A while ago, one of our customers was forced to shut down an outdated intranet and temporarily use their “corporate social network” to serve as their primary Intranet front door. There wasn’t much thinking behind the move: it was something driven by an IT infrastructure change. But it was viewed as a temporary solution, with the goal to move from there to a newly-built Digital Workplace. But to everyone’s surprise, this relatively small intervention boosted the adoption rate of the new homepage by more than 5 times! What seemed like a pleasant surprise to the customer became an obsession for us on the Beezy product team.
The reason for that rise in adoption is actually quite easy to understand: the outdated intranet was all about PUSH (one-way internal communications, HR messages, letters from the CEO, etc.) whereas the social network was all about PULL (my communities, tags I follow, my colleagues, and so forth). What we learned from this example was that employees need the homepage to be focused primarily on pull activities if we ever hope to have them incorporate the site and its content into their daily habits. At the same time, the benefits of pushing information to them (whether automated or curated) are clear form an organizational stand-point.
What is the right mix between push and pull? But more importantly, what is the best User Experience (UX) to support any given mix, and to help employees find the right content, people, and ideas at the right time? This is how our quest for the best UX got started.
Advertising solved a similar problem
After testing out several new ideas for an improved Digital Workplace layout, the Beezy product team ended up following a path along which we often find ourselves -- looking at what has worked elsewhere. We asked ourselves: what if the problem that we are addressing between push and pull has already been solved in the consumer internet? We thought to ourselves: is the relationship of Internal Communications to the Intranet similar to the relationship of advertising to consumer social networks? How did Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn solve the problem of pushing “unsolicited pieces of content” while keeping adoption at its highest rates?
The first part of the solution suddenly became obvious to us: newsfeeds are extremely efficient at driving adoption, and inserting small amounts of advertising into the newsfeed flow didn’t seem to hurt the traction of the social giants, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Flipboard. We started playing around with the idea of "injecting" pieces of push or "discovery" content within the Beezy newsfeed, and quickly saw great results in terms of visibility and employee engagement.
The second part of the answer is less of a UI problem and has more to do with the “intelligence” of the push system. One of the reasons why people “accept” the inconvenience of small doses of advertising in their newsfeed is because ads are becoming more targeted, more intelligent, and more relevant to the employee based on their online activities and personal network. The frontier between advertising and useful content is constantly being pushed -- moving them from purely annoying to, in many cases, relevant content.
Reinventing push versus pull in the Newsfeed
All of this research on how to effectively manage push vs pull content had a direct impact on our most recent Beezy 3 release. We incorporated this learning into a completely revamped start page within our solution, which serves as a unique entry point for the modern Digital Workplace.
Within this major release is an innovative newsfeed that nicely combines two type of activity cards. The most frequent card-type is what we call Follow-up cards: fresh content pulled from your communities, tags, or the people you follow. The second card-type is what we call Discovery cards, and the idea behind them is to insert small doses of content, automated information, or a call to action -- all of which can be pushed to employees in an intelligent, less overt way.
When a user uploads a document into an Engineering community, for example, a Follow-up card is generated for all of the community members to see and interact with. Someone new to the system who interacts with members of the Engineering community may see a Discovery card suggesting that they join the community. We visually differentiate the two cards using white backgrounds for Follow-up cards and more engaging solid colors and icons for the Discovery cards.
The Beezy 3 newsfeed is proving to be a very effective way to deliver a balanced flow of push and pull content to employees, and many of our customers are in the process of making the Beezy start page the main entry point for their Digital Workplace.
We are also using this newsfeed logic to push some Discovery cards that leverage the intelligence of the Office Graph and Azure Machine Learning to increase the efficiency of our Q&A and other knowledge management-related features.
This is just the beginning…
We are excited about the results shown by this innovative approach in our newsfeed, but we think we can do more.
Here are a few examples of what we are working on to keep pushing innovation:
Customized discovery cards: Some of our clients are so excited about this concept that they are already planning to roll-out their own Discovery cards. We are working on a way to turn the new Beezy newsfeed into a delivery platform for these customized cards.
Newsfeed back-end settings: We are also working on a few settings that will allow each customer to fine tune the balance between push and pull, determining a specific ratio of Follow-up vs. Discovery cards, and also to determine the exact behavior for each card. For example, some Discovery cards can be essential to collaboration, so they will appear at every page load, whereas some others will only appear from time to time and in different locations on the newsfeed.
Community Newsfeed: We started with this feature in the main start page of Beezy, but we are planning to expand this logic to the community newsfeed, as well.
New Discovery cards: We will continue to add new Discovery cards to our product as we run more successful experiments, and will keep listening to our customers when it comes to effectively pushing information within the right context.
If you have not yet had the opportunity to see Beezy in action, get in touch and schedule a demo!