A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but what about a blog?
That was one of many intranet-related questions the hosts and guests of this month’s IBF Live broadcast from the Intranet Benchmarking Forum considered in Tuesday’s 90-minute program, which included intranet tours from architectural firm Woods Bagot, the provincial government of British Columbia and Fathom Online Marketing.
The topic of naming arose when listeners began asking about the Woods Bagot intranet’s “Brain Scan” section, a discussion board for employees. They were wondering what it was. The name of the intranet itself is “Public Edge.”
IBF CEO and founder Paul Miller observed many of the features of Woods Bagot’s intranet have “catchy, slightly funky names.” Felicity McNish, global knowledge manager for Woods Bagot, said that’s intentional.
“Naming areas of your intranet and naming your intranet’s really important,” she said. It just makes it more interesting and dynamic, McNish argued, especially for her company’s young workforce. Of Woods Bagot’s 700 or so staffers, many are from 20 to 35 years old, she said.
Program listeners wondered on Twitter whether those types of names might reduce user friendliness. For instance, Dana Leeson tweeted that names can be creative, “but still descriptive.”
The other two intranets on display also had clever names for some of their sections. The British Columbia intranet calls its wiki “Wikilumbia” and Fathom’s section about social media strategy is labeled “soldier marketing.”
Other topics of discussion included:
McNish mentioned that Woods Bagot does not have a head office—its chief operations officer’s desk is in Melbourne, Australia; hers is in Adelaide, while Scott Henderson, group design technology manager, works from San Francisco.
As a result, sharing information via the intranet is even more important, she said. Henderson said about one-third of the company’s projects are shared among studios all over the globe.
Miller put it this way: “The intranet acts as a sort of cultural glue.”
Betsey Kershaw, brand strategy consultant at Sugarbeet Creative, said she’s seen that metaphor in action as more of her clients spread out into digital workplaces. The more collaborative tools employees have at their disposal, she said, the stronger the bond.
Fathom also uses its intranet to build culture, Kershaw observed, but in a different way. The company puts its leadership philosophy front and center on its intranet homepage and plays up “Rockefeller habits,” that is, its quarterly goals, through themes. For example, this quarter the intranet theme is “on the right track,” and uses art of horses in the top banner.
If Fathom’s 70 or so employees meet their quarterly goals, they get a party that ties into the theme, said Kurt Krejny, the company’s director of search engine marketing best practices. For example, this quarter, they’re going to go see horses—at a racetrack.
Work by wiki
Henderson at Woods Bagot showed off the company’s new projects area—the Projects Launchpad—which runs on SharePoint 2010, while the rest of the intranet is on SharePoint 2007. Each project page includes an interactive timeline and links to wiki pages.
Woods Bagot is pushing for employees to use wikis more regularly, he said. For instance, managers are asking employees to fold Word documents into wiki pages, Henderson said.
The government of British Columbia also makes extensive use of its wiki to communicate with its 30,000 or so employees. Its wiki homepage includes links to the most popular, newest and highest-rated wiki pages, as well as a list of corporate-created topic categories.
The truth of beauty
The British Columbia intranet won this year’s My Beautiful Intranet competition over about 40 entrants, Miller said. What apparently put it over the top was the inclusion of employee-generated photos on the background of its homepage.
“It could almost be an external-facing website,” Kershaw said.
However, co-host Paul Levy asked whether those photos might clash with stock photos used for the intranet’s news and wiki sections. British Columbia Web manager Courtney Campbell said she didn’t think they did, especially because the stock photos used were relevant to the content.
Campbell noted that the employee photos are only on the intranet’s main page, not article pages. “We didn’t want to overwhelm,” she said.
Neil Morgan, global intranet manager at the World Wildlife Fund, said his organization is also planning to incorporate photos—of animals—into its intranet.
But beauty isn’t everything. In an on-the-spot poll, 71 percent of listeners said it is possible to build “an awesome user experience with low-grade aesthetics.”
Along those lines, Andrew Dixon, executive vice president at Igloo Software, discussed his company’s Extreme Makeover contest. Igloo is offering $50,000—a year of free hosting, support for up to 999 users and $10,000 in services—to entrants who can tell the best “intranet horror stories.”