One of the characteristics of an agile organization is that decisions like those referred to above do not always have to be made by those in positions of power. What are referred to as consultative individual decision-makers or group decision-makers can step into this role here. This means that delegates or delegated groups prepare and make the decision through a process of consultation with the company and stakeholders. Senior management, the board, or the founders transfer the decision-making power for this special task to the team or the individual in a process of reconciliation. This takes the burden off of senior management or the board and gives everyone in the company clarity. 

As a rule, individual decision-makers or groups have more time to prepare the decision. They consult for longer, consider the consequences in greater detail, gather opinions, and of course secure buy-in up the chain of command (for example, with the senior management). 

Our experience shows that decisions made in this manner are better accepted in the company, pushed through faster and more professionally, and are more likely to be implemented in the end and receive everyone’s support. In a hierarchical environment where the CEO “rules over everything,” this is probably not always the case, however. 

Why am I mentioning the decision-making process in agile companies when what we actually want to talk about are applications for a corporate intranet? It’s quite simple: if you have a despot, father superior, tyrant, or even a loving patriarch in your organization who decides everything for themself, the chances are very low that they’ll have sufficient time to guarantee complete transparency.

A powerful person of this type has to work efficiently. They don’t have time to think everything through. They can’t keep up with long discussions forever. Their priorities do not allow them to discuss the fears of their employees with the works council. They can’t spend ages explaining themselves. 

Conversely, transparency and the use of tools like these is a necessity in cases of delegation to individual decision-makers for purposes of good representation. Why is Heinz suddenly allowed to decide the fate of everyone? Who allowed that? On what basis did they make their decision? Can I take that route myself? Is that something I can support?

This amount of skepticism concerning processes involving individual decision-makers and decision-making groups can be quite pronounced: “Okay, so Seibert can make the decisions now or what? After all, he founded the company. There’s absolutely no alternative then, if he wants something, we have to follow. That’s a historical precedent.” Such arguments and reservations abound. To continue: “But when Heinz suddenly comes along and decides something that changes my life and work, it’s something I can’t accept so easily. I want to be included in the process and need to understand why this has to be the case now and not otherwise.” 

A modern company organization also needs modern company communication and a modern intranet. Because without transparency, all that remains is skepticism paired with powerlessness.

If power rules in your organization, your decision-making structures and bottlenecks are not allowed to undergo any change, you’ll probably have much less need for an intranet than those companies with participatory approaches.

At this point, I could show you numerous other wiki applications that we use to increase transparency and document investment issues in-house. But we’ll postpone that until later (see “Application Examples”) if that’s okay with you?

To conclude this topic, it might help to make a small comparison: let’s assume you want to market your newly established cooking school. To do so, you might begin by explaining to prospective students how and for what purpose you use all the different kitchen knives and appliances. And once they’ve understood that, you might take them on a tour of your kitchen and pantry and explain that, in terms of creativity, only their own imaginations can limit what they’re capable of. 

In a way, most people join your organization in the same way. Everyone knows how to use a knife and a frying pan. Most of them will have prepared fried eggs at some time in the past. And what you’re now doing here with your intranet is to establish a creative island of international cuisine in your commercial kitchen.

People may laugh at you behind your back because of this. Five different knives! And a frying pan! And things can easily go wrong, get overcooked, or be too salty, and you can’t freeze them either! And how long does this feeling of being full last? We’ll just stay with SharePoint; we’ve been using it for ages for all our needs! (Yes, but in my view, SharePoint is a bit rough around the edges as a tool. And you have to be a damn good chef to rank among the gourmets.) 

Whatever the case. It’s hopeless to try to show you all the available options with this gamut of professional knives, pots, ingredients, and spices. But I can show you how to use a boning knife. And why it’s really useful. 

Lots of employees in your company are really good cooks. And lots of people are eager to experiment as well. You’ve also experienced how great a homemade Indian or Peruvian dish can look, taste, and smell. But that was all a far too delicate affair for you until now. What’s important is having a full stomach, and you don’t need fine cooking for that. In fact, fineries are somehow not so important in a company like ours. And if we don’t have the culinary basics under control (remember the five different professional knives and the frying pan), it’s not even worth bothering to try.

Let’s think about this a bit more again. You can address tens of thousands of culinary service providers in the market. It’s their business to fill your stomach. But try finding someone just to cook for your family. Who takes account of their individual likes and dislikes? Who comes up with a good alternative because you’re allergic to a certain spice? Who decorates your dining table in such a way that it perfectly matches your interior design? Then things get difficult. 

