Is your intranet like chernobyl?

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we are joined by Gerry Mcgovern to discuss how we should be building great experiences for our employees too.

Skip to the discussion or this week’s links.

This episode of the Boagworld show is sponsored by Media Temple and Harvest. Please support the show by checking them out.

Paul: Hello and welcome to the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul and joining me as always is Marcus. Hello Marcus.

Marcus: Hi Paul.

Paul: And we are being joined by Gerry McGovern, hello and good to have you back.

Gerry: Thanks for the invite Paul, always glad to be back.

Paul: Ah, it’s good to have you on the show. Now I need to apologise straight off the bat because I have a little electric heater going under my desk that may make noise through this podcast. But you would have to come in and prise it away from my hands before I am turning it off because we have no heating in our house and we have no hot water either.

Marcus: So you smell as well?

Paul: No, because you know the answer to this Marcus. Gerry you would be embarrassed of me. Do you know what I did? So our heating originally went and the plumber came around to have a look at what the problem was and when he went away he’d broken the hot water too, which was great. So my solution to this problem is possibly the most middle-class behaviour I have ever done.

Marcus: I would call it extravagant Paul.

Paul: We went to a hotel. We just gave up on our house and moved out into a hotel. So I’ve literally just got back. Bit of an extreme response but it worked.

Gerry: Now and then.

Paul: So how are you Gerry, how is life with you?

Gerry: Very good Paul, still doing the same stuff of trying to understand customers and make it easier for them to do what they’ve come to do. There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of those needs out there in the marketplace.

Paul: I keep waiting for the time where everyone’s got it sorted and we are out of a job. I don’t think is going to happen any time soon, is it really?

Gerry: No, not for a while. I sometimes say when I travel that I’ve been in a lot of countries, maybe 35 or 40 countries at this stage nobody’s ever said to me help us become more organisation centric, we are too focused on our customers. It’s never going to happen. The natural state of things is to get focused on the organisation and the ego of the organisation. It’s a hard thing being customer centric.

Paul: It is, actually. Because you’re right. Our default position is to look internal, isn’t it? To look at ourselves. So being customer centric is a tough one.

Marcus: It means different departments have to talk to each other that’s the problem. One of the reasons why it’s difficult is that they don’t like doing that.

Gerry: Exactly.

Paul: We don’t want to talk to other people. They’re strange, they’re trying to take over the company and push their agenda while you’re just trying to be reasonable and get on with life. Talking about travelling Gerry, you seem to be all over the place at the moment.

Gerry: A bit Paul, I’m actually just back from Vienna and it was interesting to see where they are. A lot of Austrians aim in life is to get paid well and stay under the radar, not be known for anything spectacular or anything like that. And perhaps the professionals there, the user experience, the customer experience, the content professional were a bit frustrated with the lack of ambition or the things that they felt were changing to slowly in their environment. Then the previous week I was in Norway, which I think is a much more with it or progressive, not that Austria is behind-the-scenes by a modern concept but they feel that they are lagging a bit. In a sense in places like Norway and Scandinavia in general, they really are pushing the boundaries not so much of the technology, but of the social engineering that goes along with that. The more collaborative type of workplaces and cultures that I think is most optimal to really benefit from the whole digital revolution.

Paul: I mean culture is a big part of it isn’t it really? If you’re in a culture which is naturally hesitant and which is naturally well considered, then you are going to have bigger challenges than you are in a faster moving more dynamic environment. Whether that be a culture on a national level or in an individual organisation, it makes an enormous difference. I think.

Gerry: Oh it’s the essence to me of whether you’ll have success or failure. Seeing today were talking more about the intranet or the enterprise side of the digital workplace, one thing I hear coming back constantly is that we need to be more collaborative. This is particularly a message coming back from senior managers. We need to be more collaborative. There is this hope that if they do this digital transformation, if they install all of this software and technology that allows them to share and chat and collaborate, that they will automatically become that collaborative thing. There is no doubt that technology can help for sure, but if you have a culture which doesn’t want to collaborate, Marcus is saying there that departments each other as rivals for budget, etc. If you have structures in place which punish collaborations, like one department charges the other department for any time or effort or conversation or meeting they have, if you have none of that structure and culture that really wants to collaborate all the technology in the world isn’t going to make a difference.

