Intranet awards: celebrating the power of the practitioner

We have long discussed why entering awards is the best thing for your career, but still a lot of us out there don’t put our excellent work forward.

Today’s guest post, from Steve Bynghall, implores all of you to exhibit your work!

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell covered the contribution of practice in crafting expertise. Gladwell cites 10,000 hours as a figure which will get you to a level of mastery and make you “world-class” (like Bill Gates and the Beatles).

While I don’t agree with everything that Gladwell says (his example of Fleetwood Mac is particularly unconvincing), and many have debunked the 10,000 hour rule,  the contribution of the practitioner and the value of the unsexy operational grunge many of us wade through every day is severely under-recognised.  Yes, we venerate business leaders like Steve Jobs, but actually there’s always a wider team involved.

This is particularly true of the intranet and digital workplace space, where the sheer effort of the teams that implement great intranets, collaboration and social platforms and other key channels within the wider digital workplace is seldom acknowledged.  That’s why I’m proud that Step Two’s 2016 Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards, which has just opened for entries, goes out of its way to celebrate the contribution of the intranet and digital workplace practitioner.

The challenge of implementation and BAU

Successful intranet and digital workplace projects are hard to pull off. They require not only the effort of the project phase, but also then the daily grind of operations of “business as usual” where adoption is driven and solutions are fine-tuned.

There are many reasons why managing intranets and the digital workplace are challenging:

  • intranet teams may be tasked with implementing key decisions not decided by them (think SharePoint imposed by IT)
  • there tend to be multiple stakeholders, all with a different view (accentuated across the wider digital workplace)
  • strategy and governance is an afterthought
  • under-resourcing is the norm, especially after the official project phases
  • there are often inflated expectations from stakeholders around impact, adoption levels and ROI
  • intranets and digital workplaces are inherently more complex than they were even two years ago and user expectations more demanding
  • an intranet is a constant work-in-progress with always more to do
  • intranets require attention to detail – there is lots of fiddly stuff to sort out.

Hats off to the team

So when a really successful project comes along which demonstrates a combination of great ideas, nice design and obvious impact, you can almost guarantee that the project implementation team and then the operational team behind it will have shown a combination of persistence and dexterity to get it across the line.  I’m full of admiration for these teams. This stuff isn’t easy!

Of course, there are also contributions from any agency or vendor involved and the senior management who sponsored it, but often it’s the team-on-the-ground who are the primary drivers.

As well as requiring effort, I think the day-in-day-out grind of implementation and driving adoption also gives provides a seldom-recognised but highly valuable and unique insight into how users and stakeholders interact with workplace technology.  Perhaps it might not feel like it, but as you notch up your 10,000 hours on what might be regarded as small-fry operational matters, you’re also gaining an instinctive appreciation of user behaviour which should be a major input into future digital workplace strategy and design.

Celebrating the intranet and digital workplace practitioner

One way to celebrate the power of the practitioner is to get recognition for your team by entering a competition. Winning an award can give you great kudos both inside your organisation and externally, among the wider community of your peers.  However even the process of entering can be a good way to reflect on the contribution of your team.

The Step Two Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards (formerly the Intranet Innovation Awards) have been going for ten years now (!) and we’ve always tried we’ve always tried to recognise the power of the practitioner through:

  • celebrating winners from both large and small companies…one year our overall Platinum winner was a high school
  • reducing any barriers to entry by making the Awards completely free to enter, with NO hidden costs further down the line
  • sharing details of winners through events, conferences, articles and publications
  • scoring for originality, but also execution and impact
  • always including practitioner judges on the panel

Some of my favourite winners of recent years have been as much about the efforts of the teams than the end result. For example:

  • GSK’s excellent conversion of hundreds of microsites to a new brand template involved some fantastic change management efforts behind -the-scenes
  • RPP’s beautiful digital workplace was much about the ethos and effort of the team behind it than the end result
  • The success of Mayo Clinic’s great nursing intranet was down to prolonged user research and an extensive use of personas

Entering the awards

If you have a brilliant intranet, collaboration platform, ESN, mobile app, HR portal, digital signage or other digital workplace, and an equally brilliant team behind it, we want to hear from you!

Submissions are now being accepted up until the closing date of June 10th 2016.  The winners all get a lovely glass trophy and it also usually opens the door to presenting your work at conferences and other events.

The how to enter page contains full details, including a link to the online submission form. This year there are four categories to enter:

  1. Intranet essentials(new intranets or rework, core intranet elements such as search or people directory)
  2. Social, collaboration and communication(initiatives which showcase social networking, collaboration and internal communications)
  3. Business, mobile and frontline solutions (initiatives which deliver a specific business solution or solve a problem, serve the needs of frontline or customer-facing staff or showcase enterprise mobility)
  4. Digital workplace(initiatives which take a holistic view of the experience of work, agile working, or an element from the wider digital ecosystem)

It’s time to get some recognition for your talented team…we look forward to receiving your entries!