would provide a better long-term solution. But—back in 1994—the Web was fairly primitive. Web clients supported only basic HTML and server-side CGI calls. The first generation of Web browsers did not include Java, JavaScript, or Flash support. By enhancing the basic Web architecture with selected client tools and a custom-developed interface program, Wharton believed it could provide students with the functionality they sought while adhering to the "open" standards and scalable enterprise solutions of the emerging Internet technologies.
For the launch of the first version of SPIKE in 1995, Wharton developed Web-based interfaces to all of the school's key student services, switched its host-based e-mail to an IMAP-compliant system, and developed an integrated "launch pad" interface written in Visual Basic to tie it all together. (See Figure 1.) SPIKE quickly became the focal point for the school's communications with students.

Click image for larger view.
SPIKE 2, launched in fall 1996, added features based on feedback from students and administrators, including the ability for students to customize the SPIKE interface. This feature was a result of what became known as the "ninth button problem." A number of departments felt the eight primary "launch pad" buttons needed just one more button—that linked to their particular department or service. To address this requirement, the SPIKE interface expanded to include a secondary set of "launch pad" buttons, which could be customized to include links to additional online services of the student's choosing.
SPIKE 3 in fall 1997 brought significant changes to SPIKE's architecture and interface.2 The Visual Basic program used for the SPIKE interface had become cumbersome. It was available only on the Windows platform, and the locally installed client program could not easily be updated after the software was distributed.
Fortunately, Web browsers had evolved significantly and by then included the ability to program the Web client using JavaScript. JavaScript and client-side cookies allowed the features and customization options of the previous versions to be expanded without a locally-installed client application. SPIKE 3 eliminated the Visual Basic program and replaced it with a purely browser-based interface. SPIKE's look also changed significantly, using much of the interface to present frequently updated content including a student calendar and a "What's New" announcement service. (See Figure 2.)

Click image for larger view.
SPIKE 4 included personalizable configurations for both MBA and undergraduate students and expanded the information broadcasting features beyond the Web with a collection of services Wharton dubbed "zero-click SPIKE"—SPIKE content delivered automatically to students. This was the era of "push" technology, and content was sent to screensavers and large-screen displays around campus. SPIKE 4 included both PointCast SmartScreens (using PointCast's Intranet Broadcast Server) and Microsoft Active Channel screensavers. These distribution options were updated in sync with the Web-based interface by a custom-developed tool known as the SPIKE Broadcast Server.
SPIKE 5 enhanced a number of SPIKE's services and extended the information services beyond Wharton-specific content to include other information of interest to students, including the local weather forecast. A "fun stuff" toolbar, among other diversions, displayed randomly selected quotes from Wharton students and faculty collected over the years by the Wharton Journal, the school's student newspaper.
SPIKE 6 (2000) offered a slimmed down version for Palm handheld devices, including custom AvantGo channels. It also gave students the ability to move SPIKE content into their personal information management tools, such as adding events from the calendar to their personal Microsoft Outlook calendar, Palm Datebook, or Yahoo Calendar account. Microsoft Outlook users had the option to replace the standard "Outlook Today" screen with a custom SPIKE Dashboard interface, which displayed personal information (such as the student's individual calendar and e-mail inbox) alongside SPIKE's student events calendar and "What's New" announcements.
The seventh incarnation of SPIKE marked the most dramatic architectural overhaul since SPIKE 3. Using Adobe (then Macromedia) ColdFusion and Microsoft SQL server, MySPIKE, launched in 2001, was the most customizable version to date. (See Figure 3.)

Click image for larger view.
A full-fledged information portal, MySPIKE included individualized information—such as each student's class schedule—along with more general-purpose information such as weather and stock-market data. Students could rearrange the modules in the SPIKE interface and choose from a broad selection of general-information news feeds to further personalize the portal. Following versions added more features, including MyCareer, which added a personalized interface to Wharton's career management services.
The tenth version of SPIKE, SPIKE X, incorporated additional services that had evolved in parallel with SPIKE over the years, such as the Wharton Video Network's digital video content from Wharton courses. Services available in Wharton's new $140 million learning facility, Jon M. Huntsman Hall, were also incorporated into the interface, such as the status of (and the ability to schedule) the building's 57 group study rooms.
Adobe (Macromedia) Flash components include a poll for instant feedback on school issues. SPIKE Mobile automatically switches to a handheld-compatible version of the interface for users who access SPIKE from Palm, PocketPC, RIM Blackberry, or cell phone devices. RSS feeds of SPIKE's information services provide the option to add SPIKE content to blog aggregators and other personal information resources.
The current version, SPIKE 11, includes an SMS text-messaging interface that lets students view their course schedules or reserve group study rooms by sending a text message from their cell phones to a five-digit "short code" used for SPIKE services. SPIKE 11 also includes integrated message boards that automatically display recent messages and announcements in the SPIKE interface and an enhanced data analysis system for the school's Course Auction system. (See Figure 4.)

