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Archive for the ‘intranet’ Category

The enterprise wiki that I deployed and continue to support and develop at NYK has just won an Intranet Innovation Award.  The NYK wiki uses the Confluence platform, a product supplied by the Atlassian company.

We won a gold award in the Communication and Collaboration category for a particular function of our wiki called the NYK News Room.

The annual international awards are run by Step Two Designs, an Australian outfit, and NYK ranks alongside other big name winners like IBM, AEP and SunGuard.

Although I’m responsible for the technical aspects of this deployment and for promoting adoption (working with our corp. comms. guys), credit must also go to my colleague Rupert  Shanks for conceiving the News Room idea and then implementing it. Well done Rupert!

The News Room utilises the basic labelling (tagging), macros and RSS functions found in the out-of-the-box Confluence product, together with additional JavaScript and an external web-based RSS feed burning service.

Details of the award are here: http://www.steptwo.com.au/columntwo/winners-announced-for-this-years-intranet-innovation-awards/ and here: http://www.steptwo.com.au/products/iia2009

Fantastic news: Atlassian have introduced an embedded wiki spreadsheet for the Confluence product called EditGrid. It has been implemented as a Confluence plug-in and finally brings real-time spreadsheet collaboration to the enterprise wiki world.

When the wiki page is saved the spreadsheet is stored as an Excel like attachment to the page. Normal wiki change tracking / versioning is extended to the spreadsheet’s contents!

When the page is viewed the sheet’s contents is rendered in HTML right on the page – no clicking of links or examining the page for attachments! The viewing user is even able to perform sorting and auto filtering.

When the page is placed into edit, a special sheet editor is provided.

Uncharacteristically for Atlassian, the plug-in has been provided first for hosted users (both Hosted and the newer Enterprise Hosted schemes) but in-house users will have to wait until “later in 2008 Q1″.

I feel that this feature opens up the Confluence tool to even more possibilities regarding emergent applications/user organized applications and is possibly another nail in the coffin of the traditional CMS style intranet.

Well done Atlassian and thanks!

More info here.

Last Wednesday I spoke at he Intranet Benchmarking Forum’s Global IBF meeting in London.

Afterwards, I spotted Richard Dennison’s post about one aspect of the event: the Financial Calculator.

Richard’s post along with the single response by shaidorsai got me thinking about the cost/benefit equation of using a wiki for one’s intranet.

During the meeting, while Lars Ploughmann of Headshift was giving his exelent talk, a senior figure from one of the global IBF members commented that a Confluence wiki was not that cheap. Though the licence fee was only GBP4000, the total installed cost was likly to run to 70 – 90k.

This could turn out to be true but I would argue that this expense is more-or-less a one-off.

During a typical year (for our Notes/Domino based intranet) I paid 30k for our business partner to develop an image library, 90k for a Powerpoint presentation storage and download area, and 20k for enhancements to a bespoke meeting booking system. This pattern was repeated each year as new business requirements emerged. For each requirement, a lengthy making-of-a-business-case process was needed.

Because the wiki imposes no business logic, process or work flow, once I have paid the first year cost, these types (and other currently un-thought off types) of application can emerge for free (OK, there is my salary and those of the business departments, but these would have been a factor of the old way of working as well!).

In addition, because the wiki supports self organizing, I expect business users to emerge, creating their own applications, with only a minimal amount of support from me (the central intranet management function).

If of-the-shelf commercial plug-ins, or even bespoke code is needed to support some of the more elaborate emergent apps, it should be possible to develop working prototypes for free using the base functionality of Confluence. Benefit could then be measured over a period and used to justify the additional spend as part of a phase II.

To steal a phrase from our head of corporate comms: “it’s easy to get [financial] approval if the ‘i’ in ROI is kept small”

Often during my meetings with Euan Semple he refers to corporate intranets as “knowledge coffins”. This is pertinent as one of my worries about the intranet that I manage is that, though I can see numerous items of fresh content posted each week, I am far from convinced that anyone is reading it!

I see enterprise strength wiki integration as a major way to address this and reinvigorate the intranet. Notification features such as granular Watch, E-mail Notification, and of course RSS, features of enterprise wiki offerings like Socialtext and Atlassian’s Confluence will draw a regular audience into the wiki, and, just perhaps, the legacy intranet content via hyper-links.

This new crowd of active and frequent lurkers boost the ROI by consuming, and hopefully acting on, the wealth of business knowledge that the weekly posters so diligently supply.

To boost this effect, I would love to find a way to integrate the wiki’s built-in search and labels (tag cloud) such that it returns relevant documents from the legacy intranet in addition to wiki pages. The converse of this would be to also have the intranet search include wiki pages.

Does anyone have experience of integrating wikis and legacy intranets in this way? I look forward to hearing your comments.

  1. A recent post by by Stewart Madder on the Atlassian blog prompted me to explain how I believe an enterprise wiki can be used to re-invigorate a legacy intranet.

    Typically, the intranet tools which are in use today have somewhat clumsy publishing processes. There is a form to fill out with half a dozen fields (categories / sub-categories, Title, expiry, attachment and a few more) Some of them even have an approval/authorization process and other impose a conversion routine where word attachments are converted to HTML. Information is usually categorized via a taxonomy and it exists in silos that mirror the companies’ organizational structure.

    Thos who know wikis will appreciate the magical qualities they bring to content management, some of which are.

    - Incredible ease of publishing
    - Anyone can publish / anyone can read
    - There is no clear content owner. This reduces the feeling of intimidation thereby encourages others to pitch-in and improve the text.
    - The tags (labels) provide for a folksonomy and a way for one piece of information to be categorized in many ways thereby enhancing discovery.
    - Notification: Advanced enterprise strength wikis like Confluence have sophisticated “watch” tools that provide both email and (spam/virus free) RSS notifications of new and changed content.

    It is my hope that the workforce will create new documents within the wiki that reference, via hyperlinks somewhat more formal documents that exist within the traditional intranet thereby driving traffic to and reinvigorating the legacy intranet content (or the sub-set of that content that the workforce decide is still relevant/useful.

    As part of a future phase I would like to investigate Atlassian’s social book marking plug-in to see if this can be used to boost this effect.

I had been in the intranet driving seat for two years. It was summer 2006. I had become aware of two things: the intranet was languishing a bit and all sorts of cool things were appearing on the consumer web.

Surely there must be a way to bring some of these things from the web to reinvigorate the intranet? I felt that the ease of use of tools such as Flickr, de.lios.us and Protopage were the key. If I could make the intranet publishing process as easy (and fun!)to use I would be on to a winner. But this would not deal with the other problem. I had heard comments from some rather senior people that they “could not find things” on the intranet and I suspected that, although we had a fair amount of content being posted each week, few people were reading it.

To address this, I was attempting to update the intranet’s taxonomy. I planned to use a card sort exercise to arrive at a new one. I anticipated that it would be a daunting task. I was also investigating enterprise search tools (but I got shocked by the sticker prices! – would find it hard to find the funding for that kind of money)

Then I started hearing stories of some enterprises using wikis to replace large parts of their intranets……. More in part 2 soon.