Tag: digital strategy

Design Thinking Series, Part 1: Why Digital Transformation Projects Fail

Posted by on July 09, 2019

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…if you can’t get the sum of the parts to be greater than the cost you’re going to fail and I think a large part of that 84 percent that fail it’s because they’re not prepared to change behavior. They think they can have strategy and technology and it just doesn’t get them there fast enough or in a good enough way.

— Michael Gale
Forbes Magazine,
“Why 84% Of Companies Fail At Digital Transformation”

Digital Transformation is growing is priority for most businesses, small and large. Virtually every company in the Forbes Global 2000 company list is on some sort of journey towards evolving their workplace in response to changes  in the way people interact with technology. While a few of these companies are reaping the rewards of embracing a growth mindset towards technology, many are struggling to make it happen or simply not seeing any benefits.

According to Michael Gale, a digital transformation expert, “Some are getting it right and others struggle.  Basically, one in eight got it right and then there were ranges of failure where more than 50 percent just didn’t go right at all.”

Part of the problem, though, is that it takes more than shoe-horning new technology onto old models and processes to create a successful digital transition. To find the right solution requires companies to dig deep into not just the “how” but the “why” they do things. Rather than trying to find the answers, businesses need to make sure they are asking the right questions first. That’s where Design Thinking comes in.

Why Digital Transformations Flounder or Fail

A staggering 84% of digital transformation projects fail, according to Michael Glaze who has been studying the topic for several years. According to a HarveyNash/KPMG survey, only 18% of CIOs said that their Digital Transformations were “very effective.” A less than 1 in 5 success rate would not lead to much enthusiasm or confidence if you are considering such a project.SOURCE: Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2017, Navigating Uncertainty, Pg. 26<br /><br /><br /><br />

SOURCE: Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2017, Navigating Uncertainty, Pg. 26

The exact cause of each failure is unique, but the reasons at the heart of all of these failures is lack of awareness of the challenges to be faced and the inability to shift focus as new challenges present themselves.This happens because many organizations still not only use, but think in terms of a long term waterfall methodology, where solutions are created early on and expected to be executed despite changing realities during the design and development.

This not only invariably leads to the dreaded scope creep, where timelines and budgets are crushed, it also means that as new research, and new information becomes available, it is often too late to integrate that knowledge into the final solution.

How Projects Succeed

Although there are a lot of factors that can cause projects as large and complicated as a Digital Transformation initiative to fail, there are several best practices we can bring to bear. These do not necessarily remove the problems, but will help to recognize and recover from them more quickly.

  1. Clearly define audience needs and what success will look like for them. It’s easy to believe that you understand your target audience and what they are looking for. You don’t. Even if you are a part of that target audience, you are likely only one of many. It’s important to get out and talk to them whenever and wherever they will be using the solutions you are trying to create.

  2. Clearly define what success looks like to the business and what is the value. All too often directions are given from high levels in the company without a full understanding of what is being asked. Try to work with the decision makers to understand what they think the optimal outcome for the project is and what value they hope to derive, and educate them on the realities of what they are asking for.

  3. Clearly define the technologies to be deployed. It is important to not let the technology dictate solutions, however, it is a reality that it does direct what is possible. It is vital that all parties including designers) understand the limitations and strengths of whatever technologies will be used.

  4. Make audience involvement and testing a part of the process, not an afterthought. Although this might sound like a rehashing  of tip #1, we often forget about the people we’re actually creating for. It’s important to constantly get reality checks from your audience to make sure you are headed in the right direction.

  5. Design & Development in Steps. As mentioned, waterfall just doesn’t cut it anymore. Instead, both development and design must create in iterative steps, allowing them to bring in new insights and information to the solutions as they work.

This last tip is crucial. For developers the iterative step-by-step method is the Agile process using development sprints. Designers have, by and large, been reluctant to enter into a sprint based process, although iteration is a cornerstone of design.

Over the last few years designers have been increasingly embracing the concept of Design Thinking along with the even more recent concept of design sprints. Although still gaining support, success stories of a proper Design Thinking approach are winning converts.

Enter Design Thinking

Design thinking, to be reductively simple, means “thinking like a designer” in order to develop solutions. According to Thomas Lockwood in his introduction to Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value, the value in design thinking is that: “By thinking like designers—being able to see the details as well as zoom out to the big picture—we can really add value by challenging the status quo.”

