Tony Byrne

Ready to inspire: Tony Byrne

Between the 20th-22nd of May, Intranätverk 2014 will take place in Gothenburg. In this article series we present the speakers who will share their knowledge at the conference and hear their thoughts about intranets today and in the future.

Profile of the day: Tony Byrne

With more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry, Tony has a whole lot of knowledge to share. In 2001, he founded CMS Watch which later became The Real Story Group. Today he oversees all of the company’s technology streams, with a particular emphasis on digital workplace technology. Besides work, Tony enjoys reading history and science fiction, and spends a lot of time with his 15-year-old son.

What would you say is the most exciting thing about intranets?

We’ve been watching them evolve over the last 15 years and it’s been really interesting seeing the whole evolution of the phenomenon. I’m quite excited about the next couple of years because I’m a believer in this notion of redefining the problem as one of what is the right digital workplace environment. And if you look at it from that perspective you’ll start asking yourself more interesting questions, with perhaps unexpected outcomes.

Which is the prime challenge regarding intranets today?

I think that the prime challenge is prioritizing what has the most business value from an employee perspective. An employee logs in during the morning…then what? We know from academic studies that, at least among knowledge workers, their two top priorities are being more effective and getting recognized for that. If you start asking about what’s in an employee’s interests then you can come up with some interesting and sometimes unexpected conclusions.

Could you share any key factors for a successful intranet team?

I would say that the biggest success factor is: do you have strong user-centered design capabilities and a dedicated UCD team, because that’s often what’s missing in the digital workplace. We often see enterprises wanting to implement enterprise tools without really giving a lot of thought to the user experience and the extent to which actually implementing a major system makes the employee more effective in the end. So UCD is essential to success.

Interestingly, many smart organizations have applied UCD methodologies to their customer facing applications, but they don’t always have those skills and capabilities on their internal facing applications. In terms of key factors, then, do you have those skills and that kind of team to apply? If you don’t then you run a risk of being a part of the problem rather than the solution.

Have you experienced any mistakes regarding intranets that you have learned from?

I think one of the big mistakes is to assume that a major technology platform, of which SharePoint probably is the most common, is going to give you an intranet-in-a-box. SharePoint can obviously play a big role in a digital workplace but I think that there’s a tendency to think that just because you have SharePoint then that gives you an intranet-in-a-box. It most certainly does not, which is something I’m going to talk about at the conference.

So, could you give a brief summary of your presentation?

I’m going to be talking about SharePoint 2013 – what’s good, what’s bad. It almost sounds like a simplistic title but I think it’s very important to look at SharePoint from that perspective: what are the things that people do get value out of and which are the things that make costumers constantly knocking their heads against the wall. On the 22nd I’m also delivering a workshop in selecting the right digital workplace technology. This session goes well beyond SharePoint and more towards what the key pieces in a digital workplace are and how you go about prioritizing which you need, then getting the right ones into your enterprise.

Why have you chosen to participate at Intranätverk 2014?

I’ve been following Kristian’s work on Twitter and elsewhere for a long time and when he mentioned the conference, I thought it was a good time to reach out to this audience.

What are your expectations?

What I’m looking forward to is actually getting to know the participants and having good conversations with them about the key issues that they’re facing. There’s a kind of intimacy to these sorts of events that I think is very useful for everyone. Then, just listening to Martin White should be a good enough reason for anyone within a thousand kilometers to sign up for the conference.

At last, if we have a glance at the future regarding intranets – what do you think will happen?

I think that the term intranet is slowly going to go away. Not that the people or the skills are going to disappear, but I think that successful intranet teams will begin to reinvent themselves as fundamentally the employee advocates in the new digital workplace. And that’s going to be less about building the intranet as a place and more about making sure that the digital workplace is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. This could prove a difficult transition but an essential one.

Intranätverk 2014, bio for Tony Byrne.

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