Getting the most from your Intranet solution

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1 Whitepaper Getting the most from your Intranet solution Knowledge retention via collaboration under changing work paradigms Whitepaper By David Perks, General Manager, Brennan Software Development Josh Burgess, Software Developer

2 2 Getting the most from your intranet solution Overview Working patterns inside organisations are changing. Thanks to developing technologies, barriers that have traditionally inhibited broad based collaboration are collapsing. Responding to the demands of the modern economy, companies are becoming increasingly global while striving to be more responsive to customers and clients. In many organisations, this is changing the way work is done, placing a greater emphasis on Different Time, Different Place collaboration. Located either in different geographic locations or working across different time zones, employees are increasingly dependent on electronic communication as a means to get things done. This change is making the transmission and retention of knowledge within organisations more difficult, as employees lose much of the face-to-face contact with colleagues that have been the traditional means of sharing ideas. Intranet systems such as the Brennan Intranet Solution are addressing this issue, providing new means to capture and transmit organisational knowledge. The best intranet platforms are those which not only allow employees to collaborate freely, but also make knowledge retention an automatic part of a team s process. This white paper discusses Brennan s Intranet Solution in the context of both collaboration and knowledge retention. It examines new technologies that are supporting organisational collaboration under various working paradigms while also exploring how such collaboration can be designed to retain knowledge within the organisation. Types of knowledge The sharing and retention of organisational knowledge is imperative for business success. Precisely what constitutes important knowledge is not always easy to quantify, but within organisations there are generally two dominant kinds 1 : Explicit knowledge knowledge that is easily represented in written form. This might be sales figures, product specifications, or clear sets of instructions for executing specific tasks. Implicit knowledge intangible or soft knowledge that is not easily codified. This might be how to best market a particular product, present a quote, or predict the behaviour of competitors. This type of knowledge is related to experience. It must be learned by observation, imitation and practice. 1 See Baumard, Phillipe. Tacit Knowledge in Organisations, 1996.

3 3 Intranet systems have often focused only on sharing explicit knowledge, because that is the type most easily represented and transferred. Changes in working paradigms, however, mean that it is now just as important that intranet solutions find ways to store and impart the kinds of implicit knowledges that businesses rely on to retain and expand their positions in the market. How are work patterns changing Intranet systems are collaborative platforms. Utilising Microsoft SharePoint, Brennan s Intranet Solution is designed to assist organisations across a spectrum of work paradigms. There are four fundamental and widely recognised work situations, each a distinct combination of categories of time and place 2 : Same Time / Same Place The first and most commonly recognised work pattern is Same Time / Same Place. Here, workers collaborate in the same space and the same time, whether through scheduled meetings or impromptu face-to-face conversations. This is the typical office environment, and its traditional prevalence is being undermined. Same Time / Different Place Same Time / Different Place includes workers in the same time zone but in different offices: Melbourne and Sydney branches for example. In the past, collaboration in this situation has occurred by telephone, but fast becoming dominant. Different Time / Same Place The rise and rise of customer service has lead to Different Time / Same Place situations. These might be call centres or help desks where workers collaborate to complete tasks in continuous fashion, tasks that may have been instigated by a colleague but will be completed by someone else. Different Time / Different Place Different Time / Different Place situations are becoming more common. Thanks to the imperatives of globalisation and the rise of the mobile worker, collaboration in different locations at different times is a modern must. In this scenario, terms such as office hours no longer apply workers across the organisation, whether in Melbourne, Perth or Mumbai, need easy access to the latest information wherever and whenever it s required. This is the most challenging type of collaboration, but the one towards which organisations are migrating. 2 See

4 4 Electronic collaboration through intranet systems has a vital role to play in each of these situations: Collaborative Intranet Solutions Collaboration creates knowledge. Whether it s two business segments coming together to forge a marketing plan, or a member of the sales team conversing with a product engineer, daily interaction is a source of new knowledge within a business. Not all modes of collaboration, however, manage to retain the information that they generate. is poor in this regard. While it s a useful method of collaboration, the knowledge that it creates remains locked in participants inboxes where it s difficult, if not impossible, to share with the company at large. Brennan s Intranet Solution helps to overcome this locked in effect by combining a range of collaborative tools with powerful search methods that can be harnessed to access organisational knowledge when it s most required. The knowledge produced by the collaboration of work teams, managers and product specialists is made tangible, readily accessible to the remainder of the business in its day-today work. This is critical to business success. Not only does it ensure that the best available business intelligence is used when important decisions are made, it also improves learning curves across the organisation, especially for new employees.

