by February 1, 2008 0 comments



Recently, while interacting with the CIOs of a large healthcare and a
manufacturing company, we came across an interesting fact. The healthcare CIO
stressed that the most demanding users in his organization were doctors. It was
nearly impossible to convince them to use technology. They were comfortable
writing their patient’s prescriptions with pen and paper, and didn’t want to
waste time doing the same on a computer or a tablet. Likewise, the CIO of the
manufacturing company pointed out that plant managers were the toughest to
convince on anything about IT. They were extremely finicky about their
production processes and schedules, and didn’t want anything to disturb the
same. Looking at this trend, we decided to find out what other CIOs felt, and
therefore did a survey to find out who were the most demanding users in their
organization. Interestingly enough, their responses indicated a similar trend.
Business unit managers or mid-level managers were the most difficult to convince
according to them, and not without good reasons either. Take doctors in a
hospital for instance. They have to see so many patients in a day that they
don’t really have time to type everything into a computer. The same logic goes
for a plant manager, or any other business unit manager for that matter. They’re
so busy running their day to day businesses that it’s extremely difficult to
convince them about using anything in IT.

Strategies for managing the
most critical part of any IT infrastructure-the users

Our survey of course went far beyond that. Our actual objective was to find
out how CIOs manage the most critical part of their IT infrastructure-the users.
After all, no matter how great or expensive a technology you implement, it’s
useless if your users are not able to use it. And they will use it only when
they’re absolutely convinced. You might implement the best ERP solution in the
world, but if you’ve done it without involving your users, it will take a long
time to succeed, if it does at all. That’s because doing things without getting
a buy-in from users results in resistance to change, thereby causing
de-motivation, lower productivity, and more calls to the helpdesk.

Ultimately, users are the best judges for any technology, so it makes sense
for every CIO to ensure that they’re convinced, happy, and satisfied. Only then
will they contribute their best, be more productive and keep the organization on
a strong growth path. But how do you do that? What measures should you take to
keep your users happy? And how do you measure user satisfaction levels? Are
there technologies available for effective user management? User management is a
crucial part of any CIOs job, and this story will provide insights into the
subject by answering these pressing questions and more. We’ll look at
technologies for conducting user satisfaction/expectation audits, how to get a
buy-in from users, help desk management tips, and much more.

Remember, user management is a mix of technology and good HR skills. So the
CIO of any company has to be a good juggler of both.

Challenges in Gaining User acceptance
Success of any IT implementation in an enterprise is largely dependent on
user acceptance. When we asked CIOs how difficult it was to convince users to
accept a new technology, almost half of them said it’s ‘moderately difficult,’
while a few of them felt it was relatively easy. Typically, the most difficult
project is to get a buy-in for are those that cause a significant change in
business processes, such as an ERP deployment. That’s what a majority of the
CIOs said in our survey. But then again, you never know where surprises will
spring up from. For all you know, your users might resist giving up their
standard desktops for thin clients, or resist the roll out of a timesheet
system. At that point, you just need to know how to handle the situation.

But before you even reach the mass roll out stage, it’s better to do a pilot
and perform user acceptance testing. Many organizations perform user acceptance
testing when projects are nearing their end. While this is a sensible practice,
but if at this point a major change in application is required, most
organizations would tend to ignore it as by then developers would have already
packed their bags. And organizations are not willing to pay them again to
redesign the application! This has been the case with those organizations that
hire developers from outside just for customizing their applications. While this
always results in cost savings, a better option would be to outsource, if
development is not the core business of your enterprise. As one of the
respondents in our survey pointed out, ‘more budget’ always results in higher
user satisfaction.

During user acceptance tests, usually a particular set of users test the
application and have developers or software testers to help them with the
application. Since users are using application for the first time, they
definitely require assistance, but with too much assistance at this point
everything appears easy for users. However, later on when the project goes live,
users tend to feel differently. While rolling out an enterprise wide project,
the best practice is to enroll it module by module.

