intranet user feedback

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Aligning Information Technology with Brookhaven’s Research Mission Prepared by Gary Schroeder July 28, 2014

Author: gary-schroeder

Post on 23-Aug-2014




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A slidedoc created to brief managers on the research findings of colleagues at another institution who are working to overhaul their intranet.


  • Aligning Information Technology with Brookhavens Research Mission Prepared by Gary Schroeder July 28, 2014
  • 2| Introduction An initial assumption was made that overhauling the user interface to the Labs Standards Based Management System was the most direct way of achieving this objective. However, following discussion among owners of the effort, a different consensus was reached, summarized by three points. These points redirected efforts toward planning for interviews with research staff with a view towards a redesigned intranet. In planning for an intranet overhaul, outreach was made to other national labs that had already conducted user interviews in furtherance of goals similar to ours. Brookhaven Science Associates has made a commitment to DOE to use IT tools to better support researchers and facilitate their daily work. Locatingsubjectareasisnota significanthurdleimpeding researchersintheirwork. Other,moresignificantimpediments exist. Theproperwaytodeterminewhat improvementeffortwouldbest supportresearchersistodirectlyask themtosharetheirexperiences.
  • 3| Benchmarking Laboratory conducted user surveys in 2012 as part of their Intranet Realignment project. The project was begun in response to a general recognition that their intranet was (in their words) tired, link-heavy, and largely static. Lab X organized a team of two in-house user experience experts to conduct interviews of research staff. Volunteers were solicited via an online form and 32 people out of the available pool of volunteers were ultimately interviewed. Support staff were excluded on the basis of biggest return on the investment of time as 50% of Lab X staff are dedicated to research and research is the Labs primary mission. What the Lab X interviewers learned during their Realignment project is enlightening and highly instructive for Brookhaven. Lab X interviewers found that what researchers actually want in the way of information technology support is quite different from what might be presupposed. Interestingly, their results could just as easily have been obtained from the Brookhaven community. There are many themes that we have in common and all of them will be familiar to anyone supporting IT at Brookhaven.
  • 4| Top Impediments Researchers want a unified search tool that supports search across all internal online resources, without the need to resort to multiple, disconnected search tools. They would prefer suggestive results in which search strings are auto-completed mid- string (so as to suggest meaningful content that they arent necessarily even aware of). The number one complaint is that online search does not meet user needs and expectations. They want a search tool that accurately ranks results by relevancy (a common complaint was the inability of their search engine to distinguish old content from new and rank results accordingly). They want results which are returned according to the key concepts contained in a document rather than just a simple word match. Relevant ResultsUnified Suggestive Conceptual Search
  • 5| Top Impediments Lab X supports SharePoint for collaboration but respondents felt that it did not meet the need for a flexible tool that supports the R&D and academic publishing process. The general feeling about SharePoint was that it doesnt work well and that there are a lot of barriers to its use, e.g., its difficult to get information out of it; the basic features (document upload, surveys, bulletin boards, wiki) have confusing and inconvenient workflows; and users are confused about how to configure sites. Some participants noted that they have used SharePoints wiki feature to write documents as a team, but that its difficult because only one person can edit a file at a time. They want revision histories with support for simultaneous document editing. Ideally, they want a tool that would allow users to write articles and reports collaboratively with internal and external team members. Many users should be able to edit the document simultaneously from any location or device, similar to Google Docs. Researchers want a flexible tool that supports R&D and the academic publishing process. Collaboration Collaboratingoutsideof theLabrequiresaneasy methodofexternally sharinginformationand data Researcherswilluse unapproved,cloud- based commercialtools ifthein-housetoolsfail tomeettheirneeds
  • 6| Top Impediments Participants had a low awareness of the IT tools and websites available to them. The problem is compounded by the feeling that corporate information is inaccurate, outdated, and poorly organized, so its difficult for users to look up information about the "official" portfolio on their own. Participants commented about "stumbling over" tools that ended up being essential for their work or struggling for months and wishing that a capability existed, only to find out later (by word of mouth) that it does. Many dont know what tools theyre encouraged to use. Theyre unsure whether a tool is a long-term solution or one that might unexpectedly go away. A common issue was that users were unwilling to invest the time to become a system expert if they felt that the tool might disappear. A cited example was SharePoint MySites which participants reported stumbling on to but decided not to use because no one else had filled in their information, giving the impression that its not an officially supported tool. Communication is poor when it comes to making clear what IT resources are available and supported. Awareness of Resources Itshardtofigureout whattheLabsofficialIT portfoliocontains Ifatoollooksunused, staffwontinvestthe timenecessaryto becomeproficientwithit
  • 7| Top Impediments Its perceived that official IT tools are compatible only with Windows/IE configurations in mind, and not the more common Mac/Linux, Chrome/Firefox combinations seen in research (leading PIs to maintain auxiliary Windows machines strictly for using official Lab tools). They found the intranet to be cluttered with poorly organized information rendering it near useless. Insider knowledge is a prerequisite for successfully navigating intranet content. Researchers want an expertise locator that allows them to search by topic and maintain a network of other researchers with common interests. They didnt feel MySites were filling that role for some reason. (Possibly due to lack of active promotion by the Lab.) Authentication credentials are not handed off to other applications, making frequent credential entry necessary. Finding ExpertsWindows-centric Poor Content Authentication Other Roadblocks
  • 8| Conclusions User interviews are essential to surfacing the true IT-related impediments to research. Without them, project managers attempting to craft a solution are simply guessing as to where to expend their valuable-- and limited--resources. Lab Xs findings show that the true pain points for researchers are rarely related to anything associated with locating procedures, but are instead related to barriers that hinder quick, easy information sharing. The best thing the IT Division can do to support researchers in their daily work is to make it as easy as possible to share information with colleagues. For Brookhaven, our best return on project investment time is likely to be realized by taking the time to talk to our researchers and then choosing one or two key problems to solve in the near term. In the end, its likely that the chief concerns of our research staff will match those of the Lab X staff but well never know for sure unless we conduct the necessary initial research.