What You Need to Know About Intranets [Interview]

(Data Analyst @ Bonzai) talks with Rayna O’Neil (Director of Sales) on some of the common challenges and opportunities associated with intranet projects .

Cameron: “This week, I have a special guest. Her name is Rayna O’Neil, and she is our director of sales, here at Bonzai Intranet. I’d like to welcome everybody, and welcome Rayna to the show today.”

“Today, she’s gonna be telling us a little bit about some of the challenges people face when trying to decide on an intranet or a software solution for their organization. So first of all, welcome Rayna. Thank you for joining me today.”

O’Neil: “Hey, Chantal, thanks for having me.”

Cameron: “No worries. So, Rayna, when you’re getting into meeting a customer, and going through a pre-qualification process, what are some of the challenges that you find people are having when they’re choosing and intranet, or they’re going down this path of opening up their budget to include a piece of software?”

O’Neil: “Well it’s really interesting. I’ve found that there are some common challenges that are prevalent across all industries, and all sizes, and if I was to name one single area that seems to be the number one pain point, it’s finding things.”

Search is Key

“So essentially, there’s a lot of pressure that’s coming, not only from the top of the business, but also from your front line people. It’s really challenging to find is this the document that I’m looking for. How do I find people? How do I know that this is the policy that I should be following? So if I was to answer the number one challenge is finding things, and it actually costs organizations a lot of money, which is why I believe it’s no longer just a technology issue, but it’s actually business driven, because time is money.”

Cameron: “That’s really interesting. Why do you think that’s happening? Why are people spending so much time looking for things, and documents, and people on things like an intranet?”

O’Neil: “With the sprawl of technology, applications, different versions, what’s happened is that there hasn’t been enough of the G word. Governance.”

So there hasn’t been a holistic look at how do we best leverage these applications? Where should information live? And how can we produce something that’s going to be simple and elegant for people to actually find what they need, when they need it?”

“So what’s happened is that, without having this conduit, or this portal, or better yet, an intranet, digital ecosystems are failing to provide the full benefit of the technologies that they’ve invested in. Some people store things on their desktop, some people store it in a shared drive, some people that have the expertise store it in a SharePoint site, but it’s all over the map.”

Challenges with Traditional Search

O’Neil: “The other thing that’s really challenging is that, with traditional search, let’s say for finding people, it assumes that you at least know their name. It also assumes that you probably know where they’re located. But what if what you really need is a skill? What if you have a question, you’re client facing, and you’re looking to find someone who has answers to your questions.”

“Most organizations don’t have a simple solution for someone to just type in a skill-set or potentially a location, or even a language, to find the people that they need to have those questions answered. So that causes a lot of frustration from an end user perspective, and of course, it impacts the bottom line significantly.”

5 mins on average to find People

“When I’m talking to the people, and trying to understand what obstacles they’re trying to overcome, when they bring up finding people with skills as hard, I typically ask them if they ever sat back and actually watched what process your end user has to go through to find people, and how long it takes. Shockingly, the average that I’ve been hearing back from the organizations that I’m working with is it takes ten minutes to find someone who has an answer to your question.”

“So if you have like a thousand people, and that’s five minutes, and let’s say they’re looking for someone, even once a week, the impact is tremendous. So helping to enable people to provide almost like a social media experience where you’re two, three clicks away from finding what you need when you need it is powerful. And I think that that’s one of the huge challenges that I’m seeing out there.”

Understanding The Pain in The Process

Cameron: “So really it’s not just about buying a software, just throwing a software out there and assuming that it’s going to fix all of your organizational challenges. It’s about going back and understanding the processes that lead to using that type of software in order for them to come up with the most valuable type of solution. You’re really reverse engineering in the product, in the early sales cycle, to figure out their challenges, early on.”

O’Neil: “Absolutely. For instance, using Bonzai Intranet, as an example, it’s very powerful, but at the end of the day, if you’re just looking at the purchase from a technology perspective, and a good example of that is let’s say, they’re using Share Point 2010. Well guess what? Support doesn’t really exist for that anymore. So it kind of forces their hand. So they have these legacy systems, which are probably one of the main reasons why people can’t find people, because it wasn’t really designed to do that.”

“So what I need to do is understand, with every organization that I work with, what’s hard for them. What are they trying to accomplish, and it no longer becomes like what’s the best technology, but it becomes what’s the big business problem that we have that we need to solve, and what is the solution that’s going to help us to do that easily?”

O’Neil: “But more importantly, I always like to say to them that when you have an intranet, it’s one of the most powerful interfaces that you’re gonna put in place. It touches everybody. Everybody at your organization can benefit from a well architect-ed intranet.”

Think like an End User

O’Neil: “So one of the things that I like to think about is that don’t just think about it from a technology perspective, but think about sitting side-by-side with your end using community. Think about having discussions with your business units. Have, aspiring discussions around what would you like to see? Don’t think about whether or not it’s possible, but what would you like to see in an intranet?”

