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79% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2018 will be video

Date Posted: Thursday, 23 July 2015 12:00
Posted By: Siv Rauv

This blog is an extract from the Marketer’s Guide to Video Technology Whitepaper.

Authors & contributors:
• Nick Bolton, Founder & Director, TEN ALPHAS
• Ian Vaile, Director of Video, Australian Publishing Network, Fairfax Media
• Matt Moran, Regional Director, thePlatform
• Jennifer Wilson, Group Executive Director, The Project Factory
• Mark Blair, Vice President Asia Pacific, Brightcove

Sherlock Video Marketing 2

Publishing and marketing has changed rapidly since the turn of the century, and change appears to be accelerating rather than peaking. The increased use of smartphones and their improved performance has liberated a range of opportunities for content distribution, and in particular opportunities involving video.

Online video is not just YouTube and Netflix. They are important platforms and have driven a raft of changes in the presentation and consumption of content, but video performs important roles in fields other than entertainment.

Why use video at all? Video is more engaging than text and audio, when it’s done well. Video conveys tone, and can effectively complement other sources of information. For marketing purposes it can be used to create viral awareness-raising content that hooks people effectively into your brand or product domain. For customer support or community-building video is a very effective tool for “how to” demonstrations. Internal corporate communication can be delivered in an engaging manner, improving staff morale and helping provide faces to the names in the organization chart. Sometimes the video is, itself, the product. Businesses have successfully addressed both mass and niche markets with entertaining and informative videos and monetized those videos effectively.

Growth in usage and decline in price to reach each viewer

The global networking giant Cisco claims that, by 2018, 79% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2018 will be video (in 2013 it was already 66%)1. By their nature video and audio will always dominate volume-based assessments, since video files are so much larger than html, JavaScript and image files, but it’s clear from Cisco’s measurements over the years that video is in the ascendancy.

The TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) meme of the last few years is evidence that there’s an overwhelming number of people who prefer not to read. Now we are in the era of “show me.”

"With video, I think we’re in the middle of a tech revolution. We have now
got maturity and mass adoption. It’s better than it was ten years ago.
It’s better than it was two years ago. And we’re not far away
from total IP streaming of content."


Nick Bolton, TEN ALPHAS

Monetizing video

There are several ways companies choose to monetize video. There’s advertising, and pay-per-view or subscription video. But there are also many companies that choose to use video to sell products, for example by providing contextual cues in a video that highlight products alongside the player.

Advertising integration

Not every business can run advertising to support the costs of content. For many it’s inappropriate to promote other products. Even when advertising is a viable option, there are many questions to be asked. Do you have sufficient traffic to your video channels to make them attractive to advertising networks? If not, you’ll need to sell your advertising directly, and the costs of doing this can exceed the revenue from the ads.

The kinds of in-stream advertising you can run depend on the kind of content you have, and the degree to which your audience is prepared to tolerate interruption. If your content is predominantly short-form videos, pre-roll video is preferable to mid-rolls because there may not be time to show the mid-roll.

Overlays can be used with all kinds of video, but you should be aware that some devices, such as iOS mobiles and tablets, will likely not support overlays, and this will hurt your advertising performance.

All the major OVPs support advertising. If it’s important to your business model you should ensure advertising is a part of your discussion with them.

Sustaining a business with video as a core part of the multi-screen offering

One of the challenges in owning and operating any video platform is keeping up with the speed of changes in the industry. New codecs, new and more efficient encoders and cloud-based encoders, cloudbased storage, increasing e-commerce integration and calls to action, even new content security systems, all contribute to changes and upgrades. When the platform is a cloud-based system this may involve some minor training on new features. But if it’s a build-own-operate system then there may be a steep upgrade path to take account of new features, and where the system is tightly integrated with 3rd party systems this may involve additional development work.

For this reason, an OVP that has a robust API for ease of integration with your CMS is important. Ideally you want to work with a platform that enables you to do most of your editorial work in a single interface (i.e., your CMS). To some extent the degree to which you want to invest in integration of your OVP with your CMS depends on the volume of video you will be providing, and the degree to which you will be supporting that video with associated content such as metadata or editorial.

If your needs are simple, then the embed code offered by most OVPs (including YouTube) will be sufficient for you to publish pages and web apps that also have high quality video. But if video forms a core component of your offering and your catalogue is going to be large, you will want to think about ease of use, because one of the biggest components to running a successful video publishing site is the cost of administration and editorial production.

“If a business has a web CMS already you will want to see
if the video platform has an API, so you can integrate the
video CMS with your normal publishing workflow.”


Ian Vaile, Australian Publishing Network, Fairfax Media

2015 is an exciting time to be working with online video. Viewers increasingly expect the engagement itoffers, and the technology is now sufficiently mature that cost-effective solutions exist for almost everyuse case. Whether you choose to go free, open-source, or with a commercial OVP provider, it’s almostcertain there is a mix of products and services to suit your business.

Video Marketing Whitepaper

39% Consider Digital Communication to be the Leading Indicator of Sustainability Performance

Date Posted: Monday, 13 July 2015 18:00
Posted By: Siv Rauv

Media Release: Workforce Success Initiative to Explore the Intersection of Human Motivation, Digital and Sustainable Business

Blog Author: Erick Mott, Founder and CMO at Creatorbase, Elcom digital business adviser in North America

Digital Communications: a Pillar for Workforce Engagement and Success

CSR Hub Sustainability Performance Chart

Workforce Engagement and Success

Is a company that has a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) reputation more likely to be a better user of digital media? Are its websites and other digital communication tools more useful and do they have better content? You might expect a connection between sustainability performance and the internal communication of a company’s CSR program, but is there also a broader connection that demonstrates that a company with a sophisticated digital communications strategy and strong CSR/sustainability programs will have also incorporated communication of their CSR program into their external communications strategy?

Human motivation, digital, and sustainability is not an easy intersection to assess and navigate! It requires that you connect many relevant perspectives and focus where necessary for a particular digital and sustainability challenge and/or opportunity.

Cynthia Figge of CSRHub, a recent speaker at Sustainable Brands 2015, provides some guidance. She described four different measures that correlate with perceived sustainability performance and ‘Digital Communications’ stood out as a leading indicator.

“We compared CSRHub data on perceived CSR performance for 14,441 companies and data on 937 companies from Investis, an international digital corporate communications and investor relations company. We determined we could explain 39% of the variation in digital communications quality for 845 overlapping companies – and found that good policies on employee compensation, employee training/health/safety, energy and climate change, and on environment policy were correlated with better digital communications performance.“

Digging Deeper into the Data, Webinar Discussion Preview

Digital Sustinability Webinar - On-Demand
 
With digital communications as a workforce engagement and success pillar, the workforce success webinar will address the following questions to uncover and discuss issues and recommendations we think HR, communications, sustainability, and technology leaders care about, including:

  1. What are the top workforce-related challenges that modern organizations face and why?
  2. What should companies do to attract, empower, and retain skilled, high-performing employees and contractors in increasingly distributed work environments?
  3. How can employees, regardless of where they work, improve their individual and team performance – and be happy in the process?
  4. What will the future of work look like with more automation and digital systems across business processes; how should companies and their workforce prepare, now?
  5. Who should drive digital and sustainable business practices in the organization and why?

Issues for HR, Communications, Sustainability & Technology Leaders to Consider

  • Most organizations rely on a diverse mix of employees, consultants, temporary help, and partners that are highly distributed and have very different labor management and productivity needs. We’ll touch on challenges and recommendations, as well as discuss how sustainable brands define workforce success including high-levels of engagement and active participation.
  • Many organizations have antiquated communication and human resource policies and systems – coupled with cultures that create friction rather than remove it. With increasingly distributed and contract workforces, how should organizations modernize to keep pace with workforce engagement and success trends?
  • Contemporary success comes from hiring and retaining the best talent within budget regardless of their location and unique needs. What does your future workforce expect from you and what is reasonable to deliver?
  • Process automation and the use of artificial intelligence is increasing in the workplace freeing up resources for the things only we humans can do well. With more efficient operations, organizations can focus on developing higher quality products, improved services and customer experiences that create greater competitive advantage and drive sustainable revenue growth.
  • Digital and sustainability work hand-in-hand and cut across the organization regardless of size, industry or geography. What is best practice in a collaborative approach that engages employees and leaders and what are the key stages?

Intersection Recap

In an earlier blog I wrote about a complex intersection between human motivation, digital, and sustainability that Elcom and Creatorbase are exploring. And with much anticipation, we announced on June 2nd the #WorkforceSuccess15 initiative at the Sustainable Brands 2015 conference (recaps & videos).

Sustainability is a hot topic covered by many including: Jacob Morgan and his Future of Work community; McKinsey & Company, Gartner, Inc., Forrester Research, Altimeter Group and PwC. For a quick scan check out the massive fire hose of incredible ideas and insights from #SB15sd sessions and side conversations in San Diego!

It’s now time to focus on the link between sustainability, workforce success and the role of digital technology.

Watch the workforce success webinar.

Five Rules For Choosing a Host Provider

Date Posted: Thursday, 18 June 2015 17:00
Posted By: Siv Rauv

Once your company has made the decision to seek out a hosting service, be it for data, a website, an application, back-end functions, an intranet, or any combination thereof, there are several hard and fast rules to picking the right one. With price being relative, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the companies are auditioning to work with you, not the other way around.

Tony King, Director of Operations at Managed.com, believes there is still something to be said about trusting yourself — your gut — when considering a hosting provider. "If you talk with them and you get a bad feeling, remember there are a lot of other options out there. If you get a bad sense from a company, don’t hesitate to look for another one who is willing to help you and can answer your questions,” King said. 

Best Practices For Choosing A Hosting Services Provider

Research, recommendations, and word of mouth will be among your greatest allies here, not to mention simply applying the smell test to every company that seeks you out or that you are interested in. Be confident and ask questions of the hosting companies you’re considering. If no one responds, or they can’t answer your questions in a timely manner, you are probably better moving on. As King likes to remind his team, "Even in a predominantly digital industry, people do business with people they trust.”

Every customer is different, just like every hosting service is different, but there are some universals that will generally lead you in the right direction as you search for the ideal match for your hosting needs. Here’s a closer look at a few.

1.Hard data

If a company says its server uptime is 99.5%, have them prove it to you with real statistics. If it turns out to be 97.5% or even 99.2%, there’s your first red flag that you’re dealing with a company that is willing to stretch the truth.

