The Intranet has evolved from a communication tool used predominantly by HR to circulate internal company memos and the like to a collaboration space where employees can share ideas, content and skills, writes PETER REID of Intervate.
The word ‘intranet’ tends to bring to mind boring internal communications sites, used mainly by HR and marketing to disseminate documents and newsletters. This traditionally push strategy has relegated intranets to the back burner for many organisations. However, as the world and the workplace has become increasingly social, the intranet is undergoing an evolution into a collaboration space for the sharing of content, ideas and skills. The intranet of the future will change the way people use the tool, focusing on design and the user experience (UX), and creating an almost ‘app-like’ interface that engages employees through interaction and interactivity.
In order to cater to the needs of a changing workforce, the way intranets are used needs to change as well. Employees today demand a rich user experience that enables them to communicate, collaborate, share ideas, gain access to expert skills and more. This is a complete shift from the push strategy of the traditional intranet to a pull strategy, creating an intranet that makes people want to use it. The focus of the intranet of the future needs to be the user, not the CEO, and thus the design and the user experience are of the utmost importance. Departmental intranets have also become out-dated – the intranet should be a centralised portal for all internal organisational communications. Ultimately, the intranet should be a self-service portal that provides convenience for users, allowing them to log time, apply for leave, find relevant corporate information, collaborate on tasks and more.
In future, the intranet will need to cater to the requirements of Gen Y and Millennial users – those who have grown up using sophisticated mobile and social communications tools. This shift is driven by a number of different factors, including increasing consumerisation and the demand for a consistent experience on personal and work-related devices. Ultimately, users want access to a friendly experience, not simply a functional one, which not only requires a focus on UX, but also a deep understanding of the user and their needs, wants and requirements.
One of the biggest evolutions of the intranet is the increase in social features, such as mobile chat and instant messaging services. Social tools such as tagging, sharing and liking content are part of creating the user experience, and are fast becoming standard features in many business applications. The intranet should be no different. In addition, mobility needs to be supported through responsive design and a ‘mobile first’ development ethos, while ensuring secure access from various end-point devices.
As previously mentioned, the intranet of the future needs to have an emphasis on design and UX. The key toward ensuring user adoption of intranets is to make the interface and the experience familiar – incorporating social elements, elements of the web, and the ease of use and intuitive functionality of apps are all essential. This should include more sophisticated search and filtering. Consumers are used to the Google interface, and intranet search should provide similar functionality to enable users to find the content they require quickly and easily.
Intranets need to be consumer focused, and the province of the users themselves. Employees, and not heads of department, should dictate the nature of the content and the future strategy of the intranet. The more social and interactive the intranet, the more likely it is to capture end users and their thoughts and result in engaged employees. This concept of ideation enables crowdsourcing of ideas from employees, which is the springboard for driving innovation. Intranets should also include functionality for managing the innovation pipeline, allowing people to rank and endorse ideas, and trace their progress through the system.
Ensuring user adoption is as simple and as complicated as creating the right experience for users. If an intranet is designed correctly from a UX perspective, employees will enjoy using it. Buy-in and adoption rates will be higher, which increases opportunities for engaging and interacting with employees. A well-executed intranet gains loyalty from employees, helps to raise levels of employee satisfaction and trust, and helps to create a culture of innovation if driven by a strong leader.
An end-user focus is critical in achieving this, and throughout the process of building an intranet it is necessary to involve as diverse a user group as possible. This will ensure that their ideas and wants are taken into account, and creates a sense of ownership and involvement once the product is rolled out. An agile approach is also essential. The intranet needs to be a work in progress, an evolving product, which, like apps, is constantly maintained and updated. This all ties back to the UX, which is impossible to get right without an intimate understanding of the user.
The success of an intranet can be judged by how happy people are to use it, whether it empowers them to do their jobs better or faster, whether they are saving time, or can connect with people to enable processes to be completed faster. Functionality should be balanced with design, but ultimately if one aspect needs to be scaled back it should always be functionality. Without good design, users will not use the tool, however additional functionality can always be developed and added at a later date.
The intranet should, at the end of the day, fit the way employees work, deliver what employees want and like, and be tailored to meeting their needs and the maturity of the organisation. The intranet should give employees a tool that makes their lives and their jobs easier. A successful intranet is not an implemented one, but an adopted one that employees enjoy using.
* Peter Reid, SharePoint Solutions Head at Intervate, T-Systems company
Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon
On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.
Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.
“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.
Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion. In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.
A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.
David Noton advises:
- Download the right apps to be in-the-know
The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky. Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.
- Invest in a lens with optimal zoom
On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.
- Use a tripod to capture the intimate details
As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.
- Integrate the moon into your landscape
Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.
- Master the shutter speed for your subject
The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability. By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.
On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!
How Africa can embrace AI
Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.
To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.
These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.
Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed
AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.
According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.
It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.
Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.
It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.
Combining STEM with the arts
Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.
As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.
For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.
“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.
Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.
Revisiting laws and regulation
For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.
Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.
Preparing for the future
With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.
To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.
It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.