Category: Business Operations


Finding Savings within the Public Sector: Getting back to basics on people and data

By Kathy Roy and Kellen Greenberg

Regardless of a public sector organization’s intent to cost-reduce, realize efficiency gains, or improve effectiveness, Managers are being asked to find ways to do more with less. So the time is right to get back to basics and discuss some key steps that all Managers can take to identify cost savings opportunities.

There are many different approaches that an organization can take to reduce spending year-over-year. Some approaches involve new technological improvements, while others include innovative ways to streamline and consolidate processes. However, in times of fiscal constraint, many organizations are looking for zero cost solutions. And even more in demand are zero cost solutions with quick implementations.

Many of our Clients are applying some ‘go-to’ solutions to achieve quick results. One is to simply ratchet down discretionary spending like travel and hospitality. Another is to find specific functions or lines of business that can simply be stopped. No wonder these are the ‘go-to’ solutions – they have quick returns and results that are tangible. But we’re writing this blog with the idea of adding yet another ‘go-to’ approach to the repertoire, and its’ application lies within the authority of each and every Manager. It is the Manager’s ability to truly leverage their staff’s involvement and their available data and information to identify opportunities for cost savings.

The role of management and their associated work environments has certainly changed over the years. The increasing role of technology and the movement towards functional org structures (and matrix structures) have certainly contributed to that change. As a result, Managers today are less responsible for making decisions that directly affect their people. So when it comes time to identify areas for savings, the process seems to have become more complicated and complex.

But let’s not mistake complications with barriers. Many Managers are exploring new ways to involve their staff and leverage data and information to identify cost savings opportunities. They believe that a more engaged and involved workforce will collaborate to uncover the ‘right’ areas for cost savings. And they further believe that those ‘right’ areas for cost savings can then be validated and tested with data and information. By working with their team, and in spite of the many ‘obstacles’ and ‘unknowns’, they can deliver innovative solutions to do more with less. This should also be the goal for Managers that have become overwhelmingly fixed in their resource allocations.

So what exactly do we mean by leveraging staff involvement and available data and information?

Leveraging staff involvement

Staff are experts in the daily flow of work. They know what works well/what doesn’t, which work arrives on-time/which doesn’t, and where the delays/expediencies exist. Yet in many cases, they are either not asked or are not offering up this wealth of knowledge for consideration. Engaging the staff in the process is not just an expedient way of pinpointing the bottlenecks and backlogs, but also allows Managers to find hidden gems of opportunities. Further, this is something that both Managers and staff should be excited about, despite our knee-jerk negative reactions to reducing costs. Finding the ‘right’ types of efficiencies does more than just save money, it makes the work and the workplace more enjoyable and satisfying for everyone.

Leveraging available data and information

All work environments are full of activities and outputs. These activities and outputs are currently being overseen with varying degrees of formal documentation and discussion. Ideally, a Manager would have the right data and information to validate the potential opportunities identified for cost savings by their staff. Or, at the very least, they would be continually identifying ways to better document and define the work that is getting done. The forbidden fruit appears to be the data that speaks to resource allocations for many `non-measured` functional tasks. Despite the challenges in having data in this area, having detailed knowledge of `at work` days for all team members would go a long way to determining the total capacity of a team or division.

Managers that leverage both staff involvement and available data and information are in a much stronger position to not just find efficiencies by putting a hold on functions and spending, but by making precise decisions about the daily work of staff that optimize gains and minimize impacts.

But first, how does one go about leveraging staff involvement and available data and information?