Paul: How did you get into this area of looking at internal systems and the impact of digital internally? Most people that you encounter are focused on the external I do know you do a lot of work in that area as well. But I’m interested and is a completely selfish question as I would love to do more that work. I find the internal benefits that digital can provide an incredibly exciting area, but I’m not coming across many people that are willing to take it seriously really.

Gerry: I think my involvement has been more out of luck and chance then a deliberate plan, so to speak. You’re just there at the right moment at the right time. It wasn’t a deliberate ambition. I remember the first intranet I ever got asked to do some work on was back at around 97 or 98 for Ericsson, the Ericsson intranet at that stage. It was gas to see those early intranets as they were totally wild places, they had little postmen running across the screen, throwing their hands out use saying contact me. Everybody had gone mad. All the programmers had gone mad, creating crazy features, it was like a place you visit on LSD or something like that. Not that I’ve ever taken LSD.

And the funny thing is Paul, they haven’t got much better. A typical intranet is like Chernobyl. There was lots of stuff there and there is life but it’s toxic with loads of crap spewing all over the place and stuff that hasn’t been looked at in 40 years. So few organisations take the intranet seriously and it’s still amazes me. When we look at the whole revolution that is the digital revolution, it has really been a consumer revolution when you think of all the tools. Whether it’s Facebook or WhatsApp or the iPhone, they weren’t designed for the organisation. If you went back 30 years and you met somebody from a large organisation it would be great, oh you’ve got that and you can do videoconferencing, they had the first mobile phone that had all the cool stuff. Now you meet somebody from a large organisation and you sympathise with them, you want to give them a blanket or something. They’ve got crap. The organisations have just not invested in their own staff and as a result of that you see that they’re becoming less efficient, they’re sitting on lots of cash and they won’t make themselves more efficient. It’s a real head scratcher as to why.

Paul: You’re absolutely right and I am going to rename this episode ‘Is your intranet Chernobyl’. That now needs to be the title of this episode. But one of the things that strikes me is if you think about running a successful business it basically falls into two categories. Increase revenue and reduce costs. Traditionally the way that we’ve used digital has all been about increasing revenue by bringing in new customers, increasing brand loyalty, average order value and all that kind of stuff. We pretty much ignored the reducing costs side beyond may be some fulfilment type of stuff. Any kind of productivity benefit that it might have just seemed to be largely ignored by organisations.

Gerry: Yes and I think Paul, what organisations bought hook line and sinker was the sale of the technology industry. All you really have to do was buy in and install the technology and then hey presto the magical savings will just flow.

Paul: Yes, install SharePoint and you are sorted.

Marcus: Yes. We’ve recently redesigned a large company’s intranet. When I say redesigned, we were asked to basically tart it up. This company will remain nameless on this podcast and the work we’ve done looks great but I remember getting the original brief and basically I said yes we can do this, but I think we need to do an exercise in what’s are your users actually using on this extremely busy Chernobyl -like intranet? And the response was really along the lines of, we can’t really change that because the technology. So we just made it look nicer but it wasn’t really what was required.

Paul: And it’s always been the problem with intranets. I remember again, going back to the late 90s which is where I did a little bit of intranet work, it was all portals.

Gerry: Oh yes, the portal. I had a definition for portals. A portal is an intranet that costs you four times more.

Paul: That’s so true. Like you say, it hasn’t really moved on that much. We used to have some painful intranet projects Marcus, do you remember?

Marcus: Yes.

Paul: Vaguely. You tried to block it out haven’t you?

