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Intranet Tip: Create an Employee Thank You Forum

In brief: Create a positive work environment by letting any employee add posts to thank colleagues for work well done.

The most popular part of the Farm Bureau Bank’s intranet is the “Shout Outs” section. Here any employee can add a news post to thank another colleague or team for a job well done. Employees from across the company contribute, keeping the section fresh. This works so well because it lets employees take centre stage, spotlights good work, and highlights a supportive work environment.


Use a Thank You Forum to encourage peer recognition and kudos.

ThoughtFarmer’s Intranet Tips are a biweekly series of brief, actionable tips that show you how real companies are using real intranets to solve real business problems. Have a Tip to share? Send a screenshot and brief description to engage@thoughtfarmer.com.

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How to Create Useful Content — Intranet Content Strategy Part 1

Not reading your intranet content

No one reads the intranet in the same way they curl up with a good book.

Intranet content consumption is purpose-driven and goal-oriented. Your employees have mountains of information to move and they are pressed for time. So it’s critical that your intranet content is:

  • Useful
  • Scannable
  • Findable

This article focuses on creating useful content.

Useful intranet content has a PURPOSE

Useful intranet content is:

  • Focused on specific tasks. The content addresses a specific need of a group of employees
  • Clear and simple. The content is stripped of superfluous material, presented in simple language, and makes a clear point.

Some intranets contain content that lacks purpose. Asking “why does this page exist?” can reveal “vanity” content that has little purpose to users. For example, I’ve seen a department landing page that says, “This is the Accounting Departments home on the intranet” and proceeds to give an obvious description of Accounting’s function within the organization.

Conversely, asking “why does this page exist?” can surface the core tasks related to a page of content and help you understand users’ reasons for coming to the page at all.

To understand why a page exists, you can ask these more specific questions:

  • Who is the indended audience?
  • What tasks are people trying to complete when they are on this page?
  • What information do people need to accomplish those tasks?
  • What related tasks might people need to accomplish?
  • What related information might people need links to?

All of these questions help hone in on the purpose of the page.

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Future of Work Series Part 1: Leanership and Connected Technologies

This interview is part one of the Future of Work four part series. ThoughtFarmer is hosting a Future of Work panel at Digital Strategy Conference Vancouver on April 29th. Register Now!

Stowe BoydThe exploding scale of computing, mobile, cloud, and connected technologies is rapidly changing the way we work. Stowe Boyd compares the transformation to a tsunami hitting our organizations. Stowe Boyd is a web anthropologist, a futurist, and the lead analyst for GigaOM Research on the future of work. He is currently writing a book called ‘Leanership: A New Way Of Work‘.

In this short interview, Stowe provides background into his leanership philosophy, and examples of who’s doing it right. This huge shift towards connected technologies means we need to change the way we manage companies. Instead of top-down management, we need to build an adaptable leadership team that is capable of quickly learning new skills (and “unlearning” old skills) and swiftly changing strategic direction. This is what Stowe likes to call Leanership. According to Stowe, “[We need] to adopt lean principles across the board, in the core tenets of work culture, and not just about the product cycle.”

Stay tuned for the remainder of the Future of Work series featuring Dave Gray (author of Gamestorming and The Connected Company), Megan Murray (Moxie Software), and David Ascher (Mozilla) in coming weeks.

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How-to Guide for Creating Intranet User Personas

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When an intranet team builds a new intranet or revamps a site’s navigation their primary goal is to help a diverse group of employees do their jobs more easily. But questions quickly arise:

  • How do you know what information employees need?
  • How do you understand users’ core motivations and goals?
  • How do you accommodate different user groups who do different types of work?
  • How do you ensure that every design decision is based on a clear hierarchy of users’ needs?

Although it’s vital to involve real employees in your project, it’s not feasible to involve users in every single decision. But you can create a virtual panel of key employees that can provide direction and clarity around key issues. That is the core value of creating intranet user personas.

What is an intranet user persona?

A user persona is an imaginary person you create to represent a large group of users who share many characteristics in common. It is an archetypal user to whom many real users are quite similar.

When you create user personas you flesh out details about the imaginary people to make them highly realistic and relatable. And you conduct research to understand the different patterns that tie users together into clearly delineated groups.

intranet redesign personas

Intranet persona developed for a ThoughtFarmer client

The value and uses of personas

User personas help an intranet team escape conceptual debates around personal preferences as well as political jousting between stakeholders. Referencing user personas at key decision moments forces personal preferences to recede and shifts the focus to users’ needs.

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FYI: ThoughtFarmer and the Heartbleed Bug

On April 7, a serious weakness in the OpenSSL library known as the “Heartbleed” bug was identified. Your data security is top priority and we have promptly and thoroughly investigated any potential impacts. We’re pleased to say that at no time was ThoughtFarmer Cloud or the ThoughtFarmer website vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug.

Further information:

  1. ThoughtFarmer Cloud does not use OpenSSL and as such is not vulnerable to this issue.
  2. The ThoughtFarmer website and Intranet Statistics use a version of OpenSSL that is not susceptible to this issue.
  3. On-premise ThoughtFarmer customers should not be affected by this issue unless you are using an SSL proxy that uses OpenSSL in front of the web server running ThoughtFarmer.  If you are using a proxy, you can validate it online by using http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/ or by downloading the tool here https://github.com/FiloSottile/Heartbleed and running it locally.
  4. Our Helpdesk software is powered by Zendesk.  Zendesk has updated their systems to mitigate this issue. Zendesk is recommending (as an added precaution) to change your passwords.
  5. We continue to test and verify our internal systems to ensure that no systems are vulnerable to this defect.

