Your Social Intranet challenges
Your company is doing well in the market. Everything’s running smoothly and your employees’ teamwork is really good. But perhaps, despite this, you have the feeling that you spend too much time looking for information? That certain knowledge is stored only in the minds of certain employees? We repeatedly encounter these problems and those listed below among our customers:
- Information is distributed using different channels. This means that when looking for a document, you have to search through your e-mail folders, shared network drives, collaboration platform and – in extreme cases – even your instant messenger messages.
- Often, e-mail is used to distribute information. But do you then know whether the attachment to an e-mail is really the latest version? Are you sure that all of your company’s employees are working from the same version?
- Information is stored in a range of different systems and is difficult to find. And the clumsy assignment of rights might mean that you’re not able to access important files even though you need them for your work. Perhaps you know of employees who, for precisely this reason, have exchanged files via Dropbox.
- Some documents are stored only locally on the computers of individual employees. If those employees are absent, you have, at least temporarily, no access to the information in question. And if they leave the company, important information might even be completely lost.
- An even worse scenario is if information doesn’t even make it into the written word because of a lack of a suitable tool, and remains available only in the minds of individual employees. This kind of dependency on a single person is problematic for relationships as a whole, not just if the employee in question goes on vacation.
- Because there’s no suitable system, one department might not know what another is doing. Information can be recorded multiple times, and frequently you end up with duplicated work that eventually needs to be consolidated.
- Files with different version states are distributed throughout the company via the various channels. Naturally, version numbers can be used to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. But in fact, this number does not reliably tell you whether you really have the most recent version.
- Your first-line workers, so the people who work at the “front” with direct customer contact, feel like second-class citizens. This is because it is difficult or even impossible for this group of people to access important resources.
Does anything sound familiar? Do you, too, spend lots of time repeatedly adjusting the folder structures in your file repository or e-mail system with the aim of allowing new content to be found more easily? Do you keep coming across OneNote notebooks on your network drives that contain important information but cannot be searched or jointly edited? If so, you’re ready for the first step in the Social Intranet revolution: You need a central platform for knowledge at your company. And this means the knowledge of all employees, not just that of individual departments.
More transparency through a Social Intranet
A Social Intranet is also associated with a completely new type of transparency. Have you encountered endless nested e-mails because there’s been no way to directly comment on documents and information and to exchange opinions? If so, then you’re ready for the second Social Intranet step: Allow your employees to take part in internal discussions and exchanges of opinion on your platform.
If, for example, a board member at Allianz Austria makes a statement about employee comments online, this statement and the employee comments can be seen by 112,000 Allianz employees around the world. Practically all country-specific intranets are already interlinked there (Kristin Engelhardt. Erfolgreiche Interne Kommunikation im Digital Workplace (“Successful Internal Communication in the Digital Workplace”). Springer Gabler. 2020).
The graphic below illustrates our understanding of a Social Intranet & Wiki capability maturity model. If you have the problems shown at the start of the graphic, then you’re probably still living in a decentralized or even an analog world.
In the sections to come, let’s take a look at how to solve these problems of traditional working methods, communication, and file repositories and see which advantages you can obtain by reaching higher levels in the capability maturity model. Or to sum it up: How can a Social Intranet help you with efficient teamwork at your organization?
The benefits of using a Social Intranet
Experience shows that a central platform is required in order to meet the prerequisites for a Social Intranet. This makes important basic functions available to enable the collaboration of cross-functional teams in organizations and across departments:
- Knowledge is stored centrally in a single location. As a result, the question of where to look for things is obsolete. A single search query will find all potentially relevant information.
- Company knowledge is stored and archived for long-term use. Information is no longer accidentally lost or deleted.
- All information and documents are automatically versioned. Access to an older version of content is child’s play. You can also compare different versions whenever you want and reactivate an old state if required. All content is fully traceable at all times.
- Information can be worked on together and at the same time. This means that you no longer need to wait for someone else to finish writing a document before you can start your own work; you can make your changes in parallel.
