Tag: knowledge management

Intranet design: Lessons from MythBusters and Batman

What can Adam Savage (cohost of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters) teach us about intranet design?  Plenty, it turns out.

Before MythBusters, Savage was a professional model-maker, working on everything from Star Wars to The Matrix Reloaded (highly underrated, IMO).  In this  article he discusses how critical the design of his toolbox was in his effectiveness and creativity.  The toolbox he created allowed him to pull any tool that was needed with one hand, without the need to first move anything else out of his way.  He calls this organizing metric first-order retrievability – likening it to Batman’s utility belt.

So, what does first-order retrievability have to do with intranet design? 

One of the most commonly heard intranet design rules is the Three Click Rule – dictating that nothing on the intranet should take more than 3-clicks to find.  Coincidentally, James Robertson busts this myth, stating that:

“While the three clicks rule may be a myth, the common sense principle of bringing more frequently used content towards the top of the site still holds.  While users may not dislike clicking, there is no reason to make them work harder than they need to. Effort should be applied to identify common or important content, and to make sure this can be easily and quickly found on the site.”

While the three click rule is a myth, designing an intranet so that the most important applications and content are easily and quickly within reach should be a top priority for intranet managers.  Designing solutions with first-order retrievability in mind should ultimately result in a more efficient and useful intranet.  After all, what user wouldn’t want their intranet to be as handy and cool as Batman’s utility belt?

Welcoming community members

When creating enterprise communities, it’s important to welcome each new community member that joins. Generally, it’s important to share with them information about what they can expect from the community, how they can interact with other members, the resources available to them, and what (if any) action items you’d like to request that they take immediately (e.g., set up email alerts, introduce themselves to the community).

The method that this message is delivered will vary, given differences in technology and resources. While it would be ideal to get to know each community member individually with a welcome conversation (rather than message), that often isn’t as feasible internally as it is in external communities (given time restrictions for both parties). So, most enterprise communities tend to rely on an automated message after a member joins, or manually copying/pasting a welcome message template and sending this to each new member. This is fine; however, what often happens is that community managers get bogged down with the other details and demands of managing their community, so this message (often drafted when the community was first developed) gets stale.

To keep your welcome message fresh, consider:

 1) Keep it short, keep it simple

Nothing will make your members hit delete on your welcome message quicker than a wall of text – especially if it even has a whiff of being outdated.

 2) Update quarterly, include key dates

Try updating your message quarterly, and even including a brief message about recent community successes or upcoming community events/plans for the current quarter. Members want to know how your community will be relevant to them now. Tell them.

3) Action items, less is more

When asking your new member to do something additional after joining, be considerate of their time. Focus on asking for only what is most important to you, and let them know why you’re asking them to take an additional step. If you want them to sign up for email alerts to your collaborative tools, tell them what benefit that will give them. If you’re asking them to take a survey to collect demographic information on your members, explain how you’ll use that information and what’s in it for them.

4) Personal follow-up

Especially if your welcome message is generated from a generic community mailbox (or worse yet, a no-reply email), consider sending each new member a quick, personal follow-up. Even if it is just a one sentence, “thanks for joining, look around and let me know if I can help” email, that makes a world of difference between your member being onboarded to your community vs. being welcomed to it.

Photo via Flickr

Enterprise collaboration hitting its stride

Luis Suarez has a great post on social business as an accelerant to increasing the connectedness, engagement, and productivity of remote workers. It is a great summary of a lot of research and articles that have been getting attention recently. I connected particularly with this thought:

Work happens, indeed, wherever you are, whenever you need, with whatever the tools you have at your disposal, with whoever the connections you may collaborate with in getting the job done. Never before have we been capable of realising that dream of the fully empowered knowledge worker to work virtually in a more than ever distributed world than thanks to the emergence of all of these social networking tools.

Having spent most of my professional life working remotely, either from home, or in an office where all or most of my colleagues and clients are elsewhere, I can say that I’ve definitely felt this shift in connectedness happening. Tools like video conferencing, instant messaging, and team sites have always helped to make working together easier and bridge the distance, but it’s only been recently, with the rapid growth and adoption of enterprise collaboration tools, that I’ve felt a shift in connectedness.

This growing connectedness hasn’t just been with close colleagues either – it’s been across the entire organization, and has really helped to make connections with others that you couldn’t previously collaborate with easily (or even know about their existence, for that matter!). And unlike many KM tools of the past, these new breeds of enterprise collaboration tools don’t require extensive training, or a big sales job of why the end user should participate. They’re intuitive to use out of the gate, and there are many examples that we can point to in order to demonstrate the value that people can immediately start getting from them.  That’s pretty exciting.

Image via Flickr