How to get a buy-in from users?
So ultimately, how do you get a buy-in from users? From the survey results,
we discovered that there are mainly three tactics that should be followed. One
is to apply pressure, whereby the IT department takes the help of top management
to put pressure on users to start using the new application. The second is to
give awards and recognition for using new technology. And finally, the third and
most popular is to the explain benefits of a new technology in depth and show
the results through a pilot run or another implementation.

Dealing with difficult or demanding users
Each organization has its own set of ‘difficult users’, and handling them is
an important skill for CIOs. As we said earlier, our survey indicated that
‘middle managers/business unit heads.’ were the most difficult to handle. They
were the most demanding. There are several reasons for this. Some felt it’s
because they prefer using conventional methods and refuse to consider IT as an
integral part of business. So, even if a new process is going to make their work
easy, middle managers resist change. Others feared the transparency that IT
could bring to their way of working. A few CIOs felt that middle managers expect
too much from IT and want everything to work, without much effort. And when
results are not achieved, they are quick to blame IT. The best solution for such
kinds of problems is the same solution that solves most user related problems,
i.e. through consistent interaction and more discussions with the middle
management.

Coping with users who feel they know more
Similar is the case with users who always claim to know more than the IT
department; whether they do or not is a different story, but this is a set of
users that can be vexing at times.

Ensuring smooth user
experience with IT
There are many
things that would make a user happy-applications that are easy to learn, use
and access so that they cause minimum disruption to work; working machines
so that your users are always productive; fast Internet and network access
for obvious reasons; negligible security threats like spam and viruses; and
of course, excellent and quick support.

If you can read between lines,
you’ll realize that all these things come under IT management. So user
satisfaction is directly linked to a well managed IT setup. And there are
several things you can do to ensure that your IT setup is well-managed.
Let’s look at a few of them.

Automate: As your IT
infrastructure becomes more complex, it becomes more difficult to manage.
This is more so, because you have more management tasks to do in lesser
time. Since the time to manage doesn’t increase with the number of tasks,
you have to find ways and means of automating as many tasks as possible. It
is a little difficult at first, but once done, it really makes life easier.
One way to automate is by using scripts.

Every operating system, be it
Windows at the desktop or server, Linux or Unix can perform many functions
automatically with the help of scripts. In Windows for instance, you can
easily create VB scripts for automating a number of tasks, right from
retrieving system information to scripts for monitoring operations of an
Active Directory.

In fact, Microsoft has a huge
script repository of sample scripts. You’ll find it at
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/scripts/default.mspx?mfr=true.
Here, you’ll find tons of sample scripts that you can immediately pick up
and start using.

Keep those replacements
ready:
The worst thing to happen to any user is a prolonged machine
downtime. The IT department takes away the machine for what seems like
eternity. You must keep some hot spares handy for such situa -tions, and by
that, we don’t just mean the hardware. After all, what good is hardware if
it doesn’t have applications requi- red by the user? Apart from spare
machines, you must also keep a few spare software licen- ses of the
applications that are most commonly used in your organization, so that a
user’s work doesn’t get disrupted.

Reduce calls to helpdesk:
There are many ways of doing this. One is to empower the users with enough
information to fix small problems themselves. For this, it’s important to
compile a knowledge base of the most common problems faced by your users and
their solutions. Keep these handy on your intranet for users to access.

The second point to remember
is that prevention is better than cure. Keep a set of guidelines always
handy, which users should follow while using the IT infrastructure. Stuff
like how to distinguish a spam mail from a genuine one, the currently going
security threats and their symptoms, Internet access policy, etc. are all
things that can prevent security threats from entering your network. Provide
a list of dos and don’ts for your users. You must find a way to ensure that
users read all this information; otherwise it will be of no use. So maybe
you could put it as a ‘tip of the day’ on your intranet’s home page. Or you
could put up some lively notices on the notice board. The key is to catch
the users’ attention.

Reduce management
overheads:
There are numerous ways of doing this. One is to reduce the
number of physical trips your support staff has to make to users’ machines.
For this, consider remote desktop access and management solutions. A user
doesn’t have to wait forever for somebody to come and fix a problem.
Instead, everything gets taken care of remotely.