5 5 Retaining explicit knowledge Explicit knowledge is that which is easily represented or codified. Statistical data and the minutes of meetings are two examples. The Brennan Intranet Solution provides a series of ready-made, customisable templates for creating and storing these kinds of knowledges. These include business performance reporting, marketing and campaign tracking, inventory and asset tracking, knowledge bases, budgeting utilities, as well as competitive analysis tools and process management applications. Some of the advantages to creating and storing these using the Brennan Intranet Solution are: Availability Information on a Brennan intranet is available 24/7 and from anywhere with network access. Not only does this mean that employees are provided consistent information, it also means that when information is updated, all stakeholders are automatically in the loop. Centralisation As an organisation wide intranet, the Brennan Intranet Solution provides a central, managed point for the execution of business tasks. Separate teams can interact and collaborate on projects, harnessing the full resources of the business. Productivity System-wide searching and possibilities for data mining help to streamline business activity, making it easier to locate information as well as put it to use. Many collaborative applications for the creation and sharing of explicit knowledge have been integrated directly into the Brennan Intranet Solution: Wikis Wikis are collaborative websites that can be updated by anyone with access. They re a lightweight framework readily used to organise and keep up to date content that is critical to the business. Collaboration is facilitated by the ease of editing. No knowledge of HTML is required and comprehensive version control keeps track of changes and who made them. Mostly importantly, Wikis are full-text searchable, which means that the business knowledge they store is much more likely to be found and put to effect. Business intelligence dashboards Intelligence dashboards collate and assemble business information for an up to date picture of business performance. Dynamic KPI information can be displayed alongside integrated spreadsheet data and database query results for a visual presentation of business function. Microsoft office integration ensures that information can be passed seamlessly from web to document and vice-versa throughout the organisation allowing the entire business to see and contribute to the picture.

6 6 Workflows and alerts The Brennan Intranet Solution has a powerful workflow engine. Routine tasks such as quoting, pricing or servicing can be efficiently executed and managed using customisable flows. Automatic notifications can also inform staff that tasks are now pending, and flows can involve multiple individuals, teams, business elements, as well as revision and approval from management. Using workflows, complex business processes can be executed with speed, efficiency and oversight. Retaining implicit knowledge The storage and ready use of implicit knowledge in what might be called virtual form is more challenging than its explicit cousin. Inspired by the Web 2.0 evolution, next generation features such as discussion boards, blogs and social networking now allow organisations to seize the initiative and create collaborative processes aimed at codifying and preserving soft knowledge. As business commentators often point out, it s often these soft knowledges on which business success is based, and Brennan s Intranet Solution has been specifically designed to bring new and intuitive approaches to the table. Discussion boards Discussion boards or forums are a productive way of retaining business knowledge for future users, creating high levels of efficiency in the learning of new tasks. Their central collaborative advantage is that they are informal spaces. When business problems arise, questions can be posed and solutions thought out in a collaborative fashion by experts and stakeholders from anywhere in the organisation. Attaching a discussion board to explicit information provides a domain where interpretations and evaluations of specific topics can be examined and debated. Most importantly, the discussion board then remains as a permanent record of the debate and reasoning. This remains as an invaluable resource for newcomers, who are able to see the evolution of a decision and to quickly familiarise themselves with the organisational knowledges expressed. Blogs Blogs are a targeted approach to information sharing, best used to impart or reinforce specific messages. Business teams can use a blog to keep both themselves and other business units updated on their current status or outlook. Ideas can be expressed with immediacy and simplicity. Blogging can also be used by management to communicate news and views to the organisation at large, and if commenting is enabled team members can add their own input and participate in a topic discussion, further creating opportunities for useful dialogue and knowledge sharing.

7 7 Social networking Brennan s Intranet Solution supports social networking, connecting employees with colleagues and work teams and helping to promote communication and an organisation wide collaborative approach. Employees across a business can create small personal sites listing their interests and areas of responsibility. For businesses operating in multiple geographic locations, this helps to foster a sense of inclusion and teamwork. Because the directory is searchable, it s easy to locate human resources within the organisation, creating opportunities for the sharing of information and expert knowledge. Preventing information overload Since the advent of especially, information overload has become a real problem for organisations. Estimates vary, but staff who receive between 100 to 200 messages a day are in danger of becoming overwhelmed, and information of business value begins to be overlooked because of the volume of messages at hand. 3 As a result of the overload, employee productivity and responsiveness drops and stresses can begin to compound. Filtering and sorting techniques for prioritising offer some relief, but a better solution is to reduce the actual level of traffic by distributing information in better ways. The Brennan Intranet Solution can be customised to provide a structure to knowledge distribution within an organisation, centralising and organising information and reducing the need for . Collaborative spaces allows business units to work together in a much more organised way, and because business knowledge can be found in a central location, there s no time lost searching through swamped inboxes. Summary Intranet systems need to be collaborative, dynamic spaces. The Brennan Intranet Solution has been designed as a fluid and centralised environment that facilitates teamwork and cooperation. Its informed approach means that organisational knowledge, both explicit and implicit, is more readily created, shared and retained. New tools such as wikis, forums and blogs help to capture and impart important business thinking and logic. As a result the organisation remains in sync, able to make better business choices through informed decision-making. Better business intelligence is also made possible via information dashboards, company wide searching and data mining. 3 See Schuff, D, Turetken, O & Darcy J. 2005, A multi-attribute, multi-weight clustering approach to managing overload, Science Direct, Vol 48, no. 6, p

8 8 For organisations following the trend away from Same Time / Same Place working patterns, the collaborative benefits of a comprehensive intranet system will help to maintain cooperation and communication as face-to-face contact becomes less prevalent. At the same time, the ability of intranet systems to trap and impart organisational knowledge means that they re fast becoming an indispensable part of knowledge retention strategies. To obtain a fact sheet on the Brennan Intranet Solution visit

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