2.Flexibility

Plenty of hosting services want to sell you the package they’ve created, rather than adjust to your specific needs. If they aren’t willing to bend at the start of the relationship, what makes you think they’ll do it when you’re asking for new options farther down the road? This is key if you’re looking for a long term, mutually beneficial partnership.

3.Who’s On Your Team?

Most companies will give you plenty of attention when trying to get your business - talking about an entire array of IT specialists, software engineers, web designers, etc., who are on staff to make things easier. But just because all those people work there doesn’t mean that your package includes their services. Find out exactly how much support you’ll be receiving, when it’s available, and how you go about acquiring it.

Your hosting company should be more than just the place your website is. Ken Dillard, Director of Customer Care and Support at Managed.com explains, "You want a true hosting partner. You want someone who is going to have your back 24/7/365, not just Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on their time. Find out up front what kind of support you will get after a sale. How do you open a ticket? Who can you contact? What processes are in place to handle an issue? Will you have to wait a long time? A well-organized support team should be able to communicate all of these to you up front. You don’t want surprises when your site is down. Ask them to walk you through a ticket request so you can find out what their processes are."

4.All In or Stay Out?

Depending on what your specific needs are, you might want any level of interaction from your hosting service provider - ranging from them setting up the domain and leaving you alone, to constant meetings and connections where they give you advice on best practices for running your intranet, pulling in new leads, etc. You must communicate your desired level of interaction to the provider early in the process, to make sure they are not only able to provide it, but willing as well.

5.Check Out Their Business Website

Nothing tells you more about how well a hosting service does than to examine its own website. If the lines are neat and the content is constantly being updated, you’re more likely to have a winner on your hands. If you’re spotting typos or it’s fairly obvious that someone hastily threw together a WordPress site with stock images in hopes of passing themselves off as a multi-national corporation, best to cross that name off the list.

Also consider how transparent a company is about their practices. Does a company have ready documentation that they can get to you quickly? Are they on social media? Do a little digging and find out how active they are communicating with their customers. The growth of social media gives you — the customer — more access than ever to a company. Do a little sleuthing and see what others are saying.

King adds, "Ask around. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful consideration people have in the consumer decision making process. People take a personal recommendation from one person much more seriously than they do any number of ads. Find out what other people are saying about a company.”

The ability to reinforce your plan’s resources when you need it should also be something considered when looking at hosting providers.

Johnny Gregory, Senior Account Manager for Managed.com says, "A good hosting company should be able to scale your website up and down with ease. Whether your company is growing or you just need more resources for a busy season, your hosting provider should be able to increase your performance to exactly what you need when you need it. Also look for a hosting provider that considers your site’s resources from day one. In the industry, this is called “Server Density,” and it can make the difference between smooth site performance and long load times."

"Some hosting companies will cram as many plans, customers, and websites onto a server that they can. If you populate a high-density server like this, your customers will definitely experience a negative impact on performance. We build our servers to be low-density — fewer customers and websites on an individual server means there will be more resources when you need it and better performance overall", Gregory continued.

One last thing to consider is how long a hosting provider has been in business. Age does not equal quality, but it can indicate a company has had the time — and continued success — to implement a well-run machine that can handle the most demanding website environments.

Click here to read the full guide to hosting services including recent innovations.

State of the Internet 2015

Date Posted: Friday, 12 June 2015 16:21
Posted By: Kerry Butters

Each year, analyst Mary Meeker from Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers brings out a report on the state of the internet and digital economy – Internet Trends 2015. This highly respected research covers global internet and smartphone usage, amongst other things. This year, the report shows that whilst internet adoption is still an area which is seeing growth, this has slowed when compared to recent years.

It’s the same story when it comes to smartphone adoption too. Whilst the market is strong, overall it’s slowed globally.

 time spent per day digital media

As you can see, the use of desktops for accessing the web is dropping, whilst the use of mobile is increasing. This is no surprise, as mobile has become increasingly used for searching, browsing and consuming content. Add to this Google’s recent ‘Mobigeddon’ update, which rewards sites that offer users a good experience on mobile, and it’s clear that if a business hasn’t yet optimised its website for mobile, now is a good time. It’s likely that in years to come, we’ll see desktop usage drop further, although it will still be used. As tablets become more user friendly though, it’s likely that eventually, we could see desktops disappear altogether.

 media and advertising

Interestingly, the report showed that the time spent by users on print publications isn’t relative to ad spends. According to the report, “print remains way over-indexed relative to time spent” and this suggests that companies are not making the most of their advertising dollar. As the image show, the advertising spend stands at 18% whilst the time spent is the lowest across all mediums at just 4%. However, mobile ad spends are still relatively low compared to the time spent, so this means that there is plenty of opportunity when it comes to advertising on mobile.

The spend on print is interesting as it suggests that many companies are not moving forward digitally, preferring instead to concentrate on traditional and more familiar media. For marketers, this is a frustrating problem as clearly the ROI from print advertising is not as easily measurable or significant as digital. Marketers should concentrate on proving the ROI of digital media to demonstrate why an increase in digital spend will deliver greater measurable value to the business.

This is easily achievable. Whilst it was once difficult to prove ROI on social media, it has now matured enough for marketers to effectively prove ROI. When it comes to content marketing, it’s encouraging that this year has seen more and more marketers prove ROI. This is more achievable for marketers who create a content strategy, so this should be carried out in order to convince finance departments and other executives that their money is better spent in other areas.

 global int advertising

This is further illustrated by the global internet advertising data, which shows that desktop internet ads are on the decline, whilst mobile continues to experience growth. As such, we’re seeing ads become optimised for mobile to provide a better overall user experience. This is evident in Facebook ads, which allow scrolling to access a carousel of images, for example.

facebook carousel

We’ve also seen ‘buy’ buttons being added to social media ads in order to “minimize friction to purchase at the moment of interest.”

twitter facebook google

All of this makes it very clear that brands can no longer afford to ignore either social media or mobile. However, as the Mobigeddon update made clear, many brands have already realised this and have adjusted both their websites and strategies to suit.

Mobile Video on the Rise

We’ve also seen a shift take place in the way that we consume content, and video has in recent years become increasingly important to marketers. Mobile video consumption continues to rise and we now spend 29% of our time watching video on vertical screens.

time spent on screens by orientation

This is compared to just 5% just five years ago and as technology enables even faster internet connections and more powerful devices, this is sure to continue to show strong growth. When it comes to advertising, the report found that full-screen vertical video ads on Snapchat showed a completion rate of 9x that of horizontal video ads.

With this in mind, brands and marketing managers should consider how they can best make use of video advertising and in what format and on which platforms. Video consumption isn’t really slowing and a very good illustration of this is the success that it’s seen on Facebook. The social media site recently overtook YouTube for video views and engagement and as such, represents an area of advertising opportunity.

Key Takeaways

It’s clear that marketers should already have mobile covered in terms of the user experience that they offer on their websites. Mobile has been impossible to ignore for a while now and it’s likely the most serious marketers have ensured that the sites they manage have been optimised to suit.

What marketers need to consider is that mobile still has a lot to offer. Advertising on mobile offers a great deal of opportunity, as does vertical video (especially on messaging platforms such as SnapChat where vertical orientation of video is the norm). Social video too should be worked into advertising budgets as a matter of urgency. The kind of engagement that can be garnered on social video is more than desirable, it’s necessary for brands to compete with the top players.

When it comes to overall marketing budgets it’s necessary for brands to increase spend in digital which offers greater ROI, creative flexibility, instant measurable results, quick low cost modification for testing, mobile access and the ability to engage audiences for conversion to sale – traditional media is expensive to measure and once published expensive to change.
 
Specialists like Datalicious assist organisations to better understand media attribution to allocate budgets where ROI is greater.
 
Organisations who are not using mobile to reach audiences are missing the market, websites need to be optimised for mobile and using mobile platforms to convert interest to action is critical to business growth and sustainability,
 
Papers that might interest you: 

 

Choosing the Right Hosting Partner for your Business

Date Posted: Friday, 29 May 2015 10:51
Posted By: Siv Rauv

How to Choose a Website Hosting Services Provider

Choosing a Website Hosting Services Provider

To be successful in business in the 21st century, regardless of what that business is, an Internet presence is absolutely essential. While social media trends come and go, a company website - both the public face of your organization, and the “back end” - where employees do their “behind the scenes” work - should be a major priority for any technology decision maker.

But deciding to have a website and finding a partner to host that website are two very different things. Truly, picking a company to host your website as well as other aspects of your organization can be a gruelling process. Some will offer a low price, others will tout the deliverables, and still others will try to charm you with lots of bells and whistles. The difficulty comes in picking the best of all of them, and being able to weed out the bad from the good.

Regardless of your company’s size or scope, the hosting service provider must be flexible to your ever changing needs, be experts in all things digital, provide top-notch, real-time support for any concerns or questions, and of course, keep the server running at all times.

In other words, an ongoing environment where your company’s website performs exactly what is demanded and expected of it from your CEO to an employee on their first day of work, and everyone from a customer who has been with you since your first day in business to the inquisitive Internet lead who just browsed your website for the first time today.

This sort of web hosting service provider is not impossible to find, but can be difficult to locate without doing some legwork first. The decision-maker or company management must first turn inward to decide what it is that the company wants and needs in a hosting service before going out into the marketplace.

The following questions must be addressed before a company can hope to find a hosting service dedicated to its needs.

These type of questions must be answered prior to venturing out into the market. After all, how can you find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for?

• Is there one person assigned to the company’s account or a whole team?
• How much flexibility is needed?
• How much IT support will we need?
• How quickly do we need new components to be ready?
• Do we want reactionary support or actual advisers on our hosted entities?

Steps to Choosing a Host

The decision-maker or company management must first turn inward to decide what it is that the company wants and needs in a hosting service before going out into the marketplace.

The following questions must be addressed before a company can hope to find a hosting service dedicated to its needs.

These type of questions must be answered prior to venturing out into the market. After all, how can you find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for?

• Is there one person assigned to the company’s account or a whole team?
• How much flexibility is needed?
• How much IT support will we need?
• How quickly do we need new components to be ready?
• Do we want reactionary support or actual advisers on our hosted entities?

The most frequently requested hosting services are:
Web hosting - Overwhelmingly the No. 1 selection in terms of volume. Every company, organization, and corporation is looking to use the Internet to reach out to its customers, potential customers, social media, traditional media, industry networks, etc.

Application hosting - As companies expand and workforces become geographically diverse – with co-workers sharing the same physical space less and less - application hosting has become increasingly prevalent.