Use the right set of
tools:
Compile and keep the right set of tools and utilities handy for a
variety of management tasks. Since there’s a plethora of tools available for
just about every task, it’s a matter of personal preference of what you want
to keep. Ideally, keep a good mix of tools handy, which can be used for
emergencies. Get notebooks for your support staff and install these tools on
them. Carry the notebooks around whenever you need to do any
troubleshooting.

Live CDs can be of great help
in such cases. You just have to boot from them, and you have an Operating
System with the right set of tools up and running in no time. For instance,
there are network security and auditing CDs which contain tools for
vulnerability assessment, forensics, etc. There are CDs for disaster
recovery, which have data recovery tools. There are firewalls, clustering,
and a whole range of other distros that can be used.

Sometimes new employees also fall in this category as they always compare the
present enterprise to their old organizations and take a while to get used to
new rules, policies and environment. When we asked CIOs how they tackle such
users, we got some spirited replies. Apparently CIOs take feedback from such
users and see how they can improve themselves. At the time of deploying a new
project, such users are the first choice of CIOs as team leaders within their
departments. However, if such users prove to be pointless, then CIOs don’t shy
away from telling them-leave it to the experts.




How to increase user satisfaction
It’s an old saying that users are the best judge of IT, which is quite true
as they are the ones who use it every day, and at times they even know tricks
that are unknown to people who provide IT support, even vendors at times.
Theoretically, user satisfaction should be the top concern for each CIO, but in
reality it all comes down to how much businesses are benefiting from IT, which
obviously can’t be without users. So we decided to find out how much CIOs care
about their users, what steps they take to ensure user happiness, whether user
problems are heard and how much they consider users’ views and ideas.

When we asked CIOs about how satisfied their users were with the IT
infrastructure of their enterprise, a major chunk of them replied, ‘mostly
satisfied;’ while a few claimed that their users were ‘happy.’ So the question
arises, ‘How to increase user satisfaction level?’ The first step in achieving
this is to collect as much user feedback as you can. One of the most common ways
to do this is by conducting in-house user satisfaction surveys. Ideally, this
should be done every quarter, since IT processes and even ways to conduct
businesses change very fast these days.

Many enterprises face the contentious issue of getting users to respond to
surveys. As end users frequently ignore such kind of surveys or sometimes give
the reason that they’re ‘too busy’ to answer such kind of surveys. Often
throwing a bait helps in these situations. Further, when users have something
bad to say, they tend to keep it to themselves as they don’t want to look evil.
This problem can be easily encountered by conducting anonymous surveys once a
while and assuring users that their response would be kept anonymous. We once
came across an instance where a survey had an anonymous disclaimer on its first
page and later on people responsible for the survey called up employees who
didn’t respond to fill it up. Soon users became suspicious about the anonymity
of the survey and questioned how they figured out those who didn’toblige. The
point is, ‘be extremely careful’ while conducting anonymous survey.

Once survey results have come in, they must be studied carefully. Some CIOs
personally deal with users’ complaints, which is an effective habit. This makes
user feel better and at the same time it gives CIOs a better understanding of
the problems faced by users.

Other way for increasing user satisfaction is by training users to use IT
effectively, and how to train them this we will discuss later in the story. So
the crux is, to enhance user satisfaction, you have to increase interaction with
all users. Some companies share yearly IT performance report to keep users
updated and also to collect their views on it.

In our survey we asked CIOs about the issues in which they get involved
directly. Most of them said that they consider all user-related issues
seriously, but in case of escalations they take matter directly in their hands.
While another set of CIOs said that to ensure that user problems are understood
correctly, they keep themselves fully involved during requirement analysis. Long
pending issues and policy breaches are also in the priority list of CIOs.

Online
surveys with LimeSurvey

LimeSurvey lets you create and roll out anonymous and non-anomyous
surveys instantly

LimeSurvey is an open source
application for performing Web-based surveys. You can run anonymous as well
as user-based unlimited surveys with any number of questions.

You can also send survey
invitations through email. In this application you have open and closed
group of participants, which could be easily managed through Web
administration console.

