Sunday, 29 January 2012

The push-pull conundrum

We've launched our social intranet at the charity I'm working for. It's been going for about three weeks now. Needless to say there have been a few technical issues, some of which are minor bugs of the sort that you get with any software and one or two of which have been more problematic. On the whole, though, the platform (Igloosoftware's SaaS offering) is working pretty well already, and adoption is coming on apace.

Aside from bugs, one of the key concerns that keeps cropping up relates to the intended demise of 'All Staff' emails. Reducing or eliminating these is supposed to be one of the benefits of the new set-up - a reduction in spam and an increase in choice as to information consumed. I've explained during my training sessions how this can work: scan the activity streams, subscribe to content you're interested in and/or visit the site often.

But it's not quite that simple in practice. In fact, All Staff emails, with all their faults, are a lot simpler. It takes a little while to figure out exactly how to optimise your alerts, and how they are working. Even if you've got them set up just how you want them, and even if there are some that have been set up by an administrator for all staff, there is still uncertainty. The user remains uncertain that he'll see that crucial message (especially about cakes in the kitchen - we like our cakes at the charity) and the poster isn't sure who's seen it.

Of course, there's never certainty that everyone has read an email, unless you specify a read receipt and go through all of them to check - not too likely for over 100 staff. But at least people have only one place to look for that critical message.

Our solution? Really key messages from 'the centre' go out as specially formatted emails, everything else goes (or will go) onto the intranet somewhere, and it's down to you to make sure you see it. Emails can still be used for sub-groups of staff, but people are being encouraged to link to content on the intranet rather than to put it in the email itself.

Whether this will work well or not depends on how quickly people take to the new platform-centric, 'pull' concept. That might in turn be a function of people's experience to date with Web 2.0 on the Internet, which will vary from person to person.

If you have any other suggestions for tackling this one, please post a comment.