Wedge Black

Ready to inspire: Wedge Black

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 and hear their thoughts about intranets today and in the future.

Profile of the day: Wedge Black

With a passion for strategy, governance and good navigation, Wedge knows how to help people get things done on the intranet. Having managed intranets for global and regional companies, he’s been involved with internal communications since 2004. Besides work, Wedge enjoys his garden, his library, and long dog walks. For the last eleven years he has also run a small mental health charity.

How did you become interested in intranets?

Because of web design. When the web was a little bit young I wanted to understand how it all worked and learned by doing my own websites. Then I got into document control for a large global company so I learnt a bit about knowledge management and user interfaces.

An opportunity came up within the Internal Communications team, and I applied to be the global intranet manager. My application was rejected, as my CV did not demonstrate my writing skills. So I immediately sent my external writing work, including a self-published non-fiction book. I got an interview, and the job.

What’s the most interesting thing about intranets?

Feedback; the multi-way dialogue. When you publish something at 7.30 in the morning and by 8.30 you’re getting comments, likes, or shares, that’s very exciting. The same goes for content other people have contributed.

All feedback is useful, even criticism. Everything the Comms team does is highly visible, so people will engage and, in the UK, some people will focus on the negative. This is still fantastic, as there’s so much to learn. We need experienced people to be involved and share their knowledge throughout the organization. I can’t claim to have developed a ‘thick skin’ though…

What is the prime challenge regarding intranets today?

There’s something about getting everyone on board. An intranet has to be relevant and useful to almost everyone. If we’re missing the customer care people or the engineers in the field, to me that’s devastating. The real challenge is getting everyone involved in a way that they find useful.

How are you going to get everyone on board then?

I think it’s about recognizing the diversity of the digital channels of the intranet and then matching them to the audiences. The intranet is not one single thing, and neither is the audience. It’s crucial to develop an intranet that supports the needs of diverse users.

Could you share any success factors when working with intranets?

If we talk about the framework, there’s something about having good governance. And when I say governance I don’t necessarily mean IT, technology or SharePoint governance. Instead I’m talking about people governance – having the right people involved to make decisions in a right manner.

Another success factor must be about employee engagement. You have to make sure that the intranet is relevant and useful to people who are not you. Research and empathy are needed.

In about a month Intranätverk 2014 will take place – why have you chosen to participate?

I find conferences to be very energising. The topics are fantastic reminders for the things you should be doing.

Could you give a brief summary of your presentation?

I’ll be talking about good digital communications on the intranet and beyond. I want to go back to the basics and talk about headlines, images, links and good content that is useful and relevant to the reader rather than just your boss or your stakeholders. Basically how to lay out your intranet pages for maximum impact. Content tactics to help you execute your content strategy.

Lastly, what do you think will happen with intranets in the future?

Predictions usually turn out wrong. I think organization development (OD) has more impact than technology, but certainly the consumerisation of technology means people expect more from their intranets.

I think it will all be about ways of working. People want to be able to get things done on their mobile phones or wherever they are. There’s s great deal being said about the digital workplace, and I would say that the intranet is the foundation, but it isn’t everything. It’s all about working the way individuals want to work. Personally, I wish smaller organizations could invest in more user experience testing and planning for their intranets.

You can follow Wedge on Twitter and see him on the 21st and 22nd of May at Intranatverk.

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