Marcus: Yes. We’ve only done a few. As you said Paul, I really like working on internal stuff and the odd opportunity comes through and I get all excited on it but we tend not to win that many.

Paul: Anyway before we get into this properly, because I want to talk about intranets sure but I want to look at the bigger picture as well. So were just going to do a little sponsor slot before we get into the discussion proper. I want to mention Media Temple again, who have been a huge support for this season of the podcast, and we are hugely grateful to them. Probably I would have thought, they are the most popular hosting platform out there further designers, developers and creative people. I would struggle to think of another one that would get anywhere close to them really. And there was damn good reasons for that. They offer such a great hosting environment, especially their Grid account. You can have this single grid account and host your own site and then up to a hundred different client sites as well, and that’s usually beneficial because basically the grid is a hundred different servers working together to make sure your site stays online no matter what kind of load hits it. They do loads of other hosting options too, all kinds of different stuff and we talked about in previous episodes and they’ve got integrated support for things like Google apps and that kind of stuff. They’ve even got virtual private servers if you need that etc. to find out more about them, you can go to and that would tell you all you would need to know. If you are unhappy with your current hosting provider, for example if their support sucks then I would highly recommend checking out Media Temple. I use in myself and not because they give it to me free, I part with real money for this, but you actually can do better than me because if you use the promo code BOAG you can get 25% off of your web hosting, which is deeply unfair, but there you go. That’s life.

Sorry Gerry I just want to do that before we got to into this conversation.

Discussion on creating great user experiences for employees

Paul: Let’s talk about this whole area of designing user experiences for your employees, the employees within organisations. We’ve already touched a little bit on intranets, are you involved with other things beyond intranets? There’s so many of these systems.

Gerry: This is where this started and where it will stop. How do people understand? So I think we using the word very broadly, others are talking about the digital workplace and others are talking about the digital workspace and ultimately employees, whether they are on the intranet or whether they are on the web, they’re not even thinking web or intranet, they are just doing their own thing on Facebook or chatting with their friends, or finding people. They’re getting their sales PowerPoint ready for an important meeting tomorrow and then not really differentiating the first two steps is on the intranet and the second two steps on the digital media management system. That’s not the way employees take but unfortunately had somebody pull me aside a couple of years ago at a meeting and say to me, you know those things you are talking about that digital media management system, that’s a tool. I just wanted you to understand that and we look after that, we are from IT, we look after the tools. The other stuff is content, and pages, that’s not us. And he was very happy once I understood that that was a tool as he likes tools and it’s that sort of anal type of stuff that happens often. It’s so destructive of a good experience of somebody just doing what they need to do. I think that ultimately works going so whatever word we use, whatever we want call it, it is about people finding people or checking up their pay details or selecting the best training for their career or checking up on how much overtime they’ve done this month, or finding an engine diagram that’s the right one that’s in the right format that they can import.

Ultimately we have to go beyond what the thing that we, so to speak, are in charge of and trying to help people complete the thing that they’ve started to try and do within our section. I remember seeing a great T-shirt in Belfast once and the front was the Titanic and on the back was ‘It was all right when it left here’. And that’s sometimes the view of intranet spaces, once they can send you into the system even though it’s a horrible system they’ve done their job. And we have to move beyond that and it’s a challenge but bringing the enterprise together, we’ve got to solve that problem because otherwise we don’t solve efficiency and we don’t solve productivity.

Paul: I mean one of the big questions is why do we need to care about these kinds of employee experiences? I guess the attitude that management have about it is that an employee has to use the system we give them, they are not going to a competitor like a client would. So as a result they don’t really invest in it in the same way. But I think this is where you get into the productivity issues isn’t it?

Gerry: Yes, and that’s a real Stalinist view of the world which is quite current among senior management in most places. It’s down to the most basic principles of, if you have a guy shovelling coal you don’t want to give him a teaspoon to shovel the coal with. The right tools will make people more productive and is not simply about saving costs because it’s the same people that come up with ideas and help sell stuff. So employee productivity is not simply a cost although that’s an important element. The word is productivity and you are productive about new products or whatever so is the basic essence of the efficiency of the organisation and the ability of the organisation to organise.