Design Thinking reverses the way many people approach problem solving, allowing them to discover more innovative solutions than they might normally come to. Rather than starting with requirements and features and finding a solution, we start with the user needs and desired outcome (the big picture) and work to find the best way(s) to make that happen by asking the right questions, the first of which is “Is it worth it?”.

This approach  brings together what is desirable from the audience’s (user, customer, partner, employee, etc.)  point of view with what is viable for the business and technologically feasible. It also means engaging people who aren’t trained to design,  but who have to live with the results of the designs, to use creative tools to innovate solutions for a wide range of challenges.

Lockwood lists three primary tenets for design thinking in his introduction:

  1. Develop a deep understanding of the audience based on fieldwork research.

  2. Collaborate with the audience through the formation of multidisciplinary teams.

  3. Accelerate learning through visualization, hands-on experimentalism, and creating quick prototypes, which are made as simple as possible in order to get usable feedback.

However, in our experience designing digital products, we have found that — while excellent for thinking about visual and some interactive issues — current design thinking methodologies leave out how that design fits into the longer term narrative for the audience.  So we add a fourth point:

  1. Follow the rhythm and flow of the audience and how their needs and goals change both in context and over time.

Ok, enough theory, let’s talk practical application. To apply the design thinking process, we make use of two main activities: Design Thinking Workshops and Design Sprints.

Design Thinking Workshops

The Design Thinking workshop is used to kick-off the design phase of a project. This is a process of applying human centered design principles, focusing on deconstructing the problem and then reconstructing it for the solution. To be effective, this means embracing a Lean UX philosophy and creating functional prototypes to quickly iterate the best solutions within the time, budget, and technical limitations.

Design Sprints

Design sprints — developed by Google Ventures (gv.com) — have been applied to help companies from start-ups to Fortune 500s to quickly and accurately prototype and test user experience concepts which can then be developed into final working products.

A single sprint is not meant to design an entire site, section, or even page, but instead to examine the user’s process and how it can be improved within the system.

Using Design Sprints allows iterative improvements without locking into a set roadmap that might need to change in order to meet shifting conditions and priorities. Instead, we define the goal for that month’s design sprint, pulling from a backlog of requests and work to resolve that particular task. As new requests come in, they can be added to the backlog, and then considered for the next sprint, allowing ongoing refinements.

How Design Thinking can Accelerate a Digital Transformation Initiative

The Design Thinking process is a tool that can be applied to any project to address many of the reasons Digital Transformation projects fail.

  1. Audience involvement is integral to developing ideas that are turned into  features. Not only is there regular testing of the product with the people who will be using it, they are also invited in to help brainstorm possible solutions. This ensures that their needs and expected outcomes are met.

  2. Business and tech needs are brought in early. Confirming that the product is both viable from a business standpoint and feasible from a technology  standpoint are constant considerations during the process.

  3. It is an iterative process that can work in close conjunction with an Agile process. Unlike in a waterfall methodology, foundational work on the design is done early, but full design implementations are done in sprints, with feedback from development to constantly refine and improve solutions.

Design thinking is not a magic bullet that can fix everything or prevent all issues from arising. What it does provide, however, is a methodology to better adjust and react to changing priorities and realities during product development. This ensures that whatever challenges you face, you are better able to handle them without derailing the entire project.

Contact Rivet Logic to learn more about how we can help you with your digital transformation initiatives!

Stacks vs. Suites: Moving Away From Consolidation

Posted by on January 16, 2019

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It wasn’t long ago that businesses were focusing on consolidating all of their technology into single suite systems. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all product solution can rarely service all of an organization’s needs equally. While the simplicity of a single service is quite compelling, it cannot functionally compete with the customization, efficiency, and specialization of a well-integrated stack.

A Conventional Approach to Software Consolidation

Conventional approaches to software have recently tilted towards finding consolidated suites that can do everything for an organization. Enterprise resource planning, inventory management, customer relationship management, and other discrete and disparate products have been folded into singular systems for this reason.

The perceived advantages of this type of system are clear. A consolidated software system is seen as being easier to maintain as well as more cost-effective. From the software provider’s perspective, each vendor is able to capture more value for a customer. IT departments have preferred managing and maintaining a single system, and the belief has been that this type of system tends to be more secure as there are fewer opportunities for gaps.

