The Importance of Fun/Easy Documentation & Training

As more and more social platforms are launched within the enterprise, the focus on training new users and answering their questions.frustrations becomes even more important.  New technology is great…but if users figure out or find answers to their questions, it will be quickly left behind and they will continue to use what they are comfortable with (read: e-mail).

In my role, I have had an opportunity to test a number of start-ups and existing companies social media platforms.  You would think that a blog is a blog is a blog but each vendor has a different slant or an additional piece added on to add value.  That is all fine but some neglect to document how to use it.  Quite frankly, I have found the smaller companies to have more robust documentation (I know it’s a generalization) than the bigger ones.  Anyway, here are some of my suggestions on how to approach you documentation:

  1. Have Documentation: I know this should go without saying, but there are vendors out there who do no have documentation, it is not yet available, or it is only availablle to their clients.  Without the documentation, people might not be able to see the value you are selling.
  2. Don’t rely 100% on your users: I agree it is a great idea to let your users define/create your documentation on a wiki (as they will know what other users want), but give them something or a skeleton to work with.  I have been to a number of product documentation/wiki pages that the vendor has setup a table of contents and has told the community – document away.  It is extremely frustrating to see the topic in the table of contents (when you are stuck or having a problem), only to find a blank page.  Your product is not ready to ship until you have completed your documentation (among other things).
  3. Different learning styles: Not everyone learns the same.  As an example, in 4MAT they have four types of learners:  Imaginative, Analytic, Common Sense and Dynamic.  Hey, I am not saying go and spend half your budget on learning, but when people understand how to use it, they are more apt to use it.
  4. Available Demos: Taking a cue from the point above, give us some visual demos (both written and video).  This is the era of YouTube.  Create some video demos so users can see how it is done.  Make the content not only available on your website, but post it on YouTube (where you can take advantage of comment and number of views stats).  You can also see who else is filming your product.
  5. Die pdf, Die!: Don;t ever, ever, ever put your documentation in one big pdf file.  It is ugly, hard to navigate and from the 90’s.  If you are selling collaboration software, put your documentation in something similar.
  6. Strong Search Capability: Speak my language and your (if you choose).  For example, one vendor I was using had a survey option.  When I did a search for ‘survey’, not results appeared.  Enough said.

That’s all I can think of/rant about now.  Let me know if you have any others.


Advice to social media start-ups selling to the enterprise

As the need for social media within an organization becomes more prevelant, the search for low cost, high value solutions becomes more important.  The landscape is ripe for start-ups to implement there technology within enterprises.  But, as someone who works “within the firewall”, here are my tips for those who are pitching there wares:

Your technology should work seemlessly with  common existing technology

Most organizations use Microsoft Office, Internet explorer and Outlook/Lotus Notes.  Your technology should work seamlessly with the existing technology to not only make the IT transition easier, but also makes it easier on the user

Let your technology “hide” behind existing technology

It is sometime hard to tell someone who has been documenting process for 10 years “you now must do it on a wiki…and oh yeah, feel free to use html”.  You are going to grind work to a halt.  Allow users to stay within the technology they know.  Altissan has a new release that allows users to update their wiki page in Word – and publish it back on the wiki all the time staying in Word.  Or, RSS feeds in your e-mail client.  This allows users at first to stay in the technology they are comfortable with to begin.

Single sign-on integration

Does you technology allow it to partner with internal IT for single sign on?  The introduction of social media is sometimes fragile…having user try to remember yet another password can turn them off and have them never return.  Once they are into their day, they should be able to seamlessly login on to their social network with no problem

Strong Reporting

Whether they actually use them or look at them, enterprises love and require reports for their technology.  Robust reports!  If your technology cannot easily spit out number of visits, page view, articles, etc by user name, time then you have lost some potential clients.  Oh yeah, and reports should be a push of a button away (both numerical and graphical).  Manually compiling information will not cut it. 


Yes, this is important.  In times of cutting costs and maximizing resources, this will come later…but i very important.  No more need be said.

