Tag Archives: corporate intranet

Business Social – Reason #52: Deflecting Call Volume Through Self-Service Help Desk

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Forum usage can result in deflecting call volume and greatly reduced holding times, which leave a smaller burden on support staff who can then spend more time on complicated issues.  

Dedicated support communities can greatly decrease the pressure on help desks and call centers. In cases where issues aren’t urgent, users can post their issue as a question, and other users can offer their own suggestions, advice, and possible solutions. Later, when another user arrives at the site with the same issue, they might search for and find the discussion thread created by the previous users, or be directed to that thread by a support employee, reducing the need to reiterate information. Frequently requested information or solutions can be highlighted on top pages, further reducing the strain on support lines. Users can rate the usefulness of an answer or add content themselves, further refining ease of access.

What can business social do for you?

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Business Social – Reason #40: It Makes for Collaborative Newsletters

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Newsletters disseminate information. Collaborative newsletters keep content fresh and connect readers, kick-starting collaboration while streamlining communication.

The newsletter is an essential tool in an enterprise workplace. When employees are constantly bombarded with information and waste hours clearing inboxes of emails, packaging a week or month’s worth of updates into a single digital page enables quick scanning but puts in-depth information only a click away. Yet, the process of creating and managing such a newsletter is seldom easy, and all that work can easily be for nothing: data may have been incorrect or quickly become obsolete. Once the newsletter is published, replies and conversations become a mess of repetitive, confusing emails, further cluttering everyone’s inboxes.

By utilizing business social, however, a newsletter becomes a gateway to valuable collaboration.

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The key is the centralization of data on a social site. When all the content to which the newsletter links is domiciled on a business social platform, it becomes infinitely more useable than text within an email. Such content can be edited even after a newsletter goes out, updating with new information or pointing users toward fresh data. Questions and discussions gather around an article, funneling into comments and discussions hosted on a business social platform instead of into repetitive emails. This is a newsletter that doesn’t just inform: it takes the reader to the most recent information and facilitates bidirectional communication.

This process can be automated and even personalized by each user through business social digests. If enabled, this function permits the business social platform to send a user a daily, twice-a-week, or weekly digest which includes links to new content from whomever the user “follows” as well as a quick summary of statistics on content to which the user has contributed. Following is as easy as clicking a button conveniently located on every group, space, and content page, making the customization of anyone’s personal digest fast and simple.

Of course, some business units want to up the ante. Not only can a business area take advantage of data centralization to facilitate communication and collaboration, but they can also incorporate additional elements to immerse readers in a truly social experience.

For example, in addition to the content chosen by the curator, the newsletter of one business client we worked included a list of the “Top 10 Posts This Month,” further directing readers to the most popular areas of collaboration on their social site. A mimic of their events calendar further drew attention to upcoming dates. Large, colorful buttons floated on the edge, inviting the reader to contribute their own ideas and discussion. All of these features increased the value of their single weekly-email, and all content linked to the respective community on the firm’s business social platform for further engagement.

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Business Social – Reason #21: Reduce Intranet Website Customization

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Unique intranet sites can become problematic and obsolete before they’re even finished. Business social offers a faster, less expensive, and more efficient alternative that can reduce intranet website customization across an enterprise. 

While the ability to craft unique websites was once a hallmark of cutting-edge technology, today it causes far more problems than it might solve.

First, it wastes money as individual business units draw on the time of communications teams and web designers to perfect their ideal site. By the time the site is finished, it may already be outdated or even obsolete. If it is still useful, it complicates internal intranet systems and search functions with its unique design and clashes with every other site. Navigating an intranet built of hundreds of separately designed areas is disorienting and confusing, making it more difficult for units to collaborate with each other.

By converging on a single, standard Morgan Stanley global platform, one that is modern enough to allow for individual tailoring but unified in its overall structure, Morgan Stanley can save millions of dollars by eliminating piecemeal development efforts. Indeed, a business social platform can provide a compelling intranet experience largely out-of-the-box.

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Business Social – Reason #33: Locating Subject Matter Experts on the Corporate Intranet

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In this article we consider the difficulties of locating subject matter experts in a corporate setting and look at several digital solutions.

Despite all the FAQs, the tutorials, the walkthrough videos, the information databases, the reference resources, the troubleshooting databases, the searchable help indexes, and the advice blogs, there are still times when it’s necessary to find a real person. Perhaps an expert opinion is required on a specific topic, or a solution is needed to a problem that no one else has experienced before. When these occasions arise, users need methods of locating actual people who are experts in these fields.