  • Involve key staff in the opportunity identification exercise – i.e. tell me where the frustrations lie
  • Track both activities/outputs and frustrations – i.e. what got done this week and what got in our way
  • Analyze financial information and understand its conversion to functional organizational structures – i.e. how many FTEs does it/should it take to deliver work/outputs
  • Map current work processes to validate major opportunities/delays and their associated costs
  • Identify major functional rubs and gaps in the flow of work and their associated costs
  • Identify major areas of administrative burden and their associated costs
  • Require more detailed reporting of `at work` days to understand the team`s total capacity for any given week – i.e. ensure they are ramping up for peaks and are all hands on-deck when required
  • Review and understand the team`s available data and information, and share findings back with the team on a regular basis – i.e. here`s what the data tells us

Armed with increased staff involvement and available data and information, a Manager can then make the necessary decisions to deliver savings both within their own team and across their broader division. For example:

  • They can understand not just the ‘peaks and valleys’ of workload, but also how resources affect service delivery and subsequently make decisions to adjust resource levels in the ‘right’ places, minimizing impacts to staff and service levels.
  • They can share the right data horizontally and vertically across the organization to ensure that savings measures from across the organization are aligned in the broader horizontal process of a department and don’t end up finding savings in one area while propagating greater inefficiency in another.

When Managers leverage people and information effectively, they will not only deliver savings, but their day-to-day operations will be more effective. They will be in a position to continually align expectations and resources against tasks, and as a result, there will be less organizational friction and frustration in the workplace; the benefits of which are simply too many to list.

Finding savings and efficiencies is never an easy task, but it can be made less painful. Success will require that Managers both embark upon and embrace the journey!

Hear more about during Kellen’s and Kathy’s presentation on Finding Savings: Back to Basics at GTEC 2011, October 18, 10 a.m., at the Ottawa Convention Centre.

Kellen Greenberg and Kathy Roy are members of Systemscope’s Strategic Business Consulting practice.

Make Your Boss Love You!

Using Agile Prototyping to Increase Client Satisfaction and Internal Efficiencies

By Stephen Karam

What if I told you that you could design, create, test, and document a winning business solution – all while fully engaging partners and senior executives – in 3-6 months, leading to significant client uptake and risk reduction? Before you call me crazy (or presumably worse), read on…

It’s intrigued me how so many Government of Canada (GC) investments labelled with the ever-sexy moniker of “transformation” never really realize their originally intended benefits, and usually cost a fortune: the type of fortune that attracts unwanted attention from the OAG and media. This does not make the boss happy.

Here is a typical example: Department “X” creates a business case for an IT-enabled business initiative that sings to senior management. They receive several million dollars in TBS funding. They build the business solution. Corporate and program areas in the department find it difficult to use said business solution and disengage. Department “X” then spends an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars maintaining an IT solution with eroding business value and little goodwill amongst its target users and stakeholders, both internal and external.

This scenario sheds light on a series of systemic flaws in the GC when it comes to creating successful business and service transformation outcomes. One of those flaws is that many departmental IT organizations under the CIO still apply the waterfall methodology to the development life cycle. They move serially from requirements gathering (if done at all), to analysis, to design, to build, to test, to implement. Throw in a procurement cycle or two in there and voila! A two- to three-year timeframe has lapsed before there’s any output at all! Executives have little tolerance for this approach, since there are no “announcables” until the end of the waterfall.

We need to remember that success in the GC transformation space is not only about a strong business case, executive leadership, capable resources, solid governance, and a bulletproof solution; it’s about how you play the game. As Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the ONLY thing!”

So here’s a game plan that has worked over the past couple of years for two projects: Industry Canada’s BizPaL 2.0 and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgPal. Both are similar content discovery systems that allow users to find relevant information and services from across jurisdictional boundaries via the Internet. One is aimed at helping Canadian businesses discover permits and licences; the other is for Canadian farmers and agri-industries to access available programs and services. Both have employed the same agile prototyping approach with the client’s understanding that these projects are about solving the data/content/process challenge, and not the technology challenge.

The prototyping allowed for early engagement of partners (i.e. provinces, federal programs) to “kick the tires” on the requirements before one line of code was written or a single dollar was spent on technology. The method was pretty straightforward:

  • Scope the prototype (who are the partners/contributors, scope of content, ideal timeframe to produce “release 1”, preliminary architecture);
  • With partners, define client scenarios to be addressed by the prototype;
  • Identify and gather partner content within scope, aggregate and categorize;
  • Develop user interface, based on client scenarios;
  • Iterate prototype behaviour with partners;
  • Usability test the prototype;
  • Document business and functional requirements, as a direct reflection of the prototype;
  • Validate requirements with partners; and
  • Engage implementation team.