Click image for larger view.
As of this writing, Wharton's SPIKE team is working with current Wharton students to develop the 12th annual version of SPIKE. SPIKE 12 will launch in fall 2006.

Lessons Learned

What lessons has Wharton gleaned from more than a decade of portal development? While there is no simple formula for building a successful Web portal, a few general principles emerged during the past 11 years of Wharton's intranet development.
  • Reflect the world view of your audience.
  • The first, and perhaps most obvious, key to developing a successful intranet is to work collaboratively with your audience—faculty, administrators, and, most significantly, students—to reflect their world view. As obvious as this may sound, it is often overlooked. When the effort to develop an enterprise-wide portal comes from the enterprise itself, the final product often reflects that viewpoint. Forget about your organizational hierarchy and think about how your students look for information. Organize your intranet around their goals.
    Also be wary of organizing your intranet around the underlying technological infrastructure. Developers have a tendency to group services by their underlying technologies—putting Web bulletin boards here, Usenet newsgroups there, and blogs over there. It's usually better to group these services by topic ("Course Discussions," "For Sale," and so on) rather than segregating them by technology.
    In past years, Wharton students have even used Adobe Photoshop to mock up screenshots showing their vision of the next SPIKE interface.
  • The customer is always quasi-right (do what they mean, not what they say).
  • While you need to work closely with your target audience, there is a difference between listening to their goals and blindly following their mandates. In many cases, a request for new features comes not as a description of functionality but as a demand for a specific implementation. You'll hear statements like "We need to use technology x here." But perhaps technology x doesn't fit into your infrastructure, or maybe it's inappropriate for any number of reasons.
    While you could explain all the reasons why technology x is a really bad choice, a better approach is to probe for the students' underlying needs. Ask "What capabilities would technology x give you?" You might find a better way of addressing their requirements.
  • Balance the demands of your audience with those of your organization.
  • While you should always start with the needs of your target audience, temper these with your judgment about the goals of the institution. Part of your job as a portal developer is to balance the requirements of different constituencies to construct a system that works for the enterprise as a whole.
    With MySPIKE, for example, students could build their own interface by selecting which modules to display and their position on the screen. But two key modules—the student events calendar and the "What's New" announcements—could not be removed from the SPIKE interface. According to Bob Zarazowski, who led the team that developed MySPIKE,
    School offices and student groups depended on [using] these as "broadcast" channels to reach all students. If [content] publishers weren't confident that an announcement to all MBA students would be seen by all MBA students, they would want to send the same announcement out as e-mail.
    And the information clutter would only increase. Balancing what the audience wants with what will work at your institution is a key responsibility of the development group.
  • Select a technology that lets you move quickly.
  • Although you want to avoid organizing your intranet around the technology, that's not to say the technology doesn't matter. Selecting the right technology is key to the development process. Working collaboratively with your audience often means using "rapid development" techniques.
    "Projects like this often don't have detailed specifications at the outset," explained Zarazowski. Tools that allow developers to quickly create prototypes that can then be modified or refined are essential.
    According to Zarazowski, "ColdFusion lets us rapidly prototype and deploy each new version of SPIKE." Encapsulating routine functions (such as user authentication) into custom tags that developers can easily share permits quick development of new services. In addition, ColdFusion's tag-based markup paradigm lets both programmers and graphic designers modify code at any stage. While this "test it and see" style of development may be counter to some traditional structured programming practices, it often reflects real-world development cycles.
  • Follow your audience: It's not just about the Web anymore.
  • While we typically think of "portal" and "Web portal" as synonymous, that's outdated '90s thinking. Notice where your students spend their time—such as using their cell phones and PDAs. Follow your audience. Put your information where they're already looking rather than attempting to train them to look elsewhere.
    "A lot of our students—particularly the incoming undergrads—are as comfortable using their cell phones for text messaging as they are for making phone calls," pointed out Dan Alig, who leads the current SPIKE development team.
  • Keep content consistent across platforms.
  • As you move your information onto multiple platforms, avoid fragmenting your content. The point is not simply to publish to handheld devices or large plasma screens. You need to manage the information so the same content flows simultaneously to all these devices (albeit with a different presentation based on the characteristics of each medium).