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Unfortunately, the phonebook is no longer a reliable option. Attempting to search the internet directly from Google is akin to the proverbial hunt for an honest politician: it’s hard to distinguish actual experts with real knowledge from those who fake it for financial gain. While these fakers will always sneak their way into the mix, there are two methods emerging on the internet for identifying real experts with sound advice. Both of these systems can be employed within a corporate setting, allowing people from all corners of a company to seek and share the best of their knowledge.

The first and more obvious solution takes its cue from LinkedIn. Originally imagined as a Facebook for business professionals, LinkedIn has become the phonebook of the internet, allowing users to list their areas of expertise and find other experts based on an assortment of criteria. Translating this to a corporate environment makes a certain amount of sense: having a method of finding all the experts on a particular subject who work within a company can make the process of consulting such experts faster and easier.

Having a “directory of knowledge” within a company isn’t difficult, but it isn’t always enough. Anyone who has tried to manage a collaborative effort knows that the process of emailing multiple people and getting pages of contrasting advice can be a headache and a half. It’s hard to tell on a directory who might be too busy, or away, or simply unwilling to help for any number of valid reasons. Thus, while an up-to-date directory that includes areas of expertise is an important tool, it doesn’t quite solve the problem of drawing on expert opinion.

A better solution is to form what some term “communities of interest.” These are groups of people connected through a forum or other social collaboration medium, united by an expertise and interest in a particular topic. In such groups, a question can be posed, discussed, and answered by any and all members who are available to address the issue. Additionally, such groups can direct more specific queries to experts in those areas.

Such communities are already widely popular on the Internet, and highly useful. Technology companies often create such forums and open them to the public to help users collaborate and troubleshoot issues. Other groups are formed out of a desire to discuss topics with other interested parties and inadvertently become problem resolution teams. Programmers, developers, artists, and writers have carved their own spaces on the internet in which to share their expertise and collaborate on difficult issues.

In a corporate setting, such collaborations can be invaluable. By organizing people of expertise into collaborative groups, they can aid each other, bringing their combined strength to each of their individual tasks. Instead of hunting down and meeting or emailing a dozen different experts, those who seek help can turn to a group that already exists, and use the benefits of a forum setting to work out the best solution to their issue. What’s more, the employees themselves are happy to help, as so doing helps them form their reputation within the organization, which can lead to new opportunities.

There’s an old saying: two heads are better than one. By employing these strategies, an individual gains not a second point of view, but a dozen, allowing any smart employee to quickly brainstorm issues with those best suited to solve them. Human resources are amplified through the power of social collaboration, sparing everyone a good deal of time, effort, and aggravation.

For an enterprise, utilizing a enterprise social network to create Subject Matter Expert directories and focused communities of interest creates essential repositories of knowledge that not only benefits users attempting to locate SMEs but also eliminates the time and effort often wasted as traditional email and in-person requests are passed around from one contact to another. Creating an SME database as well as collaborative communities of interest connects seekers directly to the correct expert, getting questions answered, requests processed, and problems solved with speed and efficiency.

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What Wikipedia Can Teach the Enterprise [Cont’d]: Tagging

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Search engines, no matter how advanced, cannot read our minds. Whenever we look for virtual content, on both intra- and internets, we are required to phrase our request as a series of words and parameters. Sometimes this is enough: studies over the past three years claim varying numbers, but they agree at least 34% of Google users click the first link in the search results.

Yet this is not always sufficient. Unlike physical libraries or filing cabinets, the internet has no standard means of sorting data.  With the sheer amount of content now filling the digital universe, and the ambiguity of our language, it’s becoming more difficult to locate specific information using word-based search engines.

Wikipedia has invented a simple concept to deal with language ambiguity, coined a “disambiguation page.” Whenever a name or word could potentially refer to multiple topics, a page is created with links to all possible uses of that term. For example, the disambiguation page for “Mercury” contains links to the articles on the Roman messenger god, the first planet in our solar system, and the metallic element.

At least, that’s how the page starts. The massive list of article subjects called “Mercury” includes two towns, a bay, a group of islands, automobiles, trains, planes, ships, spacecraft, songs, albums, prizes, bands, comics, software, programming terms, sports teams, magazines, radio stations, films, TV shows, coins, books, roads, insurance, and no less than 22 separate newspapers.

The fact of the matter is that the English language has a limited number of words and is constantly being recycled. No matter how relevant a particular piece of information is to a topic, it’s impossible to guarantee that a search for related terms will return the appropriate data. Considering that 94% of Google users don’t even check the second page of results, no matter whether or not they’ve found what they need, it’s become more important than ever to find better ways of cataloging information.