While a simplification of the actual process, it’s easy to see the key steps that can be systematically employed to every implementation, whether it is a client-facing web service offering, or a critical internal business system. This approach significantly reduces risk of the final implementation since the stakeholders (partners and clients) have actually had a chance to use the solution in practice, rather than react to wireframes or written scenarios.

Hey, if you were building a house and you were given the chance to experience it before the foundation is even poured … wouldn’t you take it?

Hear more about agile development during Stephen’s presentation on Top-Down Implementation in a Bottoms-Up World at GTEC 2011, October 18, 1 p.m., at the Ottawa Convention Centre.

Stephen V. Karam can be found on LinkedIn, and reached at karam@systemscope.com.

Finding ROT Is Only the Beginning

by Denise Eisner

The ROT (Redundant, Outdated and Trivial) web content reduction exercise underway in many federal Canadian government departments and agencies will prove to be a win on several fronts:

• Users will be able to find content more easily;
• Departments will have less inventory to keep aligned with evolving Common Look and Feel standards; and
• Any energy spent on improving content will go toward high demand web assets.

The process typically begins with a content audit, looks at performance metrics to assess usage and then goes through an evaluation process to determine what stays.

But when the audit is over, will the organization know how to:

• Determine what goes on the web, why and for how long;
• Understand web content relative to official records;
• Communicate life cycle guidance and policies to content owners; or
• Identify archival strategies for low-demand content that should not be on the web?

These considerations fall under the practice of life cycle management, which brings together the communications and information management disciplines to formulate appropriate policies and guidance for the organization. It’s a relatively new piece of policymaking that simply requires an understanding of what business rules apply to online assets and then devising operational guidance that is triggered by a business decision to remove content.

If ROT is your department’s diet blitz, consider life cycle management as the ongoing maintenance plan to keep the bloat out of your web presence.

Denise Eisner is a senior consultant within the Government Service Excellence practice.

GTEC 2011

Systemscope returned to GTEC again this year on October 18, 2011. Three informative and compelling workshops were presented by our consultants paired with innovative public servants.

PRESENTATIONS NOW AVAILABLE! (see individual session descriptions below)

(Version française)



Workshop #1 View the presentation!

Finding Savings: Back to Basics
Gail Eagen, DG of IT Operations, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Kellen Greenberg, Director Integrated Process Management, Systemscope
Kathy Roy, Senior Consultant, Systemscope

 

Departments have a renewed focus on identifying cost-savings and efficiency gains through new GC deficit reduction initiatives. And contrary to popular belief, finding savings does not have to be as painful as you may think.[spoiler title=”Read More”] It even presents an exciting opportunity to transform the way we do business and serve Canadians better. It is an opportunity, however, that requires a proven and structured response.

Systemscope has been working with our clients to develop just that. We have brought together a framework that includes a series of management decision-making tools to facilitate the cost reduction process. Our approach can better structure your initiative for greater success.

This session presented our innovative approach to delivering tangible and sustainable cost-savings as part of an operational review process and as a regular means of managing your daily work.  Gail Eagen , DG of IT Operations, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Kellen Greenberg, Director Integrated Process Management, and Kathy Roy, Senior Consultant, shared real life experiences and ‘tools’ that have been adopted by public, private and crown corporation clients.

[/spoiler]



Workshop #2 View the presentation!