    Wharton CIO and Associate Dean Deirdre Woods noted that SPIKE is "more than just a Web site; [it's] now an essential information management tool for both students and administrators at Wharton."
    As part of Wharton's SPIKE project, the school developed a simple content publishing system back in the SPIKE 3 era (during the 1996–97 school year). Although the SPIKE Broadcast Server has gone through a number of architectural changes, the goal has been the same—to collect core content and distribute it simultaneously to various devices and presentation platforms.
  • Centralize management, but decentralize input.
  • While content synchronization may bring to mind a large, monolithic data management system, having a canonical source for each type of content doesn't require a single, centralized system.
    RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and similar techniques make it easy to keep content in sync in a distributed environment. While selected core content (such as your school's student calendar) may be maintained in a central database, other content could be generated by student blogs or independently managed discussion boards.
    In fact, it's important to keep the maintenance of the information close to the source of the content. Distributed departmental units and student organizations are the best sources of information about their groups.
    There is, of course, a peril in this type of distributed content management if the presentation of the information becomes fragmented.
    In the first few years of the SPIKE project, it was difficult to encourage content owners around the school to update SPIKE's information services—departments and student groups were more focused on maintaining their own Web sites than supporting a centralized publishing activity. Content syndication proved to be the key.
    Once Wharton developers made custom views of SPIKE's key information services—the student calendar and announcements services—easily syndicatable on other Web sites, they had the best of both worlds. A department could, for example, use the SPIKE publishing tools to add an announcement to SPIKE that would be instantly syndicated to their departmental Web site. This ability to update their own sites provided the incentive for administrators and students around the school to use the publishing tools that also keep the portal current.
  • Give it some pizzazz.
  • A portal isn't just another Web page. If successful, it will be a part of your organizational culture. Your portal needs to have an identity of its own.
    Don't be afraid to be a bit quirky. You're talking to an internal audience—let the site reflect that fact. Giving the site an identity helps it stand out from the more formal Web content in your organization. Various versions of SPIKE have included humorous quotes from Wharton students and faculty, for example. And then there's the SPIKE name3 and logo, which provide an identity for the varied components of the environment.
    The details don't matter. What's important is to give your intranet service a unique identity that sets it apart from the content it aggregates and lets it enter the mainstream of your organizational culture.
  • It ain't over when it's over (it's all about the process).
  • It's tempting to focus your efforts on the technology that makes your portal possible or the features that make it functional. But it's the process that drives its success. Building a portal is not the end point of the development cycle. It's the beginning of the next phase of development.
    Educational institutions have an advantage in that a significant percentage of their audience changes each year. Incoming Wharton students don't see their version of SPIKE as the end of years of refinement and enhancement—to them it's just the foundation. As project leader Alig put it, "Typical feedback takes the form of 'SPIKE is great. Now if it only did one more thing. . .'" And the development cycle begins for next year's version.
    The key lesson from more than a decade of intranet development is to view your enterprise portal not as a technology product but as an opportunity for ongoing engagement with your audience. As CIO Woods stated, "SPIKE is as much about process as it is technology. SPIKE is successful because it is constantly evolving to address the needs of Wharton's students."
    Endnotes
    1. In The Running of the Bulls (New York: Gotham Books, 2005, p. 97), Nicole Ridgway noted, "A group of Wharton MBAs created the first business school intranet called SPIKE, which allowed for access to the Internet, messaging, and online student services, and would later add collaborative learning tools."
    2. For a contemporary (January 1998) description of the design goals of SPIKE 3, see Netscape's Intranet Executive column "Wharton's SPIKE: Using JavaScript to Develop an Enterprise Application" by Kendall Whitehouse, <http://wp.netscape.com/columns/intranet/wharton.html> (accessed November 8, 2005).
    3. So why does Wharton call its intranet SPIKE? In an early planning meeting in 1994, SPIKE was chosen as a temporary code name for the project until a better name could be agreed upon. By the time the initial project launched, people liked the name SPIKE and decided to keep it. Wharton developed a logo based on a stock-market "fever graph." After the fact the SPIKE team invented an acronym to explain the name: "Students' Personalized Integrated Knowledge Environment," but the acronym was soon dropped. SPIKE and the SPIKE logo are now registered trademarks of the university.

