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I heard the name of Marie Kondo for the first time at the end of last year during a trip with my friends. I was impressed by the cloth organization in my friend’s luggage. After asking her what this vertical folding was about, I learned that it was a Japanese approach to organizing your home: The KonMari Method. Nonetheless, it was until the release of Netflix’s show Tiding up with Marie Kondo when Marie Kondo became one of my recurrent conversation topics.
The KonMari method has been a game-changer, particularly to my clothing storage. Thanks to it, I finally got the courage to get rid of so many things and was able to reduce my activewear from two drawers to just one! However, what really surprised me is that Kondo’s principles are very similar to the process we implement at Base22 when working with Enterprise Portals and Web Content Management Systems (WCMs).
Homes and Portals: a place for things that matter
At Base22 we specialize in Enterprise Portals and have been working with clients in their digital transformation for the past 15 years. We always tell our clients that their portal matters since it is the place where valuable information and resources are found, and collaborative conversations take place. Your Portal is not just a place to store stuff: it is a place to welcome visitors, share experiences and learn from each other. In this sense, it is the digital home for your employees, vendors, citizens, clients, etc. So, let’s take this analogy between homes and intranets to review some organizing principles that can be applied to both.
1. Organizing is a transformative power that requires commitment.
A well-organized portal/home can be the catalyst for productivity, innovation, and well-being.
Once you are convinced that applying organization principles and patterns to your home or portal will provide benefits, all the subsequent efforts to establish them will be taken with enthusiasm.
When we start working with a client, we first conduct a Design & Strategy Workshop. During this activity, we explain the principles, the process and build together a clear understanding of the expected responsibilities. We use this activity to build rapport and to set expectations on both sides. We are honest with our clients and explain to them that this process is going to require effort, time and commitment, but that at the end it would be worth it.
Same applies with the KonMari method. At the beginning it is messy, it’s time-consuming, it seems really challenging… but once you are done with it, you know for sure that those hours were well invested. When you look at the results and experience the ease of use of the new system, you get that warm feeling that only order provides.
Once the initial effort has been made, your portal/home will be an enabler for:
- Productivity– Because you don’t waste time looking for things or waste an opportunity by finding the wrong ones.
- Innovation– Because now you can use that time and mental energy to focus on what is important, and since everything is easy to access, you feel compelled to share your findings and build upon what others have done.
- Wellbeing– Because when things are well organized, that order permeates into your life and you feel different, better, lighter, and faster.
2. A clear vision is worth 1000 decisions.
When you have a clear vision making decisions becomes easy. Take the time to define your objective or desired state and involve all stakeholders in the process.
Taking the steps towards your goal is easier when you have a clear and well-defined purpose. This statement might seem obvious; however, it’s not uncommon to encounter situations in which the vision for a project hasn’t been defined. Everyone thinks they know what they have to do next, but there is no bigger picture or a clear image of what we are trying to achieve at the end.
When we take our clients through the UX Vision Alignment Exercise, we are delighted to witness conversations that otherwise would not have taken place. The exercise’s objective is to build alignment and reach a consensus, but we genuinely believe that the process the team goes through is in itself a result.
Once all the ideas, aspirations, principles and desires have been discussed, the rules of the game can be captured in a UX Vision that can be a document, a phrase or a diagram, whatever makes sense for the team. So, when the future brings questions and dilemmas, the team has a North Star to guide their decisions. Only what aligns with the Vision should be implemented.
Same applies to your house since to create the home you desire. You first need to imagine how it will foster the lifestyle you are longing for.
This is a principle that allows families and teams to reflect on the current state of things, and envision a better, brighter future.
3. A designated place for everything.
A system of categories eliminates randomly and careless placement.
Two of the main reasons why we have clutter in our life is because we don’t have enough space for all the things we have and because we haven’t established an appropriate place for each item.
To solve the first problem —having enough space— we can either increase the area or reduce the number of things. Since expanding is not always easy or cheap, the most common approach is to reduce the amount of stuff we have, and to implement a storage system that is efficient and intuitive.
As for the second problem —having a place for everything— we need to define and anticipate the realm of the current and the possible, and then decide where does each element is going to “live”. This exercise eliminates random and careless placing and therefore, clutter.
Taking these concepts into portals organization means that we need first to have a deep understanding of what’s in the house. For this effect, we conduct a Content Inventory, Audit and Analytics Review. These activities allow us to have a better understanding of the portal’s contents, their size, the formats, the topics, and —with the help of analytics— the behavioral patterns of users around them.
By doing this review, we usually find those old articles that haven’t been updated in 10 years, policies that are no longer current, tutorials on how to use the portal when it had different navigation, just to mention a few examples of dated contents. The point is that everything that is not useful, current or appropriate should go. Then with what we have left we create a catalog system based on what each content is about.
Probably our most fought battle during our Portal work is against the common tendency of organizing information based on who produced it. For enterprises, this translates into a departmental-oriented organization. Although organizing information based on which department created it might be straightforward for some, it is not for everyone. Not everyone knows all the topics covered by the Human Resources department for example.
In the same way Marie Kondo advocates for organizing your home based on categories (clothes, books, papers, komono, sentimental, etc.) instead of a room-by-room approach, we have been advocating for organizing information based on what it is about. A topic approach presents users with information based on their semantic category. This way your users don’t need to guess who produce it— they only go to the appropriate catalog where all the elements that are about the same topic are presented together.
4. Does it spark trust?
When we care about our portals/home we only add things that have value, are useful and are necessary, the type of qualities that make a system to spark trust and therefore joy.
Probably the most mainstream concept of Marie Kondo is to keep things that spark joy and discard those who don’t. Translating this concept into the portal world means that information should be curated with contents and services that are useful, convenient and appropriate. A portal should create a sense of trust. Trust is the joy of portals.
Trust is a hard-to-get achievement, but when your system is transparent, cohesive and there is the ability to report incongruencies, people trust it, because everyone is accountable.
Marie advocates for thanking and appreciating each garment before letting them go. What I really liked about this practice is the respect and care that shows for things. Although we do not thank every piece of content before we unpublish it or delete it, we are continually advocating for a content-is-king-approach. When you care about your portal, you take good care of it by meticulously crafting each piece of content and placing it in its designed space. Quality matters. To find quality information is to find a treasure.
5. Order is a path for empowerment.
One of the things that I really like about order is that it generates empowerment. When a system is transparent and things “just fell into place” you feel empowered to use it more, to spend more time on it, recommend it, and contribute to it. Nothing is more discouraging than having a portal/home where you just don’t know where to find things, where to store them, or what goes where…
When we work with our clients to organize and design their next portal experience, we often spend some time talking about portal governance. Our approach to governance is based on following the above-mentioned organization principles (clearly defined purpose and audience, well-defined categories, and meaningful information), and a user-centered process to verify the relevance of your content and the needs of your audience. We like when portals are governed by principles because people might change or move, information is always growing, but the principles and their structure remain.
In the same way that Marie Kondo promotes an organized lifestyle instead of isolated cleaning sprees a portal ruled by process and principles works best.
Do you have questions about the next experience for your portal? Would you like to Marie Kondo your Intranet? Contact us, we’ll be happy to work together to bring organization and order to your digital platforms.