The Failings of a Consolidated Approach

While consolidated approaches work effectively in theory, in practice they have often led to a “Jack of all trades, master of none” situation. When a single tool is not sufficient for a company’s day-to-day operations, they find themselves adding tools regardless. Once these tools are added, the company has already begun to create a stack — they just have not acknowledged the stack in a way that it can be properly integrated or maintained.

Using a consolidated approach can ultimately lead to an organization using a variety of tools that are ill-suited to their organization’s use, while pursuing a more simplified system. Ultimately this leads to issues in efficiency, and prompts many employees, customers, and vendors to self-service their IT needs and install their own sets of tools.

Developing a Digital Experience Stack

Organizations are now increasingly moving away from a consolidated approach and towards building a well-integrated stack. A well-integrated stack creates a custom workflow for an organization with the tools that the organization needs, but there are challenges present. In order to work effectively, the components of the stack must be fully explored, and the whole system has to be designed to work well together.

Enterprise content management (ECM) solutions and portals become exceptionally important when building out a digital experience stack, as they create central hubs through which the organization can manage its communications and authentication.

When creating a digital experience stack, the organization can no longer rely upon a consolidated system to funnel users into an easy-to-use experience. Instead, it must use a central hub in order to consolidate the information users need.

With the right solution, a digital experience stack can still provide an experience to the user that appears to be consolidated and well-integrated, while delivering a customized and effective experience.

Shifting an Organization from Suite to Stack

Shifting an organization’s infrastructure can appear to be a daunting task, and many organizations find themselves working with managed partners or experts in order to facilitate this shift. When it comes to a switch from a suite-based infrastructure to a stack-based infrastructure, an organization may begin by identifying its current pain points and the solution that it needs.

Developing out a DX stack is like building an ecosystem. An organization can start with its most basic tools such as its accounting, inventory management, and employee portals, building out the tools that it needs to be integrated with its infrastructure. However, it’s vital for the purposes of the user experience that all of these systems be properly integrated together.

Correct integration creates a seamless experience on the user’s behalf, with data being shared and synced from system to system, a singular location for files and documents, and an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. From an IT standpoint, an integrated DX stack must be easy to manage and maintain, with as much automated as possible.

Ultimately, many organizations have found themselves dissatisfied with their consolidated suites, as consolidated suites provide a one-size-fits-all solution that rarely has the advantages of distinct and discrete tools.

By building their own DX stacks, organizations can improve user experience and utility, gaining the best solutions for each task. However, they also need to be conscientious about the increased needs of a DX stack, in terms of integration, management, and maintenance.

Approaching the C-Suite Regarding Digital Transformation

Posted by on September 06, 2017

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Even though digital transformation may be the next necessary step for a business, it can often be difficult to get the entire c-suite on board. It’s easy to understand why: on the surface, a digital transformation can appear to be a business disruption. It can seem both costly and unnecessary to those who aren’t aware of the technology that is now available to them… and it can be a difficult pitch to a board of investors. Nevertheless, digital transformation is absolutely critical to a thriving enterprise.

Understanding the Major Reservations Regarding Digital Transformation

Though it can seem as though the c-suite is being stubborn about transitioning to new technology, it’s understandable why a complete transformation of digital infrastructure may cause them to hesitate. There are generally a few major reservations regarding digital transformation:

  • Cost. Any investment in software is likely to be an unscheduled expense for the business. Just a decade or two ago, digital transformation could be incredibly costly, necessitating new hardware, licenses, IT training, and more. Most of the c-suite will still remember the days when a digital transformation meant dramatically revamping the entirety of the technology of an office, from telephones to personal computers.
  • Disruption. Likewise, digital transformation has historically been the source of significant disruption. Changing over both a hardware and software infrastructure leads to confusion and a loss of productivity, which can lasts anywhere from days to months. It’s the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If the c-suite doesn’t see problems with current operations, they are going to be very hesitant to change anything.
  • Productivity. Employees aren’t the only ones hesitant to train in new technology. C-suite members themselves often don’t want to have to learn new technology; they may feel as though it’s going to damage their productivity and that they aren’t going to have access to the tools that they want to use.
  • Future needs. Finally, the c-suite may be hesitant to advance technology because they know that they’re going to have to advance technology again in the future; in other words, they may not want to upgrade now, because “we will just have to upgrade later.” Though there is a flaw in this logic, it can still present significant hesitation.