Intranet hosting - The inverse of the company’s website is often its intranet, the network that includes corporate dealings, the human resources department, company email servers, discussion forums, and shared information.

Back-end hosting - Your company will definitely want a hosting service that is active behind the scenes, giving you the latest information, analysis, and applications necessary to ensure your company runs smoothly at all times.

Data hosting - Big Data is a major consideration in our rapidly-evolving digital landscape, and the need to find ways to collect it, store it, and harness it for future business success is rapidly soaring to the top of the ‘want list’ of CEOs and CIOs across the globe.

Choose Based on What is Offered

Your choice shouldn’t be one that’s informed by budget alone. Hosting companies vary in the level of support that they offer and it could be that you need a completely managed service, rather than just one that offers reactive support.
Managed services tend to implement all software patching for you on the server, the applications, and even on your CMS and web building software. Effective patch management is an area in which many businesses fail, and yet it’s vital to maintaining a secure environment.

When it comes to support, you also shouldn’t assume that the big name companies will offer the best. Some only allow contact through the website or email, whilst others only offer telephone support.

Take Care to Ensure a Comprehensive Level of Support is Offered

Ken Dillard, Director of Customer Care and Support at Managed.com, says that support is one of the most important considerations when choosing a hosting provider, going on to say that:

“We see companies that have such complicated hosting policies, it’s hard to figure out what you are getting, and when you can actually contact them. So I can call you at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday? Great. But will someone be there at 3 a.m. on a Saturday? Will someone be there to help me?”

He goes on to say that “your business needs shouldn’t depend on someone else’s schedule” so do check the SLA (Service Level Agreement) carefully before signing up to a host. If your site should go down on a weekend and you find out the hard way that nobody at the hosting company is manning the phones, it could cost you dearly.

Looking After Your Data

There may be legal reasons as to why your data has to reside in Australia. However, whilst many hosts offer a ‘Point of Presence’ in many areas around the globe, that doesn’t mean that they actually have a data centre in the country. With this in mind, you should make sure that they do or you could find your company liable.
Asking questions is the only way you’re going to get the answers that you’re looking for.

As Johnny Gregory, Senior Account Manager for Managed.com says,“Remember that you are the one doing the shopping. They should be willing to schedule time to answer any and all of your questions. You have a technical question? We even bring senior engineers onto a call to help. The point is, don’t settle for a ‘faceless’ organization. Look for a company that is willing to talk with you in detail about how they can best support you. And remember, if you can’t get a hold of them when you’re trying to give them money, what will things be like when you have a genuine problem and your site is down?”

Wise advice indeed to bear in mind. Look for companies which value communication and don’t attempt to duck calls. Of course, in the first instance, it’s likely that you’ll be speaking to a sales person, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t know the product or that they’re willing to go that extra mile and get the technical people involved where necessary.
So when purchasing hosting, there’s a lot to think about and it pays to plan and ensure that you have all of your bases covered in the event of an emergency.

To find out more about hosting services download our layperson’s guide.

Let’s Explore the Intersection of Human Motivation, Digital and Sustainable Business

Date Posted: Thursday, 28 May 2015 00:00
Posted By: Siv Rauv

Blog Author: Erick Mott, principal consultant and founder at creatorbase and an Elcom digital business adviser in North America

Media Release: Workforce Success Initiative to Explore the Intersection of Human Motivation, Digital and Sustainable Business

Digital Sustainability Brands

Working and Living in Modern Times

Today’s businesses of all sizes, industries, and locations are undergoing significant transformations given a number of factors including globalization, economic and geopolitical uncertainties, technology innovation, societal shifts, new cultural norms, and increasing environmental concerns. Further, the command and control management style from the 20th century is fading fast as the empowered consumer mindset continues to influence new human behaviors and expectations of all age groups in various commercial and personal settings.

From a workforce perspective, Baby Boomers – a large and highly capable cross-section of the population – are well into retirement age with many either focused on or making plans to recover what they lost in the last great recession. On the other end of the spectrum, younger generations like Millennials and Gen X are looking for meaningful and/or gainful employment with many unable or unwilling to secure full-time roles. And the freelancer movement is steadily growing given employment challenges, workforce opportunities, and independent preferences.

A recent U.S. General Accounting Office report indicates that 40% of U.S. workers now have contingent jobs – that’s a significant increase over just a few years ago. And workplace futurists like Jacob Morgan believe we’ll see more highly-skilled and capable people opting out of full-time employment for freelance work, given what Morgan describes in his May 2015 Forbes article and video as the ‘FAC’ factor (freedom or flexibility; autonomy; and choice or customization). These workforce changes will create both opportunities and risks for organizations depending on their human capital and digital strategies.

Five Megatrends to Know

PwC has been collaborating with many enterprises over the last several months to understand significant changes that are disrupting organizations worldwide and the economy at large. PwC synthesized what they learned into five global shifts that are believed to be a major influence today and well into the future:

1.Demographic and social change
2.Shift in global economic power
3.Rapid urbanization
4.Technological breakthroughs
5.Climate change and resource scarcity

This brief video provides a good overview of the megatrends that all business should understand and know how to respond with workforce, digital and sustainability strategies. These megatrends create both opportunities and risks for many organizations.

 

In researching this topic further, here is some additional information we find interesting and relevant:

  • According to Gartner, Inc. 84% of organizations have a remote workforce
  • Forrester Research predicts that by 2016, 43% of the U.S. workforce will work from home
  • According to McKinsey, “by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers – high-skilled knowledge workers, including managers and professionals – by 20 to 25 percent.”
  • Brian Solis said in a May 2015 article that “with digital intelligence and capabilities comes the need for people to learn the skills and capabilities that keep the human workforce performing the jobs that machines cannot do today.” In the same article, a ‘Humans Need Not Apply’ video describes how automation is good but only if humans figure out how best to work in harmony with various forms of current and future automation.

How to Build a Successful Workforce with Digital and Sustainable Business Practices

Technology companies like Elcom provide best practices and digital solutions that enable employees to collaborate, engage with one another, their customers and prospective customers from anywhere, and support their organization in the pursuit of business performance, revenue growth, and improving customer experiences. And with the growing adoption of digital technologies as well as heightened awareness by the masses of environmental issues like global warming and daily increases of carbon footprints – we’re seeing a natural intersection that is forming between digital and sustainable business strategies to achieve short-term business goals as well as long-term benefits to society and the planet.

Something to consider when building a successful workforce – many early-career workers now have minimum requirements for their employers including approval to use mobile devices of their choosing, access to enterprise social networks to collaborate, and proof of purpose-driven business practices like sustainability.

Elcom and creatorbase are collaborating to explore the intersection of human motivation, digital transformation and sustainability. Our focus will be addressing key questions we believe will be of interest to you, including:

  • What are the top workforce-related challenges that modern organizations face and why?
  • What should companies do to attract, empower, and retain skilled, high-performing employees and contractors in increasingly distributed work environments?
  • How can employees, regardless of where they work, improve their individual and team performance – and be happy in the process?
  • What will the future of work look like with more automation and digital systems across business processes; how should companies and employees prepare, now?
  • Who should drive digital and sustainable business practices in the organization and why?

Follow and Participate

The Elcom/creatorbase team invites you to follow our progress and participate in upcoming activities including a webinar and topical content development. We recognize that you have expertise and insights to contribute to the conversation that will assist us to deliver more meaningful outcomes.

FYI, Erick Mott will be attending two key events in June to gather research and to cover sustainability and social media topics in both blogger and speaker roles:

Join us to learn more and contribute to the conversation @elcomCMS and @creatorbase.

Learning styles and how they are complemented by Learning Management

Date Posted: Tuesday, 17 March 2015 14:12
Posted By: Implementation Staff

Authored by Angela Sweeney, Training Manager at Elcom.

In my role of Trainer at Elcom, I usually have a class of up to 10 people. I need to use multiple training styles to allow to cater for a variety of people in the class. Many people have a variety of ways that they learn and if you don’t train in their style, the training is not effective and sometimes useless.

There are a number of training style theories out there to contend with, but the one that has struck me the most, which all of them seem to follow in some way is “Auditory, Visual and Kinaesthetic”. Auditory means the person learns better when listening to someone talking, or music. Visual means the person will be more receptive to seeing something being done or reading the material. Kinaesthetic is the experience of hands on or doing the activity.

Types of Learning Styles

To make it more complicated, people don’t learn in one style predominantly also. Some people do, but others use a combination of styles. So maybe they like to read step by step information (Visual) whilst they do the exercises (Kinaesthetic). Maybe they like to have someone explain what they are doing (Auditory) whilst they show them what they need to do (Visual). Some people are also strong in one or the other but still both are prominent. Because of this, and because you probably have lots of people that learn differently in your class, it is a good idea to cover off all learning styles.

Using a Learning Management System these days is not just a visual thing. In the past we could only have students read information and answer questions, which is good, but for people who learn with audio or kinaesthetic, this can be painful. Learning Management Systems have changed to try and adapt to these different styles.

Training Manager here at Elcom is no different. With the addition of SCORM, or even just video content, this can cater to 2 different styles just with the one module. This means you could have someone watching a video and listening to a person explaining content, or you could also use SCORM to show text to read and have someone in the background reading the text out to the user. For the kinaesthetic side you could organise an Event that has a more hands on approach to the class. The important thing is to hit each style, which could mean that you are going over the content 3 times. Everyone knows practice and repetition helps.

When using a Learning Management System I would recommend using the full functionality it can offer. Just to hit all styles and make the training as fun for the user as possible.

Tags: elearning LMS

Web Accessibility for Government Sites

Date Posted: Tuesday, 24 February 2015 10:35
Posted By: Kerry Butters

In November 2009, the council of Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments adopted the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 with a view to increase the accessibility of all government (federal, state and territory) sites. This led to the introduction of the National Transition Strategy (NTS) the following year which was created to ensure that sites became compliant with Level AA by the end of 2014.

The NTS requires that all online government information, be it fully owned by the government or not, be WCAG 2.0 compliant. This applies to websites, intranet and extranet sites and any domain which is owned or operated by a government body.

This also applies to:

  • Sites fully or partly owned by any government agency
  • Those registered on a domain name, sub-domain or directory
  • Sites that have a distinct look, audience and purpose
  • Sites which are government funded in order to disseminate government information

In the event that a site has more than one agency involved in its operation which have different compliance requirements (A or AA), then the higher level of compliance is the one which must be adhered to.

Why Does a Site Have to Meet Compliance Regulations?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 states that it’s the responsibility of agencies to ensure that people who suffer a disability have the same right to access information as able-bodied members of the community. Further to this, the internet is a human right under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and as such, disabled people must be given the same opportunity to access information, communications and services as others.