But as already mentioned above, this is only the start of what a Social Intranet can do. It’s precisely the social aspects that make a corporate Wiki into a place of true communication and teamwork:
- Share news in groups or throughout the entire company. This allows you to target the people who need to see your message.
- Get feedback from all your company’s employees via comments and likes for posts. React to trends and vibes at your company or a part of it immediately and with the correct response.
In combination with other systems at your company, a Social Intranet of this kind is actually the hub of all knowledge:
- Connect your system up to your Social Intranet for task and project management. In this way, for example, tasks for the relevant employees can be automatically generated in your Social Intranet from a requirements document.
- Integrate your service management system with your Social Intranet. Your Social Intranet will work as an upstream knowledge base for service management. Proposed solutions will be displayed to users when they formulate their request, and as a result they might not need to send it off in the first place.
Let’s take a more detailed look at a company and find out who benefits from a Social Intranet and how. The spectrum ranges all the way from the individual employee to the company as a whole: Each person at the company benefits from the central store with its central search function, since information can be found much more quickly. The entire company benefits from improved teamwork and therefore becomes more efficient. Other groups that benefit within the company:
- Project teams use the Social Intranet for the shared, traceable documentation of their results.
- Managers can receive aggregated information via the Social Intranet. This might include the results of an analysis from the task and project management systems or the ESM system.
- Software teams can use the Social Intranet to stage all kinds of results: Requirements, meeting notes, documentation, and architecture diagrams etc.
- For IT teams, a Social Intranet is the ideal place for storing documentation on systems and (emergency) manuals. A Social Intranet is a great solution for a knowledge base, too.
- First-line workers can get direct and fast help through a Social Intranet. Mobile access means that these first-line workers have the same information available as other employees.
- Last but not least, specialist departments benefit from a Social Intranet through documenting processes there, setting up a central store for contracts or guidelines, or communicating blog posts throughout the company.
Social intranets ensure that content is generated wherever the knowledge exists! Whereas previously only a few people were able to generate content, a Social Intranet now allows lots of people at a company to provide content to others.
There’s always a certain level of resistance when a Social Intranet is introduced at a company. Here are some of the typical concerns voiced: “Everyone will be able to see what we’re doing!”; “We don’t want to share everything with everyone else!”; “We don’t want people to be able to make comments on things. What if the comments are negative?”. These questions arise from years of working with traditional systems. Many of these concerns are unjustified, but they still need to be handled intensively. Possible solutions are based on a sophisticated rights system, a structure that fits the needs of the company in question, and finally on defined rules such as the amount of time within which comments on blog posts should be answered.
Another issue we often encounter when a Social Intranet is introduced is that employees are rather attached to their old systems. Here, we hear statements such as “We’ve already structured everything perfectly well in our file system” or “We’ve been working on our file structure in Outlook for a really long time”. And it’s also when the use of certain unofficial systems comes to light for the first time: The unauthorized usage of cloud services such as Dropbox comes up practically daily. A careful, well considered procedure helps to win over the employees: Once the advantages of a Social Intranet are made clear, users are often happy to wave goodbye to their insular solutions. Moreover, they’re happy to finally have a solution where the topics of data protection and data security are handled correctly.
Once they’ve got used to the new way of storing content, we often see genuine enthusiasm from employees. Precisely because lots of things become easier and because searching becomes finding, employees become real advocates for “their” Social Intranet. This enthusiasm needs to be achieved quickly so that the momentum for the quick growth of knowledge on the platform can be exploited.
A central platform for a Social Intranet is an important basis. As already mentioned, this brings with it a range of important functions such as the versioning of content, the possibility of parallel working on documents, and a significantly improved search for content.
However, the platform itself is not a complete solution; it merely provides the technical prerequisites for one. It’s also important for the platform to be used correctly. This is why as well as building the platform for your Social Intranet, we help you to use it in a way that will benefit you. We help you to answer questions like these:
- How is information stored in a structured way in the Social Intranet?