Of these concerns, the cost and potential disruption to the business are usually the primary concerns. Addressing these two major concerns is usually the best way to bring them on your side.

Addressing Concerns Related to Cost and Business Interruption

  • Break down the costs. New digital transformation technologies, such as cloud-based systems, are not as expensive to upgrade to as a physical infrastructure would be. When breaking down costs, additionally show the c-suite how much money this would save in the long run.
  • Focus on pain points. To show the value of a digital transformation, you should first show the problems that the business is currently facing and the areas in which technology could improve them. The c-suite needs to be shown that this upgrade is necessary and useful.
  • Demonstrate the solutions. Many of these solutions are easier and more intuitive than the c-suite could otherwise expect. Showing the c-suite the software solutions and familiarizing them will give them a better picture of the software’s benefits.
  • Create a roadmap for the future. The c-suite should be aware that many of these digital transformation solutions have their own future-proofing built-in, which means they will iteratively upgrade rather than having to engage in transformation again and again.

Getting the c-suite on board with digital transformation is simply a matter of showing and proving value. It is the c-suite’s responsibility to protect the business and its bottom line at all costs. What may seem like reluctance to evolve are simply well-intentioned reservations that need to be countered with facts, statistics, and a clear plan for change. Once these pieces fall into place, the c-suite will be able to see the true value of digital transformation.

Moving from Legacy Systems With Digital Transformation

Posted by on August 08, 2017

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Digital transformation. It may sound intimidating, but it’s vital to the operations of every organization. From small, single proprietorship businesses to large, sprawling enterprises, there comes a time when the organization is no longer being served by its technology. Digital transformation is a process through which organizations are able to upgrade and improve upon their technology, moving away from the legacy systems that may be holding them back.

The Danger and Inefficiency of Legacy Systems

  • Legacy systems are often unsupported. Businesses may find themselves continually using outdated legacy solutions because they simply don’t want to upgrade — but eventually the company producing these systems halts their support. It can become increasingly more difficult (and more expensive) to find technicians able to repair these systems.
  • Legacy systems aren’t compatible with new solutions. Though the temptation may be to upgrade a system piecemeal, this often does not work out because legacy systems are old enough that they cannot be easily integrated with newer systems. This holds the entirety of the infrastructure back.
  • Legacy systems are inherently less secure. Legacy systems were developed before new cyber security threats and are often not maintained in the wake of new ones. Because of this, legacy systems may be vulnerable to many types of attack.
  • Legacy systems are clunky and cumbersome. But perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to switch from a legacy system is that they tend to have a very negative user experience. Legacy systems may make all business processes take longer to complete.

The Benefits of Modern Software Solutions

Modern software solutions are efficient and scalable, both in terms of cloud-based solutions and new on-premise infrastructures. Organizations can invest in private clouds, public clouds, and entirely on-premise systems, which will adhere to modern security standards and be accessible and reliable. Compared to legacy software solutions, these modern systems are more focused on user experience and efficiency. They are able to take advantage of the resources offered by modern hardware, and consequently they are better able to handle the needs of a growing business. Modern software solutions are also better supported than their legacy counterparts, and finding individuals skilled in their use is far easier.

Transitioning from Licensed Solutions to Open Source Software

Licensed solutions need to be renewed every year — and they often go up in price based on the size of your business or the number of seats that you require. Open source software, on the other hand, is freely available for use without any fees… maintenance or otherwise. For businesses that want additional functionality and features, affordable enterprise editions are available, often for a low subscription based cost. When completing a digital transformation, there is often an emphasis on switching costly, proprietary licensed solutions over to open source platforms. Though there may be a cost associated with enterprise editions, it’s far less than proprietary software.