If you have any questions about this issue, please contact us at support@thoughtfarmer.com.

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The Biggest Difference Between Good and Bad Intranets: A Focus on Users

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Good intranets come in different shapes, sizes and colors, but they share one thing in common: a focus on users.

This single factor has a huge influence on planning exercises, on software selection, on the design of the intranet and on launch and training activities. But many companies seem to forget who the intranet is for.

A user-first mindset

A user-focused approach to building intranets begins with a user-first mindset:

  • The intranet’s primary purpose is to help users (employees) do their jobs better
  • Users possess a wealth of knowledge about their jobs
  • We can’t fully understand how users think or what they need without researching it
  • Time spent now involving users is an investment that will pay off later in a more successful intranet

The benefit of focusing on users

Focusing on users benefits your intranet in three main ways:

Activity Benefit
User-centered design activities, such as card sorting Site navigations and layout that are user-friendly
Observing user behavior, gathering user feedback Features that address actual user problems
Involving users in decisions, such as what to name the intranet A shared sense of ownership among users

As you can imagine, these benefits are heavily interrelated: an easy-to-use intranet must also address real user problems in order to be well-received by employees.

3 reasons some intranets don’t focus on users

False assumptions: “I know what they want.” Intranet designs are often based on untested assumptions about what users need and like. A central team thinks it knows what’s needed and implements an intranet that misses the mark.

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This Simple Chart Explains the 2 Keys to a Successful Intranet

Do you want to love your intranet? This simple 2×2 explains the 2 keys: relevance and ease-of-use. Anything else leads to frustration, apathy or disappointment.

2x2 quadrant for intranet satisfaction

How do you want your users to feel when they use your intranet? Successful intranets are easy to use, and they solve real business problems.

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5 ThoughtFarmer Features that Make Managing Multicultural Intranets Easier

Internal communications people know that making sure your staff gets the right information at the right time is hard. And when you have staff working at different locations speaking different languages, it becomes even harder.

Here are five features in ThoughtFarmer that help you manage different languages in your social intranet.

1.  Twelve Localized Interfaces

With a localized interface for 12 languages, ThoughtFarmer is designed to be fully multilingual. Multilingue. Meertalig. 多种语言.

We currently support:

  • English
  • Chinese
  • Dutch
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Turkish
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Upcoming Live Webinar: Real-World Intranet Stories with ACCA

RED ACCA Logo (spot 485)Join us next Wednesday for a live tour of the ThoughtFarmer-powered intranet of ACCA, the London-based global body for professional accountants.

With 1100 staff in 30 global locations, ACCA supports 162,000 members and 428,000 students across 173 countries. With such a large, wide-spread employee base and audience, ACCA’s internal communications and collaboration systems need to be rock solid. Their previous intranet was inflexible, painful to use, and offered limited social features. Enter ThoughtFarmer.

In this webinar you’ll see:

  • How the CEO uses ThoughtFarmer to post staff briefings
  • How internal publications have been moved from paper to digital
  • How ACCA’s national offices use ThoughtFarmer to manage and coordinate social media campaigns
  • How ACCA uses ThoughtFarmer to post internal job vacancies
  • How personal interest stories, such as an employee who is a part-time firefighter in Australia, are the most popular posts on the intranet
  • How ThoughtFarmer was the lifeline when ACCA experienced an email outage
Home page of ACCA's ThoughtFarmer intranet, Arthur

The homepage of Arthur — ACCA’s ThoughtFarmer intranet.

Webinar Details

Date: Wednesday, Feb 19th, 2014

Time: 8:00am Pacific / 11:00am Eastern / 16:00 UK / 17:00 EU

Presenters from ACCA: Sarah Moffatt & David Jones, Internal Communications

Intended audiences:

  • Businesses who are currently evaluating intranet vendors or starting a new intranet project
  • Current ThoughtFarmer clients interested in ways to increase engagement and maximize ROI with their intranet

Register Now>>

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How Social Intranets Can Support Legal Knowledge Management

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Real World Intranet Stories from Assiniboine Credit Union’s Intranet: Watch an 8 minute guided tour of a real live intranet. 

Last week I had the pleasure of spending the day in Toronto with legal knowledge management practitioners from across the Canadian public sector. The need to manage knowledge in the legal and courts system appears to be alive and well, not surprisingly, as knowledge of case law, decisions, and interpretation of new legislation lies at the heart of the lawyer-knowledge-worker’s everyday work activities.

I was asked to share some of my thoughts on how social software fits into the KM mix — something not unfamiliar to those who’ve travelled to Washington DC for KM World or any of the related intranet / KM conferences around the world these days — but still a new topic for those who have not yet adopted a social intranet in their organization. I shared a panel with our ThoughtFarmer client and Knowledge Management Specialist Heather Colman from Hicks-Morley, a leading Toronto-based HR-focused law firm, and Ruven Gotz, a SharePoint MVP from Avanade.

My panel comments zero’d in on some common social intranet features and design patterns and then moved onto investigating exactly what problems those features attempt to solve. While the inventory of use cases for social intranets is lengthy, I framed the problem of social intranets through the lens of attempting to manage knowledge, and in particular, through the pioneering work on contemplating knowledge as an asset by Max Boisot.

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