I remember years ago we did the BBC intranet and every time we do a large intranet, to find people is one of the key tasks that comes up in the data. The guy or the team that was running the BBC intranet at the time was telling me 10 years before that, find people was relatively easy because you just have a staff directory. I think this was around 2005 and he was talking about 1995, but in 2000 and half of the people that we need don’t even work for the BBC. They were ahead of the curve in the sense that most were independent contractors. Many of the people that you actually need today are not employees, so finding and bringing that together, that find people or find an expert is a crucial foundational challenge of the modern distributed network based organisation. And so few invest in it, they’ll go out and do their LinkedIn to get a new job but they won’t do an internal LinkedIn for the job that they have. People will invest more time in their external profile, in their LinkedIn profile which is really their profile to get their next job then they invest in the profile for their current job and there is a reason for that. You are not incentivised to be found. Most organisations say they want collaboration and they want that cross disciplinary collaboration because the challenges of a lot of organisations today cannot be solved with products that just emanate from silos, from certain divisions. If we dealing with a very large organisation the type of things that they are facing they do a lot of macroeconomics and analytics, the type of products they need to address and bring solutions to their customers are quite complicated. They’re not just about agriculture, they also take in the environment and so the problems seem to become much more complex, demanding many different actors and skill sets to solve them. Then they can’t bring those disparate groups of people together easily because they’re structured like silos and they actually punish people collaborate across silos. You get slapped on the wrist by a manager, saying no we don’t talk to those guys in Poland!

Paul: That’s so true isn’t it, to say that these tools are just about productivity is quite a narrow view there, I think they are also about communication as you said and innovation and I think to some degree customer service which is a thing that seems to be forgotten that if you’ve got good internal tools then you can offer better customer service. There was a great article Lisa Reichelt posted ages ago where she was talking about her experience of checking in at an airport for flight. The person she was talking to was fighting with the system that was in front of her to do what it was that Lisa needed to do because it was some horrible almost pre-GUI interface and the woman had a massive big book, not a manual from the company but a set of notes that she’s made to make it easier for her to use the system.

Gerry: These systems are like torture chambers. But they were bought by the people that never use them and it’s a tragedy. It’s extraordinary and it is a massive, massive failure of senior management who abdicated responsibility to IT because they were too afraid to plead ignorance to say, I don’t understand this, I’d better get to understand this. Instead they threw the budget IT with the assumption that IT would look after that techie stuff, which I don’t understand. So essentially we got an abdication of management. Most of these internal spaces are not managed. It’s launch and leave territory and that’s why ladies like that are creating their own books and all these places now where customers have given their address or the details and then they have to give them again, and again, and again and how annoying that is and how the customers now if they come across a disconnected organisation, well if they’ve any chance at all they would leave. So these disconnected incoherent organisations are going to struggle. The age of organisations in the 30s was 60 to 70 years that the organisation could hope to live for and now it’s down to 18 years. Look at the lifespan of humans in that time, is gone the opposite way. Around then it is about 30 or 40 years the average human life span and now it’s 60 to 70 years. So humans are living longer, organisations are living much less. Organisations are sick.

Marcus: At least though, what we’re talking about here are commercial enterprises organisations with employees. At least what we talking about here is if some of this, there are reasons why you would invest in making change. Productivity being one. But this reminds me of a conversation I was having with Chris earlier in the week where we are talking to a university. And University senior management has a very similar view to senior management everywhere around the world, why should I invest in this? What we were discussing was about student experiences and we think it’s a no-brainer that you should improve the student experience. But the arguments that are coming back are that they seem to be using them okay, we’ve got people beating down the door every year to get into this institution, we don’t need to do anything. And it’s quite a hard one to come up with reasons why they should invest, in particular with this organisation at least with commercial organisations there are definitely good reasons for doing it.