In addition to the cost, there are a number of benefits that open source software provides:

  • An extensive and well-supported code base. Open source software is often associated with large communities and dedicated developers, all working together to improve upon the system. Not only will the system be robust and well-designed, but it will also have continual support. Comparatively, many licensed solutions will drop support for their older products in just a few years.
  • Easily customized solutions. Open source software will often have modules and extensions designed to customize their suites to your needs — and even those that do not have modules and extensions can be easily customized by a talented programmer, as the code is available. Proprietary solutions may have APIs or nothing at all, which means that a business cannot acquire a customized solution unless they purchase it directly from the company at a high cost.
  • Better security. Open source software is frequently updated by a large number of contributors, which means that security issues are caught and patched very quickly. Many security flaws within a system are introduced through third-party solutions. For organizations that rely upon their technology, security, and privacy, open source software can be a more reliable method of reducing risk.

And, of course, cost is a major factor. By reducing the cost of your system, you can create a system that is more scalable — and you can devote the budget that would otherwise be allocated towards licensing to other areas of your IT budget.

Digital transformation is a way to improve all of your organizational processes with a single structured transition. Through digital transformation, your organization will be able to leverage vastly superior technologies, while also reducing costs and administrative overhead.

Awesome Customer Experience Begins with Customer Context

Posted by on April 01, 2016

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With 68% of all Americans owning smartphones, it’s no wonder that many companies place a huge emphasis on mobile first. Yet from Starbucks to Uber, companies are realizing what matters are screens, not devices, and these mobile app driven companies are quickly adding complimentary web apps to create a better customer experience. The “context first” focus is the next wave of customer experience design that will soon replace mobile first as the leading approach to customer experience design. This smarter, more seamless design caters to the best of both worlds (mobile and web) and helps designers break away from designing for mobile by removing functions previously created for large screens.

Mobile is Not Enough

Simply put, mobile first is really a design strategy and not a complete method of approaching customer experience. It, in fact, limits the scope of the overall customer experience. While the optimal screen size is still a moving target, and there is fast-paced change concerning which screen size is best for varying contexts, it really all comes down to access to consuming and publishing information. From screens on wrists to tablets and notebooks, information via screens and not devices is the overarching concept that the “context first” design solves.

Customers, be they B2C or B2B, want a buying journey synchronized with their daily life as they interact with a brand’s products and services through numerous touchpoints and varying contexts (other than mobile). When companies stick with a mobile first design they miss out on key opportunities for customer engagement. A recent Gallup poll indicated that engaged customers buy 90% more frequently and even wary customers will give more money to companies they feel emotionally connected to – while ignoring others.

Context First Design

Servicing customers in a way that takes advantages of the situational context of use will create a better customer experience every time. Whether this means eliminating steps to speed up the process or, adding a step or two to enable the customer to easily broadcast their activities to their social circle, all depends on the objectives at hand.  For example, most people don’t take their laptop to the beach and no one is creating the board deck from their smartphone, so considering what screen is best for input and what screen is best suited for output can make all the difference. The ultimate goal, of course is to help the customer achieve their intended objective in a way that delights in their current context.

Context first is significant because it focuses on why a customer is engaging with a brand or company and allows companies to respond to each phase in a customer’s decision journey as well as the customer’s interaction with technologies outside of mobile. Additionally, it gives companies a broader lens of customer content and valuable customer data to better drive engagement and deliver a highly personalized, responsive and more ubiquitous customer experience.

Imagine the possibilities for the customer experience and top line growth of a company with the ability to completely address all context drivers to further engage customers and enhance their experience.  Context first opens doors for brands that were once closed by mobile-first thinking.

 

5 Reasons You Should Consider Building a Native Mobile App

Posted by on June 12, 2015

The buzz around mobile has been around for a while and isn’t going anywhere, and with good reason. When over 90% of adults have their mobile phone within arm’s reach 24/7, it’s apparent that as a society, we’ve become largely dependent on our mobile devices. I bet the last time you forgot your phone at home, you felt like a part of you was missing, didn’t you? Well, you’re not alone.

With the population spending more and more time on their mobile devices, businesses can no longer afford to ignore their mobile experience. With an unlimited amount of information at their fingertips, consumers expect the ability to quickly access whatever info they need at that moment. And that’s not just limited to consumers. In B2B environments, business users are researching products and services on their smartphones, and performing tasks that would typically be done on desktops.

mobileapp-bannerleftThis requires a different approach to strategizing for mobile, a mobile-first approach. The question is no longer “should I build a responsive site or a native mobile app?” It’s not a matter of one versus the other. Businesses today need to have a mobile friendly website, period. It’s what your audience expects.

