I have been using Windows 8 for just over a couple of weeks now. Purists would argue that it isn’t a pure Windows8 experience as I am running it using VMWare on my Mac and I haven’t experience the Tablet or Mobile version yet, but I think there are some interesting conclusions to be drawn already.
First is the dual mode experience. It is like Microsoft has layered a tablet experience on top of Windows 7. It is a simultaneous experience: you can switch easily from a tablet to desktop and back again easily. But, it is interesting to note that the applications are that are available in each view are actually different applications. Even third party apps open in different windows if you access them through the different modes. I was under the impression that that this wasn’t going to be the case: one OS for all devices I thought meant one version of an app for all devices. We shall find out shortly with the development of our first Window 8 mobile app.
Second is that it took me 24 hours to get the complete hang of the ‘tablet’ UI on a desktop. Tapping and swiping is always going to be easier that pointing and clicking. But still… and it didn’t help that the “start” button has gone missing even in desktop mode!
Third is that there are some hidden commands that need to be found out to be make use on a desktop better. Here’s a couple: “Windows + I” brings out the setting bar. Moving the cursor to the top left bring up a nano window to allow toggle between windows. Moving the cursor to a right hand corner – either top or bottom – until the Charms bar appears (a Charms bar is the Search, Share, Start and Devices menu). You can also use the WINDOWS + C keyboard shortcut to display Charms. There’s a lot more listed here on CNET.
On the subject of making a desktop experience better, the Tablet mode with its full screen layout, heavy use of white space on so on really does start to create a ‘lean back experience’ on a desktop – especially with the three finger swipe trackpad of a Mac. You start to create a different interaction experience with a desktop. This will be in an interesting consideration for Enterprise apps.
As will the use of live tiles on the homescreen on the tablet view for pulling in information from across the business. You can see sales data, latest Yammer posts, task data from mobile apps etc all being pulled into the live tiles on desktops and tablets.
So what have we learned so far?
- It might not be one app for all versions
- The UI and hidden commands might mean that it takes a little time to be understood in the workplace and therefore get adopted (as will the licensing agreement and compliance drive this)
- The blurring of the ‘lean back’ and the ‘lean forward’ experience will be useful for businesses apps in terms of productivity
- Live tiles could become that fabled Enterprise
Technology development in the last few years has made self-service a far more viable option than it ever has been before.by Gareth Phillips |July 2nd, 2012
Implemented well, self-service is a great option for your customers, as they will often pick it over the time-consuming effort of real human interaction. And from an organisation’s perspective, there are some major upsides not least from a revenue perspective. Plus unless you are doing something significantly wrong, a self-service should cost very little once the technology and processes are set up!
It may seem completely at odds with ‘logic’, but a positive self-service interaction from a customer’s perspective can make them feel more engaged with your brand. We have all felt it – and probably said it – “they” made it really easy, because “all you had to do is …”
Taking a look at the data in this area though, there seems to be a little bit of a mismatch between what customers want and what firms are providing. Perhaps it is because whilst the technology is simpler and cheaper to deliver than before, getting those processes to work differently isn’t some simple? Perhaps it is attitudinal?
Looking at demographics, this issue isn’t going to go away though – among younger demographics the absence of an online system or a mobile app, or even a quick and effective IVR system, will be perceived pretty negatively – that means that self-service will likely experience a consistent and relentless push towards the front of customer interactions in the coming years.
So with this in mind, we thought it might be useful to share our thoughts based on our experience:
- Treat it like a program of work – put in place solid program governance structures
- Approach it like a major change management project
- Don’t think technology, think people (customers and employees) and process too
- Make sure that you have solid IT strategy in place that will enable you to embark on the changes needed – otherwise step away until you do
- Use real people to shape your insight. Don’t rely on third-party research or hearsay. And always test the new process and technology with real people in real scenarios – including internal process
- Keep the choices simple – there is nothing worse than being on a IVR call and here option, after option, after option. Use 2-3 options and then move to sub-options. Just like you would online
- Think multi-channel – Self-service can be extremely powerful when dealing with customers, but it is never the only channel. Customers are not as forgiving or particularly trusting of companies that hide customer phone numbers, for example
- It is the start of the journey – whenever a new process or technology goes live, it is only the first step….
Starting out on developing – or in many cases re-developing – an intranet can be a daunting experience. With that in mind, sharing some of our lessons learned about starting off on the right foot seems like a good idea.
Clarity of purpose
Having a ‘clarity of purpose’ may seem obvious, but having worked on a few projects where the intranet’s purpose was a little muddled at the outset, perhaps it isn’t always. Why is this? In our experience it is often because there are conflicting agendas within the organisation, each with their understandable and justifiable goals.
Having a solid understanding of what the organisation – or the project sponsor- wants and needs the intranet to do is essential. Ideally, that means having one project sponsor and one set of goals where possible….
This level of focus lets the team filter out functionality that isn’t core to unlocking the value promised in business case. That focus helps crystallise user experience decisions. It allows the team to say ‘no’ to unnecessary content and other perceived ‘benefits’ until its primary function is delivered.
That purpose comes from a solid business case with a robust prioritised roadmap (more on that in a different post). Without a clarity of purpose, we wouldn’t recommend starting an intranet project – it is better to spend the time getting clarity than spend the time doing the wrong thing.
Even if your colleagues have seen and understand the inherent value in a collaborative environment, they are likely to remain rooted in their old behaviour patterns – that’s completely natural. Sharing information online and engaging in a team space might new behaviour for most people in work environment. Expectations are generally pretty clear when it comes to meetings and email. Calendars and in-boxes fill up with content and commitments, and we respond accordingly.