Ease of use

At the end of the day, the enterprises have employees with different ages, skill sets and attitudes.  If it is is hard to use, looks ugly or takes too much time (vs value), then forget it.  It will be one more piece of technology that peters out…an no-one notices.

Can be small and big – but if possible, you should have it all

Enterprises sometimes do not need everything.  They may need a wiki to start…an expert directory in 6 months and a discussion forum 6 months after that.  Allow your technology to be sold in pieces when required…or have the whole suite available (for a cheaper price).  Let then ease into it before giving them everything.  And, if your technology is only wiki…have a partner that does what you do not do so when they are looking for the next piece of technology, you can recommend one that work well with your technology,  you have a relationship with and have past implementation successes.

Search functionality

Enterprises have information overload.  When your technololgy is running, it should be able to search all of what is out there.  If it is there, but people cannot find it, it might as well not be there.

That’s it for now.  Feel free to add anything that I missed or dispute anything I listed.

Internal Corporate Blogs

I have had some people ask me about this whole blogging thing. After having explained it to a number of people I thought to myself ‘Hey Mark, why don’t you take advantage of social media and write about it in your blog so it can be shared to everyone’.  So, here it goes.  Internal blogging:

What is it: your own on-line business journal (saying blog frightens some people)
Business uses: Tool for mass messaging, project updates, sharing knowledge, communication and to enage employees in discussion through comments
Business value created: Faster information sharing, an efficient and trackable feedback system, historical data available, search capabilities, employee recognition/engagement
How to use it internally:
  • Project Updates
  • Conference Learning’s
  • Idea/Innovation Sharing
  • Announcements/FYI’s
  • Knowledge Sharing
Again I am going to refer to a great video from the website Common Craft.  It is only 3 minutes long, but it explains blogs it very well:
I have also included a great link from the folks over at Jive Software of how they use blogs internally.  A great read (they have all new employees post an introduction blog – fantastic idea).  You can find it here.


So, did I explain it well? Do you have more questions? Would you like to add to the post? Add you thoughts in the comments section below.

What is Social Media inside the Firewall?

Hello and welcome.  To start off, I will attempt to lay out what exactly is social media and what I mean by inside the firewall (note:  the term social media inside the firewall was coined by blogger Chris brogan and can be found here – check out his blog as it is excellent).

From Wikipedia

Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.

Primarily, social media depend on interactions between people as the discussion and integration of words build shared-meaning, using technology as a conduit.

OK, that is a start.

There is a wonderful website call Common Craft that creates short videos explaining concepts in ‘Plain English’.  Watch below:

Interesting eh?  What is really interesting is that for me to try and explain social media, I referred to another blogger, I used a quote from wikipedia and embedded a video from Common Craft.  For me, this is a great example as this shows social media is something:

  1. Everyone can view
  2. Everyone can comment on
  3. Everyone can leverage/reuse/build upon (can be restrictions)
  4. Everyone/Anyone can be recognized
  5. Everyone can benefit

Let’s chat about technology for a moment.  Social media can include the following:  blogs, wikis, forums, shared calendars, vlogs, social networking (facebook), podcasts, photo sharing, virtual worlds, etc.  These are all great tools that can accomplish my five points above.  As I continue to blog, I will talk in more detail about the technology and it’s power.

So, though short and sweet, that is social media.  Now, what about the firewall?

The firewall means social media within a corporation/organization/business.

  • Imagine if social media could be utilized within an organization.
  • Imagine a project manager could blog about their week, the fires they put out and what they learned.
  • Imagine how many people in the organization could learn from that (and not make the same mistake).
  • Imagine finding people who share similar interests…across the globe
  • Imagine being able to find internal policy/procedures quickly, connect with the publishers, and add you own knowledge for others to benefit
  • Imagine being recognized for sharing information
  • Imagine

Social media has so much potential to help organizations and people be more efficient and satisfied with their workplace.  For some, it will be a long, cautious and possibly confusing journey.  For others, it will be an awakening of the power within.   Within my blogs, I will be talking about how to start the journey, the resistance, the successes and lessons learned.  I look forward to your participation in the comments and any ideas/suggestions you may have to improve this blog.