Statistics from the user
responses can be generated; it makes responses easier to understand. It also
lets you export surveys and results to the MS Excel, CSV or text format.

With the new version of Lime
Survey you can also see saved responses that are not yet submitted by the
users. LimeSurvey uses token feature to invite users to participate in
survey and ensures that every user participates only once.

It supports 25 types of
questions such as list, multiple options, free text, and array etc.

As per the answers given by
the users, you can also define conditions for the next questions.

Configuring LimeSurvey
For installing LimeSurvey you need at least 10 MB of free disk space on
your Web server, support for PHP 4.2.0 or later, and MySQL 4.1.0 or above
versions. It also requires mysql4 or mysql5 PHP, and mbstring library
installed. You can download it from http://sourceforge.net/projects/limesurvey/.
Download the package, unzip it, locate config.php file in /limesurvey
directory, and then open it in text editor. Now, locate the arguments ‘$databasename’,
‘$databaseuser’ and ‘$databasepass’, and then provide the name of the
database, which will be used by LimeSurvey. You also have to provide
database server username and password. Similarly, locate ‘$rooturl’ and ‘$rootdir’,
and provide the URL location and directory location of LimeSurvey scripts.
You might need to customize other arguments according to server
configuration. Upload all the files to the Web server and make sure to keep
the directory structure the same as was in the downloaded package.

For this, simply go to
http://your.domain.com/limesurvey/admin/install/index.php . If everything is
correctly configured, then the page will ask you to create a table inside
the database.

Creating Surveys
For this, go to the main administration console and click on the “Create
or Import New Survey” button present on the top left. This will open the
‘Create Survey’ page. Here, provide the title for the survey, survey’s
description, and the welcome message. Then, you have to provide the
administrator’s name and email address. Further, define the format in which
you want the users to see the survey. You have three options: Question by
Question, Group by Group, and All in one. The first option displays all
questions one by one to users. The second option displays questions in
groups.

While you create survey
questions, remember to divide questions into groups or certain topics for
using this option. The All in one option will display all the questions on
one page. This option must be avoided if you are creating a long survey
having more than 30 questions, users might probably get scared in the very
beginning and avoid giving his response. You can also customize the text of
Invitation and reminder mails, and you can even set up the custom URL for
the survey else LimeSurvey will generate it automatically. Finally, define
the expiry date for the survey and click on Create Survey.

The next step is to add
questions to the created survey, but before adding questions you need to add
groups. To do this, just click on ‘Add New Group to Survey’ button. On the
next page that appears, provide the title and description for the group, and
click on ‘Add group’ button. Once the group has been created, you can see it
on the main survey administration screen. You will see a new ‘Add New
Question to Group’ button on extreme right of the menu bar. Click on this
button to add questions. In the new window provide the Code, which is meant
for quickly identifying the question (it can be either a number or code). In
the question field enter the text of the question. Then choose the question
type, define whether the question is mandatory or not, and then add the
question by clicking on the ‘Add question’ button. Depending on the type of
question that you have selected, you need to add answers. Proceeding in the
same fashion you can add all the questions and groups for the survey. To
activate your survey, click on the ‘Activate this Survey’ option present on
the survey menu bar. You can’t add or delete groups and questions, once your
survey has been activated.

Next step is to enable
tokens, which are unique for every user. For this, go to the main
administration window and click on the ‘Activate/Edit Tokens for this
Survey’ option. Select the ‘Initialize Tokens’ on the next page and upload
the contact details of users whose participation you want in your survey. To
import users from a CSV file, click on the ‘Import Tokens from CSV File’
option and upload names and email addresses of the users. Now, generate
tokens for these users. For this, click on the ‘generate tokens’ button on
the tokens page. LimeSurvey will automatically generate unique tokens for
all the users in the database. You can send survey invitations to all these
users using the ‘Send invitation’ feature on the tokens page itself. Once
users start responding to your survey, you can view their responses by
selecting the ‘ Browse responses from this Survey’ option. For generating
statistics from these responses, click on the option ‘Get statistics from
these responses’ option, select the fields for which you want to see the
stats, and click on the ‘View Stats’ option. LimeSurvey will create stats in
an easy to understand, presentable manner.