But the online collaboration environment is a new destination, not accessible through Outlook or other usual work applications or locations. Most collaboration environments notify participants of new content via email, but even this remains a passive, reactive mode of engaging in your group’s interactions.
So perhaps start by asking colleagues to visit the shared workspace at least once a day. Encourage them to add information that might be useful to the group. This could be something as mundane as a Facebook-like update on their state of mind that day. This simple update goes a long way to building relationships and humanising the work environment.
Then once your group is up and running, why not look toward game play (or gamification – sorry!) techniques to help drive up usage? (Naturally such things are best planned at the outset.). The psychology of games and the role that they play in intranets is something that will be covered in another post, but our experience is that they are – and will be – essential to getting participation.
A while back Harvard Business Review published an article about the best way to sell an idea of a movie to a producer. The authors studied the different approaches to selling, the conclusion was that the most successful way was to create something that wasn’t finished and engage the producer in the pitch meeting to help complete it. So giving them co-ownership rights to – and pride in – the idea.
This is definitely a technique that works well with influential/power users of a future intranet too. Identify the influential minority and ask them to contribute in coming up with the answer. They will feel ownership and help you get others on board.
Consumerisation of IT
This is a topic that’s been around for the last two years – there have been posts on it here previously. It’s generally defined ‘as the use of technologies that can easily be provisioned by non-technologists’ – or put another, and simpler, way – technology that feels as friendly as an app that you or I might use every day. Naturally there are pros and cons here, see this CIO article. And whilst we aren’t suggesting that every intranet needs to be like Facebook, certainly not acting and looking like a standard installation of SharePoint is a must!
Just about keeping the alliteration going….if you take a walk up and down a business inter-city train or a packed bus, you will probably see between half and three-quarters of traveller tapping away on a mobile device or some sort. The conclusions are obvious: a ‘mobile first’ has to be adopted for intranet.
Most organisations we have recently worked with are grappling with the same challenge: having lost faith in the company’s monolithic intranet or extranet, employees have been creating and maintaining small, unauthorised communities on external social channels, mainly Facebook, LinkedIn Groups or Twitter. Organisations tend to respond in one of three ways: some throw up a fight, caution the perpetrators and even ban all social media use across the organisation; others turn a blind eye only to see such illicit activity gathering pace; and finally, the few left see this as an opportunity for transformation and embrace change putting their intranet or extranet at its core.
We have found that when it comes to intranets and extranets an important factor that determines a company’s strategy is the questions asked during the planning phase: if, for example, the main question is “what do we want in our intranet” companies find themselves discussing platforms, technologies, modules, webparts or departmental requests; on the other hand, companies brave enough to ask themselves “what kind of company do we want to be” discover that their intranet is only a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Before designing and building an intranet or extranet, our job (or even duty) as a experienced supplier it to use our analytical process to help the organisation fist ask the right questions and then find the right answers.
Below is a list of intranets and extranets we have created belonging to a number of diverse organisations that have chosen equally diverse paths for creating them:
Global extranet for London Business School
If you been reading the press, watching TV or been online in the last few months then no doubt that you’ve seen Siri, the intelligent “personal assistant” on iPhone 4Gs. OK, Siri is an interesting step forward in natural language processing, but how is this relevant an enterprise?
Given consumerisation of IT, there will an impact.
Spending a few moments, hypothesising on what that might be though…Siri’s capabilities go beyond voice recognition, it will have an effect on how we search for and find information. It isn’t us doing the search query here, it is the machine. That brings in the Semantic Web, If then we also layer in Enterprise Search and how it varies from web search (different types of repositories, enterprise bookmarking; federated search etc). Then to get the most from personal assistant technology in the Enterprise both concepts need to be understood and implemented.
There will be the demand. Employees will be used to ‘personal assistants‘ in the private lives and will expect the same from the work place. Those Enterprises that embrace both concepts now should benefit. Especially, if the intranet of the future is a series of apps and personal assistant technology.
Most partner extranets have a public homepage that fulfils two main purposes: allows existing members to log in and attempts to attract prospective members. As part of our market research for a client, we reviewed 12 such public homepages (as well as the rest of the acquisition content) and below we present a quick evaluation. The extranets belong to global technology companies with each operating a complex network of partners. Unfortunately, with the exception of Microsoft, the overall quality of the user experience ranges from mediocre to poor.
A few notes on the evaluation below:
- Each channel ecosystem works differently, so in some cases acquisition of new members might sit quite low on a homepage’s list of objectives. Nevertheless, for the purpose of this evaluation, wherever we saw even the smallest “Register”, or “More info” call to action we made the assumption that acquisition is indeed a key objective.
- Most global organisations have localised partner extranets and some even have dedicated partner extranets for different product lines. To keep things simple we evaluated the homepage of only a single partner extranet from each organisation.
- Regarding the scoring numbers: 5 is best and 1 is worst
- Appeal of visual design: 4
- Strength and clarity of proposition: 3
- Good usability: 4
- Depth of content: 5
- Prominence of call to action: 5
- Total score: 21
We have been using Flickr to hold our portfolio for a while and every so often we restructure the content to take advantage of Flickr’s ever expanding features. The new structure is using tags to drive traffic to a number of slideshows:
- Intranets & Portals slideshow
- Corporate Websites slideshow
- Campaigns & Marketing slideshow
- Presentations & Demos slideshow
- Branding slideshow
- Mobile & Tablet slideshow (will be adding new projects in the next few weeks)
The complete portfolio slideshow can be seen here
Flickr is by no means perfect and it’s definitely not sexy (Behance looks much better), but it’s still an efficient way to manage a portfolio and make it socially accessible.