    8 tips for launching a company intranet

    Many small-business owners get it when it comes to the influence and reach of the Internet. But what they may not fully appreciate is how that medium can be used exclusively within their own business.
    Planning and programming an intranet — an internal Web site restricted to those within your company — can prove a boon to communication, project management and a host of other responsibilities. But using it effectively means more than building it, plugging it in, and letting it rock.
    With software such as Windows SharePoint Services, a private Web site could also easily be converted into an "extranet," which is a restricted site that serves an internal audience but also allows in selected outside partners and others. Extranets are particularly useful when outside vendors are key members of project teams.
    Here are eight dos and don'ts for launching an intranet (or extranet).
    1. First, determine your employees' wants (and needs). Don't just lay out gobs of cash for the latest technology on the assumption that it'll do the job you need. Step one in formulating an effective intranet programming strategy is delineating just what you want it to do and with whom. Talk with the people who will access the system to get a sense of what they genuinely want and will consistently use. "Stakeholders within the company, which can include communications, human resources, information technology, and sales, need to be heard," says Toby Ward, president of Prescient Digital media, a Toronto-based consulting concern. "Their input needs to be incorporated into the final form and function."
    2. Assign an administrator to manage the internal site. Whoever manages your company network might be a logical choice for this role. But it also could be you, the business owner. An administrator usually is the site programmer, but he or she also supervises who has access to the site and to what areas of the site, plus who can create and delete files, and so on. But, before you get too carried away in complicating things with varying levels of access permissions, see tip No. 3.
    3. For users' sake, keep your starter site simple. The potential of an intranet is remarkable. You can share pictures and information, work on projects in a single location, post announcements, schedules and calendars, share files, and utilize a host of other useful capabilities. But don't approach all those features like a sailor on shore leave. As a rule, it's best to keep an intranet-particularly a new one-simple to learn and simple to use. "Employees aren't going to use an intranet that requires an advanced degree in psychology to navigate," notes Pedro Sostre, creative director of Sostre and Associates, an intranet design firm in Miami. "Only include features that are relevant to your business to avoid clutter."
    4. Make it as secure as possible. As mentioned already, some intranet-software packages can be converted into "extranets" to allow access to a select number of people outside the company. These should be trusted partners and others with whom your company collaborates. But many companies may be better served by sealing off their private Web site to all outsiders, so that sensitive data and communications are kept within the company. Whether or not you choose to provide access to selected outsiders, you must make effective security an absolute programming must. Investigate various security options to determine which one will afford the best protection. "Many small businesses think that just because they're a mainstream company, they're off the radar for hackers. But that just isn't true," Sostre says. "There are several ways to password-protect an intranet, such as Web-protecting the folder or using a simple password verification script."
    5. Keep things safe on the inside as well. Just because you have an intranet doesn't mean carte blanche for every employee user. Nothing can prove more destructive to an intranet than an inexperienced user who wanders into an area and inadvertently damages something he or she shouldn't have had access to in the first place. So, keep things open but not unduly open. "Employees have been known to make mistakes with an intranet," Sostre says. "Any advanced functions such as deleting files, editing projects, and updating news should only be available to administrators. That way, others won't accidentally delete an important file or update news with inaccurate information."
    6. Aggressively test your system. Even the best-planned intranet may contain glitches. Before offering company-wide access, test the system to make sure it operates properly. In particular, check out how it functions when several users are running the system at the same time. "Never forget to load test," says Josh Morgart, network administrator for Expetec, an Aberdeen, S.D., technology concern. "Assign several users to go through the motions and use the forum for weeks ahead of time to ensure smooth operations."
    7. Make it easy to update. Another common mistake, particularly with companies that are new to intranets, is assuming that the network is cast in stone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as you should with the rest of your business, plan on growth and changes to your intranet. One way to do that proactively is to install an intranet whose function and capability exceed your current needs. "Do remember to plan for growth. Nothing ruins an intranet more than when it's inaccessible," Morgart says. "Make sure you plan for growth of the number of users by taking your current user base and multiplying it by three to offer a nice cushion for growth. That way, you can avoid having to switch servers or having to shut down the server completely."
    8. Watch your (programming) language. One final element to planning for smooth growth is starting with a language that can be easily updated as your intranet needs growth and change. As is the case with other elements to do with your intranet, the simpler, more seamlessly things happen, the better your system will function. "Make sure to use an easily updateable language," Morgart says. "For instance, we chose ASP because it really doesn't change much, if at all. Others may require downtime and upgrades if certain things are changed from release to release."

    Delight or Dismay: Intranet Launch Methods

    Delight or Dismay: Intranet Launch Methods

    Paul Chin

    5/26/2005

    Think back to your last major intranet release: Was it launched with your entire intranet team gathered around in a T-minus countdown or did it creep its way into the corporate bloodstream with nary a sound?
    As in life, first impressions are important in defining how you're perceived by others; and this is even more true with your intranet. The manner in which you unveil a new system will reflect how users view it from that moment on. It can be looked upon as an edifying experience or an annoying social barnacle you can never seem to shake at a party.
    While it's not entirely impossible to change people's negative perceptions of a system, it's never easy to erase the preconceived notions they may have built up in their heads over time — justified or not. Why not get it right from the beginning?