Top-Down Implementation in a Bottoms-Up World
Stephen Karam, Partner and Practice Lead, Government Service Excellence, Systemscope
Jennifer Conlin, Assistant Director, Service Transformation, Service Analysis and Transformation Divison, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Dan Batista, Director, Service Innovation, Industry Canada

Remember the days in Government when it took 2-3 years for IT-enabled business solutions to see the light of day, only to result in almost immediate erosion and obsolescence?  Using the traditional waterfall approach of ensuring that business requirements are fully captured before functional design and solution architecture can take place usually leads to timelines that are no longer acceptable in the new government culture of strategic & operational review and fiscal restraint.[spoiler title=”Read More”] The cries of “We need to see savings now!” paradoxically coupled with “We can’t degrade client service!” can be heard echoing through many a hall in GC departments and agencies.  These new priorities are creating a demand for shorter cycles to achieving outcomes and measurable results.

Systemscope has recognized this change in landscape and has been working with government departments such as HRSDC, Industry Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to develop online transformational business solutions including a grants & contributions (Gs&Cs) environment, BizPaL 2.0 and AgPal using a top-down design approach.  This methodology takes a page from the agile development approach by simply allowing for design, user experience, and content modeling iterations to be performed with eventual users and administrators of the system, prior to any functional design and architecture work taking place.  By building a prototyping sandbox using real data and processes, this allows departments to “kick the tires” on the requirements prior to setting them in stone, ensuring that whatever requirements are output have actually be tested with users, contributing to success and demand of the solution.  Furthermore, it’s a surefire way to get executives excited about a transformation initiative when they can actually see it in action!

Stephen Karam (Systemscope Partner and Practice Lead, Government Service Excellence), Jennifer Conlin, Assistant Director, Service Transformation, Service Analysis and Transformation Divison, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dan Batista, Director, Service Innovation, Industry Canada facilitated a healthy discussion of the myriad benefits of this approach, remaining challenges and a review of info systems currently under development using this approach.

[/spoiler]



Workshop #3 View the presentation!

eBay-style Architectures for Government Information
Linda Daniels-Lewis,  Senior Consultant, Enterprise Information Management, Systemscope

New information architectures are less about “filing” information and more about “using” information and performing actions on information. We have been working with our clients to develop optimized information architectures for team collaboration, for information use and sharing, and for the retention and disposition of records that are more integrated with their business process and that provide search and navigation experiences more like those on popular Internet sites. [spoiler title=”Read More”]

We have focused on removing the responsibility of users to declare records and on removing the constraints of folders, requiring people to know how to navigate deep hierarchies and agree on whether to file their documents by, for example, subject or date under the various sub-activity folders. Using document properties as content filters, the experience of using enterprise knowledge stores can now feel more like using e-commerce sites and information portals with dynamic, guided navigation techniques.

This session presented the results of some of our architecture implementation concepts using SharePoint 2010 information constructs to produce agile, flexible information architectures to support business activities. Linda Daniels-Lewis, Systemscope Senior Consultant, explained how we have used the following SharePoint 2010 features to improve collaboration, separate transitory information from information of business value, automatically identify and declare key records, and separate active and inactive records for retention and disposition purposes:

– site templates
– libraries
– content types
– managed metadata
– workflows
– with minimum use folders

[/spoiler]

GTEC 2011

Systemscope a retourné au GTEC le 18 octobre 2011 avec trois convaincantes présentations riches en renseignements.

Les présentations sont maintenant disponible! (en anglais seulement)


Atelier no 1

Dénicher des économies : un retour aux sources
Gail Eagen, DG d’Opérations TI, Agriculture et agroalimentaire Canada
Kellen Greenberg, directeur de la gestion de procédés intégrés, Systemscope
Kathy Roy, conseillère principale, Systemscope

Les ministères orientent à nouveau leurs efforts sur l’identification d’économies de coûts et de gains d’efficacité dans le cadre d’initiatives de réduction du défit au GC. Et contrairement à ce qu’on pourrait s’imaginer, il n’est pas toujours pénible de dénicher des économies de coûts.[spoiler title=”Pour en savoir plus”]

En effet, il peut s’agir d’une occasion excitante de transformer la manière dont nous faisons affaire et de mieux servir les Canadiens et les Canadiennes. Une opportunité qui toutefois nécessite une approche systématique éprouvée.

