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Intranet Now Conference

When I was first asked to attend the IntranetNow conference by my boss, I didn’t quite know what to expect. In my past employment I was always the one organising the events so it gave me an insight that I had never experienced before.

Given that I am relatively new to the Intranet world, I was quite excited about picking up and tips and tricks of the game from some of the other professionals.

When I first arrived at the Hilton Hotel in Bankside, my first impression was, “wow, I am really not in the public/third sector anymore”. The venue was stunning and everything had been set up so perfectly.

This was the fourth Intranet Now conference that has taken place so I was a little bit nervous that I wouldn’t find someone to talk to, so I’d decided to wear my Invotra branded t-shirt. At least if people knew which organisation I worked for, then I stood a chance of someone striking up a conversation with me. I wasn’t wrong, lots of people started coming up to me and introducing themselves and one guy even asked why we didn’t have a stand this year, which I was pretty impressed with.

After a little bit of pre-conference mingling and catching up with the lovely Lisa Riemers (ex-Invotra colleague) we entered the very grand ballroom and took our seats. 
Wedge and Brian did a great job in welcoming everyone back to the conference and thanking everyone for their attendance, apparently they had outgrown last year’s venue.

Wedge and Brian's presentation

Allan Tanner of Standard Life Aberdeen kicked off the nine minute lightning presentations with a great analogy of structuring content on an intranet. He compared it to jam and peanut butter. When you go to a supermarket you know that the jam and peanut butter will be located in the same aisle, and the same goes for how to structure your content. It makes sense to structure it in a user friendly way and use feedback from the people who are using it, rather than designing it how you think it should be laid out.

Of course there were far too many speakers for me to list them all out here so I am going to summarise and highlight my favourite speakers.

Chatbots. This, I felt, was the most innovative presentation of the day. It really felt like Chris McGrath was leading in the innovation race with this one. A chatbot is a programme that runs inside of your messaging app, so when someone sends a message, it’s actually the computer that responds. It’s a conversational UI that mimics speaking to a human, using either text or voice. Using a Chatbot could revolutionise any organisation, for example, if an employee starts at an organisation and needs to setup a dropbox account, instead of HR producing an online or paper document explaining how, the new employee can just message the Chatbot and it will explain the process…genius! Of course it isn’t just limited to new starters, you could introduce it to your intranet. For example, if an employee needs help with finding something on the intranet then the Chatbot can help, which I imagine, could help organisations drive their productivity through the roof. The positives to having a chatbot is endless and I could go on…I won’t…but I will finish by quoting a slide from Chris’ presentation. “By 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on bots and Chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development…Chatbots will become the face of AI”

Amanda Broomhall's presentation

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Amanda Broomhall for a good portion of the day and her presentation into the importance of research when planning an intranet was truly eye-opening. How can someone effectively design an intranet for someone else without understanding why and how they will use it. Even Amanda herself, has used her years of experience and research to deliver this great presentation on translating research into design.

With nine minutes per presentation, they swiftly moved on but one of the presentations that no one in the ballroom will forget was Helen Lippells. Coupled with her great one liners such as “Bad content is like a fatberg in your intranet” and the hilarious “Taxonomy not taxidermy”, she provided great insight into making your taxonomies and search work for you, something that is a basic in an intranet but is overlooked so many times.

Helen Lippell's presentation

Every one of the speakers did a great job in insightfully enlightening the audience on their subject but when I first found out that I was going to the Intranet Now conference, the last thing I expected was to come across someone as entertaining as Scott McArthur. That man really does know how to present to people and keep them engaged. He even managed to make people laugh and without the need for an inside-industry joke. Using his vast experience from his time as a HR director and research scientist (to name a few) he was able to educate the audience in psychological blindness and human bias. He asked us all to close our eyes and picture a dog and, without even realising it, every member of the audience was picturing a dog that they had known and liked. This is human bias. But what does this have to do with intranets? Well I am glad you asked; by using points of agreement, learning and criticism in your intranet and remembering that human bias plays a massive part in how people interact with things, you can achieve sustained progress and this in turn helps organisations to evolve and that’s exactly how organisations should be. They should always continuously evolve.

Intranet Now panel

After the lightning presentations and world cafe finished the day drew to a close with a Q&A with a panel of speakers. Finally members of the audience could ask the panel any questions and they would answer it, to the best of their ability. By this point in the day I thought that everything had been covered, but then it hit me. There was an elephant in the room that no one dared mention. In fact I don’t think that anyone had even thought about it…Blockchain.

The hot topic of moment in the technology world and no one had mentioned it, not even a little bit so I decided to tweet the organisers about it. Unfortunately there was no reply but I am in high hopes that this subject will be covered next year, mainly because we are one step ahead. Invotra enabled Blockchain within our intranets on the Monday before the conference so let’s hope by next year everyone else is caught up!

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