Fortunately, within a closed system – a blog, a website, or an intranet, say – there’s an easy solution: tagging. As the Dewey Decimal system did for the library, tagging can keep an information database organized, navigable, and accessible without wasting time clicking through search results.

On paper, tagging is the equivalent of file-folder labels, or post-it notes. If a social-collaboration database is a virtual filling cabinet of articles and posts, tagging is the digital means by which that data is sorted into folders. Proper tagging means that when a user wishes to find information on a topic, selecting a “tag” is the equivalent of opening a folder under that category. Ideally, every article or post concerning that topic will be filled there. In addition, unlike paper files, digital data can be tagged into multiple topics, allowing one article to appear under all relevant “file headings.”

Wikipedia provides an excellent example of this in its category tagging features. At the bottom of every article is a series of links to the larger folders in which that article resides. Scrolling down an article about Mercury, the Roman god, reveals links to categories including “Roman gods,” “Messenger gods,” and “Deities in the Aeneid.” Clicking on any of these links brings up a page of all included articles in that category. Similarly, at the bottom of the page on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, category links lead to other planets and other solar system objects. However, because the planet is a more substantial topic, there are other links: “Mercury Exploration,” “Mercury Geology,” “Mercury in fiction,” and so on.

The application to a corporate environment is obvious. Searching for a term such as “Sharepoint” might return hundreds of results, even within the parameters of an enterprise intranet. This will include casual mentions of the software and text in which the software is brought up but not the focus of the writing. However, encouraging proper tagging techniques provides a tag of “Sharepoint” that, when clicked, brings up all data in which Sharepoint is an important topic.

However, no filing system works if it isn’t used properly. If there are no standards for tags, programs may not understand that abbreviations or alternate punctuation and spelling may mean the same thing: if one user tags his post “Powerpoint,” another “power point,” and a third “MSPowerpoint,” most software will consider these as three different subjects. (This is another reason why tagging has a strong advantage over simple word searches, if tags are used correctly.) Some users also suffer from “overtagging.” Worried that they aren’t certain of their categories, they tag an article with random words and phrases, creating dozens of useless tags that make tag-based navigation harder. Fortunately, modern software gives administrators system-wide control over which tags can be used and who can create new ones. If controlled by moderators who work actively to maintain the system, tag standards can be set over an entire system, making it even easier for users across buildings and continents to find information relative to their needs.

Of course, in the end, a system must be used in order to work to anyone’s advantage. Encourage groups to use tags constantly and effectively, and they can become a virtual data-search shortcut that works quickly and smoothly. With a proper digital fi

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The Intranet and the Value of Cohesion

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In this new era of enterprise, innovation and invention give business an unprecedented plethora of new tools for sharing information. Holding a video conference between people on opposite sides of the planet seems normal. Overhead projectors have been replaced by tablet computers. Cellphones are as powerful as laptops, allowing anyone to access almost anything, anytime, anywhere. Applications move data from one machine to the next and to the cloud and back seamlessly; other applications automate schedules, filter data based on relevancy, and otherwise optimize the process of social collaboration.

Despite this amazing technology, however, actual collaboration is still haphazard. No example is more telling than the backbone of intra-company communication: the enterprise intranet.

A corporate intranet functions much like a patchwork quilt. Each unit or division contributes its own small patch of data, and web designers or collaboration software “sew” those patches together into a “quilt” that provides a detailed map of the company as a whole.

However, many intranets remain poor blankets no matter how advanced the web design or software. Individual patches run larger or smaller, overlapping with redundant information and leaving large gaps between the fabric. In addition, each group may choose to present their information with different color schemes, templates, and navigation systems, causing patches to “clash” as if they didn’t belong to the same quilt. Attempts to organize those patches can take months, and by the time a web designer or oversight group has fixed the current “quilt,” much of the data could be outdated and useless.

One solution is to force a strict set of standards on all units. In this metaphor, making all patches the same size and color. While that might not produce an exciting quilt, it should at least create an intranet of relevant data, organized and easy to navigate.

Unfortunately, problems still arise. Units and divisions within a business are not symmetrical and even. In cutting all patches down to the same size, cloth is sacrificed from larger patches. Smaller patches may not contain enough cloth to fill the assigned space. In intranet terms, essential data will be lost and the network will still appear to be missing data where it isn’t. Perhaps more importantly, the set of standards must inevitably be forced to alter due to the ever-changing corporate and technological landscapes. All work done to fit each division into the old set of standards will be obsolete.

