The European intranet community is indebted to a small group of entrepreneurs for staging conferences and workshops of the highest quality. I’m referring of course to Wedge Black (Intranet Now, London), Kurt Kragh Sorensen (IntraTeam, Copenhagen and Stockholm), Guy van Leempt (Digital Workplace Conference, Brussels) and Elisabeth Armentano and Giacomo Mason (Intranet Italia Day, Milan).
First up this year was Intranet Italia Day (actually two days!) which was held in Milan last week, and so was also the first to offer a post-pandemic on-site conference at scale. Around 200 registered for the two-day event, which was held in the Stelline Foundation, about a mile east of Milan Cathedral. The location is a combination of a conference facility and a very comfortable hotel. The building can trace its origins back to 1578. The exhibition area was in two wings of a central grass courtyard and the conference, sponsor demos and workshops were held in rooms off the exhibition area. A very compact and stylish venue that worked very well even if the WiFi was a little iffy at times. The venue itself was inspiring even if just occasionally perspiring but then the ambient temperature outside was around 29C on both days. It was only a 20-minute walk for six consultants to spend a very pleasant Thursday evening in the shadow of the Duomo exchanging stories about clients!
The programme was a well-constructed mix of strategy/research methodology presentations and case studies in both English and Italian. All gained either a 4 star or a 5 star rating from me. Interpretation was provided using the Veasyt App accessed through a mobile phone to listen to interpreters working remotely. The application was easy to use but it seemed to have some bandwidth challenges with so many delegates using it in a packed (long and rather thin) conference room. Two of the speakers (Elena Bogdanova and Maxim Manuilov) presented over a video link, and sadly both Wedge Black and Steve Bygnall were not able to attend for personal reasons.
Giacomo was the very enthusiastic chair of the event, keeping the event timing spot-on throughout the conference and providing very good introductions to each speaker. The Q&A sessions were challenging, as delegates seemed understandably unsure about asking questions in English, and there were notably more comments on the Italian presentations. The quality of the Italian case studies (and one from the UK) was excellent and presented with considerable passion. In the exhibition area there was a very good set of posters about the candidates for the Intranet Italia Champions.
On the opening day there was a very effective and obviously enjoyable meet-each-other event in the courtyard area along the lines of ‘musical chairs’. Delegates were asked to wander around when the music played, moving towards some standing-height tables to discuss a range of intranet topics. As with the workshops the language was of course Italian but the enthusiasm of the participants in both this mixer session and the workshops was very obvious.
I have to offer a word of congratulation for the catering staff, who provided lunches that could be eaten with relish whilst standing and talking, superb pastries for breakfast and an array of sweet biscuits and pastries for the breaks.
The theme that emerged strongly from the presentations was the value of a well-planned and resourced user and business requirements project undertaken with the active involvement of a range of stakeholders. ‘Personas’ were a core element, as was the need to create an initial deliverable that could then be enhanced through tracking the initial adoption traffic and comments. I was surprised that none of the presenters seemed to have used search log analytics as an element of the requirements identification and subsequent performance tracking. More about that later this week. During my presentation I asked for a show of hands from delegates who had evidence that employees were fully satisfied with their search experience. Only five raised their hands in a room of perhaps 140 delegates. That is a lot of potential clients.
Overall this was an exceptionally enjoyable conference and well worth coping with the challenges of air travel, especially at London Gatwick. Above all else I came away impressed by the quality and innovation of Italian intranets and the obvious commitment of their intranet managers to continuing development. You can be certain that which ever event(s) you attend of the four listed above you and your organisation will gain long term value and a range of very useful contacts. Intranet Italia 2022 has set a high standard for the rest of the year!