- How are certain document types, such as meeting notes, best used?
- What does a sensible rights system look like?
- What opportunities are there for social interaction and where?
The final result is a structure and procedure for the use of the Social Intranet, which means that its usage is perfectly tailored to your company.
How a Social Intranet works
The system of our choice for a Social Intranet is Confluence by Atlassian. It supports all required functions as described above. And if there’s a function you need that’s not available, you might find it as an Atlassian app in their store. None of your intranet needs will remain unmet and any integration you can dream of is possible.
The first question to be answered when getting started with Confluence is the operating mode in which your system is to be run. You can choose from on-premise usage in your own or in a third-party computer center or you can operate your intranet in the cloud. Each of these operating modes has advantages and disadvantages that need to be weighed up. We’ll be happy to help with that.
The connection of other systems in your company is an important point. This includes, for example, your LDAP/Active Directory user and rights management system, SharePoint, or other products by Atlassian such as Jira. A particular strength of Confluence is the host of supported integrations.
However, increasingly we come across requirements that cannot be realized with it without further ado. And this is where the Atlassian Marketplace mentioned above comes into play. It has a huge range of plug-ins (Atlassian apps) that can enhance Confluence with practically any function you can think of. We use some of these plug-ins repeatedly for our customers:
- Refined allows us to make sure that your Social Intranet follows your company’s CI/CD guidelines.
- draw.io and Gliffy are our preferred solutions when it comes to creating and editing drawings, architecture diagrams, and process diagrams directly in Confluence on a cross-platform basis. Often, we even replace proprietary solutions such as Microsoft Visio in this way.
- SharePoint Connector connects Office 365 up to Confluence to enable access to your documents in SharePoint.
- The Table Filter and Charts plug-in adds powerful functions for tables and the creation of dynamic diagrams to Confluence.
- With Comala Document Control, we place a workflow behind the publication of Confluence pages, e.g. for an editing system or for quality assurance.
As you can see, Confluence alone is already a really powerful tool that provides the ideal basis for a Social Intranet. And in conjunction with the apps from the Atlassian Marketplace, practically any requirement can be met. If you really have a requirement for which no plug-in exists, Confluence is the ideal choice of system: Due to its flexible architecture, it’s perfect for custom enhancements.
Our Social Intranet services
With a Social Intranet, you get a real user participation platform where all employees contribute, share their knowledge, exchange opinions, and waste less time searching for and requesting information. Instead of making the usual errors when introducing a Social Intranet, make the most of our many years of experience. We’ll be happy to advise and help you with the following in order to inject these benefits into your company, too:
- Platform selection. Usually, the choice falls upon Atlassian Confluence. However, there are cases where other solutions are more suitable.
- The design, implementation, and configuration of Confluence for successful usage as a Social Intranet
- Connection of existing systems (Jira, SharePoint etc.)
- Selection, installation, and configuration of plug-ins
Often, we first introduce a Social Intranet in just a part of your company. This allows you to gather experiences with the system and how it works. Afterwards, the solution is rolled out in steps throughout the company. Naturally, we also hold workshops and training courses for users and administrators to help you to work with your system in the best way possible.
We also actively involve your employees throughout the entire project. This increases acceptance for the solution, particularly because it gives rise to really great ideas about what your company’s Social Intranet should also contain: This can range from an area for communal leisure activities to interest groups for specific topics and even a virtual noticeboard.
We can help you to introduce a Social Intranet
Why are we the perfect partner for introducing a Social Intranet at your company? First, we have our proven expertise: We have successfully helped numerous companies to introduce a Social Intranet. In addition, we have in-depth knowledge of Confluence by Atlassian and maintain partnerships with the providers of many important plug-ins. This means that we can even enable application scenarios that Atlassian has not thought of and can integrate practically any of your systems. And if that’s not enough, we’re also passionate software developers: Our core competence is the agile development of software systems. So we can make sure that in your case, too, no desire is left unfulfilled.