Gerry: Yes it’s why should I bother doing my job if I don’t have to? If I’m getting paid my monthly salary, all this management stuff is hard, I know I’m called a manager but do I have to manage? It’s so extraordinary. Someone once said to me what is an organisation if it is not organised? And they said, a university. The universities of the worst of the worst of the worst, the most ego-based disorganised places that I’ve ever come across in all my career. And it is as you say Marcus, they are beating down the doors, we are so great, they are lucky to have us. It’s that sort of deep, deep arrogance that they have and it’s difficult to answer that question, why should I have to do my job and I don’t have to? So universities tend to be very difficult to deal with, particularly in Europe where they are more funded. We find quite a bit more success in states where we’ve worked with a very large organisation there that were very focused on these things and the efficiency, and allows students to get their work plans and stuff like that because is more competitive there. But when you got a monopoly, why should you bother? And it’s hard to answer that unless you’ve got somebody who actually genuinely does want to do their job. And if they want to do their job is because that’s what managers do. You’re supposed to make things efficient, if something is crap your semester make it better. You’re not supposed to be proud of the fact that nobody can find anything and that what they find is two years out of date and that even the stuff that they find as up-to-date as unreadable. That’s not supposed to be something you should be proud of.

Marcus: And having 10 different logins with 10 different systems.

Gerry: But the thing is, most of these managers don’t even know that because they don’t use it. They don’t have any awareness, they don’t have any consciousness that it’s this terrible. They think it’s okay because the house isn’t burning down but they never use it.

Paul: That goes back to a little bit about what you are saying about them just seeing it as a technology issue and not a management issue because the truth is all of these things, the technology is there just a facilitate better management. And so if they’re not taking ownership of it and they’re not moving it forward, you’re right, they are not doing their job. And also, take university Marcus, going back to what you were saying, all those organisations have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years so they have to take the long-term view, they have to be looking ahead. And the truth is if they don’t address these issues, and by the way it takes for ever for a university to do these kinds of things, if they don’t start thinking about these things now then by the time it becomes a crisis point, which it will as the higher education market becomes more competitive, then they are going to be stuffed.

Marcus: And people will not be beating down the door.

Gerry: Unfortunately it’s a while to wait and it’s the reason why nothing is happening in the intranet, because management doesn’t care. They don’t care if it takes ages for their employees to book meeting room, they don’t care because employees time as everlasting. There is a macho culture and modern management – you only a real manager if you’re firing people.

Paul: The Alan Sugar School of Management?

Gerry: Your only real manager if you are firing people and they don’t care about making it more efficient for those that are left. Those that are left feel lucky to have a job. As a result of that we see the good people are leaving after two or three years and this is why organisations are sick. Organisations are living out about 18 years old, if that was humans we be trying to figure out what was wrong. What diseases others suffering from? How is management’s lifespan dropped so dramatically in 30 or 40 years and equally we are looking at overall productivity and growth has not been fantastic in the last 10 or 20 years in the overall economic structure? The only thing growing today at any fast rate to senior management bonuses. That is the only thing that is growing at a pace, that is really grown extremely quickly in the last 15 years and that in itself tells a story.

Paul: So how do we get them to care? How do we get them to take these kinds of productivity/communication tools seriously?