Justement, Systemscope a collaboré avec ses clients pour élaborer cette approche. Nous avons développé un cadre conceptuel qui comprend une série d’outils décisionnels pour les gestionnaires qui facilite le processus de réduction de coûts. Notre approche offre une structure qui saura orienter votre initiative vers le succès.

Cette session a présenté notre approche novatrice pour produire des réductions de coûts viables et tangibles dans le cadre d’un processus d’examen opérationnel ainsi que la gestion opérationnelle quotidienne. Gail Eagen, DG d’Opérations TI, Agriculture et agroalimentaire Canada, Kellen Greenberg, directeur de la gestion de procédés intégrés, et Kathy Roy, conseillère principale de chez Systemscope ont partagé des cas vécus  et des « outils » adoptés par des clients du domaine public et privé et des sociétés d’État.

[/spoiler]



Atelier no 2

Une mise en œuvre descendante dans un monde en ascension
Stephen Karam, directeur de l’excellence du service gouvernemental, Systemscope
Jennifer Conline, Directrice adjoint, Division des Analyses et transformation des services, Agriculture et agroalimentaire Canada
Dan Batista, Directeur, Innovation dans les services, Industrie Canada

Vous vous rappelez des jours où au gouvernement, une période de 2 à 3 ans était nécessaire pour créer des solutions d’affaires de TI qui devenaient presque immédiatement érodées et dépassées ? L’utilisation de la traditionnelle approche en cascade voulant que toutes les exigences organisationnelles soient identifiées avant de procéder à un design fonctionnel et une solution d’architecture mène à des délais qui ne sont plus acceptables au sein de la nouvelle culture d’examen stratégique et opérationnel et de réductions budgétaires du gouvernement.[spoiler title=”Pour en savoir plus”] Les exigences d’ «  économies immédiates! » paradoxalement juxtaposées à celles de « niveaux de la clientèle qui n’en souffriront pas ! » font écho dans plusieurs bureaux des ministères et agences du GC. Ces nouvelles priorités exigent un cycle plus court qui mène aux objectifs voulus et à des résultats mesurables.

Systemscope a identifié cette évolution et a collaboré avec certains ministères dont RHDCC, Industrie Canada et  Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada pour développer des  solutions d’affaires transformationnelles en ligne dont un environnement de subventions et contributions (S et C), PerLE 2.0 et AgPal à l’aide d’une approche de conception descendante. Cette méthodologie est à l’image de l’approche de développement agile qui permet d’effectuer simplement des itérations de design, d’expérience utilisateur et de modélisation du contenu par les utilisateurs et administrateurs éventuels du système, avant d’effectuer tout travail de design et d’architecture fonctionnels. En bâtissant un prototype à l’aide de vraies données et de processus, les ministères peuvent donc le mettre à l’essai et déterminer leurs exigences avant de prendre une décision finale, ce qui assure que toute exigence est en fait un résultat testé par les usagers et qui contribuera au succès et à la demande de la solution. De plus, il est beaucoup plus facile de fidéliser les gestionnaires cadres à votre initiative de transformation si vous pouvez leur montrer votre produit en action.

Stephen Karam (Systemscope directeur de l’excellence du service gouvernemental), Jennifer Conlin, Directrice adjoint, Division des Analyses et transformation des services, Agriculture et agroalimentaire Canada et Dan Batista, Directeur, Innovation dans les services, Industrie Canada ont facilité une discussion animée des avantages indéniables de cette approche, des défis qui demeurent et un examen des systèmes d’information qu’on développe présentement à l’aide de cette approche.