With this in mind, all content that’s made available by governments to workers and the community in general must be compliant. This applies to content created before July 2010 if it’s still available and still current. Agencies are required to conduct their own assessments of their websites, but guidance can be obtained from the Australian Government Information Management Office.

Compliance

Common Challenges When Implementing Accessibility

According to the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy, “Retrofitting accessibility features to a website or web content can be expensive and time-consuming, and such sites are also generally more expensive to manage than those created to conform to WCAG 2.0 from launch.”

Bearing in mind how quickly technology has changed and improved over just the last few years, it’s recommended by the NTS that web projects are started from scratch with accessibility firmly in mind. This enables a much higher level of usability as more modern technologies are implemented and to some extent, also future-proofs the sites. It’s much easier to do this than to attempt to upgrade existing systems and bolt-on further services or information. This is also true of legacy content that may have to remain; content that is more than a few years old is often likely to have been created with technology that’s now obsolete, so it can be difficult to convert this information into that which is suitable for the new and improved web standards.

This means that government sites should first identify all current and relevant information with a view to decommissioning or archiving content that’s no longer necessary. Agencies are encouraged to archive online in order to improve government transparency.

An archived website is:

  • Maintained only for the purposes of reference, research and record-keeping
  • Not altered once it’s been archived
  • Stored in a digital repository
  • Clearly identified as being an archive

Government agencies remain liable for archived sites and these must still be compliant even if they have been decommissioned.

Further WCAG 2.0 Guidelines

It’s also recommended that those government agencies that are developing sites with advanced web technologies and custom widgets follow other WC3 guidelines in order to be even more accessible. Guidelines for this can be found under the proposed Web Accessibility Initiative Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA).

CMSs and Accessibility

Since government sites have to adhere to regulations when it comes to accessibility, the use of a CMS is pivotal in ensuring that content organisation-wide is properly managed.

According to WC3:

“Content management will continue to be relevant because it represents a reasonable approach to the development and archiving of Web content in diverse organizations. It is important, then, that these systems take into account the needs of users with disabilities, not only in using CMS products, but in guaranteeing that they can use all of the content that is stored within. Since changing a few templates can on some CMS-client sites cause millions of documents to be altered, the accessibility of content management systems in aggregate impacts the overall accessibility of the Web immensely.”

With this in mind, it’s important that when considering the website as a new project, as recommended by the NTS, a CMS partner is chosen which has a thorough understanding of web accessibility to level AA (minimum) and the technological tools and skills necessary to construct an accessible system and site.

Effectively planning a site with a robust CMS will save in time and money later on and the planning stages are likely to throw some issues up with regards to accessibility that can be resolved before the site goes live. Accessibility is a legal requirement that all sites have to comply with and a moral requirement in that everyone should have access to the same information no matter what the state of their health. For government sites the process is much stricter than with commercial sites and as such, it pays to plan well in advance and to follow the guidelines set out by both the WC3 and the Australian Government. 

Managing a Remote Workforce

Date Posted: Thursday, 29 January 2015 11:44
Posted By: Kerry Butters

Teleworking has been on the rise now ever since technology enabled better ways of connecting to the office, even when out in the field. In the US, the ranks of the remote worker have been rising steadily between 2005 and 2012 and it’s thought that by 2013 there were around 3 million people taking the option to work from home.

Whilst teleworking may not be about to completely overtake the standard 9-5 working day, more and more employers are choosing to offer it. This is boosted in firms which operate BYOD schemes as employees’ work and home life become increasingly blurred. However, for some organisations, offering flexible and remote working is a big step and one in which they worry about such things as productivity.

To some extent, Marissa Meyer, Yahoo CEO, increased concerns around teleworking when she famously banned all remote workers from working from home and said that they have to be working in a Yahoo office, or not at all.

Employees at the time received a memo from human resources boss Jackie Reeses, who wrote: "Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices."

As to the reasons why, it’s thought that many of the employees working remotely “weren’t productive” and even that some of the workers had worked from home for so long that many in the company never even knew they still worked there.

Intranet Success

Employees or Management

However, it’s fair to say that the management of an organisation’s employees is the responsibility of the executive staff and if workers at Yahoo were essentially just slacking off, then they were not being managed effectively. And it’s this that puts many off when it comes to allowing employees to work from home.

According to research carried out by Dell and Intel, more than half of all global employees believe that they are more productive when working from home than their office-based counterparts. This, Bob O’Donnell, founder and chief analyst at TECHanalysis Research says, is due to the fact that workers now have more advanced equipment and faster internet connections at home.

46% of those that work from home also said that they suffer less stress than they do when working in an office. Of course, there are negatives too, such as having children at home who distract them from work. However, remote working should be something that’s offered on a practical level and so for those that it’s not suitable for, they can remain working from the office or use a mixture of both.

Company Culture

Whether or not teleworking will be successful within an organisation depends on a few factors then. One of the most important if productivity is to remain high is in the fostering of a good company culture. Marissa Mayer may very well have been right when it came to not trusting the employees who were working remotely at that time, but trust is a very important part of the equation if a teleworking policy is going to work. It’s important that employees enjoy their work, understand their place and how important the work they do is to the organisation and flourish in a company culture where work matters.

Get this right in the first instance and it’s very likely that your teleworking drive will be much easier to manage. It’s also vital that robust communication and collaboration infrastructures are put in place, which is simple enough these days. All that’s needed is a good intranet that has social tools that enable workers to connect and collaborate with both each other and senior management.

Once all of this is in place, managing the distributed workforce becomes much less complex and certainly less frustrating for all involved.

Challenges Faced by the Worker

Of course, it’s also important to look at what challenges will be faced by the worker as well as the organisation. And with that in mind, Elcom hosted webinars on 5 & 19 February 2015 to look at the challenges faced by the organisation and by remote workers.

Register for the Intranet Success Webinar

We also discussed technology and the intranet and how these can be leveraged to effectively manage a remote team.

Gleanster Web Content Management Report

Date Posted: Tuesday, 27 January 2015 10:05
Posted By: Siv Rauv

elcomCMS Ranked #1 in Overall Value by Gleanster Industry Report

With the reliance on the internet that modern marketing requires, it’s no surprise that the development of Web Content Management (WCM) systems has flourished. WCM systems allow organizations to seize opportunities and corner markets without the need of expert in-house technical proficiency. Good WCM systems simplify the spread and accessibility of content, providing organizations and the users they target an enhanced online experience.

Reasons to Implement

There are a number of reasons to implement WCM within your business operations. Gleanster has run a comprehensive Web Content Management industry analysis with hundreds of organizations, and compiled statistics regarding the importance that ‘Top Performers’ have placed on some of the benefits to invest in WCM. You can download the Gleansight Benchmark Report on Web Content Management here.

Gleanster WCM Report 2014

The most compelling reason as highlighted by these companies was optimizing the end-user experience (reported by 88% of Top Performers). Well implemented WCM provides multiple avenues for companies to improve the end-user experience, which is incredibly important in any successful marketing strategy. Data observed from WCM can allow developers and companies to streamline the experience, thereby increasing retention and brand promotion.

They’ve also noted how WCM reduces content management costs (rated as important by 75%). WCM improves the deployment of content across multiple channels (physical, social media etc.) via workflows, download conversions and numerous APIs spanning a variety of marketing and sales tools.

Improving brand consistency goes hand-in-hand with these above benefits, as WCM usage can set standards and rules for content, ensuring larger companies - or even those looking to outsource - can remain consistent in their message to consumers.

These key benefits clearly highlight the mitigation of risk when investing in WCM – 60% of these same Top Performers have also highlighted increased online revenue and profit as one of their reasons of adoption. The tools offered by WCM allow easy access to analysis of consumer habits, allowing companies to correctly modify their practices in order to receive a satisfying ROI.

Value Drivers

Improving content quality was a common factor among the Top Performers (95% believing it is key to a good ROI), followed closely in popularity by a web presence optimized for mobile devices and personalizing content for online visitors. These key ideas are tantamount to providing a meaningful experience to consumers when utilizing WCM systems. In tandem, they foster both an improved brand image and end-user experience.

Challenges

Adopting a WCM system naturally yields some challenges as your business begins to adapt to the new environment. Top Performers of 2014 have noted that dealing with customization was the toughest aspect of WCM usage (98% of them!). Whilst the need for customization should be rare thanks to the comprehensive packages offered by today's WCM distributors, if the need does arise, it is often very costly – especially in the long run, considering the increased costs of maintenance and support as a business evolves over time.

Migrating old content and integrating to best-of-breed and legacy systems was also a highlighted issue. Keeping data consistent across the variety of systems and tools used by companies as they increase in size is a naturally difficult task, but good WCM vendors will attempt to mitigate these effects.

As a key value driver, keeping content compelling, dynamic and relevant was also a major challenged faced by companies.

However, as pointed out earlier in the report, the benefits of WCM adoption clearly outweigh these challenges – Top Performers have still seen increase in profit despite tackling these naturally occurring issues.

Our Efforts

Elcom has been striving to provide such a ‘Top Performer’ experience for our clients and these efforts have been recognized in the report, which features a number of favorable reviews for elcomCMS.

Gleanster’s report has provided a number of overviews for WCM systems in the ‘vendor landscape’ section of the report, using a rating system from 0 to 5 points and under ‘Good’, ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ categories (bronze, silver, gold).

elcomCMS #1 in Overall Value

In the category of vendors ranked by ‘Ease of Deployment’; elcomCMS was given a 4.2/5, placing it in the ‘Better’ category. In ‘Ease of Use’ elcomCMS was placed in the ‘Best’ category. Finally, in the category ranking vendors by overall value, elcomCMS was given 4.8/5 in the ‘Best’ category, the highest overall rating out of all vendors covered. These results were derived from surveys measuring user experience, run by Gleanster. These highly positive ratings clearly distinguish elcomCMS from others in the market and highlight our ability to assist companies in overcoming the challenges faced through investment in WCM.

Gleanster WCM Vendors Overall Value
Image source: Gleanster Web Content Management 2014 Gleansight Report

For more information on how Elcom can assist you in meeting your needs on-time and on-budget, see a live demonstration.

Intranets and the Distributed Workforce

Date Posted: Thursday, 22 January 2015 11:53
Posted By:

In recent years, remote working has been on the rise thanks largely to enabling technology such as mobile, faster internet speeds and more powerful and engaging intranets. Globally, on average, 70% of those surveyed by workspace provider Regus said that they had seen a rise in teleworking in their workplace.

