When we began working with one of our clients in the fall, their focus was on their intranet.

They couldn’t see beyond the vast file library they had created. They talked about the intranet as how they communicated to employees and where employees went to find files.

They struggled with the terms “intranet” and “portal” and expressed interest in retiring the current name/brand.

While collaboration, innovation and efficient workflow were important to them, they couldn’t see how it would all come together. Still, they had a sense their future needed to look very different.

It’s All in How You Say It

One of the things I began doing right away was using different – but really simple – language:

  • “the place I get my work done”
  • “how I find and work with other people”
  • “my virtual employee experience”
  • “part of how I experience the culture”
  • “how we leverage what each of us knows”

With the governance team I wove scenarios into the governance planning; I didn’t use “use case” because this feels too technical to many on the business side. Sometimes within those scenarios, I incorporated real ROI examples that hit on known business problems.

Finally, I put the question to the governance team: “How are you going to refer to this thing you are going to create?”

After lively discussion and review of some recent articles and research easily found online, they agreed it should be their “digital workplace.” They didn’t want to name it this, but that’s how they wanted to think about it.

We even worked with them to define what they meant by “digital workplace.”

The “Digital Workplace” is a collection of electronic tools that enables productive, efficient and effective work to take place anywhere.

It is a collaboration space, a community, and a place to find our corporate knowledge. It is how we work digitally.

It’s not so much the resulting definition that was important, but the road they took to get there.

Once the governance and project teams had a new mindset, they all began talking differently about it to others. Momentum was created.

By the end of November, they were driving a new movement through the organization to think differently about how they use their technology to support the business.

The language I used was simple, not technical at all. In fact, it’s better to avoid technical language to bring the business along.

They don’t care about what programming language you’ll use to customize the platform of choice. Heck, they don’t even like the word “platform.”

So, keep it simple.

The stories I told came from the user research we did for the company. I’d ask a question in a roundtable, such as a group of Finance employees; a question such as “what frustrates you in your day-to-day work?” They’d paint these compelling scenarios of inefficiency, risk and costly re-work.

Tying some of the stories to bottom-line ROI proved really compelling for leaders. They want to know what the technology investment can do to drive the business.

Every department has examples of business process that can be web-enabled, but the big opportunities are in Human Resources, Travel, and Finance/Purchasing, because these departments have processes that every employee uses.

Three Approaches

Want to shift your organizational mindset from “our intranet is a newsletter” to “we collaborate in a digital workplace?” Start with these three simple but effective approaches:

  1. Use different, simple language unrelentingly until your stakeholders start using it themselves.
  2. Seek, find, and tell great stories, over and over, until people see themselves in the stories.
  3. Put practical ROI to it, metrics that address real business challenges that leaders care about.

Sound Advice from the Word People

I encourage those working on the technical side to partner with your communicators. These word people can help you figure out which phrases work most to your advantage in your organization.

To help you on your way, here are some additional phrases/questions I use frequently in client engagements to shift client thinking. Perhaps some will help you shift the mindset of your leaders.

  • “It’s a business tool, not just a communication tool.”
     
  • Doing things online is just as important as reading online because the doing drives higher adoption of our online tools.”
     
  • “If I could quickly find an internal expert, how much faster could I answer a customer question?”
     
  • “How can we use our technology to better engage our remote and virtual employees?”
     
  • “What if we could get all the {insert job title here} talking to each other, sharing what they do and what they know? What new innovations might arise, how might our service improve, and how much savings might we find?”
     
  • “Employees want to find things by topics and tasks, not by department.”

Add to Your Knowledge

Stacy Wilson, ABC, Eloquor Consulting, helps companies communicate more effectively with employees in the digital workplace. Her specialty is supporting governance, usability, content and adoption for digital workplaces/intranets, along with change communication for technology change such as ERP implementations. Connect with Stacy at LinkedIn or on Twitter, or with Eloquor on Facebook.