User Training
Training users play a significant role in user satisfaction: be it training
users for a new application deployment or training new users. In our survey,
CIOs claimed that they have been able to solve many problems such as getting
buy-in from users etc. through training. For this, they encounter two problems
mainly: getting users to show up for training and training remote users.
Solution for getting users to show up is same as mentioned previously; just
explain the benefits of IT to users. One can also use the pressure tactics,
however this tactic can’t ensure that interest of the user is there. So, one
must avoid using this tactic. Many enterprises have days dedicated to training
such as ‘ IT day’ or ‘Security Day’. On such days whole organization is provided
training and various events are organized to enhance knowledge of users about
IT.

For training remote users, most of the enterprises send a trainer to remote
locations, but this doesn’t solve the problem always, especially for enterprises
having highly distributed workforce. Such organizations are increasingly
adopting online technologies for user training.

Online technologies for user training
The most popular way of training remote users these days is through Web
conferencing. Initially Web conferencing became popular for online meetings and
collaboration. But now enterprises with distributed workforce are increasingly
adopting it for training remote users. With Web conferencing features such as
desktop sharing, video and audio streaming, instant polling, and feedback,
trainers can ensure that users are paying attention and hence, provide in-person
instructor-led training experience.

Another commonly used way of training users is through simulation, though
success rate of this technique is quite low. This is a non-instructor based
training, where users are usually trained through presentations, and flash
movies. The hands on process of using a new application for daily usage are
explained in a simulated manner. While this kind of training is good enough to
give an overview to users, users don’t tend to take it seriously.

Remote technical
support with Citrix GoToAssist Express
With Citrix
GoToAssist Express, you can create live Web-based remote desktop sessions.
Currently, in its beta version, GotoAssist can be used for providing
technical support and training remote users. It has a unique feature called
‘Unattended Support’ through which you can connect to end user’s machine
without users being present there. It comes with two modules Citrix
GoToAssist Express Expert and Citrix GoToAssist Express Customer. The Expert
module is the main console through which you can perform all administration
tasks. When this module is launched, it creates a support key, which is
required by the users to begin the session. Either users have to go to
www.fastsupport.com and enter the support key to start the session. Else
administrators can send the complete URL created by the Expert module to its
users. Before starting the session, the website will automatically install
the Customer module into the end users’ machine. The solution allows eight
customers to be connected to a single Express console simultaneously.

In GoToAssist Express
you can communicate with users through instant messaging

Once the session is in place,
you have the shared control of remote users’ keyboard and mouse. You can
also communicate with the customer through instant messaging and send as
well as receive files. It comes with a ‘Remote Diagnostics’ tool as well
through which you can collect basic information about remote users’ machine.
According to Citrix the solution uses 128-bit Advanced Encrypt- ion Standard
and SSL to provide secure communication. The solution can be found at
https://express.gotoassist.com.

Role of Helpdesk
Helpdesk plays an important role in overall user satisfaction of an
enterprise. An important factor is how easily a user gets hold of the helpdesk
staff; it largely depends on the helpdesk staff to users’ ratio. While the ratio
might vary according to the business, the ideal ratio for this usually is 1 to
50. Incidentally this is what most companies follow as found in our survey.

User training with
Adobe Connect Professional
Acrobat Connect
Professional is a new training and Web conferencing solution from Adobe. It
lets you instantly create and track online meetings, and on-demand
presentations etc. Using the ‘Rapid training’ feature of Connect
Professional you can instantly create content and train anyone, anywhere,
through virtual classrooms. This solution lets you record online meetings,
which could be later on used for compliance purposes, giving demonstrations
and for reoccurring meetings.

Other features include
multipoint video conferencing, multiple presenters, moderated Q&A
session, and instant polling between the participants.