Gerry: I think will almost at a tipping point and I think it’s driven by the new generation as much as the millennia, who are just not willing to accept this. I think the phenomenon of bring your own device has really shocked IT as well. IT had a real lock on everything and IT was like, whatever, use the thing. They would force technology onto staff whether they liked it or not. I saw study recently that said IT were only that apartment and the company that never had any interaction with customers and also probably the only department in the organisation that never had any interaction with employees. The nature of IT is anti-customer, it’s not in their culture to remotely be interested about the usability and that corrosive traditional culture of IT has really created monstrosities of technologies. Sometimes this thing can really change quickly and I get a sense of an awareness driven by younger people, by bringing in their iPhones and stuff like that, that there is a gradual shift. But it has to ultimately be founded in measuring consumption. I think we have all models in organisation where we measure production, we measure the generation of the document and the publication of that document or the creation of the tool and the launch of that tool. And we never measure use. And when we get to use, when we start measuring use, then we’re going to see how awful it is to use these things. But if we have the old metrics which are, I bought it and I launched it, that’s my job done. For most people internally findability is the big issue, searches appalling. The problem at core is that people don’t want their content to get found because if it gets found the get more work in a lot of cases. So there’s no incentive to be found. You don’t get a reward structure for findability. If you are small shoe shop you want to get from Google because if you get found, you sell shoes. If you get found in the intranet you often get more work. People ask you questions and your boss says what are you wasting your time answering this question is for? So this disincentive to actually get found so people often go out of their way, and I’ve seen this, to de-meta data, it’s like delousing the content of meta data. Take DDT and the whole meta data out of it that might have made it findable. So how is enterprise search ever going to work in that environment?

Paul: You’re right and it comes back to incentivisation, doesn’t it? And structuring correctly. The project mentality that exists as well, you’re spot on this idea of people being measured on doing project, coming in on time and on budget irrespective of the fact that nobody had ever used it because it’s crap. That still comes back to how do we convince executives to do this kind of thing, and I agree that there is a kind of tipping point but I have seen some quite imaginative solutions to this.

Gerry: What have you seen?

Paul: I’ll tell you one really impressed me. This is one organisation, again it was a university that wanted to invest in some of these internal systems and there were so many major issues of common systems like finding people, expense claims and it was a university so there was student stuff. But instead they focused on the approval process for expenses because those expenses were approved by management. So they improved the tool that manages used so that managers could see the value of investing in improving these tools because it’s something that they actually used rather than the one that the staff used, it showed them what it was capable of. And it worked really well for them of managers going, oh this is really worth spending a bit of money on. Things get much better. I quite like that kind of thinking.

Gerry: But there’s an unfortunate paradox there as well Paul in that what we find is a lot of the new tools for management CRM systems actually make it harder for the people on the ground because they are demanding more information of them. So in order to feed the management monster of data, we saw new sales management system where a section of it was lead generation and recording the lead generation and in the previous environment sales reps had to go through three steps to put in a lead into the system. With this new system they had to go through 13 steps. And the people installing it couldn’t even conceptualise that that was a problem because they’d never met a sales rep, they’d never talked to them. Their customer was senior management. So sometimes what you have is but it gets worse, because senior management are demanding more data or more dashboards and views that is creating more efforts in the contribution of stuff lower.

One thing that I saw but works fairly well in an intranet number of years ago was a Danish intranet where they’d figured out the type of algorithm for up-to-date nests of pages. It was pretty simple whether they’ve been viewed and edited in the last 30 days. They have some sort of mechanism to judge the freshness of a page and they connected that with a classical smileys where there was a nice big smile if it was up-to-date and then they would gradient downwards to a really red horrible face if it was out-of-date. But the really clever thing they did was put the manager’s picture beside the smiley.

Paul: Ah, genius.

Gerry: The overall person responsible for that department, and that had quite an impact quite quickly. But it is similar in a way where it reminds me how do we get management to care in a way but even in this a lot of the data managers just don’t realise that they are setting up to make life horrible or it’s the life’s ambition. I find the obvious things in a way, things that have a biggest success for me whether its intranets or whatever is coming up with clear important tasks like sales presentations that really matter to the business. Not trivial things like the lunch menu, stuff that matters about creating engine, the stuff that really matters. Then doing your testing with your engineers or your sales reps and putting a video together of three of four of those engineers and spreading that, bringing the experience, because they just don’t see. That lack of empathy, and that’s when they see that is what it’s really like. We see studies from the American Marketing Association, 90% of marketing collateral and a lot of that is on the intranet is never used. It’s no use to the sales people. Salespeople on average spend 30 hours a month creating presentations that marketers really should have created for them. So there is a disconnect between sales and marketing and then you look at these systems and there’s like 200 presentations for this particular sale and all of them out-of-date because they were never cleaned out etc. So much money is being lost. Organisations could be so much more efficient, sell so much more, create products so much faster. This is the essence, the organisation’s future is digital and digital is just a landscape, you got to build the houses, you’ve got to make the digital place liveable. You’ve got to have sewers you got to have things that work. We’ve digital in many cases, full of stuff that doesn’t work.