How, then, can a company intranet organize itself? To answer this question, consider the quilt metaphor. No one expects various patches to simply fit themselves together based on algorithms, but neither must the seamstress be a world-famous fashion designer. Patches may be unique, but the quilt works best when all patches share complementary colors and designs. Above all, no one can expect ten different seamstresses to each work on a fraction of the quilt independently and then fit them together seamlessly afterward: quilts are a collaborative effort, requiring shared planning and oversight.

This then gives a good standard for intranet creation and maintenance. All units need not conform to identical standards, but a set of guidelines should ensure that templates and color schemes are complementary. A single type of “thread” – a single overriding navigation protocol – should govern the entire intranet system. Most importantly, there must be a head seamstress: a group of people who manage the site as a whole, fitting the pieces together, mentoring units in the creation of their part of the site, and moderating the intranet as a whole. As active custodians, this group can also adapt to change and implement necessary alterations throughout the network.

A well-made quilt can be an excellent insulator on cold nights. Needless to say, a well-made enterprise intranet full of easily accessible data is even more useful, saving time and money by allowing employees to find what they need quickly, reducing redundant efforts, and eliminating updating processes that are out-of-date before they’re implemented. By creating an efficient corporate intranet, a company fosters efficient collaboration between units within itself.

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What Wikipedia Can Teach the Enterprise: Content Moderation

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As the first major forerunner of social-collaborative data gathering and sorting through the Internet, Wikipedia is often held up as both a standard and a warning to all its digital descendants. From sleek enterprise suits that organize corporate intranets to obscure fan-run catalogues of canceled television shows, all collaboration software owes a modicum of respect to that massive digital encyclopedia that proved social collaboration could successfully improve any area of research and expertise.

Yet it also proved that social collaboration in any setting cannot maintain itself. Wikipedia, as a case study, shows just how important it is that any intra- or Internet project have a dedicated staff of oversight and moderator.

The concept of a forum “moderator” wasn’t new to the internet: digital forums have existed in one form or another since the 70’s. Like their real-world counterparts, these forums recognized the value of an administrative voice, someone who could enforce rules over debate and settle disputes. In most internet forums, this duty is often given to website administrators by default. The larger the forum, the more onerous the duty, and so teams of moderators are chosen not only to cover more virtual ground but also to brainstorm problems among themselves.

Away from forums, however, users often question the need for strong moderating presence. Logically, a site like Wikipedia should be capable of monitoring itself. Given the number of users adding and modifying content, one might think that errors would be caught and corrected by other contributors.

Such assumptions have proven to be grossly inaccurate.

Wikipedia, being a free and open-source project, relies only on volunteer moderators, who are essentially highly recognized and self-elected members. No matter the dedication of individual members, they lack concrete organization. Nor can they provide all moderators with access to resources by which they might validate contributions.

Thus, the digital encyclopedia constantly sprouts errors and even outright hoaxes, and while some are plucked early, others thrive for years. In 2004, an article appeared describing “Gaius Flavius Antoninus” as one of Julius Caesar’s assassins. Such a person never existed, but the article remained unnoticed until 2012. For seven years, a crafty member named himself the mayor of a town in China. Other long-term hoaxes span time and subjects and include pirates, secret weapons, bands, torture implements, and even entire wars.

Even on Wikipedia, a site infamous for its inaccuracies, such errors can cause major real-world embarrassments. The most notable occurred in May 2010, when a French politician gave a speech in praise of Léon-Robert de l’Astran. The son of a slave trader, l’Astran became a naturalist, humanist, and advocate against slavery. He was also entirely fictional and existed only within a false Wikipedia article.

More serious are false death announcements. Whether through human error or spiteful ill-wishing, numerous celebrities and politicians have been disturbed to find their own death announced on their Wikipedia page. Perhaps most disturbing is the incident in 2007, when specific information regarding a brutal murder was added half a day before the victims were discovered. Though the contributor was investigated and cleared of wrongdoing, the fact that it happened at all – and that it took three days to notice – created serious concern.

It’s clear that Wikipedia, a major internet giant, suffers from serious problems due to its lack of a dedicated moderator staff. Even though the site is acknowledged to be inaccurate and isn’t intended to be used as a true data source, such errors still send ripples through the real world. How might a real database – one relied upon by an entire business enterprise – suffer from a lack of proper moderation? This question, and its potential answers and solutions, must be considered in the context of any corporate social collaboration system.

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