Intranetters XI: Romec and Field Fisher Waterhouse

The final Intranetters of 2011 is full to bursting, with plenty of new faces. Our last visit to The Crown Estate was excellent though we’re not here to see their intranet today. Instead Romec and Field Fisher Waterhouse are taking to the stage and James Robertson has dropped in to talk about the 2011 Intranet Innovation Awards.

Romec

Nigel Williams‘s presentation was cut short last time, so he returns to demonstrate Romec’s Interact-based intranet. Romec was established in 1989 to provide facilities management services to Royal Mail. It has a distributed workforce which is highly unionised. The intranet serves 4,500 users, 25% of whom use laptops, though 45% have nothing. Interact has been around for the last decade and is a modular tool – if you want something, there’s usually a module available. This makes Interact intranets fell nicely integrated, with the activity streams showing not just social updates, but notifications about which documents people have updated. A feature Romec are experimenting with allows people to tag others with actions. While this could result in “another” inbox, the transparency it demands is useful and a useful step in the direction of online task management. I hear advertising on the intranet being discussed from time to time. Romec have taken a different approach to simply adding banners to certain pages. The site directory shows advertisements for local taxis, hotels and restaurants, all of which offer preferential rates. The information is maintained by secretaries as part of their KPIs. Contract Briefs are central to Romec’s business process and Romec have used the intranet to replace a system of ad hoc spreadsheets with a centralised tool. Crucially, the business likes it and have become advocates for the new system. Another success has seen the Romec Management System, which stores forms, policies and manuals, being signed off by auditors DNV.

Field Fisher Waterhouse

There was an extended networking break as James Mullanand The Crown Estate’s technical team wrestled with gremlins, but eventually we got underway. James is bravely following in the footsteps of Maria Cesa and Rod McLean (twice), admitting that FFW’s intranet is due a revamp and presumably looking for ideas and feedback. Judging by the Twitter stream during the presentation, he got what he was looking for! As James explains, the intranet is three years old and he inherited it when the Knowledge Management team took it over. As well as purely technical challenges, like many law firms – and indeed organisations with any history – FFW faces the challenge of changing a culture of “private documents”. FFW’s intranet allows some personalisation of feeds and information sources, but I wondered why these weren’t aggregated in one place or an RSS reader. Many pages feature communications in a kitchen sink approach to getting the message out there – wherever there’s space. Navigation is organisation-based, so most people use the “A-Z of the intranet” to find what they’re looking for – a strong indicator that the navigation must be improved.

Intranet Innovation Awards 2011

We were happy that James Robertson of Step Two Designs was able to grace Intranetters with his presence once again, having stepped off a plane from Australia at about 6:00am. This time, not only is he presenting a review of the very recently announced results of the 2011 Intranet Innovation Awards, but three of the winners are with us to receive their trophies.

Sharon O’Dea collects an award for UK Parliament’s mobile intranet, demonstrated at the last Intranetters session at The Crown Estate, Alex Jackson for placing Framestore‘s core business of visual effects and computer animation at the heart of their intranet, Adam Pope for Arup‘s effort at engaging employees in fundraising for Sports Aid with the Amazing Race.

James’s summary of this year’s awards was peppered with common sense advice. On the need for intranets to evolve as systems: “Redesigns achieve little – the real value is in (continuous) incremental change.”

This was best exemplified by Framestore. Having already won an award last year, their latest innovation uses pictures of individual animation frames to help animators  visually understand their progress. Framestore are already planning a version which includes video, so we may well be applauding their third consecutive success in 2012.

I just liked the name of Framestore’s internal microblogging tool: “Fritter”.

James’s parting advice for all intranet teams was simple – make a list: “What are the six things you are going to improve in the next six months?”

(Update: James Mullan has written up this event on his blog.)