    Loud Versus Quiet Launches
    IT views system rollouts in terms of deployment; i.e., how to release an application into the organization's production environment with minimal end-user disruption. Intranet content providers view rollouts in terms of marketing and promotion. But there's another aspect of intranet launch that doesn't get as much attention as it should: user reaction.
    How you launch a new system — or a new version of an existing system — will greatly effect how the user community reacts to it. You can't expect to drop it into production and hope for the best. Some may see it as a much needed addition to their existing toolset, while others may see it as an unnecessary burden on an already bloated IT infrastructure.
    Every organization's user community will react differently to the introduction of a new system, so it's best to tailor the launch to the community rather than taking a blanket approach. Intranet owners have two primary forms of system launch: Loud and quiet.
    Loud launches are used to create buzz and public awareness of an upcoming system. There's a build up of anticipation and expectation months or weeks prior to a system's official launch date, which is usually also the basis of an internal marketing campaign. Those taking a loud launch approach can employ an arsenal of promotional tools to maximize exposure such as banners, newsletters, and e-mail announcements.
    All of this buzz leads to a grand unveiling, but there's one overriding caveat with using loud launches: Intranet owners must be certain that the intranet will be ready by the launch date. Otherwise, with all the fanfare surrounding system launch, a failure to deliver on the promised date will be a very open advertisement of the failure. A missed launch date — whether as a result of unforeseen delays or system bugs — may create some embarrassment for intranet owners and cause users to lose faith in the intranet team's ability to keep a promise.
    The idea of quiet launches is a little unconventional as far as IT systems go. They involve very little pre-release fanfare and rely mostly on word-of-mouth advertisement. Rather than a big promotional campaign, intranet teams work on new systems and upgrades quietly, with very little knowledge from the users. Once the application has been completed and thoroughly tested, it's slipped into production without a lot of hoopla. If there's any advertisement, it's usually low-key such as a simple corporate-wide e-mail message, and it's done only after system launch.
    Quiet launches provide intranet teams with more flexibility since they won't have the pressures of a firm launch date to weigh on them. The obvious downside, of course, is that word-of-mouth is highly unpredictable. Because of the low-key nature of quiet launches, there's a chance that users won't even know of the existence of the new system or upgrade.
    Launch Characteristics
    Loud Quiet
  • Marketing and promotion takes place before system launch
  • Marketing and promotion takes place after system launch
  • An official launch date is announced months or weeks prior to system release
  • A target date is used only by the intranet development teams and content owners; there's no publicly advertised launch date
  • Employs an aggressive internal marketing campaign to create buzz within the user community
  • Relies on low-key, word-of-mouth promotion
  • Used to build up user anticipation and curiosity
  • There's little knowledge from users that a new system is in the works until it's been released into production

  • Choosing the Right Launch Method
    You should never assume that all users will see the introduction of a new system as a good thing. The practice of quiet launches came about as a direct response to users' growing frustration with all things IT. Perhaps, having gotten weary of negative experiences with past systems — perpetually overdue systems, missing features advertised in the marketing campaign, systems that don't live up to its hype — they have become cynical of IT and their empty promises. Attempting to win them over with yet another loud launched system will do more harm than good. There are only so many times users will fall for the old "this time things will be different" routine.
    In cases like these — even if the system does live up to its promises — users will view the announcement with a lot of cynicism. So, regardless of how good the system ends up being, users will never know because they won't even give it the chance to win them over. They will simply ignore it as another doomed project on IT's application assembly line.
    Instead of thrusting an upcoming system in front of users with weeks of marketing exposure, a better approach would be to use a quiet launch. The new system or upgrade can then be advertised via a simple e-mail announcement or a blurb in the organization's newsletter.
    Understanding your user community's perception of IT as well as the products and services that come from them will help you determine what system launch method to use. The following table will give you a good idea of when to put each launch method into practice:
    When to Use Launch Methods
    Loud Quiet
  • You're certain that the system will be ready by the official launch date, and there's little chance of delay
  • The system is a "work in progress" and an official launch date can't be guaranteed
  • The user community hasn't been jaded by past IT failures
  • The user community has grown weary of broken promises from IT, or by past system failures
  • Reasonable time has passed since the last loud system launch; you don't want to overwhelm users with constant system releases
  • There has been little or poor response to previous loud system launches

  • What Are You Launching?
    When deciding on the type of launch to use, you need factor in not only the culture and perceptions of your user community but also the size and type of what's being launched. Intranet launches can be divided up into three major categories:
    1. Initial intranet roll-out
    2. Major system updates and feature revisions
    3. Bug fixes and minor enhancements (unless they're high profile or well-known problems, bug fixes and minor enhancements are rarely, if ever, loud launched)
    During a system's life cycle, intranet teams will use a combination of both loud and quiet launches depending on the situation. For example, a loud launch can be used for the intranet's initial release into production; a quiet launch for incremental upgrades such as a jump from version 1.0 to 1.1; and then back to a loud launch to promote a major system revision such as a jump from version 1.0 to 2.0.
    But it's never a good idea to use loud launches exclusively. You don't want to diminish the significance of new system announcements with repeated loud launches. Users will lose interest and become desensitized with overexposure. And then they will look upon these "grand unveilings" as little more than corporate white noise.

