Notes from Smile London – Part One

I used up a whole pad of paper from the venue for Smile London on my note writing, and came away with a lot of ideas and inspiration, so that’s a pretty good indication of a day well spent!

The day itself was filled not with traditional presentations that we’re familiar with, but with interviews. Marc Wright and Jenni Field were the hosts and asked presenters a series of questions to delve into their subject, or case study. This was an unusual but highly effective approach, as it really got into the corners of what they were talking about and gave us ideas to try.

There was a lot to take away, but I’ve written up the points that stood out to me from each session.

Kurt and Sam share their insights
If you’re new to intranets or would like to do research into the industry, then you can’t go wrong with looking at the work that Kurt Sorensen and Sam Marshall do. At Smile, Kurt shared a variety of stats that he/we can use to benchmark our intranets. My favourite was this one:

What Intranets used for

I really like to see what other people are using their sites for, as there is so much potential behind any digital workspace and I like considering new opportunities for my own. Plus consider what we’re not doing…

Sam then shared some initial findings from the 2019 ClearBox Intranet Report, which is due out very soon. The report gives us a thorough analysis of intranet-in-a-box products, which helps with the selection of new providers or even just ideas about what we can do with our sites. He explained that to build the report providers are given eight standard scenarios to complete, they give a demo, complete a survey, facts are checked (and marketing language removed to give just the facts) and finally existing customer thoughts and opinions are added. I’m really hoping to buy a copy this year…

Plan’s plan for employee engagement
After the results of the staff survey said that engagement was a problem, Plan International developed a window into Workplace (by Facebook) using SharePoint. Plan now have a variety of stories being shared every day, and in a variety of formats. People are also talking to each other much more than they ever, with no fear of organisational hierarchies.

The project team suggested that it didn’t really matter which platform they chose, as previous experience had been that tech was introduced then dropped – so they just needed to commit to something. Given the ease with which some of us complain about the software we have to use, plus that good content is good despite the platform, there is some truth in this statement. Although, as Sam said to me, some platforms make some inherent assumptions about how people will use it, so you can’t always “just commit” as you could be putting in far too much work for something that could be done more easily on something else.

App happy at Rituals
Remote workers are a constant problem for communicators, as they’re trickier to reach out to than screen-facing colleagues. Many don’t have to do work things online, so they need to feel inclined to want to. At Rituals this meant that rather than launch an intranet they launched an employee app that acts as a communication, social and document library tool.

MD Penny Grivea explained that the communication comes in from teams, as well as out from the centre. Employee retention rates have increased by 4% since the launch, plus when their tills went down for a few hours one day their IT team used the app as their communication platform. While the thought of not having some form of intranet makes me feel nervous, the evidence so far seems to show this is working for Rituals.


Lots to take in and lots of notes, so I’ll post part two in a few days…

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