Since it is a Web-hosted
solution, you can access it from anywhere; the only requirement is a Web
browser with Adobe Flash player installed. It is quite easy to configure and
use, and has a neat flash-based interface. For using this solution you have
to pay USD39.95 per month for unlimited meetings with 15 participants at the
same time.


Adobe Connect lets you
schedule start and end time of trainings and remind users about training
schedules

How to use?
Creating training module for the users in Adobe Connect Professional is
simple. Once you have logged onto the console, first you need to create
users whom you want to train. For this, go to the main console, click on
‘Administration’ option and then select the ‘User and Groups’ option. Here,
click on ‘New User’ and provide all the necessary information. In the next
step, define the ‘Group Membership’ for this user. By default it has five
groups: Administrators, Authors, Training Managers, Learners and Meeting
Hosts. Select the group and click on finish. Now, upload the training
content; this content could be in the following file formats: ppt, pdf, flv,
mp3, html, SWF, JPEG, PNG or GIF etc. For uploading your files, go to the
‘Content’ option and in the new window click on the ‘New Content’ tab.
Browse the files you want to upload. Then provide the title, summary and
custom URL and click on Save.

To create your training
course, go to the training option present on the main menu bar and click on
‘New course’. This will launch course wizard.

It will first ask you to
provide name for the course, a unique id, summary, and define custom URL.
Then define the start and end date for the course, and choose the course
content. Next, the wizard will ask you to enroll users who are going to take
this course and lastly you’ve to define when the users should be notified
about training.

When the user receives the
email, it contains the link to the training. User need to follow that link
for logging in. Once logged in, the user can see available trainings for
which he has been enrolled under ‘My Trainings’ section. Similar to the
procedure above you can also configure Course curriculum and organize Web
conferencing based trainings.

When we asked CIOs how satisfied they are with their helpdesk, half of them
said just satisfied. Some queries take longer than others, but that is perfectly
fine with them. So it’s important that you frequently assess the strength of
your helpdesk team against the users in your organization.

Similarly, it’s also important that you train your helpdesk staff from time
to time. Soft skills training should be a must for the whole helpdesk team.
Helpdesk personnel with topnotch customer service skills find it hard to become
technical experts and vice versa at times. So, do ensure that your helpdesk team
has got the right mix of skills.

Another way of improving helpdesk support is to frequently analyze current
practices and performing self-evaluation of helpdesk team every quarter.
Identify mistakes of the past, perform a root cause analysis of major incidents
encountered, and learn from the mistakes made in the past. Keep your online
knowledge base and policies updated at all times. This is beneficial not only
for helpdesk personnels, but end users also. Remember first priority of helpdesk
should be users and all users should be treated equally.

Managing Policies and their breaches
Each of us has experienced that whenever a new IT policy is introduced,
users are hardly happy with it. But well-defined IT policies or processes always
help in avoiding conflicts with users as it’s already documented that what users
can do and what they cannot. It is very important for enterprises to keep the IT
access policies in places such as disk quotas, Internet access etc.

Me @ HP
HP’s strategy of
leveraging technology to connect with and engage employees is called Me@HP-a
one stop shop for all HP employees to do everything from booking conference
room to managing the exit process from the company-through an online portal.
The idea is to reduce paperwork and save time in running around, getting
signatures-essentially ensuring that you don’t have to budge from your seat.

Each member of Me@HP gets to
create a personal homepage, with a brief biography, and allows tagging
friends across the HP global employee spectrum. One can find out about the
likes & dislikes, areas of interest, etc, which helps make both formal and
informal meetings more productive. Similarly, blogs are also used to connect
with employees. Some of HP’s business leaders’ blogs are extremely popular.
They share their thoughts on business and non-business topics close to their
hearts-inclusive of extensive photo galleries. The discussion boards also
ensure that email exchange is reduced and whatever exchange does happen,
it’s more productive and focused. The aim ultimately is to reduce formal and
encourage informal channels of communication.

 

Wipro’s Channel [W]
Wipro’s intranet
portal called Channel [W] has a separate team of about five people to manage
the portal from Bangalore, which organizes infotainment events like film
festivals and dance workshops, besides maintaining the portal that has
numerous discussion boards which are heavily populated.