And this is why we’re sitting here talking. Everyone in the company can cook (the standard IT fare). But using software to organize collaboration properly so that teams can actually work together better and to increase the level of transparency – for most people, that’s as difficult as it is for me to cook pasta “al dente.” 

I hope that at least I can give you a few basic tips to get you started in being creative yourself. Your company has its own culture and constraints, as well as policies. Nevertheless, a virtuoso chef can still build a modern intranet that will result in more collaboration and transparency for you and your company. This is what I wish for you and your colleagues! 

Hmmm. Have you got an appetite now?

Snow: Getting to Grips with Emergencies and Urgent Matters

We’ve already spoken in detail about the pros and cons of messaging software in a company. These days, it’s indispensable, even if most companies still have not officially introduced it. 

So, what happens in a chat? People can swap their shifts easily. Availabilities and delays are discussed. Topics are discussed and gossip exchanged. Photos and videos are exchanged and social bonds are forged. 

In the vast majority of cases, these chats are probably not relevant to the GDPR and otherwise not very critical when it comes to data protection and legal regulations. Nevertheless, each and every IT manager should be really worried. That’s because they have absolutely no control over and cannot limit how people use these channels for secret and critical affairs. 

But what about actually getting back to the application itself? Intranet teams should build portals and platforms that are useful in special situations. In such cases, “snow” has great potential. “Snow” is a combination of the words “straight away” and “now.” My wife tells me she used this word all the time when she was three or four to express the urgency of her concerns. This is why it has had pride of place in my vocabulary outside the office for years now. 

Key managers who wield power in a company also use the word “snow.” Whether rightly or wrongly, I won’t go into that further now. In any case, their positions as managers allow them to demand and receive immediate attention. 

Messaging software also allows other, less powerful people to use this direct and urgent form of communication. However, if you chose to leave out certain managers, who think everything is always “snow,” then some real “emergencies” are likely to arise in the company. 

What an emergency is, of course, can be a very individual affair. Almost all companies operate servers and software systems that can be offline at some point. If the service, such as the intranet, can no longer be accessed, this is deemed to be an emergency. Emergencies can also involve incidents that stop customers from making sales or that severely affect their satisfaction level: your website is offline, the payment system in your store doesn’t work, the expensive clicks on your Google ads take people to 404 pages – I’m sure you can think of enough examples of your own. 

In urgent and important situations like this, something has to happen “snow.” Lots of organizations are now quickly setting up chat rooms where everyone who is working on solving a problem can post their contributions and statuses and also vote. Because, as a rule, real emergencies require a lot of different participants. Since they’re not always in close proximity to one another, however, a chat room is ideal. Often, it comes with a video chat channel or at least an audio channel. This could be in the form of a Google Meet, a Zoom meeting, or a special solution like Opsgenie from Atlassian. 

Group chat rooms can also provide an excellent opportunity for project teams and meeting groups to supplement or replace physical gatherings with asynchronous or synchronous voting in a chat room. The potential is enormous for savings in terms of meeting time here. 

However, a recent requirement in this scenario involves finding the right time to switch to face-to-face communication. This is because communicating over digital channels can be counterproductive, especially in complex situations. Whenever this gets complicated, a phone call or a personal conversation can help. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that project chat rooms can generally make many meetings unnecessary and thus increase productivity. 

In any case, the “snow” application remains unsolved in many companies. It therefore offers an excellent starting point for supplementing your intranet portal with a matching chat solution, thus increasing the overall benefit of the project and providing it a broader justification and basis. So, take a moment to think about whether and how a messenger application could be a boost to your intranet project!

Link to this page: 

The Social Intranet

Foster collaboration and strengthen communication. Be effective with enterprise intranets mobile and in the cloud.

Virtual Collaboration in Companies: Social Intranets as a Digital Home 

Never before has the business world been so overrun by cloud software and specialized vendors as it is now. There is so much software out there that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of things. It is all the more important for the future of work to have a place for digital meeting - a reliable home port meaningfully networked with numerous other systems that makes it quick and easy to navigate. This will increase transparency in the company and make collaboration more effective. Based on many years of experience, this book tells you how it already works in today's digitalized world and which trends you probably should rather than shouldn't follow.

About the author

Martin Seibert was 17 when he founded the software company Seibert Media. Twenty-four years later, it has nearly 200 employees and generates 35 million euros in annual sales. He has been sharing his enthusiasm for technology in YouTube videos for many years - and now also in his new book about social intranets.

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This content was last updated on 03/31/2021.

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