Paul: And nobody cares about them.

Gerry: And it will happen, it will change because it will have to because they will die out even faster. Just like hundred years ago the revolution in the factories, somebody made a great definition of knowledge workers, it said knowledge workers working in decision factories. They make decisions. And we really need a revolution in that decision factory. How can we really make better informed decisions, whether it’s a meeting or a sales call or whatever? I don’t know, we struggle to convince them but it’s going to happen at some stage.

Paul: It’s almost Darwinism in the end, if people don’t begin to address these issues they are just going to die out.

We are running out of time Gerry and I want to just ask you, as I know that a lot of people listening to this that will be grinning from ear to ear and will be loving hearing you bash management and marketing and IT and in fact pretty much everyone. You’re on a real roll today. But because they work in a digital team somewhere within an organisation, what can they actually do to start bringing about change? It’s great to have a good old moan.

Gerry: Measure use. You’ve got to measure the use of the environment, you’ve got to feed and it will be 12 months, 18 months, two years, but you got to stop feeding into the management system, use. Or lack of use or inability to use. 80% of our sales rep don’t use this system right now, that’s a use metric. Of the 20% who do use it, it takes them an average of 10 minutes and 40% of them fail. Another 30% of them actually finds the wrong sales presentation. Measure the consumption.

Paul: I think in my experience different managers respond to different things, some respond to that hard data that you’ve just outlined their which is great and wonderful and others respond on a more empathy level to those kinds of show real videos that you talked about earlier, those stories.

Gerry: That is the perfect combination, if you are measuring use and you say we’ve got a 60% failure rate and let me just show you, or actually I’d show the video first. That’s just watch these three salespeople try and get the latest sales presentation, watch that. That is reflective of a 60% failure rate. So the combination, absolutely. That combination, the two together for me are the real ways to drive the change. This is solvable, we are sitting on a goldmine but we are managing it like a coal mine. When we really get a grip on this space there’s going to be amazing stuff happening because it is so ripe. You see out there what Facebook does, what Amazon does, you’d only need to do one hundredth of that in a digital space to be a hero.

Paul: That is why a love doing this internal work so much, that increasingly now we have clients coming to us for external customer facing work, what they’ve got is pretty reasonable these days so you have to work a lot harder to create those big returns because it’s a reasonably high starting point. But when you look at enterprise staff it almost feels like you’re stepping back to the late 90s. There were so many quick and obvious wins and so you look like a hero really quickly.

Gerry: It is like that and it’s so hard for the people who have to work with these internal things because they know what the right thing is to do. I’ve not gone into any organisation and really told any team stuff that they didn’t already know. It’s just that they are stuck, they are not getting the budget. When is it going to change? Feed the empathy, but the use, you’ve got to build up the use of the environment and get that into there. Because many of these managers have no data on the actual use of the environment. I think that’s what will transform it, if anything will.

Paul: And also I’m a great fan of not going for the big ask of management. Don’t ask them to pay for a huge restructuring of the whole of the intranet, new technology, the rest of it. Just do a very simple proof of concept on something like a people finder or some aspect of it and then show the usage before and after in order to prove the benefit that this provides. And then you can work from there really.

