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The creation of an effective internal website

How to set up an effective internal website?

Self-service take-up

A lot of money is invested by companies on implementing internal web sites, developing HR for the intranet to facilitate employee and management ‘self-service’. The aim is often to increase employee understanding of company goals and procedures and reduce workload on key personnel, enabling these personnel to become more strategic. Furthermore intranets can provide a greater degree of flexibility for individuals and groups as well as assist in the creation of a ‘learning organization’. However, despite the potential benefits to both the individual and the organization, utilization of these systems is generally low. So how can we get employees motivated to use self-service websites?

7 Best Practice Tips:

  1. Make sure each business area or department on the intranet are involved in the design, implementation and evolution of their web sections. Better still, ensure they plan and define their expectations and use of the web to ensure goal attainment. The system is far more likely to be effective if it is business needs driven.
  2. Ensure the end users are monitored and asked for feedback on the web sections and any changes – don’t forget though if you ask for feedback use it!
  3. Enthusiastic support from the very top is essential you need you people to think; ‘if the boss feels it is important then perhaps so should I’.
  4. All information on the web must be important, relevant to users jobs, and benefit them in their work. If you can include aspects of work that they must use or use because it is simpler (such as forms of ‘self-service’ vacation application or time recording), it will help increase usage.
  5. A searchable, easy to navigate, repository of information is essential – must also be up to date and current. Whilst care should be taken not to overload people with too much information, research shows staff can become more productive if they do have easy access on the intranet to a range of company documentation.
  6. Do ensure people are given recognition for any work published or pages developed on the web. This not only increases motivation but ensures changes can be communicated to the right person – which will increase accuracy and reliability.
  7. Technically the system must be fast, reliable, and easy to use. If staffs have to invest time finding information and/or struggle with the system, they will give up. There are detailed best practice guidelines for the technical development of websites available, which include use of color, format and content presentation. Which include use of color, format and content presentation, identifying new items, ensuring no broken links, and reducing the number of clicks/ease of navigation – Get a guide and stick to it

3 things to Avoid:

  1. Do not leave it all to the IT department to organize – it is usually a disaster. They can only take responsibility for the technical aspects, not motivating individuals or selling business practices. The strategic effectiveness of intranets will be badly affected if content and structure is left solely to IT.
  2. Do not assume that staff will start to use it in time, or after a short initial training course. They will need good reasons for using the system so be patient.
  3. Do not use as a general data repository or an uncontrolled mass-communication device. People suffering from information overload actually reduce the time and effort spent on the system and can miss the information that is valuable.

Developing these areas of best practice should enable your organization to be effective and ensure investment in intranets is not wasted.

So how is your internal intranet strategy going?

Stephanie

Put managers and employees to work on the change to reduce resistance

Involve Managers and Staff in the work of change management

Many Change Managers assume that if the rationale for change is made clear to the organisation then they will go along with it. In the process of demonstrating the need to change and an understanding of the impact (on themselves and their group) employees will buy- in and thereafter work actively to realise it. There is an assumption behind all this that ‘Change’ is negotiated and develops over time and that the change agent’s task is merely to make clear the imperatives and the people will fall into place.

Whilst this approach has been criticised for ignoring political and social aspects within organisations it is also inaccurate when talking about major system changes, outsourcing or mergers/acquisitions where we are faced with transitioning organisations against a strict deadlines. Here the degrees of freedom are limited and failure to successfully implement can result in stiff penalties for time and cost overruns. In such circumstances our room for ‘negotiation’ is constrained, the change outcome is a given and the people affected are faced with a forced change.

Also we see that the complexity of change is increasing as many major programmes consist of several, in their own right, substantial tasks. For example, in one major change programme I worked on the client was disentangling from a parent company and implementing an IT system with new standardised processes. All of these forcing substantial changes in role and responsibilities right across the organisation – and this programme also included the outsourcing of substantial parts of the finance function!

As well as the staff managers are affected – with perceived loss in autonomy and the need to acquire new skills key concerns. In another change programme in which the author was involved the financial controller had a significant change in job scope as a result of a system implementation and outsourcing which involved the loss of fifty percent of her staff. This resulted in prevarication and concentration on detail, non-acceptance of the rationale for change and question/problem raising that came over to the central project team as structural resistance.

The focus of our intervention in this case was on a country unit that had specific change issues that made their changeover have high perceived business risk. This unit for example had already gone through several changes of ownership in the last few years and was heavily impacted again. Our first step was to understand how the change impacted on the group, department and individuals within the business. Change needed to be thought through and the changes in role and task for these three areas were worked through in detail.