Positioned as a connection point
for Wiproites on the Web, Channel [W] has sections dedicated to literature
(called Odyssey, where news, news and responses on literary happenings are
discussed). But the real use of an intranet of this nature, which connects
about 50,000 Wiproites can be seen in sections where members are allowed to
buy and sell stuff when they have to go onsite, and find room mates if they
happened to stay alone.

There is even a matrimonial
section within the discussion boards where employees can surf through
profiles.

The idea is to create a
virtual world where employees creatively use their restricted online space,
and exchange information beyond their work, spilling over to hobbies and
then some more.

These policies not only help in smooth running of IT infrastructure, they
also make user management an easier and transparent job. Similarly, compliance
plays an important role ensuring smooth running of business and healthy
environment for users to work in. (To know more about compliance refer to Jan2k8
issue of PCQuest.)

In our survey when we asked CIOs what action they take if somebody has
breached a critical IT policy, most of the CIOs believe one-on-one meet with the
wrongdoer is enough to deal with the situation. If the same user breaches the
policy again, the matter is escalated to respective department head, and in case
of critical breach like a severe data theft, users are even fired. So you should
have a clear and well documented policy of what actions to take when a critical
policy is breached and users must be made aware of critical policies as soon as
they join the company.




Adding socializing features in Intranets
Social networking within an intranet is being taken seriously by companies,
who wish to bind their employees together and keep them happy. More importantly,
they ensure that there is reduction in the number of email exchange, and a
plausible reduction in paper transactions. Intranet portals of this nature also
give the employee his/her share of private space that includes blogs, discussion
boards on topics ranging from football to George Bush to cuisines, besides other
forms of personal expression.

Some companies that have the vision of the ‘paperless office’ go an extra
mile and upload online forms, registers, booking sheets and other
permission-related material on the intranet portals.
In most cases, the HR department has an interesting role to play in the
maintenance of these portals. Moderators of intranet portals often keep a close
eye on the blogs and forums, to try and understand ‘user behavior’ – in other
words, trying to get hints about a possibly disinterested or unhappy employee.
Some companies even go to the length of advocating informal counseling session
for ‘check-listed’employees.

The bottom line is to ensure high user satisfaction in an enterprise, whole
of the IT department has to work proactively. Other than regular IT deployments
and process, constant interaction with the users and considering their feedbacks
is the mantra to keep users happy.

Cisco’s Employee
Connection
Cisco’s intranet
‘starting point’ follows the aim of providing cost-effective processes and
tools for creating successful, user-centric sites, besides creating a
template to integrate users and processes. Some of the ideals that have gone
behind the creation of CEC are:
– Providing fast, intuitive, personalized and secure access to internal
information worldwide.
– Promoting effective enterprise communications and messaging.
– Enabling efficient, integrated business processes.
– Fostering seamless, cross-functional collaboration.

Cisco’s intranet architecture
enables key business processes, which include Communication, Management,
Collaboration, Delivery of employee services and Innovation. These have been
made possible due to a number of reasons. One is that it’s easier and more
intuitive to find content and applications. Functionality looks and works
consistently, making sites easier to use. All information about a specific
topic is located in one place, avoiding redundant, overlapping, or
out-of-sync information. Self-help answers are easier to find, speeding
business processes and reducing internal support needs. Related tools and
data are easier to find, strengthening business processes and program reach.
News and other messages can be communicated more coherently, and to the
right audiences. It enables enterprise, cross-functional capabilities that
have more impact by leveraging a common framework. Sites can be developed
faster, and with higher degree of user success.

Cisco also admits that after
the CEC has come into effect, there has been a plausible relief for the
email server, which processes only very vital, classified information.
According to Cisco, CEC encourages and enables employees to make use of a
host of web based tools and applications to access employee services,
content, and to share information, views and opinions.

With employee services being
provided over the intranet, employee needs are handled through the online
portal, thereby eliminating the need for e-mails, in these specific
situations.

Anil Chopra, Swapnil Arora and Vishnu Anand

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