Letting go: How I moved from SharePoint to a social intranet

Ilana Friesen has over a decade of communications and intranet management experience. Her experience ranges from traditional platforms, like SharePoint, to social intranets, like ThoughtFarmer. We’re fortunate enough to have her write for our blog.

SharePoint and I had a rocky relationship in the past, but it worked and I was fine with that. It was a decent content management tool, despite the occasional technological glitch. Sure, it wasn’t easy to change page layouts or paste content from other document management sources. And, collaboration happened on separate team sites, making project work clunky at times. But the technology enabled me to review, approve—and essentially control—content before it was published. Being an intranet content approver allowed me to prevent disasters like abstract employee profile photos, awkwardly formatted cafeteria menus, never before seen page layouts, and bizarre witticisms on random pages.

Awhile back I managed a SharePoint intranet used to communicate organizational updates and messages to a complex group of employees. Some were gung-ho about using new technology, while others had a full-on adversity to it. With its lacklustre design and cumbersome features, the traditional intranet was more of a bulletin board than a tool for helping people work better. People hardly used it. When there was talk of upgrading the intranet to help create a culture of openness, collaboration, and community, I was all ears.

Heading into the social intranet unknown

One day I heard some exciting news during a communications team check in—the intranet would be getting a major facelift. The organization was going to adopt ThoughtFarmer’s social intranet software.

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Intranet Tip: Level Up Your Employee Engagement

In brief: EngenderHealth gamified their intranet by rewarding users with badges after completing specific tasks.

GAMIFYING THE INTRANET

More than 1.2 billion people around the world play games1. So it comes as no surprise that organizations employ gamification techniques to drive business practices. EngenderHealth, a leading global women’s health organization, uses gaming elements to drive user adoption and employee engagement on their intranet.

In the example below, you can see users are awarded badges for completing various tasks on the intranet such as creating their first page, filling out their profile, or joining a group. Beyond awarding “first task” badges, EngenderHealth uses a point system to award additional badges based on the number of times an employee completes similar tasks. The result? A fun way to increase employee engagement and continue driving users to the intranet long after launch.

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What is a social intranet? The definitive explanation.

First, what is an intranet?

In simple terms, it’s an internal website that helps employees get stuff done.

An intranet plays many roles inside an organization—it’s a website, communications channel, and collaboration platform. Good intranets make it easy for every employee to contribute, not just a select few. The most effective intranets help people work better together by combining flexible content management tools, powerful search capabilities, and engaging collaboration features.

For a more detailed explanation of intranets, check out our full blog post, “What is an intranet”.

Next, what is social?

In the 21st century, “social” has become a term that we think of in relation to social networking or social media. When asked to define “social” the average businessperson would likely struggle, resorting to references of Facebook or Twitter. The term “social” simply refers to people interacting, whereas “social networking” describes the practice of establishing relationships. While the concept of social networking has been around for years, online communications channels—like social software and social media—have rapidly increased the rate at which people are connecting and sharing information.

Social intranets marry these concepts to help employees interact and build relationships in the workplace.

Understanding social intranets

Traditional intranets have narrow authorship restricted to a handful of people with official “editor” permissions. Content is basically anonymous, making it difficult to establish a social context or connection between pages and specific individuals.

In contrast, a social intranet is built around people. It enables widespread participation and interaction by allowing all employees to author rich content.

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An Award Winning Interface: Congrats ThoughtFarmer Team!

Congratulations are in order. The Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts awarded ThoughtFarmer a 2016 W³ Award for our latest, and biggest release yet, ThoughtFarmer 8! We’re insanely proud of the end product and of all the project managers, copywriters, designers, and developers who worked so hard to bring the vision to life for our customers.

Below you can see the evolution of ThoughtFarmer. On the left is the old homepage, and on the right is the vibrant, modern version in ThoughtFarmer 8.

Like what you see? Take a look at our latest features and contact us for a live tour.

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Put Collaboration at the Core of your Digital Workplace

Collaboration in the digital workplace

The idea of collaboration in the workplace isn’t new. In the past, teams came together to work and share knowledge, but the tools they had at their disposal were quite different. Working together often meant face-to-face interactions with people who typically worked out of the same office. Attending an off-site leadership strategy session to discuss business objectives may have been a way people accomplished goals. Prior to the digital age, stakeholders who were absent from the session would have missed an important opportunity to provide feedback and shape the results.

The nature of collaboration today has changed, due in part to an entirely new working environment called the digital workplace. The digital workplace allows the location of where work gets done to transcend the confines of a traditional office space. The technology that supports this virtual work environment can be anything from email, instant messaging, and HR systems to document management software and of course, intranets.

A Useful Definition for “Collaboration”

Over the years, the word “collaboration” has transitioned from an over-hyped buzzword to an adjective that describes an essential element of a productive workplace. While research reveals several interpretations of the concept floating around in cyberspace, what it really boils down to is two or more people working together towards a shared goal. It’s a working definition that can help examine collaboration from a historical and current perspective.

With more companies going global and social interaction becoming a vital part of our everyday lives, organizations are introducing ways to help people work anywhere, anytime.

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9 Tips For a Successful Social Intranet Pilot

You and your team have spent long hours configuring, organizing, and testing your new social intranet. After careful planning and lots of work, you’re just about ready to roll the intranet out across your entire organization.

But questions still remain.

Is the information organized correctly? Are the right tools in place? Will people use the intranet the way you hope they will?

Wouldn’t it be great to know the answers to these and other questions before you launch?