“Once I have a sound idea of what their biggest pain point is, and even some of their aspiring goals, it’s really easy for us to craft a solution that helps them win. That helps everyone win. IT, with a simple solution that they don’t have to be intrinsically involved in any longer, and from an end user perspective, all they really want is to be one or two clicks away from finding what they need.”

Cameron: “Absolutely. I think that’s a big selling point for a lot of types of software solutions, and do you find that people generally are asking the same sorts of questions? Are people really that unique, when they’re looking for a type of software, or are people’s needs generally the same?”

The Importance of Governance

“O’Neil: Well, I’m seeing the same pain points, across. So search, meaning documents. They don’t know where the things are. We also call it content hoarding, which is also something that … it’s almost like there was this really cool show in the United States, I think it’s called Hoarders, and you’ve got to start thinking about it. You know that pager policy? Chances are you don’t have to hang onto that anymore, unless, of course, you’re in an organization that likes pagers. Go low-tech!”

“O’Neil: But, in any event, what we try to do is just really tackle the big challenges, and find the quick wins, and nine times out of ten, a content auditcan have a huge impact on search. So even though we’re seeing consistency across the board, in terms of like, we can’t find anything, we do a root cause analysis, and nine times out of ten, they can’t find anything because it’s all over the place, and there’s no governance, and what, metadata? What’s metadata? So that’s a big challenge.

Your Intranet should be a Stress-free experience

Cameron: “It’s a hard thing to explain to end users about the importance of metadata, and everybody just wants it to work exactly like Google, but nobody understand exactly how Google works, or why metadata is important.”

O’Neil: “But you know what? In defense of every organization that’s experiencing this type of challenge, that’s okay.”

“They don’t need to know what metadata is, and I think that that’s the big shift of taking a look at software solutions, through the lens of your typical end user. Through your typical content author. They don’t need to know the technology. They need a simple interface that’s going to allow them to do what they were hired for in the first place, which is find stuff, and make people happy, and sell things. You know? So at the end of the day, it’s really that simple.”

“I think that sometimes if it’s a technology driven decision, people aren’t really thinking about how simple it needs to be, and we have a tendency to make our solutions really tough, and I think that’s the most brilliant thing at Bonzai, is that we really do have our finger on the pulse of what’s hard, and how to make something that’s elegant and easy to use and, dare I say it, stress free.”

Cameron: “There you go. This has all been super great, and very informative, but what if you were a vendor, and you were going to a software company, what is a good thing that you can be prepared with to go in and make sure that you’re asking the right types of questions in order to really suss out that this product is right for you?

What are some steps that you think you could have that you would love to see your ideal customer come with and be prepared with in order to make the selling solution, for you, that much easier, and really understand what you’re giving to those people?”

Great Intranet Teams Involve Business Stakeholders

O’Neil: “That’s a really good question. Oh my goodness, it’s like Christmas. So if I was writing a letter to Santa Claus, asking for the ideal solution, it would be simply this. An intranet touches everybody in your organization. This can’t simply be a technology led initiative. You need to involve everyone who is going to have the ability, or who is going to actually have to use this.

I always get giddy if I have an intranet team. So they have someone from corporate communications, they might have someone from HR, they could have someone from sales and marketing. Obviously, it’s important to have people from IT.

But I know that I am dealing with a customer that sees the far reaching possible impact, and I mean positive impact, of an intranet, when they actually have also engaged their end users to find out what’s hard.

And if you just ask the simple questions of your people, you know, day-to-day, what do you find is the most challenging thing that’s part of your job? No matter who you talk to, you’re going to have them come up with things like, “I don’t know how … I wish I had the ability to be able to know who I could talk to, to get insight. And that’s collaboration. It’s not just a tool. It’s the ability to find people who can answer tough questions.”

Great Intranets Find, Connect and Engage

O’Neil: “The other thing that I hear, time and time again, especially from a sales perspective, “I don’t trust the data that I have.Oh, that’s harsh.” Think about that. “I don’t know that this is the most accurate pricing,” or heaven forbid, “I don’t know that this is the proper legal document to send out.

The implications of sending out information that isn’t accurate, and then the long lingering impact on the psychology of the person who was reprimanded for sending out the wrong information, is hard. So organizations that come to me that already have a sense of what’s hard for their end users that also have a sense of what’s important for their business units, and have representation from across the organization. Those are the organizations that are going to build intranets that really move the dial, that really … no matter what you think, you can slap up an intranet, and if it’s crappy, no one is going to use it.

But if you architect an intranet that helps people find people, that helps them to engage with each other, that is a trusted source of corporate information, and also helps them to feel more connected to the company, that is the missing piece of digital transformation.”

Cameron: “I think that’s very true, and I really appreciate you coming and being able to share your insights like that. So thanks so much, Rayna. I super appreciate you being here today, and I hope to hear you on future episodes.”

O’Neil: “Oh, sure. If anyone in the audience is looking for recipes that they can make in ten minutes, because life is busy, yeah, bring me back.”

Cameron: “Thanks Rayna! That’s it for our episode today. Tune in in two weeks time, and we’ll be back with another episode of Building Bonzai. See you then! Bye.”

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