Archive for November, 2010

November 29, 2010

Think Communities, Not Portals!


If you are planning your SharePoint 2010 upgrade and looking at redesigning the hundreds of intranet sites — stop right there!   Don’t redesign, rethink your corporate intranet.

I spend a fair amount of time with clients discussing the redesign of their sites and in most cases I continue to hear the word “portal” mentioned.   When I think of portals, I jump into my time machine and go back a decade or so.  Portals are plain and generally have static web content with outdated information that is seldom accessed by employees.   Look at your intranet today and it’s likely you’ll see a SharePoint site with all kinds of links that’s not very interactive or relevant to individuals.  Maybe you have top-down executive blog that is posted to once a quarter or once a month if you’re lucky.   If the corporate intranet page wasn’t set as the employee home page in the browser, I wonder how many people would actually visit it?  .  Sound like your intranet?  So what’s the point of upgrading to SharePoint 2010 if you’re just going to migrate those plain boring sites you have today?

It’s time to break away from the traditional thinking of intranet “portals” and design a collaborative infrastructure around a complete “community model”.  What do I mean exactly?   If you compare a community to the traditional portal, you may think it’s just a matter of semantics.   However, the concept of a portal is a push relationship as someone is pushing content to you.  Communities are social, interactive, dynamic, and provide a context for individuals to subscribe, collaborate and contribute to.   Communities source information from the bottom up as well as the top down.  Communities have a pull relationship — meaning the community pulls on users to contribute and users pull on the community to consume.  The fact is that every piece of content and every person in your organization is part of some community whether you realize it or not.  The largest and most open community is everyone in your organization and there are likely hundreds or thousands of sub-communities.   Communities also provide a degree of openness in your organization.  So if the information you wish to share has more defined security requirements, that’s when you manage it in a secure team site as opposed to a community.

Now I know what you’re thinking — “we have to have a hierarchical intranet portal”.   Really do you?  Do you need it to be hierarchical?   Sure you might need a directory for people or sites for easier navigation.  You also need enhanced search capabilities as most people would rather search than browse.   Just think about it — is the public internet hierarchical?   Does Google or Facebook or LinkedIn have any hierarchy?   In comparison, you could look at Yahoo as a traditional portal — static, boring, and a site people rarely view anymore.  And that’s why Yahoo has lost market share and relevance today.

Let’s face it — for many of us Facebook is our “portal” on the public internet  and something we visit 1 or more times a day because it’s social and relevant to us personally.  LinkedIn may be your “portal” into your professional life and network.   Do you really need a traditional hierarchy of intranet sites and portals?   Or is it more important to capture, share, and collaborate on information within the context of a community?

 

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November 9, 2010

Optimize Your Customer Experience First…Then Your Content!


Today, companies need to focus on the 360 degree relationship and interaction they have with customers in all forms of media. It is not enough to just ensure your content is search engine optimized or enhanced for analytics. It’s not enough that your site navigation is simple enough for the average person to find what they’re looking for, or you have a Facebook page or “like” buttons on your site. It’s not about “web experience management” or “web engagement management” that you hear some WCMS vendors talk about. It’s about the customer experience. 

It’s a Multi Channel Experience

People are looking for current and relevant information as well an interactive experience. It’s difficult to capture people’s attention today and they are looking to interact with your brand on your website, on Facebook, tv, in your store, on their mobile device, at work on their laptop or at home on their iPad. It’s critical companies look at the overall multi-channel experience customers have with their brand in a web browser, on their website, in email, in print, tv, in a social network, on their laptop, on their cell phone, iPads, as well as in person!

Customers expect websites to be dynamic, fast and incorporate rich media content. And depending on where and how the customer chooses to look for or access information about your brand, it might dictate a different experience all together.

For example, look at a retailer like Best Buy. I go to bestbuy.com on my desktop browser, I see a rich and engaging experience. I can view the weekly circular, browse products, deals and more. When I access Best Buy on my mobile device, I am automatically taken to a store locator and have the ability to search for a product or read the circular in text based format as well. The mobile vs. web experience is obvious.

iPad-like devices may not be as obvious and may incorporate different UI and navigation design because of the touch screen and “pinch” capabilities. Additionally, I might be holding my iPad vertically vs. horizontally and use the device in different ways than my mobile or desktop. I might even want to bring my iPad to Best Buy, walk through the store, have the latest circular and deals automatically fed to me, and have it tell me where in the store a particular product is located. Of course no matter what I do with any device, I will always want to share that with my friends.

Customer First, Technology Second

The point here is that content management systems are important and will always be a necessary technology no matter what the customer channel. As organizations have begun to move to this next generation of web content management technology platforms, many are doing so without a solid strategy, without optimizing the customer experience, and without an understanding of how that content fits into consumer lifestyles and purchasing decisions.

Fortunately, we’re starting to see at least one major vendor recognize this with IBM’s announcement of their Customer Experience Suite. However, as with any technology, it’s more important to put yourself in the customer’s shoes before pushing that information out through multiple channels.

You need to understand how people prefer to consume the information you’re providing them, in what context, on what device and how customers use those devices, when, and where they use them. Once you understand the process and the people, it will be much easier to focus on the technology, the channel, and the optimization of content and analytics.

November 8, 2010

How do you deal with the critics and skeptics in your organization?


I recently came across this interesting video of a Harvard Professor discussing selling ideas within an organization (link available at the end of this post).  And it’s no secret that SharePoint requires a fair amount of evangelizing to change people’s behavior, sell solutions, and influence decision makers.  SharePoint is suppose to be a productivity tool – right?

In the video, the Professor discusses tactics the naysayers use such as confusion, fear mongering, or death by delay.   And I can honestly say I’ve witnessed them all — especially when you start discussing the “social capabilities” of SharePoint.  It’s kind of ironic actually that simply suggesting technology to improve the socialization of ideas and business discussions is met with such social dysfunction.  Anyway, the interesting thing I took away from the Q&A in the video was how to address the naysayers.  Professor Kotter recommends thinking through what the skeptics might say and then inviting the critics in to address their concerns head on.  He goes on to say that the discussion (or heated discussion) will get people’s attention — who might otherwise ignore the ideas as a result of our own personal information overload.   And come to think of it information overload itself just might be another tactic the skeptics use — if you like conspiracy theories of course.

Now when it comes to SharePoint and solutions built on SharePoint, I have to question whether or not it’s best to get a group of cross functional (or dysfunctional) stakeholders or business process owners together to agree upon a technology that many don’t understand.  So I’m going to pose the question to the community and hope the readers and lurkers out there might share their experiences or stories on some of their personal or organizational challenges?   Is it legal or compliance concerns?  Political?  Fear of losing control?  Is it mainly social features that raise objection?  Or SharePoint in general?  What’s your SharePoint story?  And how has your organization addressed the skeptics?

Link to video:  http://blogs.hbr.org/video/2010/10/how-to-stop-good-ideas-from-ge.html