That’s where a pilot initiative can help. Give your intranet a test drive—uncovering critical insights and confirming your approach—before launching your new social intranet across your entire organization.

Here are some tips that will make your pilot a success.

Tip #1: Pilot around a specific event or project

Without an actual task to perform, how will people know if the intranet can work in real-world scenarios? Ensure that the pilot is more than an exercise in random-clicking by centering it around an actual business event or project. Some events or projects that you could use for a pilot are:

  • An off-site strategy meeting
  • An upcoming tradeshow
  • The intranet project itself

Penn State Outreach launched a ThoughtFarmer intranet within a tight timeline. To maximize adoption, they designed a user-centred, attention-grabbing, and interactive launch campaign which included a 20-person pilot. Made up of campus-wide volunteers, the pilot helped the launch team see how the software performed before the official launch.

Tip #2: Choose the right group

Size: Keep your pilot group size manageable. You need enough people participating to make it interesting and useful—10 to 50 people is a good size.

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Grow Employee Engagement with ThoughtFarmer 8.1 Satsuma

Engagement isn’t one-way email blasts, long-form surveys, and strategic vision documents. Engagement starts with listening to employees, involving them in decisions, and empowering them to take ownership of their work.

Our latest release builds on the engagement and flexibility offered in ThoughtFarmer 8 Citrus, including:

  • Create a culture of recognition: The new shout-out feature empowers employees to recognize one another for outstanding contributions.
  • Capture faces, voices, and moments: Video is the next best thing to being there. Speak to employees in a meaningful way with our new video upload tools.
  • Make it easier to find and access resources: New search infrastructure offers best bets, “did you mean” recommendations, find as you type, and fuzzy search. Plus, you can now embed Google Docs and Google Drives into your intranet.
  • Give employees tools that are unique to your business: Custom cards and developer tools speed up the time for customizations and integrations.

At ThoughtFarmer, we help you grow employee engagement—by creating a vibrant intranet that everyone loves being a part of. ThoughtFarmer 8.1 is full of rich tools that help employees take charge of their own productivity and engagement, so you can design the workplace of the future, together.

Visit our product page to learn more, then request a demo to see what ThoughtFarmer can do for your organization.

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15 Ways to Engage Employees in Building a New Social Intranet

Social intranets have changed the rules of successfully launching an intranet. Today, we’re seeing more robust and vibrant intranets with social and mobile-enabled features to support the rise of the digital workplace. While in the past it was quite helpful to involve employees throughout the process, today it’s a virtual necessity.

A social intranet is an online community space. In order to build a fruitful community, employees need to feel a sense of involvement and ownership early on in the project.

Many of the ideas listed below are standard practice for building an intranet that adds value to an organization’s internal communications strategy. Each one represents an opportunity to build a sense of shared ownership and community, while generating excitement about the new site.

15 Ways to Engage Users

1: Send out a survey to evaluate your existing intranet.

A simple survey that measures employee satisfaction with the existing intranet can be a useful tool for gathering feedback. Try creating a simple survey about satisfaction with the current intranet. If you word questions carefully, you can re-apply the survey six months after you launch the new intranet and compare it to the baseline data about the old intranet. You can then continue to send out that same survey every 6-12 month to monitor satisfaction with the new intranet. Keep in mind that self-reported satisfaction surveys are not a complete approach to measuring the value of an intranet.

2: Hold focus groups about intranet problems.

Focus groups are a useful way to capture feedback about the current intranet and gather information about employee needs.

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Lights, Camera, Action: 11 ways video can bring your intranet to life

bring-intranet-to-life

Video is a powerful and versatile tool for sharing information with employees. It can deliver just about any type of internal message, while connecting with employees on a personal level. Using today’s technology, you can easily incorporate video on your company intranet, making information accessible from any device or location. Below we’ve compiled 11 ideas that you can use to enhance your intranet communications with this vibrant and powerful tool.

Idea #1: Connect employees with the CEO and leadership team

Video has the ability to humanize important leadership messages or company updates. Keep it simple—interviews with a basic script can effectively capture important points. You can also create a CEO video blog series on your intranet which encourages open communication and builds transparency. In this video, Biz Pod’s CEO paints a clear picture of what they want to accomplish during an upcoming executive meeting.

Idea #2: Energize company announcements and updates

Videos are a powerful way to turn company announcements and updates into interesting stories. As with idea #1, involve your CEO and leadership team to relay these messages. Or, gather other subject matter experts to deliver their perspective. This encourages interaction, reduces confusion, and provides a support system for employees. Pair these videos with a short intranet news story to reduce written content since employees are more likely to pay attention if they see a video included.

Idea #3: Welcome new employees in a meaningful way

Try welcoming new employees with a video for a more engaging approach to orientation.

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Recorded Webinar: ThoughtFarmer Custom Card Development

custom-dev-tools-webinar-hero

ThoughtFarmer is an excellent out-of-the-box intranet solution, but it’s also an awesome platform that can be customized to support unique business cases.

With our latest release, ThoughtFarmer 8.1 Satsuma, we’ve expanded the capability for users to extend ThoughtFarmer’s functionality. New features give developers more tools to create, update, and deploy custom cards right from their own computers.

In this 30-minute webinar, presented by our Professional Services Developer, Tim Schiller, you will learn how to:

  • Create custom cards from the admin panel
  • Build custom cards using our developer tools, or your own
  • Differentiate between page template cards and global cards, and how those are used in ThoughtFarmer as a React based Single Page Application

This webinar is now complete, view the recording:

 

 

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