Gerry: I think in general as we have all found the days of the massive big redesign and things like that are over largely. So many people have been burnt of these huge big technology projects that by the time they get launched they are out-of-date. I see more progress over the years by working with the systems that already existed and patching them up and fixing them in some ways or creating some workarounds within, then the purchase of new systems. It’s often surprising what you can do with the already existing system if you’ve got a good IT team. I know I’ve complained about IT but IT still are the make or break of this. Often the best combination is a really tightly collaborative communications and IT team. That’s where I’ve seen real change happen, when the two of them are working sympathetically and understanding each other’s needs and demands. It’s surprising what they can do with the existing systems to adapt them and make them simpler. So forget about the big ask and deliver the metrics. The metrics of use, if we don’t measure them right, you’re not going to get change in thinking and behaviour.

Paul: Wonderful Gerry. Again this is something that we can talk about forever and I’m actually really quite excited about it, it almost feels like the next frontier of user experience, is dealing with some of these internal systems that exist so I am fascinated to see how things improve over the coming years. Like you’re saying, there’s such a big difference between the quality of the consumer facing tools that around the with the enterprise level tools.


Paul: Which brings me nicely onto our final sponsor for the day which is Harvest. Harvest is a time tracking tool that does a lot more than just time tracking really and this for me really drives home the difference between internal systems that our organisations have and the really good tools that are out there the smaller organisations, smaller agencies, freelancers, people like that. I compare something like Sage to something like Freeagent and it’s a world apart. I don’t know why the larger you get the shittier your tools have to be. But Harvest is a great example of one of those great business tools that absolutely pays for itself. Beautifully designed interface that’s so easy to use, really simple time tracking but does a lot more than that. It provides some really powerful reports without people having to enter a load of additional data, going back to what Gerry was saying earlier. And all of that data can then be used to create really fast online invoicing. See you can create really professional invoices just from the data that you’ve been doing as part of your time tracking. It can even manage things like expenses as well and works great with a load of the really cool business software that is beginning to emerge that’s a new generation of tool that is so much better. It integrates well with some of the project management tools like Basecamp and finance systems that are mentioned earlier like Freeagent or customer support software and will also integrate into some of these cloud-based CRM’s, productivity apps, proposal software, analytic tools, it just goes on and on. So you can check out Harvest by going to and take advantage of really a very solid business tool that is beautifully designed and works seamlessly. You can get a 30 day free trial by using the code BOAG and you will receive 50% of that first month as well, which is superb.

Now Gerry I don’t know whether you remember from the last time you on the show but we have to endure one of Marcus’s jokes. Is punishment for coming on the show I’m afraid. Marcus you ruined this by posting this joke in Slack, so I’ve heard it already.

Marcus: Oh I did, I forget that you’re there.

Paul: I had a look.

Marcus: You do look don’t you.

Paul: But I’m sure that Gerry will laugh heartily and sincerely.

Marcus: This is from Ian Lasky, our best supplier of jokes over the years.

The managing director of Dulux paints has died of hypothermia while tracking across the Antarctic. Paramedics said that he could have done with another coat.

Gerry: Ohh.

Paul: I do quite like that one actually. At least it wasn’t an Irish joke Marcus.

Marcus: I wouldn’t do that.

Gerry: That wasn’t too bad.

Paul: It was all right. So Gerry thank you so much for joining us on the show again, a really interesting topic is always. Where can people find out more about you?

Gerry: The customer care website which is the stuff we do the analyses behaviour and identifies those tasks for employees or the external customers, that’s the stuff. Then Gerry McGovern more for the speaking and the articles and stuff.

Paul: I’ve got to say your blog is an absolute pleasure to read. If you think Gerry has ranted on this podcast, you just need to read some of his blog posts, they are great. Absolutely wonderful.

So next week we have probably the coolest named Guest that we have ever had, in Golden Krishna. He is the author of an excellent book that I absolutely raved about called The Best Interface is No Interface. I confess that I am a bit of a fan boy when it comes to Golden. So if next week’s show is a bit simpering, you’ll know why. I can’t wait to talk about this really exciting area. But for now thank you very much Gerry, thank you guys for listening and will talk to you again next week.