Further research from technology researchers at Gartner, Inc., says that 84% of all global organisations now have remote workers and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing at all. However, with new ways of working comes new challenges to overcome and with teleworking, this is in managing the distributed workforce in such a way that productivity and collaboration remains high.

This is not only possible but also highly desirable as research shows that collaboration within an organisation improves productivity. With this in mind, it’s important that remote workers are not only able to connect to the workplace, but also have tools available to them that enable collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Intranet Success

Enter the Intranet

Effective collaboration is enabled by an intranet that has the tools in place to allow for it. These include social tools such as IM, wikis, message boards and profiles as well as shared workspaces which allow for good communication. With this in mind, Elcom held webinars on 5 & 19 February to further discuss the challenges that many companies face when it comes to teleworking.

The webinar focused on:

  • Key challenges faced when communicating with a distributed workforce
  • Key challenges faced by the remote workers themselves
  • Best practices when it comes to improving productivity
  • How technology and the intranet play an important role in effective communication

Intranet success webinar 

The modern intranet is much more powerful than the intranets of old, which were often a simple shared repository. These days, we have numerous technologies on hand which can be used to ensure that productivity is high and communication is effective, such as video calling and conferencing and the above-mentioned social tools. However, it’s important to remember that these tools and the intranet in general must align with business goals.

According to Nielson Norman Group, developing a successful intranet collaboration solution can result in annual savings of more than $300,000, which when you consider that the average cost of implementing collaborative features is around $54,000, is a significant return on investment.

Productivity and the Remote Worker

Some organisations remain resistant to remote working as they believe employees to be less productive when they are out of the office environment. However, this is far from the case as a study carried out by Stanford University Economics professor Nicholas Bloom whose 2013 study showed that employees who work from home actually outperform their office-based colleagues.

He found that on average, workers based at home made 13.5% more calls in a week than when they did when they were based in the office. This equates to around a full day’s work extra every week and what’s more, those employees who were based at home also reported a higher rate of job satisfaction.

So remote working does have its advantages, the most obvious of which are cost-based, but it’s important to also put a value on improved productivity and a happier workforce. The role of the intranet in teleworking is to enable excellent communication through tools such as social profiles, wikis etc. and in allowing collaboration.

View the webinar to learn more on how you can leverage the power of your intranet to improve business processes and enable a successful remote working program within your organisation.

Content Personalisation and Community Engagement

Date Posted: Friday, 19 December 2014 16:34
Posted By: Elcom Helpdesk

When it comes to community portals, usability has improved in leaps and bounds in the last five years. Personalising portals and intranets themselves is nothing new, but the way that technology has advanced in recent years has made it much more accessible. Personalisation basically allows content to be served to individual users based on their behaviour when they’re using the portal. It’s now used more extensively in marketing too and many sites have now followed the lead of companies like Amazon to offer personalised content and offers to customers.

The nature of a community site is a little different of course, but the principle remains the same. Personalisation these days is not just based on search queries, but is more dynamic in that it depends too on where the visitor has arrived from, the kind of content they’ve accessed in the past and their general behaviour on the portal.

Initiating engagement on community sites is not always easy to achieve. Personalisation helps with this as visitors are being served information that they actually want. Studies have shown that visitors to commercial sites will become annoyed if they see ads and content that they feel is irrelevant to them and will leave the site. Again, the principle in community sites remain the same, if the information that they want to see isn’t there, or they’re presented with the wrong information, then engagement will be very difficult to achieve.

Pushing Targeted Information

In terms of the form of personalisation, it’s first necessary to push targeted content to individual users. This is sometimes tricky to achieve but with today’s technologies and powerful CMS modules such as those offered by elcomCMS, it’s certainly very doable. Of course, like any project it requires good planning and should follow best practices, such as:

  • A personalised homepage with the ability to choose what content types they would like featured. If you think about how you can customise your page when logged into Google or Yahoo, then you’re aiming for something similar.
  • Automation, or the ability for information to be presented dynamically over time, based on the user’s preferences and history.

It’s impossible to know 100% what visitors using the portal will like (especially in the early stages) so it’s also necessary to ensure that information on the portal is easily discoverable too. A good search function can take care of this and the content should be arranged in a well organised structure so that if the content is not pushed to a certain user they can still find it.

The Psychology of Personalisation

There’s a reason why personalisation works when it comes to the community portal and engagement. Psychologically, as humans we like to be seen as individuals with our own set of desires and behaviours. Personalisation allows us to feel that we’re accentuating our personal attributes when we interact with a portal that has been tailored to our needs. It provides positive affirmation of our identity and since it explicitly differentiates us from others, this provides a positive experience of the portal. And of course, anything that encourages positive thinking will be used more extensively by the community visitor.

Psychology

According to Sriram Kalyanaraman and S. Shyam Sundar in The Psychological Appeal of Personalized Content in Web Portals: Does Customization Affect Attitudes and Behaviour?:

“Although the interface has the engineering capability to offer customized features, the locus of customization resides with the individual, that is, the interface is sensitive to user preferences and offers individualized content as output. Because users can recognize their own preferences in the customized output, the self as source criterion will likely result in users perceiving a greater sense of ownership of portal content, leading to increased liking for the portal.”

Social Media Users are Highly Engaged

Social media has shown that personalisation is a key contributor to high engagement. Which of course means that a user will be far less engaged on a standard portal which offers little to nothing in terms of personalisation. For evidence of this, it’s really only necessary to look to the meteoric rise of social media in the last decade.

Social media is, at its core, all about the self, despite the fact that it allows users to keep in touch with a wide range of people. How people present themselves on social media tends to differ slightly to how they present themselves in real life situations. What is clear is that users of social media are highly engaged with it as a medium as it allows them the sense of affirmation such as that described above.

For the most part, this is because of the ability people have to personalise their experience. Whilst of course it’s slightly different for a community portal, the basic premise remains the same – give an individual the opportunity to personalise the experience and they will become more willing to use it and engage fully with it.

Of course, social media has its ‘lurkers’ – those users who quietly watch what’s going on without being actively engaged – but this is natural, we’re all different and there will always be some users who are more engaged than others. However, so long as everyone is using the portal and you have some users who can become active ambassadors for the portal, then you have little to worry about.

Intranets and community portals are notoriously difficult to gain any engagement on, especially if they’re not properly planned out at the beginning of the project. Personalisation can help to ensure that engagement is gained, and that community users continue to come back and re-engage with the site in future.

Why Video is an Excellent Medium for Developing Thought Leadership

Date Posted: Thursday, 27 November 2014 17:45
Posted By:

Producing content is one of the many ways in which businesses attempt to connect to their audience in order to get the message about the brand out there. For the most part, this is still written content which appears on various forums such as company blogs, LinkedIn and other social networks and as guest posts on industry-specific sites. For many businesses, content marketing also means that they can position an executive in the company as a thought leader.

However, it’s not a simple thing to do and there’s a lot of work involved, especially if you’re aiming to be published in tier one publications within your niche. Thought leadership is about ideas. They should be fresh and provoke further thought and discussion and allow the executive the opportunity to showcase their knowledge.

Whilst some companies do often publish webinars online, inviting relevant people within the industry to attend, many still dismiss the huge potential that’s offered by video. Thanks to mobile, video consumption around the world has increased massively in recent years. Video consumers are engaged, interested and ripe for the reception of ideas, yet video as a marketing medium remains woefully underexploited.

Mobile usage

What Is Thought Leadership

Briefly, thought leadership involves a person or company that is recognised as having a certain amount of influence in their niche. To build this, they produce content that is innovative and covers trends and topics that challenge and inform others within the industry.

According to Forbes, it’s also a person or company that’s not only recognised as an authoritative voice within the industry niche, but one that also profits from that recognition. The thought leader seeks to address the questions that their audience has and further cement the business relationship.

Thought Leadership and Virility

Looking ahead

To some extent, developing thought leadership depends to a certain extent on the content’s virility. Just as posts, images and videos go viral in the world of social media memes and suchlike, so does great content from a thought leader. For example, if you post on LinkedIn a lot and the work is considered good enough, you’ll eventually get picked up by LinkedIn Pulse and this will lead to the post going viral as the audience is hugely extended.

Video presents the greatest opportunity quite simply because it’s being underused and because people love it. Every month alone, YouTube processes more than 3bn searches each month and one-third of all online activity is spent consuming video. Further to that, 80% of people online watch a video in its entirety, whilst only 20% read written content right through. Add mobile into the mix and it’s a no brainer, video consumption on mobile is huge and it means that you have the opportunity to connect with your audience wherever they are.

B2B and Thought Leadership

Whilst thought leadership is important to B2C companies, it’s thought that “it’s especially important in B2B (Business-to-Business). This is because of the complexity and length of the decision-making process in B2B environments and the large number of people involved,” say Forbes. Consider then how vital video could prove to the mix – it can be consumed by more than one person at a time, who can discuss instantly and even during the video itself.

Video appears to boost all marketing activities if you consider the following statistics from Invodo in the Video Statistics: The Marketers Summary 2014:

  • Video in email can boost open rates by 20% and click-through by 2-3X
  • The use of the word video ups open rates by 18.5%, click-through by 64.8%, click to open rates by 39% and reduces unsubscribe rates by 26%

According to Vidyard, ‘visible experts’ use video to gain further reach and connect with their audience by creating educational or tutorial videos such as those given by Moz’s Rand Fishkin in his regular Whiteboard Friday feature. The company carried out a survey to see which mediums had the highest impact and it was found that video not only had great reach and a high impact, but was also relatively low effort, making it one of the top tools for return on effort.

Thought leaders do of course use other tools in order to get themselves heard, such as the email examples given above, but also through social media channels. Of course YouTube is the first social channel that spring to mind, but there’s no reason why video can’t be shared and marketed through the other social networks in order to further increase reach.

Tips for Effective Video Thought Leadership

Developing thought leadership and authority takes times and whilst video can increase reach and boost the process, it’s important that you also consider the following:

  • Know your target audience, you want to reach those in positions of authority and influence them so tailor what you want to say toward the buying executive.
  • Commit to producing content and getting it out there. You can repurpose written content from articles blogs and whitepapers in order to make a great video.
  • Know your stuff, but don’t be a know it all. Despite the fact that you’re an industry authority, nobody likes to be patronised so ensure content reflects this.
  • Use social channels and email marketing to augment your video campaigns and ensure the best reach.
  • Get involved with discussions on various forums such as LinkedIn discussion groups in order to get your name out there and in the consciousness of those you’d like to reach. Research groups and identify other leaders within your niche for discussion.
  • Optimise video content with keywords in order for it to be found more easily.