    Closing Thoughts
    You need to think beyond your own perception of an upcoming system when deciding how to launch it. You may see it as a huge contribution to the organization's application library because you were directly involved in the development process. But users who experience the system for the first time — and are somewhat detached from it — might not see it the same way.
    Look back at previous system launches and how they turned out — even if they're systems you had nothing to do with. Often, users lump all IT applications together regardless of which team developed it; and they see one failure as a failure on the IT department as a whole. Because of this, it's possible for another team's misfortune to mar your own system launch.
    It's the responsibility of every intranet team to decide whether their organization's user community will respond better to a loud or quiet launch. So choose wisely because once you commit to the launch you won't get a second chance to make a first impression. And if it doesn't work out, the team will have no choice but to go into PR mode.

    34 ideas for promoting your intranet

    APRIL 2003

    34 ideas for promoting your intranet

    Written by , published April 1st, 2003
    Categorised under: articles, intranets
    The promotion of an intranet is never-ending. From the day it's launched, through to its eventual retirement, an intranet must be constantly advertised to staff.
    Without this, many staff will remain unaware that the intranet even exists. Others won't recognise the full value of the intranet, or use anything but a tiny corner of the site.
    This article outlines 34 ideas for promoting an intranet, ranging from the obvious through to the very unusual. Somewhere in this list should be a few approaches that you can apply to your own intranet.

    Intranet peers

    All of the ideas listed in this article have been synthesised out of the topics discussed during the Intranet Peers in Government forums, held in Sydney and Canberra.
    As such, these are practical approaches that have been tried in organisations, and recommended as successful.

    Some promotional ideas

    Intranet launch

    The best time to raise the profile of the intranet is right at the outset. An intranet launch can take many forms, both large-scale or small.
    Many of the ideas outlined in this document can be used in a coordinated fashion during the intranet launch. This 'big bang' approach works best when the intranet is able to deliver on the high level of expectation generated.
    Even a small launch can be effective in making staff aware that a new method of finding answers is now available.

    No launch

    In stark comparison with the previous approach, many organisations have chosen to follow a 'no launch' or a 'promotion by stealth' approach.
    In these organisations, staff have often become cynical of the promises made by IT projects, and the consistent failure to meet stated deadlines.
    In these situations, a low-key rollout is often the most effective approach. Instead of a 'big bang' approach, more subtle techniques are used, often relying on word-of-mouth dissemination.
    Do staff even know that the intranet exists?

    Defining intranet goals

    Defining a clear and meaningful set of intranet goals is an important foundation for any promotional activities.
    Having goals allows you to articulate an answer to the question: "What is this intranet for?".
    Like the promotion of any product, it is vitally important to have a clear message. The intranet goals are the basis for defining the message that the intranet promotional activities are conveying.

    Birthday celebrations

    Celebrating the anniversary of the initial intranet launch provides an ideal opportunity for a concerted promotional campaign.
    There are many ways of holding birthday celebrations. Some organisations chose to hold a big meeting, in which an actual cake is cut, and all the key stakeholders are invited.
    Others update their intranets to reflect a birthday theme, or send out promotional materials.
    One organisation, for example, scattered 20 birthday cake icons throughout the intranet, and the first ten people to find them all won a t-shirt. While humorous, this did expose people to sections of the intranet they had not previously visited.
    Whatever the approach, the intranet's birthday provides a once-a-year story opportunity that shouldn't be missed.

    Giving presentations

    The visibility of the intranet must be maintained at every level of the organisation. For management and executive, presentations are typically the most effective way of communicating messages.
    These may cover the intranet at a high level, explain specific initiatives, or new functionality.
    Ensure these presentations are well-prepared and to the point.
    Keep talking about the intranet, as often as you can, to as many people as possible

    E-mail links to intranet

    A very effective marketing method is to replace e-mail attachments in global e-mails with links to the relevant page on the intranet.
    In this way, the e-mails act as 'push' marketing of intranet resources. It also reduces the load on the e-mail systems.
    This works well, for example, with news items and other announcements. Some education is required to encourage e-mail senders to reduce their reliance on attachments.

    Using the communications team

    The staff of internal communications or internal marketing teams are professionals who specialise in conveying targeted messages to the organisation.
    Use this group as a resource to promote the intranet, and to further increase usage.