The intervention strategy we considered was based around thinking through to what the changed organisation would look like when we were finished. The patterns of communication, the new roles and responsibilities, and the impact on individual jobs were considered then the transition needed to bridge from the current situation to the future mapped out. This defined the necessary training and coaching for the individuals over and above that already covered in the formal training programmes. The transition management was trickier and this was handled by facilitating the cutover planning at group level. This acted to involve the organisation in the changeover (it’s on ‘its’ way) and engaged them in participating in the design of the move process itself. Defining in detail the roles, tasks and timings during the cutover were key aspects of this intervention. Further, interviews and group meetings around the changeover allowed ‘voice’ to be given and concerns and issues to be fully surfaced – they raised the resistance and helped solve them.

Key learning points

Do not interpret all resistance as opposition to change. Opposition can often be a sign of interest in the outcome and an expression of legitimate concern Capture the concerns and rationale. It may be that someone has identified a flaw in our reasoning and may have identified a route to possible failure, perhaps from the last time this occurred. To find out why it did not work last time may reveal some interesting lessons. However, be cautious about agreeing with an issue as this may be interpreted as a sign that the change can be negotiated – capture without judgement.

The assumption that all employees will go through the same cycle of resistance is false and too simplistic. Often there are winners in a change process. Identify these and build coalitions to build a success culture. Also some departments or groups of people are more successful with handling change than others – building on these winning groups can help bring the whole organisation along.

We all know the value of clear communication but do not forget to include the need for relevancy. Exhortations of the value of the change at a high level are useless unless made clearly relevant to the people affected. The communication must be tuned to the hearers specific needs – general broadcasts are discounted and people will provide their own rationale for change processes.

Avoid the ‘Englishman on Holiday’ change strategy – ‘if they don’t understand speak slowly and more loudly!’ At a feedback meeting for research into the situation at a French plant the consultants gave a withering overview of the impact of the various initiatives, changes and improvement programmes a major high technology company was imposing on the factory. The response from the senior team – ‘the management have not explained this clearly enough therefore “they” do not understand it – they must do it again’. People in change need focused information – how does this new system affect me. Will I still have a job? Will I be able to cope – will they train me? This means communications must be relevant, focused and bespoke aimed at a segmented audience – don’t treat people as the same with the same vanilla information requirements.

Some interventions

Local briefings at department or group level to strengthen team feelings of unity and develop focus on the task in hand.
Cutover process – form well managed meetings to act as a resolution point for raising and solving problems.

Tighter linkage to the changeover (particularly for the management) to expose the organisation to the task and encounter change.

  • Activate processes to resolve/close personnel issues — close these issues managers often have difficulty in handling these.
  • Mentor the management to actively participate and lead change via the consultant is an essential task.
  • Visible presence of change manager to emphasise the company’s commitment to making the change.
  • Reflect listen but not judge issues — allow self-reflection.
  • Ensure communications is done (Watch for gate-keeping in one project when I checked the communications had got no further than the secretary)
  • Provide recognition of improvements ideas and try to push upwards any ideas the team have that have value however small.
  • Recognise that resistance is a legitimate concern for the well-being of the business.
  • Ensure communication channels are open and deployed (again this is sometimes not done).
  • Hire consultant to act as change focus (reflecting with support but not judging or leading)
  • Tighter engagement of the organisation into the change process — they will switch to solve mode.

Finally don’t assume managers know how to manage change or know how to help their people change – because often they do not. Special training and development is necessary. Also be sure that the management has bought in, in one case the stiffest resistance came from a senior leader whose scepticism fed the resistance of the whole team.

Royston

The Consulting Process – How to Run an Assignment

This slide show is a presentation I do at London University on the consulting process. I covers the main steps in the process and includes some useful techniques – you can get it at my account on slide share.

How to start off a successful outsource project

How to start off a successful outsource project

1.0 Know what you want

There must be clear scoping of the demand and what is being put to the market. The objectives for the outsourcing must be consistent and reasonable – cost reduction, as an aim together with increase service may be inconsistent. Sign off internally why you are doing this and agree what is driving the whole process – this is important from the vendors perspective as well. If the vendor knows that cost reduction or technology refresh are key objectives the response can be tailored to your precise needs. Furthermore, objectives can change over time and the original case for an Outsource can be undermined by events. Revisiting the rationale you agreed internally is an important task during the process – don’t be driven by the running train take a time out to check you still need to do this.

2.0 Put in place a clear process.

Decide whether you are asking for a sole source versus competitive bid from the market. Sole sourcing is usually suggested (particularly by the vendor) if there is a history with the supplier and there is a time constraint – but there are significant negatives. Loss of leverage, not being able to compare alternatives, less aggressive pricing to name but three – and a sole source could have high impacts such as the legitimacy of the deal. Last but not least, the process may actually take longer as there is no time pressure that comes from a competitive environment.

In a competitive bid position cost savings have a better chance of being realised and new suppliers can come with more innovative proposals than the in-house incumbent – at least in principle. The process can actually be quicker as the client can drive the competitive process – by a strict time based approach to the process for example. But on the other hand competitive bidding is more resource intensive, for the supplier as well as the client, so make sure you resource well.