Video allows you to express yourself in such a way that’s not really possible in the written word. Use this to get across your passion for your subject and back this up with facts and evidence that your ideas and thoughts are worthwhile. Your audience are much more likely to connect with you if your love of the industry shines through.

Be passionate about your topic

Video is, to some extent, still an untapped market in thought leadership. With that in mind, ensure that you utilise it now, using the tips above and ensuring that your content is fresh and not seen elsewhere. Whilst it’s not easy to ‘go viral’ on platforms such as YouTube, business videos do well so it’s up to you to make the most of it if you want to cement your position as a thought leader.

elcomCMS has provided strong video integration tools for many years.

The Importance of Great Web Design to Business

Date Posted: Wednesday, 12 November 2014 20:06
Posted By: Kerry Butters

Congratulations to Hall's Window Center, Sacramento, California (an elcomCMS powered site) on their recent Design Excellence award. We also applaud another award winning site powered by elcomCMS, Austrade, which received the Awwwards site of the day, and is an example of a well designed Government site.

In this post we're going to touch on the main components found in a well designed site.

The Benefits of Good Design

The modern consumer is a demanding one when it comes to what they expect from businesses and this is especially true when it comes to websites. It’s common knowledge that a bad site can significantly affect traffic and more importantly, leads and conversions. As a single example, research has found that a site that doesn’t load quickly can affect conversions by as much as 7%, especially when it comes to mobile sites.

The mobile revolution has meant that many of us access sites on our smartphones and tablets and expect the sites to perform well, with clear navigation and the experience to be simple and non-frustrating.

Good design is a sum of its parts which should include:

  • Excellent UX (User Experience)
  • A good mix of media such as written material, video and images
  • Appropriate branding and graphic design
  • Consistent cross-platform experience
  • SEO
  • Good technical site structure

UX is something which has been around for some time but has recently seen a resurgence in interest as mobile has forced designers to look beyond the desktop.

The Cost of Bad Design

As mentioned above, a poorly designed site can negatively impact a business by reducing conversions. Site speed is just one issue that can affect this; the modern user not only wants to see pages load quickly, they also want to see a site that provides useful information delivered in such a way so that it can be consumed quickly and easily. Of course, it’s also important that a site be aesthetically pleasing and that the language used is well presented and appropriate to the niche.

Taking the above example of site speed and its effect on conversions, Kissmetrics point out that a one second delay in load time for an ecommerce site that makes $100,000 per day equates to $2.5m in lost sales each year. And that’s just one aspect of the design so if you bear in mind how other poorly designed aspects may lose the visitor then your site could be losing a substantial figure each year due to poor design.

Use Branding to its Best Potential

Many businesses don’t think in depth about branding and colour when first envisaging a design but they can also have a huge effect on how the visitor behaves. Colour choice influences the visitor as we naturally associate some colours with emotions. For example, businesses that want to impart a sense of trust and professionalism often use blue. Likewise, green is associated with nature and the environment so a company that doing something to aid the environment will often use this colour.

However, it’s not always an exact science, for many years the design community had argued that for CTA buttons, green is a better colour to use than red because the latter usually denotes delete or stop whilst green means to go ahead. In our head then this should mean that we choose to press the colour which prompts us to go further. However, in an A/B test carried out by Hubspot for Performable it was found that red beat green hands down by 21% when it came to conversions. With this in mind, it’s wise to carry out user testing when designing a site to ensure that your audience connects and does what you want them to do.

So when you’re thinking about branding, about which logos, colours and images that you’re going to present to your visitors, research colour psychology in design and ensure that once you’ve done this, a couple of different versions are tested on user groups. It’s not a bad idea to carry out usability testing all round to ensure that your visitors are getting a good experience on the site that will see them returning again and again.

Site Structure

Whilst content and design is hugely important, as is the way that the site is presented overall, it’s also important that the site is technically sound if it’s to perform to its peak and keep visitors coming back for more. Of course, much of the more technical aspects to the site will be something that’s not immediately apparent to the visitor, such as a logical structure, but putting the right foundation in place will often mean that the site has a good starting point at which to grow effectively.

Optimising for both SEO and accessibility is also integral to good design. Of course, you want the site to look good to the search engines just as much as you do to visitors if you’re to perform well in the SERPs. Likewise, accessibility isn’t just about ensuring that the site can be accessed and enjoyed by those with disability, but it’s also important to consider that for those who are colour-blind, some colours will disappear on the page and this means a button may not appear this way or text may disappear.

When it comes to designing a site for business, there’s obviously a lot to think about. This has been a brief introductory look at some of the main areas. Stay tuned, we'll be exploring these areas further in upcoming posts.

Congratulations again to Hall's Window Center on their recent Design Excellence award:

Halls Windows

How Enterprises Are Incorporating eLearning into their HR Processes

Date Posted: Friday, 24 October 2014 16:41
Posted By: Kerry Butters

Fast moving sectors like healthcare, IT, security and others change frequently. Workers in roles from network security to engineering to programming to marketing require access to education to keep up with current standards and best practices.

To meet this need, more and more HR departments are turning to eLearning to ensure that the people who work for their company have the training that they need. Research firm Bersin and Associates said that spending on Learning Management System (LMS) in 2013 closed at $2.55 billion worldwide; spending on self-paced eLearning as a whole had reached $35.6 billion by 2011 (the most recent number for which figures are available.) By 2016, companies and individuals are expected to spend $51.6 billion a year on eLearning.

Learning

What Is eLearning?

eLearning is a group of learning alternatives that do not depend on the traditional classroom approach. Lessons can be delivered online or in hard copy on DVDs. Most eLearning courses will include a mix of video lectures, written lessons and interactive quizzes. eLearning can be done on-campus during the working day or remotely from an employee's home after hours. Many eLearning programs are available as software as a system (SaaS). This allows learners to access lessons from home or office. Many SaaS options are also mobile-friendly, which is a great perk in the increasing number of offices with bring your own device (BYOD) policies.

Save Your Company's Money

Sending employees to traditional classrooms is expensive, especially when they must travel for specialized training. With eLearning, the people who work for you can study right where they are. Because most eLearning courses are pre-recorded, the price is usually much lower than the cost of hiring an instructor and securing a space to teach in real time. In many cases, training materials can be purchased once and used repeatedly, lowering the cost per employee over time.

Make Learning Convenient and Easy for Your Workers

Pre-recorded eLearning classes can be taken during work hours, in the evenings or on weekends. Students can tune in for a single lecture or grind through several hours of modules at a stretch. When employees learn at their own pace, they are more likely to retain the information from the course.

While some employees may be less than 100% enthusiastic about required classes, such as compliance classes and recertifications, being able to choose the times that they study goes a long way toward worker satisfaction. eLearning courses can save workers time. Syberworks discovered that eLearning led to a 40% reduction in time needed to complete a course. On a 50 hour recertification course, this can result in a savings of 20 working hours. Plus, when employees train on-site, they are available should urgent needs related to their jobs arise.

Education as a Workplace Perk

Money isn't the only motivator in the workplace; it's not even the most important one. Researchers discovered that learning and using your skills are far more meaningful for happiness in the workplace.

Many fields change dramatically over short periods of time. Innovations and discoveries introduce new and better ways of getting things done, especially in fields like marketing, programming and network security.

By offering a range of eLearning options, you can make it easy for employees at your company to continually expand their abilities. This doesn't just help their personal worth as employees; it gives your business a better-trained, more skillful pool of talent.

Establish Consistent Standards Throughout Your Company

Government, healthcare, mining and many other sectors require periodic training for employees. Recertification in safety practices, for instance, is necessary to retain certain licenses. And, having training in-house means that otherwise promising candidates who lack a specific certification or license can be hired and then trained on the job.

When you set up eLearning for the employees at your company, you can ensure not just that everyone is up to standards but that everyone is trained to the same standards. A quality learning management system (LMS) can be used to administer courses, track workers' progress and document completion of classes.

This saves the HR department time because you are not stuck chasing down certifications from everywhere to make sure that they are compliant. When you offer a preferred in-house eLearning option, you know just what everyone is learning and whether it's up to regulatory snuff.

Getting the Most Out of eLearning for Your Company

While eLearning is good for companies, you need to leverage it in just the right way to get a competitive edge. A few tips for best eLearning practices:

  • Look at accreditation and reviews of eLearning courses and companies. This is especially important for federally required certifications.
  • Price isn't the only consideration. The cheapest eLearning option may be plagued by bugs, poor interface or sub-standard content.
  • Seek the eLearning options that will give the people who work for you the most flexibility. When courses can be completed on an employee's own terms, it leads to higher morale and better learning.
  • Offer a wide variety of voluntary courses to your employees. They will use them to increase their own skills, making them more valuable to your organization.

References

  • http://elearningmind.com/roi-traditional-training-vs-elearning/ 
  • http://www.docebo.com/elearning-lms-resources/papers-researches/ 
  • http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2012/06/what-are-10-keys-to-job-satisfaction/ 
  • http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/69/20/67/PDF/Watson-2007.pdf
  • http://fortune.com/2013/08/15/degreed-wants-to-make-online-courses-count/
  • https://leadership-management.knoji.com/recognizing-the-benefits-of-elearning-in-the-workplace/ 
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-learning#Corporate_and_professional

Further Reading

Tags: elearning LMS

Benefits of E-Learning to Large Organisations

Date Posted: Tuesday, 21 October 2014 10:50
Posted By: Kerry Butters

Training is an expensive activity for the majority of large organisations, but it’s also an extremely beneficial process when implemented effectively. Given it can be difficult to manage in a classroom environment - many organisations are turning to technology to help improve delivery of their training programs.

Government agencies and enterprise departments are often slow to respond to the latest technologies, although it’s safe to assume that all of them have an intranet already set up. However, many of these are basic and don’t take advantage of what a modern CMS and LMS can offer.

With this in mind, today we’ll be looking at exactly how an enterprise or government organisation can benefit from deploying an e-learning program on their intranet.

eLearning

Compliance Often Means Headaches

Due to the nature of the organisation, it’s often the case that government departments have to adhere to certain guidelines and be fully compliant with various regulations. It’s not always easy to make staff understand this, especially not in a rushed, classroom-based environment where there are plenty of distractions.

However, with an LMS, employees can take a range of modules that are better designed to suit their individual needs. This also allows senior staff to monitor employees’ understanding of what they are required to do when it comes to compliance and their jobs.