[/spoiler]



Atelier no 3

Des architectures d’information gouvernementale à la eBay
Linda Daniels-Lewis, conseillère en chef, Systemscope

Les nouvelles architectures de l’information sont moins axées sur la « classification » de l’information et s’orientent plutôt sur leur « utilisation » et les actions à effectuer. Nous collaborons avec nos clients afin de développer des architectures de l’information qui optimisent le travail d’équipe, l’utilisation et le partage des renseignements et la rétention et le déclassement de documents afin de mieux s’intégrer à leurs processus d’affaires et fournir des expériences de recherche et de navigation plus semblables à celles que l’on retrouve sur les sites Internet populaires. [spoiler title=”Pour en savoir plus”]

Pour ce faire, les utilisateurs n’ont plus la responsabilité de déclarer les fichiers et nous avons supprimé les contraintes qu’imposent les répertoires qui exigeaient que les gens sachent comment naviguer des hiérarchies complexes et s’accorder sur la méthode de classification de leurs documents comme, par exemple : par sujet, par date ou dans divers répertoires de sous-activités. En utilisant les propriétés d’un document comme filtres du contenu, l’expérience d’utilisation des magasins de connaissances de l’entreprise se compare maintenant à l’utilisation de sites de cybercommerce et de portails d’information dotés de techniques de navigation dynamiques et dirigées.

Cette session a présenté les résultats de la mise en œuvre de nos concepts d’architecture d’information à l’aide de SharePoint 2010 afin de produire des architectures d’information agiles et polyvalentes au service des activités de l’entreprise. Linda Daniels-Lewis, Systemscope conseillère en chef, a expliqué la manière dont nous avons utilisé les caractéristiques SharePoint suivantes pour améliorer la collaboration, séparer l’information transitoire de l’information de valeur à l’entreprise, identifier et déclarer automatiquement les fichiers clés et séparer les fichiers actifs et inactifs à des fins de rétention ou de disposition :

– modèles de sites
– librairies
– types de contenu
– gestion de métadonnées
– flux des travaux
– utilisation minimale de répertoires

[/spoiler]

Cost Savings: Mission Impossible or Golden Opportunity

The recent announcement that the government will be requiring major programs to deliver between 5-10% cost savings from their operating expenses has created quite a stir.  In fact, media reports are full of individuals and groups expressing their outrage at the expectations outlined in the Strategic and Operating Review (SOR).

I cannot say that I agree with the outrage.  I have seen far greater cost savings delivered and the result was not the dire situation that some would like us to believe. I believe that cost savings, efficiency gains, and productivity improvements are all possible in any organization based on the belief that all performance can be improved if one desires to do so.

And therein lies the critical choice. Leaders may either choose to view the SOR as a mission impossible or a golden opportunity.  The choice that they make will inevitably determine their level of success.

In May 2008 the Hay Group stated that: “Leaders that create the right environment in their teams enable their employees to give up to 30 per cent more effort. The reason is simple: employees who are engaged by the right kind of leadership, who have clear goals and feel recognized for their effort give more ‘discretionary’ effort (beyond that which their job demands) – and this effort flows through to the bottom line.”

And again three years later the Hay Group states that: “A positive climate can improve an organization’s bottom line by up to 30 per cent, and reduce absence rates and staff turnover. And up to 70 per cent of a team’s climate is determined by its leader.” 

And leaders achieve their position within an organization through their attitudes and daily actions. They are positive role models who inspire their team to do their best work. They show commitment and make themselves available to their team. They are present throughout the good times, but are even more present in the difficult times.

And they understand that improving efficiencies implies that base level efficiencies are known and measured. So they put in place systems to integrate and review work performances on a transparent and consistent basis, not just when required to do so by the SOR.

Remember, according to the Hay Group: Employees who have clear goals and feel recognized for their effort give more ‘discretionary’ effort … so the answer lies in some basic management principles. In short, organizations need to improve their integrated operational planning and performance results reviewing, and better align their vertical and horizontal communications.  It’s a matter of better understanding the work that their people are doing, and driving out the non-value associated with it. More value-added work will get done and all Canadians will be the beneficiaries of streamlined service delivery.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The first step is for Senior Representatives to commit to leading the transformation process.  I hope that they recognize this challenge as a golden opportunity to improve upon some basics. And by doing so, they can set a more positive tone in the workplace. And this will not only deliver the required levels of cost savings, but also improve staff morale, which, after all, is a far greater threat to achieving and sustaining any results.