Be precise, not prescriptive, comprehensive but concise in the layout – focus on key objectives. We need the ‘what’ not the how – avoid laying down all sorts of preconditions about how the service is to be delivered – that’s the suppliers job in the proposal. I have seen in several RFP’ s detailed specifications of what packages to use and how precisely the service is to be delivered – effectively closing off all innovative solutions that may have been available from the vendor. Also specific demands will drive up the cost – the vendor may be able to offer off-the-shelf solutions that will work just as well as your specific demands but at very favourable rates.

A request for informartion (RFI) is a high-level document inviting a general response and can be used as a test for possible solutions and to pre-select candidates for the bid. Usually there is no bid price given by the suppliers – nor should we expect too much detail here. An request for proposal (RFP) invites a formal response and takes longer for the vendor and the customer to evaluate. In a large bid this cost can come to millions of dollars so make sure before you issue a RFP you really mean to go ahead. Ensure you are being realistic in your demands and take care that the quality and clarity in the RFP promotes conformance in the proposals received.

3.0 Manage the Communication Channels

In negotiation avoid shortcuts and set specific goals – and ensure they are delivered. Evaluate, clarify and frame negotiations to keep competition alive. Document all discussions and carry out frequent self-assessment. Use a term sheet as this helps drive and track the discussion and allows apples to apples comparison – over time the term sheet can evolve into a contract so it is well worth the effort to create one.

Manage the up and down communication channels carefully. Make sure no seniors speak to vendors and control vendor access to senior management carefully. Some vendors are good at getting around the formal process to the senior management and exploiting this access to short-circuit the tender process. We all know of ‘golf course’ deals that cut through a bid process and enable vendors to return to the customer team informing them they ‘know’ the requirements of senior management. Most golf course deals end in disaster so should be avoided like the plague.

Keep talking to vendors and meet frequently to discuss the proposals – the more open and interactive the better the eventual outcome will be.

4.0 Cover the Details

First of all vendors to this for a living – often the vendor sales team have been doing this for years and when this is done will move onto the next. The customer side on the other hand may have not done this before or at least the team carrying out the supplier proposal evaluation may be completely new compared to the last time the outsource process was done. Also some of the customer team will have a day job to contend with – don’t forget this (or holidays etc.) and plan capacities well. Plan well, resource well and set realistic time scales – time pressure can act in the vendor’s favour and allow skipping of important details.

Never let issues that should be solved at negotiation drift into ‘we will solve this later’ discussions. They never are and these can be a source of major conflict later. A trade union official some time ago told me: ‘It is better for the negotiation to break down rather than the agreement’. All-important details must be cleared before signing a contract.

Partnership rhetoric will appear at some stage in the discussions from the vendor side. Partnership usually means giving all the risks to the vendor from the customer side or closing out competition from the vendor side (sole sourcing). Partnership can be invoked to get over tricky points and put them off until later stages or to close out competition. Partnership should be based on performance and strict business principles not waffle. I know it is often said we can handle the things we forgot later in a change process – I have personally never found this to be free of major problems and cost – so beware of this.

Final point maximum gain minimum vendor pain during the proposal stage – and remember to ask yourself what you are looking for from outsourcing until you know what it is!

Royston

Outsourcing kills the IT job market – what now for IT recruitment?

An article in Computer Weekly highlighted the problem that the salaries for mid-level IT staff have increased due to greater demand due to Outsourcing. Companies need experienced staff capable of overseeing project work, managing virtual teams, negotiating service line agreements and so on (the hidden costs of outsourcing) – but they don’t need the lower level skills because most of those jobs have been outsourced to lower cost economies such as India.

It seems project managers and project leaders have seen quite dramatic pay increases (good news for some), but because all the lower level jobs have been outsourced or ‘offshored’ then there are fewer people to rise through the ranks. SSL (Salary Services Limited) carried out a study which clearly demonstrates the shift. Their research director George Molyneaux is quoted by Computer Weekly as saying that ‘Outsourcing jobs reduces the incentives to get into IT’. Not surprisingly, there are far fewer people taking IT as a subject at University – and there are fewer graduate level jobs in the UK. How on earth are we going to develop the future project managers who will understand the UK IT industry? I think this is a real time-bomb.

Yet the reply from one of the recruitment companies is that we need to increase marketing and highlight that there is a demand for IT people. Does this person think that today’s young people are completely stupid? It is clear from the above analysis that there are fewer jobs and no clear career path. The IT industry cannot continue to dump people like hot potatoes whenever they think they can get them cheaper elsewhere and then expect a good flow of graduates coming into their sector.

Better marketing is not going to resolve the issue. People will only start moving back into IT when they can see there really is a career for them.

There is a podcast about the drop in student numbers and the implications on the following link:Computer Weekly