Employees can also:

  • Work on training at their own pace
  • Access a ‘scoreboard’ in order to see how others are doing
  • If the LMS is accessible via the internet, complete training even when not in the office

It’s also an ideal opportunity for the organisation to better engage employees with the intranet, something which allows for a lower level of employee turnover. We’ve talked about how engaging employees gives them a voice in the past and to the modern organisation, this is something that is invaluable.

Engaged employees have a voice within the organisation and this leads to a better sense of pride in their job, which in turn leads to better customer service and essentially, increased profits, something which according to the Temkin Group can be called the ‘virtuous circle’.

Investing in Employees is Investing in the Future

There continues to be a lot of discussion centred around the global issue of the skills gap and to some extent, this can be put down to a lack of investment into employees. Government departments can and should be leading the way then when it comes to furthering the training and knowledge of their employees, if the issue is ever going to be addressed.

However, this means that training has to be implemented in such a way as to ensure that the organisation benefits, both in monetary terms and in terms of knowledge. The beauty of an LMS is that it reduces the cost of training, as well as allowing learning to take place at a much more convenient pace than it would in a traditional classroom environment.

Further to this, in a large organisation, logistically speaking, training and its administration can be highly time-consuming and difficult. This is because there are so many different roles that require training across the organisation, often with staff based in various locations. An LMS can streamline this significantly, ensuring that the correct training is allocated to the right staff, that the right equipment (where applicable) is available and if necessary, an instructor is on hand on certain days in various offices.

All of this and more can also be kept in a central location, so that admin staff can see at a glance how training is progressing for each department and individual, what qualifications have been met and more. An LMS does away with the need for a huge, confusing paper trail, putting all of the relevant information at the admin’s fingertips, anytime they need to access it.

It’s also possible to easily implement individual training courses, so when talent within the organisation is spotted, the organisation can quickly respond to it and ensure that the employee is given the correct training in a timely manner.

Collaboration and the LMS

Another benefit to using an LMS is that it allows for collaboration, which again gives employees the opportunity to engage both with the system and other employees. This ensures increased productivity, as well as further integrating the employee into the organisation.

The LMS can be branded too, so that employees are fully aware at all times that the organisation is investing in them, and therefore believes in them. Employees that experience this are much more likely to take pride in the organisation, as well as their own work and this leads to better staff retention and less time taken off sick.

There are no drawbacks to implementing an LMS for the large organisation, there are only benefits. The time saving aspects alone are enough to sway many away from traditional learning environments, so when you add the cash-saving benefits, as well as the more engaged employee, it’s a win-win scenario.

LMSs can be used for:

  • Health and safety training – something that’s necessary in all large organisations
  • Compliance training
  • Customer service training
  • Job-specific training
  • Unconscious bias and equal opportunity training

And much more. In the modern workplace, equal opportunity and unconscious bias are both something that often need addressing. Employees have to ensure that their staff don’t exclude others, even if they don’t mean to. Unconscious bias is something that we can all be guilty of; for example, if you ever speak to a member of the opposite sex differently without realising that you’re doing it – that’s unconscious bias.

These days it’s incredibly important for employers to ensure that this doesn’t happen, or they can find themselves on the wrong end of an expensive employee dispute. This can be avoided just by implementing training and ensuring that it reaches the right people, in the ranks of both senior and junior staff.

With that in mind, as well as compliance training, companies and government departments can cut the cost of expensive mistakes, by ensuring that all of the relevant staff are trained to a high standard through the organisation’s LMS.

Further Reading

Tags: elearning

What Should You A/B Test?

Date Posted: Friday, 17 October 2014 16:24
Posted By: Kerry Butters

When it comes to marketing your site, it’s often very useful to carry out A/B testing to see which elements of a design get the best engagement from the user. However, it can be tempting to test too many elements of a page at a time or difficult to know just what to test. With that in mind, let’s have a look at what you should be testing and why.

A/B Testing

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that successful A/B tests are:

  • generally only carried out on one or two page elements at a time,
  • need to have a large enough sample size to return accurate results, and
  • be left to run for long enough to ensure effectiveness.

Many people stop running a test as soon as they see positive results in favour of one design, but this can be a false positive and so should be avoided. You should plan to run a split test for a minimum of a month if you want to gain accurate, actionable results.

When it comes to what you should test, this somewhat depends on what type of page you’re testing. If it’s a landing page, then CTAs are going to be important, so you could opt to test a CTA button in different colours. However, you can test anything that you like, including:

  • Headlines
  • Images
  • Sales copy
  • Product descriptions
  • Colours

A/B or Multivariate Testing?

If you want to test more than one or two elements at a time, then you’d be running a multivariate test, which means that you won’t be testing a different page, split between two groups, but two pages that have many different elements to each other. These test multiple variables and are really best used by advanced marketers who are very familiar with split testing.

With an A/B test, the differences between the two pages that you’re testing are very apparent. For example, on one page the CTA button may be green, whilst on the other it’s red (example below). Or on one page you may have an image with a person in it whilst the other may have a plainer image. The objective is to discover which one prompts the user into taking the action that you’d like them to and thus increase leads.

According to Kissmetrics, “A/B testing, done consistently, can improve your bottom line substantially. If you know what works and what doesn’t, and have evidence to back it up, it’s easier to make decisions, and you can often craft more effective marketing materials from the outset.”

Choosing What to Test

You should first study your analytics to get a good idea of where people are dropping off following landing on your site and some insight into why they might not be choosing to click on your call to action buttons. If visitors are simply landing on the home page and then bouncing right back off again, then obviously there’s something there that needs to be looked into such as navigation or again, sign-up buttons or other CTAs.

Recently, I came across a story in which a company had successfully carried out an A/B test on their navigation. They did this as whilst they were getting traffic to the site, the conversion rate was very low and nobody was clicking through to the products. The navigation system was made up of a lot of textual links and after reading about the ‘jam test’, in which it was found that too much choice often results in the user making none at all, they decided to test the navigation system.

The result was a pared down navigation with far fewer links to choose from and a vastly improved conversion rate.

Of course, it’s not always easy to see what’s going wrong and as it can be something as simple as one colour on one button, a little trial and error may be necessary. Saying that, it’s often the case that you can track user action through analytics and this should throw up any issues.

A/B Testing

In the above test carried out for Performable, it’s easy enough to see what was being tested. What’s interesting about the results though is that even though most of us associate green with going ahead and red with stop or delete, in the test the red button performed 21% better than the green. So even if you believe that the design is doing everything right, people can surprise you as they don’t necessarily follow what you feel to be a convention.

There are plenty of examples online that prove this, so don’t make assumptions about your users, instead make A/B testing an ongoing process that tests elements to ensure that you’re getting the most conversions that you can. Also remember that things change over time, such as people’s tastes, so once you feel that you’ve successfully tested and tweaked everything, test them again.

You don’t have to be a web designer or developer to successfully carry out an A/B test these days and neither do you have to perform difficult mathematical equations. These days, there are plenty of commercial options to help marketers to carry out split testing easily, including elcomCMS’s own A/B Testing module.

Carrying out testing can seriously improve your profits, so it’s worth doing it properly. Test one (or at the most two) elements at a time and ensure that you have enough traffic going to each page. Remember also to let the test run for a good length of time in order to get the most accurate results from your efforts.

Tags: a/b/ testing

How ‘Personal’ Should Your Marketing Get?

Date Posted: Friday, 10 October 2014 08:29
Posted By: Kerry Butters

Content Personalisation

Recently, we’ve talked a little about personalised marketing and how it can help to boost sales that were perhaps otherwise lost. There’s no doubt that it works – since social media has come along we’ve all become a little more intimate with each other than before and brands are no exception.

More to the point, consumers are coming to expect a more personalised service than ever before. When communicating through social especially, consumers expect to be spoken to as an individual and not as just another customer. But how far should brands go when it comes to personalisation? When does great customer service appear to be overly familiar?

Whilst consumers demand a tailored approach from brands, they also want privacy, so how does a brand get the balance right and ensure that the approach taken to personalisation is not considered to be a little creepy?

Personalisation

Create Buyer Personas

Firstly, a brand should always complete at least one buyer persona so that it’s clear who the marketing team is addressing and how. If the company in question has a large customer base that covers several demographics, then of course several buyer personas should be carried out in order to gain insight into how to correctly address each group.

Buyer personas cover:

  • Age groups – the way that you address a teenage audience will be different to that of an audience made up of retirees, for example. Both groups have wildly different experiences and so view the world and how/what they buy differently.
  • Gender – whilst some buyer personas are not gender specific, others are, so it’s useful to know which category customers fall into.
  • Level of education – this is useful for determining the kind of content that the customer wants and understands.
  • Financial circumstances (average wage for someone in a certain job, for example) – does the customer make instant buying decisions or are they having a good look around for similar products at lower prices? Understanding your customer’s financial circumstances (up to a point) can really help you to outdo the competition and tailor special offers.
  • Profession – when it comes to B2B marketing this is especially important as you want to offer things that can help the person to do their job. It’s useful for B2C too but not as much.
  • Hobbies – what do they like to eat and watch on TV? Knowing these things about your typical buyer can help you to really tailor the personalised message.
  • Shopping habits – what do they buy when they come to your online store? How do they shop online? By finding out everything that you can about these habits you can create special offers and perform remarketing.
  • Buying decision – it is of course highly useful to know how customers make the decision to buy – is it price that drives them or do they pay more for better quality?

If you can build up personas that detail as much about the buyer as possible, then you’re halfway to understanding what they want and how they want to be spoken to online. Insight is what gets results when it comes to personalisation, if you know nothing about the customer and address them in the wrong way, you’ve lost a lead and potentially, a sale.

Keep it Relevant

In order for personalisation to work, it also needs to be relevant, according to Sandra McDill, a managing partner at iProspect.

“Personalisation can be creepy when it isn’t relevant,” she says. “I don’t mind my supermarket knowing my name, knowing where I live and my favourite brand of beans but it would be creepy if they knew I had just been to the dentist, or I was currently in the bath. First party data means that brands can access a wealth of information about an individual that will help them to position the best products and services to them, but avoiding the creepy factor is about being reasonable with the information you choose to act upon.”

So in order to keep things healthy, only offer your customers personalised offers and emails based on their previous behaviour on your site. Of course, you can also offer your customers the option to give you further data in order to improve their shopping experience, but do be careful what you ask for. Many consumers are happy to hand over information about their shopping habits for example, and their lifestyle, but few want to disclose details about their bank balance or income and will take exception that you’ve asked.