    Brochures

    Every intranet should be supported with a simple brochure outlining the key features and benefits, along with screenshots and URLs.
    Beyond this, there are benefits to professionally producing a full-colour brochure. This presents a more compelling image, and is more likely to be noticed by staff.
    Many organisations have an internal graphic arts department who can prepare such materials.

    What's new e-mails

    While new material may be frequently added to the intranet, staff may not be aware of this if they don't regularly visit the intranet homepage or 'what's new' section.
    Instead, consider sending out a regular e-mail listing new information on the intranet, with links directly to the relevant pages.
    These e-mails can be sent out weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly. In some organisations, staff rely solely on these e-mails to keep up-to-date with current information.

    Automatically loading homepage

    Throughout the organisation, every browser should have its homepage set to the intranet. That way, when the browser is opened by the user, the intranet is immediately presented.
    Beyond this, some organisations have chosen to automatically launch the browser on login. This puts the intranet in front of users at the beginning of every day.
    Many of these organisations have found this approach to be very successful, particularly when the intranet homepage changes frequently (such as presenting news, etc).
    Auto-loading the intranet on login can be very effective

    Displays in foyer

    Posters or other displays in the main foyer of offices can attract the attention of staff arriving each morning.
    These should feature high-impact designs that can be easily read from a distance. Large-format colour posters can be a practical way of achieving this.

    'Footy tipping'

    In those cultures where sport is an important institution, competitions such as 'footy tipping' are commonplace.
    Implementing such competitions on the intranet have been listed as 'killer applications' by some intranet teams.
    Once staff access the intranet, they are more likely to browse to other areas.
    Some of the most unusual 'killer apps' are the most effective

    Letterhead and business cards

    The intranet should be listed on all internal letterheads, business cards, newsletters, in fact any printed material that provides information.
    In this way, the intranet is promoted as the primary source of information in the organisation. This 'ever-present' advertising can be quite effective over time.

    Gimmicks and novelties

    A wide range of promotional products have been used to increase awareness of the intranet. These include:
    • t-shirts
    • stickers
    • balloons
    • masks
    • lollies and other confectionary
    • mouse mats
    While these can be effective, make sure you understand the culture of the organisation. Not all staff may be keen to be bombarded with such gimmicks.

    Migrating key applications

    By migrating key applications, staff can be forced to access the intranet. Examples often include leave forms and other HR functions.
    Always ensure that the replacement web-based application is at least as capable and usable as the system it replaces. Otherwise, considerable staff frustration will be generated.

    Killer apps

    Many successful intranets have a few key 'killer applications' that drive overall interest and usage.
    What these are depends entirely on the organisation and its staff. While some possible killer apps have been listed in this article, many others are possible.
    Keep a look out for opportunities to develop these killer apps. It may be possible to meet a widespread need in the organisation, with only a few hours of development.
    (Killer apps don't have to be large, in fact, many are small systems that target a very specific requirement.)

    Promoting via the business

    The business owners of specific sections can be co-opted to launch and promote their content. As the advertising comes from within the business, it can be more effective than that conducted by the central intranet team.
    It also shares the burden of intranet marketing more widely.

    Acronym finder

    Most organisations are now awash with acronyms and jargon, much of which is not understood by both new and seasoned staff alike.
    Several organisations have had considerable success with implementing a simple 'acronym finder' on the intranet.
    Typing in an acronym brings back a brief definition. These definitions are submitted by the staff themselves, allowing the database to grow over time.
    Even if the intranet is web-based, staff still need training

    Staff training

    While the intranet is built using standard web technology, and accessed via a web browser, this does not eliminate the need for training.
    Depending on the nature of the organisation, many staff may be unfamiliar with the web, or with computers in general.
    Providing end-user training has been demonstrated to increase the usage and effectiveness of the intranet.

    Quote of the day

    Any daily-changing information on the intranet, that is of broad interest, is a good way of promoting the intranet.
    One organisation uses a humorous or controversial 'quote of the day' feature on the intranet to generate increased usage.

    Staff profiles

    Each week, some intranet teams post a profile of a staff member, selected from across the organisation. This may be a senior executive, down to a junior staff person.
    This increases the sense of community within the organisation, and is an interesting talking point.
    As variation on this, one organisation provides a number of hints, and runs a competition to guess who the staff member is. With the unusual nature of many of the hints, this generates wide interest.
    Ethically exploit all promotional opportunities

    Online condolence site

    On the passing away of a much-loved chief executive, one organisation organised an impromptu 'condolence site', where staff could enter messages. This saw an outpouring of sympathy and grief from across the organisation.
    Similarly, when bushfires swept through one city, several intranets became the primary way that staff kept abreast of what was happening.
    While care must be taken to use such methods sensitively, tragedies and disasters do provide promotional opportunities.