The question now becomes, “is mobile web enough?” To bring your customer engagement to the next level, it’s a good idea to consider a native mobile app. If you’re still not convinced, here are five advantages of mobile apps that makes the UX superior:

  1. Better handling of touch, gestures, and swipes – Side to side swiping, while very popular on mobile apps and desktop sites, doesn’t work as well on mobile websites
  2. Faster and more responsive – While mobile sites download the experience and data for each page through verbose HTML, mobile apps already contain most of the experience definition and only need to download the data
  3. Easy to continue where you left off – Mobile apps allow users to carry on tasks that span over long periods of time without having to log back in each time
  4. Tighter device integration – Mobile apps are much better equipped at handling features like geo-location, camera, and push notifications. While HTML5 is capable of supporting some of these device integrations, it’s not to the same degree and is often a power drainer
  5. Integration with other apps – It’s much easier and seamless to launch from one app to another app, than from an app to a mobile web app (take using your Facebook login to login to Pinterest for example)

Well, there you have it, five advantages that native mobile apps have over their mobile web counterparts. Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone should go and replace all their web apps with native apps. Each business still needs to determine what works best for them. But this provides some areas for consideration the next time you’re trying to decide whether or not to build that mobile app!

 

Enabling Smarter Enterprise Collaboration Through Social Intranets

Posted by on November 19, 2013

Traditional intranets – while offering a variety of tools for improving internal communication, workforce productivity, collaboration, and more – are often seen as stuffy, boring systems that employees NEED to use, but not necessarily would WANT to use.

However, that’s all changing now. In an age where Customer Experience Management (CEM/CXM) and producing engaging digital experiences across various channels is at the top of every organization’s digital strategy list, some of that is crossing over to modern intranet solutions. Organizations are now beginning to see the importance of providing that same level of engagement to their employees that they do for their customers.

A new generation of social intranets have emerged that focus on building internal employee communities while incorporating social tools to facilitate knowledge sharing, employee interaction and feedback, and team-building and collective problem solving.

Over the last few months, we’ve presented on this hot topic at several events, including two webinars, two Liferay Roadshows, the Liferay North America Symposium, and KMWorld Conference. Let’s take a deeper look at how a social intranet solution can be used to facilitate smarter enterprise collaboration.

Social Communication is Critical – From Internet to Intranet

Looking at the history of social media in general is important in helping us understand why social features have become an essential part of today’s intranets. Most of us were around before social media and remember when it all first started. As with any new technology, there was some initial resistance. However, it was interesting to see how quickly people naturally gravitated towards using social media and embraced the openness that came with it.

Fast-forward to today and you see users worldwide that are socially active. This proves that the need for social interaction is not cultural, but rather it fulfills a natural human need – the need to share, to discover new things, and to be connected to one another. This is why social media has become an essential part of our internet experience today.

Naturally, companies have caught on to this, and Web applications and services that provide social features started sprouting up globally. In fact, it’s hard to find a successful Web application nowadays that doesn’t incorporate social features to some extent.

However, for a while, social interactions were kept out of the workplace, and employees would change their behaviors to fit within the constraints imposed by their employers. And those who were initially rejected for rallying for social interaction within the workplace were the same visionaries that saw the benefits – as a tool for providing constructive feedback, and to help employees be more efficient, hence improving productivity.

This initial resistance to social interaction within the workplace was no different from the resistance from internet users when social media was first conceived. Intranets are changing, and organizations leading that change are already reaping the benefits.

The Social Intranet

So what makes an intranet social? Unlike the public internet, intranets are trickier, since there are usually a lot of organizational rules to follow, many of which go against the essence of being social. Here we will cover some common features of a social intranet.

Intuitive

First and foremost, it has to be easy to use. Just like social applications on the internet, social intranets shouldn’t require user training. Nowadays, people learn how to use Web tools by talking to each other about it. While the availability of online help resources is always useful, discussion forums teach users a lot more.

Light Community Management

One of the biggest obstacles that get in the way of social intranet adoption are an organization’s existing anti-social rules, such as policing all content. Imagine if every time you posted a forum question someone had to review and approve it before it gets posted. Chances are, you’d never ask anything. Instead of being policed, social intranets should be moderated, where users can post freely, and processes can be put in place to correctly handle improper posts. This also means that some organizations would need to change their company culture and rules prior to adopting a social intranet.