Keep Tabs on Customer Engagement

It largely depends on what kind of business you’re in as to how successful personalisation will be, as many consumers want to engage with some brands but not others. For example, the trend for fitness bands at the moment gives companies that produce them an ideal opportunity to fully connect with consumers through health tracking. This is something that benefits the consumer so they’re quite happy to give out details about their lifestyle and diet that they otherwise may not want to.

With this in mind, understand where your company’s limits may lie and stick to them. Trying to get over personal in a sector where there isn’t a great deal you need to know may damage trust and backfire. Before you go all out on a personalised campaign, it’s a good idea to test the waters first.

This is confirmed by Kelly Kowal, a digital marketing director at Farfetch, who says: “You can never know what your customers really want unless you test.” She discovered that testing how customers engaged with the site highlighted which were more likely to buy – they were the people who engaged with the ‘About Us and/or ‘FAQ’ section of the website. “There was a 17 per cent uplift in this group. Small, simple tests can have big results,” she says.

If you want your personalisation to work for you then, it’s vital above all else to know your buyer and to study patterns of website user behaviour in order to properly address your audience across all channels and send personalised marketing messages and offers to suit.

User Experience and the Intranet

Date Posted: Monday, 29 September 2014 09:11
Posted By: Kerry Butters

In recent years there’s been a resurgence of interest in user experience (UX, or usability) in web design. Whilst the field is nothing new, the plethora of new devices to hit the market has meant that it’s now more important than ever to give the user a good experience if you want your site to outdo the competition.

User Experience

However, have you ever considered that UX is equally important when it comes to designing an intranet? After all, the goals are similar – whilst you may not need anyone on the intranet to buy anything, you still want them to be engaged and that means giving the user what they want.

With that in mind, let’s have a look today at some basic principles for intranet UX design.

Why Consider UX?

A business system is rarely designed with the user at the forefront of the mind and so this creates an intranet which can be clunky and difficult to use. In turn, this frustrates the user and holds them back from carrying out their job efficiently.

An effective intranet UX should:

  • Give the user clear pointers on where they need to go for information
  • Include shared workspaces and resources
  • Be optimised for mobile
  • Include social elements (IM, forums/message boards)
  • Always include an effective search function
  • Have great navigation

UX is a discipline of its own and it’s worth an organisation calling in a consultant if the internal IT and design team doesn’t have the necessary skills. An outdated and awkward UX will mean that tasks often take workers longer so the biggest bonus will be in productivity and employee happiness. As we’ve mentioned before, an employee who is given the tools to improve will become a more fulfilled and thus, more productive one.

Getting Started with Intranet UX

When it comes to an intranet, planning is everything and with regards to UX, this should include a lot of conversation with the end user. It’s necessary to find out where the existing intranet is failing so in order to do this, interviews and surveys should be held so that the UX can be planned out effectively.

Since it’s the user you’re concentrating on, it can’t be emphasised enough how important it is to listen to them. Again, employee input is something that will always be appreciated and make workers feel more valued, which again leads to better performance at work.

Basic Principles of UX

Good UX should be kept as simple as possible and include a visual hierarchy so that users can quickly see how to get about. One of the most popular books in UX, Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, was written some time ago back in 2002 (it’s also had a few revisions since) yet still holds true today. This is because, as the title suggests, the user that’s made to think too hard about what they have to do in order to find their way around the site will quickly become frustrated.

However, whilst a frustrated user can simply leave a website, this isn’t possible for the intranet user and so instead, the way they carry out their job suffers. With this in mind, and as Steve Krug points out, users should be able to:

“Get it’ – what it is and how to use it – without expending any effort thinking about it.”

He goes on to say that: “All kinds of things on a web page can make us stop and think unnecessarily” and that “these things are almost always somewhere on a continuum somewhere between ‘Obvious to everyone’ and ‘Truly obscure,’ and there are always tradeoffs involved.”

So when considering the UX design, you want to aim for the ‘Obvious to everyone’ as staff have differing levels of skill and experience when it comes to using both intranets and the web itself.

Navigation and Signals are Key to a Good Intranet Design

Steve Krug suggests that everyone should consider the following when it comes to UX so that users can see and take advantage of as much as possible:

  • Taking advantage of conventions – that is widely used design patterns – in order that the user can grasp what they need to do immediately
  • Creating effective visual hierarchies so that users understand where things are and what should be clicked
  • Breaking up pages into clearly defined areas makes scanning more effective and allows the user to take in information quickly
  • Make the clickable very obvious
  • Take out unnecessary distractions
  • Format content to support scanning as it’s a well-known fact that people rarely actually read a screen but scan it first to pick out salient information

Sometimes, design trends dictate how an intranet interface may look – a great example of this is flat design which came about thanks to the Windows 8 and iOS 7 interfaces. Now we see it everywhere but care must be taken to ensure that clickable areas are immediately obvious.

This is something that can be easily addressed with the use of strong colours. The modern intranet user is generally sophisticated enough to recognise clear signals when they’re presented. This and other potential issues surrounding the design choice should be made clear at the initial planning stage so that the design team don’t clash with the CEO or other executive who may perhaps want an interface that’s just one or two colours for branding.

Navigation should also include breadcrumbs, so that the user can clearly see where they’ve been and be presented with an easy choice to get back to where they want to go, such as the example below which can be presented as textual links above the content.

Home > knowledge base > company information > directors > (name of person)

This allows them to return to a previous page quickly and easily.

There’s an awful lot to think about when it comes to UX and the intranet. Getting together a persona often helps designers to think about how information should be presented to the user. However, excellent planning, good communication and beta testing should ensure that everything is covered by the time it’s ready to go live.


Tags: intranet

Organisational Culture and the Intranet

Date Posted: Friday, 12 September 2014 13:53
Posted By: Kerry Butters

In large organisations, such as government, education and healthcare departments, the intranet is something that naturally produces and stores a lot of content. Whilst this can lead to issues surrounding ownership and politics, there’s little doubt that the department which allows the employees really get involved is the winner.

Collaboration

Not only do you have an increased sense of employee satisfaction, but you also benefit from improved investment of knowledge into the organisation. It’s for this reason that departments need to ensure the smooth running of the intranet and to take the opportunity to enable further communication and collaboration on the ‘shop floor’.

Ongoing Intranet Development

Unfortunately, the intranet can throw up quite a lot of office politics and it’s for this reason that many organisations now have an ‘intranet council’ which can oversee its ongoing development. These can come from IT, the HR department, marketing or a mix of departments that can ensure that their employees have a voice.

The idea that managing the intranet to promote collaboration and knowledge management is nothing particularly new. Despite us now really beginning to see more activity on the ‘social intranet’, research from 2001 by Cynthia P Ruppel and Susan J Harrington found that:

“[I]ntranet implementation is facilitated by a culture that emphasizes an atmosphere of trust and concern for other people (ethical culture), flexibility and innovation (developmental culture) and policies, procedures and information management (hierarchal culture). Management should ensure that the proper values are in place to optimize intranet implementation and facilitate knowledge sharing.”

The research paper, Sharing Knowledge Through Intranets: A Study of Organizational Culture and Intranet Implementation, highlights the need for large organisations to alter its culture in order to facilitate transformative business.

Productivity and Morale

Developing the intranet so that it allows employees a voice and to effectively collaborate means that important gains can be enjoyed. These include an increase in employee morale and as such, productivity, as the employee feels that they are essentially a part of the decision-making process.

They are engaged with the intranet and those on it, who may not necessarily be in the same department, so they can gather knowledge more easily, increasing the intellectual value of the organisation. This is something that is very difficult to mimic, and should be nurtured within the organisation in order to ensure that the intranet is being made the most of.

Social Intranets and the Modern Organisation

Many large organisations are reluctant to implement change due to the sheer size of the undertaking, a lot of the time. However, in the modern world, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the organisation is innovative and agile. Deploying additional aspects needn’t be something that’s all done at the same time, additional intranet components can be developed and deployed on an ongoing basis. This should mean little to no downtime and allow the employees to continue their normal working days without incident.

The benefits of adding social components to the intranet are now well documented, especially when it comes to organisations. However, the problem that many face is that of getting the employee to engage. This, it’s thought, is generally due to a lack of leadership when it comes to “Internal Social Media”.

A 2011 study by Gagen macDonald found that whilst 51% of companies said that they utilised social intranets, only 63% said that they thought they did it well. Further to this, employees generally agreed that they were happier at a workplace that used a social intranet, 60% said social equalled innovation, 58% said they would rather work in a place that used social and most agreed that they were more likely to be an advocate of the brand.

Innovation

It was also found that those organisations deploying a social intranet:

  • Enjoyed higher levels of engagement across the board
  • Had employees who were less likely to leave and more likely to encourage others to work there
  • Had employees who were more likely to give the employer the benefit of the doubt when it came to lawsuits or crises

Driving Engagement on the Social Intranet

With all of this in mind, it’s important for organisations to understand that in order to get the most from social, as well as employees, it’s necessary to take charge and ensure that it’s engaging.

The report suggests that the most important attributes then of a social intranet are:

  • High quality content (42% importance), which is easily accessible to the employee, relevant, up-to-date, accurate and reliable
  • Engagement and dialogue (37%) which encourages participation, solicits feedback and has an executive presence
  • Optimised (21%) pushes information out in a targeted manner, integrates information across platforms and tries new things

Organisations can use this as a means for designing and deploying the intranet and ideally, this should be supported with training delivered via the intranet’s LMS. This further engages the employee and allows them to feel that they have that all-important ‘voice’ in the company.

The Perfect Intranet

Modern technology is supporting business models and practices more than ever before and allowing for a high level of engagement on the intranet. Improved communications allows for even higher levels of collaboration, video and audio increase engagement with training materials and executive blogging and social activity allow employees to connect better with their seniors.

There are no real downsides to deploying a social intranet and improving the overall culture of the organisation to ensure that it’s one that it politic-free. This drives a happy workforce and that in turn drives higher productivity, less time off sick and further collaboration.

On a departmental level, it’s a good idea to elect one person from each to give all a voice on the ‘intranet council’. These voices can advise on how their department would gain from further improvements that drive engagement on the intranet.

All-in-all, intranets have undergone massive change over the course of the last decade and this means that organisations have to change with them. It means doing away with stuffy, corporate messages that disempower employees and ensuring that the intranet is used to its best possible advantage by adding social aspects that reinforce the idea that employers and employees are all in it together.

The organisations that get this right will see an increase in productivity and essentially, profit.


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