    Bulletin boards, discussion groups

    Increasing the interactive aspects of an intranet can considerably increase usage and visibility.
    Discussion groups, bulletin boards and other collaboration tools provide staff with a new mechanism for keeping in touch.
    While the majority of these online forums are likely to be devoted to serious work issues, less formal areas, such as a 'buy and sell' area often prove to be very popular.
    These collaborative tools also have the benefit of reducing the over-reliance on e-mails.

    Staff induction

    New starters are unfamiliar with the way the organisation works, and where to go for answers.
    By including a meaningful section on the intranet in staff induction materials and activities, new staff can be trained to see the intranet as the primary information source in the organisation.

    Sending a welcome message

    Related to the previous idea, one intranet team automatically sends a 'welcome' message to all new staff, introducing them to the intranet.

    Fixing browser settings

    Depending on the state of the IT infrastructure, some users may not be able to access the intranet, due to incorrect proxy or other network settings.
    Without a bookmark to the intranet, or having it set as the homepage, users are also likely to have difficulty.
    While this is strictly the domain of the IT support desk, some intranet groups have found it valuable to spend time fixing the settings on individual workstations.
    Over time, this considerably increases the potential audience for the intranet.
    Even if the intranet is web-based, staff still need training

    IT help desk

    The IT help desk (or support desk) is an important ally in increasing intranet usage. By building bridges with this team, they can be encouraged to promote and support the intranet.

    Naming the intranet

    Having a catchy and memorable intranet name is a great way of promoting the intranet. It gives the intranet a clear identity, and makes it easier to refer to in documents, and in conversation.
    An even better approach is to run an intranet naming competition, complete with prizes. This generates involvement from the entire organisation, and builds a greater sense of ownership.
    This has been very successfully used in many organisations.

    Providing telephone support

    Offering unlimited telephone support may seem a daunting prospect for any intranet team, but it goes a long way to removing many barriers to staff usage.
    Even a small intranet team of two found that while the initial number of calls was quite high, this fairly rapidly dropped off as staff became more accustomed to the intranet.
    Better yet, by offering this service, they generated considerable goodwill and respect that was not quickly forgotten.

    'E-mail this page'

    Some intranets have provided an 'e-mail this page to a colleague' feature on every page, to considerable effect.
    For one organisation, this was even listed as a 'killer app' that increased intranet usage more than any other initiative.
    Senior management must see the intranet as a strategic asset, and promote it accordingly

    Gaining management support

    If senior management see the intranet as a strategic asset, they will naturally promote its use.
    A number of studies have shown that lack of management support and sponsorship is one the largest causes of project failure.
    Conversely, if the intranet does have the required support, this will have a huge impact upon levels of usage, and long-term viability.
    Spend time 'selling' the intranet to management, and ensuring that they understand its role within the organisation.

    Training managers' PAs

    Many senior staff rely entirely on their personal assistants (PAs) to look up information, and to use computing equipment.
    For these key staff, training the PAs in how to make use of the intranet is the best way of having an impact.

    Maximising the value of the homepage

    The intranet homepage is the most valuable 'real-estate' on the entire site. Use this to present the most recent, and most useful, information on the intranet.
    By maximising the value of the homepage, overall intranet usage can be increased.

    Coordinated marketing plan

    Finally, all of these activities should be integrated as part of a single marketing plan. This spells out what the message is, who it is being targeted at, and how it will be delivered.
    Bring all your ideas together into a single coordinated marketing plan

    The role of organisational culture

    As a final note, it is important to recognise the role of your organisation's culture in the success of any promotional initiative.
    These two stories are instructive:
    They sent round a box that had a little fun-sized kit-kat in it and there was a message in there saying take a break. Everybody got this and they were given authority by the Secretary to take half an hour just to familiarise themselves with the new site, and have their kit-kat. Apparently it was very successful.
    compared to:
    Part of our launch was that we didn't launch. We just rolled it out, and did not create any expectation that it was coming. That was actually part of its success, because we had so many things roll out that didn't meet expectations, and didn't meet the deadline that they were supposed to be rolled out on.
    While they both come from Australian government departments, with very similar organisational structure, there are clearly big differences in the culture.
    While in one organisation, novelty value was used very effectively, the level of cynicism generated by past IT projects in the other organisation demanded a more low-key approach.
    As these stories show, it is vitally important to gain an understanding of the organisational culture, and to adjust the promotional activities to match.
    What works in one organisation, may be a complete failure in another. It is therefore up to you to find your own path.