No One Wants to Follow a Government Department

by Denise Eisner

There’s an interesting yet bewildering range of efforts by federal government to be in the social media sphere. There’s the call to action: “Stay Connected”, “Stay Informed”, or “Get Connected”. There’s the obvious: labelling the area above the commercial icons as “Social Media”. And then there’s “Follow Us.”

Aside from maybe one or two notable exceptions, there’s scant evidence that users want to follow an entire department. Government departments are not task-related. They are large organizations with multiple services that may or may not translate into discrete tasks performed by users with different needs.

What users would follow however (and already are in some cases), are themed updates that correlate with tasks in their personal or professional life:

  • Alerts and recalls
  • Border crossing times
  • Harmful chemical substances in consumer products
  • Air quality readings in my geographic area
  • Vaccination clinic locations and hours of operation
  • Upcoming deadlines for public consultations
  • Tips and deadlines related to business tax filing
  • Deadlines for grants and contributions
  • Updates during natural disasters

Notice that these are highly specialized pieces of information. That’s intrinsic to what social media was meant to do: provide a communal place to share information related to a topic or event that a group of people care about.

Here are several ways to break out of the “Follow me” cycle and turn that into “Let me help you”:

  • Identify key tasks. Your web and/or marketing teams might already have the research on this one.
  • Prioritize which tasks are performed most often by audience groups. There are likely some overlaps between what different groups need with respect to timely information.
  • Brainstorm ways you can deliver value-add information via your Twitter feed or Facebook page that would correlate to users’ top tasks.
  • Determine how to measure Followers and Likes to track performance.
  • Develop a linking strategy from your updates to departmental or specialized site content and track that performance as well.

Denise Eisner is a senior consultant within the Government Service Excellence practice.

Closing the Intranet Hellmouth

by Denise Eisner

Dark, scary portals to hell typified by the Buffyverse’s Hellmouth, or “an area fraught with massive supernatural activity” require slayer-level strength to manage effectively (it also helps to know some nifty martial arts moves). So too, do some organization intranets. The byzantine navigation, mysterious rogue sites on separate servers, and complex pages overrun with management objectives, frameworks and strategies on some Intranets make one want to click away as soon as possible. Or, for some web managers, metaphorically stake the demon.

Short of enlisting superhuman forces, there are five things organizations can do to tame their Intranet Hellmouth:

  1. Focus on employee services – There are two fundamental things people care about when it comes to their relationship with an employer: money and vacation. Manage the top user tasks related to those two areas and your web team will score big on client satisfaction. Is it easy to find the leave request form or is it eight clicks from the home page? Catalogue the top user tasks and let those guide the navigation structure.
  2. Ask real users what they think, not stakeholders – Not everyone in the organization uses the site: some people only use one or two apps or have someone else do it for them. It’s challenging to be all things to all people. Listen to the folks who are your true users. Watch them use the site for insight into behaviours.
  3. Clean out the ROT – Make sure the site isn’t cluttered with redundant, outdated or trivial content. That’s a sure way to waste users’ time. Conduct a content audit and perform mini-audits each quarter.
  4. Be a word count freak – Marissa Mayer at Google recounts how they strive to keep the word count on their home page at 28. That kind of ruthless editing takes leadership and an insane amount of negotiating. But the results at Google speak for themselves.
  5. Stay human – Intranets should not be soulless, corporate bulletin boards. Keep the community vibe going with contests, blogs, surveys and profiles of what employees are doing in and outside of work. That said, manage this activity with communication and information architecture specialists who can apply usability, content and design best practices for professional polish.

Are you sitting on an Intranet Hellmouth? Tell us your story.

Denise Eisner is a senior consultant within the Government Service Excellence practice.