I had a great time with my tribe yesterday in Auckland. Thanks everyone.

Seven bold intranet and digital workplace managers received guided intranet tours at the Auckland Intranet Lunch.

Jenny Parke from Plant and Food research did the first demo of their intranet iPlant. Since it was deployed in 2009 there have been no code deployments, due to operational constraints.

Plant and Food NZ intranet home page

A big issue has become the default font size across the intranet. This has occurred because the desktop hardware users have has improved, particularly the screen sizes. With many staff in the 50 yr old and above category the manual work around for this has been to teach users how to run their browsers at 120% magnification.

Several other Intranet Lunchers said they see similar solutions to the lack of developer budget with their SharePoint installations post go live.

Plant and Food’s intranet was named by staff, iPlant. Jenny mentioned that staff desire the ability to comment on all home page content, but only news items can be commented on at present.

Two or three people update iPlant’s home page. The home page is made up of several elements:

  • only one element is targeted to staff in one physical location
  • SpotlightOn, shows one staff contributed photo. This tends to be a mix of work and personal photos. Some staff upload it themselves, some submit it via email.
  • Buy sell swap section is very well used by many staff.
  • Tips section. Originally just for intranet tips it is now used for all aspects of the organisation.
  • Upcoming events. Is limited to those that are organisation wide. The ability to add these is limited to a few staff throughout the organisation.
  • News
    • There is no shortage of news for the Plant and Food intranet.
    • Any staff member can submit a news story via an online form
    • The editors try to publish one story in the morning and one in the evening. They find 4 a day is too much.
    • Staff can comment on news items.

Several other organisations present at the Intranet Lunch mentioned they have comments, like buttons and dislike buttons. The hoped for usage was generally the same, highlighting organisational sentiment to senior management. The culture of the organisation seemed to influence how much these goals were achieved.

    • Negative commenting has come up and senior staff have explained both online and offline the constructive feedback or alternative solutions is what is expected of staff.
    • The CEO has commented and does read comments.
    • The COO submits news items regularly and emails staff with a link to the intranet news item. He likes the intranet because it provides him with stats on number of read’s for his news items.
    • Guidelines exist for communication mediums e.g. intranet news, email, phone etc.
    • Home page governance is still an issue.

Jenny then showed us iPlant’s search results page. She pointed out the search refinement buttons. These are based on the type of information the person adding the content categorised it as when they loaded the content. Plant and Food have a few intranet content types (many more in collaboration spaces). When users are loading content for the first time they complain about extra meta data as it makes it hard for them. Jenny then shows them the search, and demonstrates how valuable choosing the correct content type is to them in the long run. Because there is something in it for them they see the meta data as less of a burden.

Plant and Food NZ intranet search results page

With others at the Intranet Lunch we discussed how difficult SharePoint 2013 search is to use when there aren’t consistent content types and meta data.

Next up Debbie Handisides from Genisis Energy demonstrated their intranet. She took us through the process they were forced into by the end of support for their previous CMS that lead to SharePoint 2013.

Debbie was given three platform solutions to choose from by the organisation. She convinced then that requirements gathering was the right way to decide between the three and came back with SharePoint 2013 as the one that best suited the requirements.

The instructions were clear “Just move the intranet”. Debbie explained that some education of senior staff was required to do content review and cull as well as slight redesign. User testing wasn’t possible. So in conjunction with a design resource Debbie came up with the mega menu items and home page layout that best fit the “minimal custom development” constraints.

Some organisations pointed out that they had the same constraints, particularly after doing development that meant they couldn’t upgrade easily. In one organisation’s case the built in SharePoint blog facility was used to provide news with comments, because developing a comments feature was too costly.

Debbie discovered that using an RSS feed from their Careers website so that internal staff could easily see externally advertised jobs, slowed down the home page. The solution was to replace the feed widget with a link to the careers site. One attendee suggested that anyone with this issue should take a look at the Amrein RSS feed ticker webpart (US$75/server) because they had used other products by this company that were very cost effective. [disclaimer: I don’t get any commission putting this link here, I have used their products and found them very good]


Genesis have a Promo area on the home page. This is used to resolve issues where political influence is used to insist news items stay on the top of the home page news feed for specific lengths of time.

The Let us welcome section I thought was a great idea. It displays the names, and soon a photo, of people that have been hired but not started yet. It is a view of a list, manually updated by the HR team of staff they know are joining the organisation.

Debbie then talked about governance of the Genesis intranet. All requests for sites and or lists for their 1000 staff intranet go via the intranet manager. This is to provide some oversight and prevent issues with upgrades into the future. Debbie recommended the services of Debbie Ireland of ShareThePoint , especially for governance setup and support.



All in all an interesting and varied Intranet Lunch.

Have a great festive season everyone.

Intranet Lunch Auckland December summary