Making it easy to do business with you


2 years ago I was leading a project that brought significant change to the organisation. We embarked on a journey of improving internal collaboration. There were a myriad of different use cases albeit 2 came up over and over again.

  • information exchange across departments was limited and across geographical boundaries very rare
  • finding relevant information “hey, I know we have done something like that before. Let me think who was involved.” was challenging

“Standard” – I’m a bit sarcastic with a decent pinch of truth” –  ICT approach of building a new system and assume people will come and use it was out of the question. Standard ICT practice of centralised management and administration was also a no-go. Empowered employees are engaged employees was the mantra.

Adoption strategies

We employed a set of different approaches to be successful.

  • a governance team that had no technical people (I don’t count myself as technical anymore, I understand technology)
  • a test team across different organisational aspects
  • a pilot team that work on a specific problem
  • show and tell sessions “what is coming to town”
  • training sessions for advocates
  • training for all, online, class room, 1 on 1, groups
  • pre-seeding the system to 20%
  • migrating and vetting content
  • removing old systems
  • administrative training for emerging experts

The pit falls

Within a short period of time (6 months) we had a 68% adoption rate. After a year it was consistent at about 80% to 85%. That looked fantastic!

But the figures didn’t tell the whole truth. Some people loved the system – in particular the early adopters, most went on with their day job and simply used the new toy, and another set of people tried to avoid it. Why was that?

Consistent look and feel

The new system was quite flexible and allowed the administrators a lot of freedom in the design of their places. That was great for early adoption but futile for the second wave. New people to the system got confused with ever changing layouts and inconsistent use of design elements. As a result a new governance team was formed and recommended styling guidelines that had some strict and some optional elements.

Consistent Interface

When one person is responsible for a layout then that includes the menu, the structure, the wording of headings, and so on. With decentralised administration we had ambiguity. Title weren’t quite clear, descriptions were missing or incomplete and the objective of “findability” was threatened. The guidelines helped although these were not sufficient. We also found that the pre-seeding had driven the structure into a direction that wasn’t helpful. Admittedly a strategic change had also a strong influence in that. Nevertheless we needed to re-adjust the structure.

One very important tool feature came to our rescue, you could re-arrange the structure while keep interlinking and content bookmarks without any change to the user.

The good stuff

The tool and its configuration had from the start many features and capabilities. Some are in my opinion vital to keep people using the system. Let me put us into a customer point of view.

Intuitive interface

The most important stuff when I use any system is, where do I go to do what? Is it easy to understand? Are the symbols logical? Is the descriptions of buttons and fields and links clear? Our test team had provided us with that feedback:

“Cool, finally a new system that I can use without any training.”

Yes! That’s what I wanna hear. Who reads the f*ing manual? Nobody. Everybody just follows their nose and ask when they get stuck. A system needs to be designed for this behaviour. I always like Steve Jobs “It just works.”.


Sure, I want convenience. Don’t make me enter a too complicated password that I have to write down, swipe my finger and get a second code from my mobile unless the information is super critical for me personally or the job I’m doing. Security is important, I want to be assured that what I classify as confidential stays confidential. The debate about Facebook’s privacy is a great example for this. Link security where possible, practical and advisable together (Single Sign On). keep it separate where necessary.

Managing my personal profile

All systems have it.

All systems have their own.

I don’t like to manage my personal details in every system. Give me a page where I can select what information about me I like to share here. Thank you.

And finally

No downtime please. I know there are patches and upgrades. That’s a fact of life. Make it when necessary with some predictability if possible. And let me know what will change and what has changed. Don’t do an Apple and great me on my iPhone

  • “the terms and conditions have changed”  — okay
  • 43 pages!!!! and no indications what has changed. — madness!


Doing business with employees is no different to doing business with customers or other businesses. They have similar needs and habits. Useability, security and common sense will always fare well.

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