Content is Produced and Consumed

Another key difference between social internet and social intranet apps is that consumers of content are as important as producers of content. We tend to always praise producers and call consumers leeches. This isn’t the case in social intranets, however, since it’s the consumers who are the ones using this content to be more efficient and productive at work. Producers without consumers are useless.

Integrated Search

And last but not least, social intranets tend to be heavy on enterprise search. Discovery is an essential social feature, and search is one of the best tools for enabling discovery, so great social intranets typically put a lot of emphasis on integration with enterprise-wide search solutions.

The change is here, and early adopters are reaping the benefits. In fact, a recent research report published by Nielson Norman Group on social intranets has found that many companies see intranet information sharing and other social features offering true competitive advantages. And more interestingly, many executives recognize that social tools are an expected part of a knowledge worker’s standard toolkit.

Building a Social Intranet – Now What?

Building a successful social intranet means selecting the right tools for the job, and Liferay Portal is one of the best tools to take on this task. Liferay provides all the social intranet features discussed in two ways – through Liferay Social Office or as a tailored social intranet built on the Liferay platform.

Liferay Social Office

Liferay Social Office is a packaged social collaboration solution that successfully addresses many social intranet features.

  • Dashboard – A dashboard is an essential part of any social intranet and offers a great way to keep users informed of what’s going on.
  • Sites – Liferay has site-based architecture, allowing organizations to create sites that serve very different purposes – departmental sites, project and team sites, and even regular websites with editorial content.
  • Contact Center – A big part of social communication is to stay connected, so social intranets put a lot of emphasis on having an easy-to-use people directory. Liferay successfully addresses this through Contact Center, which even includes user profiles in search results.
  • Team Calendar – Liferay’s calendar feature can be used in any site to manage site-specific events.
  • Search – Liferay enables enterprise search through integrations with Apache Solr, Google Search Appliance, Endeca, and more, allowing you to make enterprise-wide information discoverable from within the social intranet.
  • Liferay Sync – Liferay addresses the growing need for ubiquitous file sharing through Liferay Sync, a feature similar to Dropbox/Google Drive. In addition, your enterprise security constraints are honored even when you’re outside of your company’s firewall.
  • Related Content – This feature allows content authors to associate content of different types, resulting in a very rich and dynamic information architecture. For example, reader of a blog post who then posts a relevant question in a forum can relate the blog and forum posts, exposing future blog post readers to the forum posts.

Even more, Liferay Social Office has additional social features such as micro-blogging, private messaging, announcements and alerts, full-featured document management, comments and ratings, and much more.

Custom Social Intranet Solution

Another approach to building a Liferay-based social intranet is to create a custom solution utilizing Liferay as a platform. One of the most popular Liferay use cases is actually a Human Resources (HR) Portal, which is often the first step towards building a social intranet. An HR Portal provides an efficient means of disseminating company information and news, and offers an ideal medium for employee outreach and engagement.

Over the past few years, Rivet Logic has built a variety of intranet solutions for customers with varying business models. Through working with these customers and understanding their requirements for these intranets, we’ve found certain features to be commonly sought across all intranet solutions. Based on these features, we’ve built an open source HR Portal that we’ve contributed back to the Liferay community, now available through the Liferay Marketplace. This easy-to-deploy portal solution comes with many useful features, including:

  • Corporate news authoring and publishing
  • Customizable news publishing channels
  • User-friendly people directory
  • Customizable portal-wide main navigation bar
  • Smart news carousel
  • Customizable quick links

Choosing the Right Approach

So how do organizations determine which approach to use for their social intranet? Liferay Social Office is Liferay’s equivalent to Sharepoint, so it may be better suited for organizations that like what they’re getting out of the box and aren’t looking for a tailored solution.

Those looking for a more tailored solution can either use the HR Portal as a starting point and build an intranet on top of it, or use Liferay as a platform and build an intranet from scratch. The bottom line is, there is no right or wrong approach, but rather determining what each organization needs and finding the approach that best fits with those requirements.

Learn More!

If you’d like to learn more about social intranets, we have several resources to help you gain a better understanding: