Archive for the ‘GSA’ Category

Lessons learned from an Intranet Redesign

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Great websites are built to serve users’ needs quickly and easily. If you build an online community but understand the tasks your users need to complete, and make those tasks easy to complete – then your website will #fail.

Intranets are similar. In March 2007 I was asked to redesign the intranet for GSA’s National Capital Region. I worked on a team with Ann Everett, NCR’s Regional Administrator, and Terry Forline.

The first task was to establish our goals. We decided to improve the layout, brighten the color palette, and reposition links to improve the functionality of the intranet for our users. We also wanted our intranet – which we call NCR InSite – to save users significant time and money. Dell estimates that its intranet creates annual productivity gains of $36 million. Government intranets are different and it’s hard to see what is done behind their firewalls – but we found Australia has some excellent oldie but goody intranet best practices online.

Our second task was to learn what tasks GSA staff wanted to accomplish on NCR InSite, and what they hated the most. We sent out an email to over 1,200 employees to ask for their help to make NCR InSite better. 1 We got back over 135 responses – a response rate better than 10% which is stellar.

Within a month our team had made most of the changes pinpointed in the survey. We made significant headway towards implementing most of the changes people had asked for. And the best outcome was that our employees were pleased with the results and proud of their InSite, bragging that it was one of the best within GSA. We couldn’t make all of the changes that everyone asked for, but we did at least ask people what they wanted. Listening to users can be very powerful.


Email to NCR InSite users sent March 2007

Help us improve NCR InSite

We are committed to improving NCR InSite to ensure that it meets your needs – provide basic information and tools that you need to do your job effectively, information about jobs, pay, benefits, and services; and help employees learn more about GSA’s businesses, policies, and programs.

Recently, work has begun behind the scenes to expand and improve NCR’s Insite. For example, events have been added to the NCR calendar. Users can more easily NCR’s shuttle schedule, cafeteria menu, and remote email address, as the icons on the horizontal navigation bar are now identified with text reflecting their purpose. The cafeteria menu is up-to-date.

However, we need your help to ensure that the revisions reflect your needs. We would like your opinion and feedback on your visit to our website so that we might redesign it in a manner that is more user friendly and is more efficient for you and for others. We hope you take the time to help us by completing a brief survey. All information collected from the survey will be kept confidential and only will be used in support of improving NCR’s InSite.

Based on the feedback we receive, we will improve NCR’s InSite to make it easier to use. We expect to be implementing these changes over the next few months and will inform you in advance of the changes so as to minimize any disruptions or inconvience.

We are looking forward to the opportunity to hearing from you, and helping you have a more productive experience using NCR InSite.


The NCR InSite Team


NCR InSite Survey Results

Survey conducted from 3/21 – 3/30/07

1. What tools and features do you currently use most on InSite?

Not at All


Very Often

Top News




Calendar of Events




NCR EmployeeLocator




Regional Links to weather, traffic




Self-Assessment Guides (APPAS)




Human Resources Information




NCR BrandWizard




IT EquipmentRequest/ComputerMove Form




IT Security TipsAnd Info




Other: Shuttle Times
Thanks program, archived news and Ask Ann
Shuttle Schedule, access GSA InSite and home page
Shuttle Schedule
Lotus email link to check email through vpn from home
I use the web access Citrix to access my VPN Account while telecommuting
Cafeteria Menu Link
Reading the Ask Ann items
Chris, Thanks Program
Employee HR & Web Applications
PBS, Financial Resources Links
E2 Travel, Thanks!
Building Locator, Webforms
Web applications
Building matrix, division website, project website
Project information portal, citirix
PBS Resources, Asset Building Plans, Rent Roll, Pricing Desk Guide
GSA Directory Locator
Launch Web based applications such as FMIS
Acquisition website for model specs and procurement bulletins
Acquisition page



2. What is the primary method you are using to find information on InSite?
List of Topics (on the homepage and in the left navigation column of sub-pages)


Top Navigation Bar




Search Engine


Other: PBS Resources
PBS Resources
None – these are not helpful – especially the search engine
Alphabetical listing
The search engine doesn’t give relevant hits



3. What is the most important content you would like to see developed for future inclusion on the NCR InSite?


1. Better Search Engine that is effective for valuable info retrieval.

2. A reasonable and simple search system – maybe modeled after google.

3. Not content, but a good search engine for the site

4. Search features and the documents they produce need to be more relavent

5. A search engine that works better would help.

6. A better search engine

7. Better search results

8. Better Search String

9. Search feature needs improvement, old pages need to be updated or removed

10. Search effectiveness is poor.

11. Word search database

12. There needs to be a better search function for locating topics within InSite

13. Better search function for finding regulations and related memo(s) and interpretations of GSA/NCR relevant policies particularly for the financial/budget and real estate communities.

14. I would like my searches to require no more than 3 clicks. I also think that it will help the user to know what information is included in the words shown in the screen. The best websites allow you to run the cursor over a “title” and see in a summary of what it refers to. A final suggestion is to make the GSA Form database user friendly.

Organization charts

1. NCR Directory with photographs and Office

2. Org chart related to personnel locator with a link to the PBS Portal

3. A more detailed organization chart

4. Organization guide to show all employees by organizational unit

5. Provide organizational charts for the NCR that provide links to information on services and contacts in respected organizations. example, in the PBS area, Potomac Service center. What customers and buildings are they servicing-a map of their area using GUI may be useful, what are the key projects with points of contact, being worked on or are in the planning phase. Overall find our Web site to be useful and easy to access. Also, linkage across all our business lines may make it easier to locate key contacts on projects. Hope this information is useful.

6. There needs to be a quick way to find Organization Charts along with names of key players. A photo of each party would be even better. I saw this on another regions InSite and found the Org. Charts invaluable.

Events and News

1. Homeland Security and COOP advisories should be featured in a Breaking News format – maybe consider text messaging.

2. More NCR internal news.

3. Put all event announcements in right side following other news announcements.

4. Regional Happenings

5. Cafeteria and Lunch time specials.

6. Employee news.

7. Upcoming events, with background information.

8. Need to make the calendar of events more visible and usable.

9. Future developments – please feature this.

10. Different manner of presenting “what’s going on in NCR.” Current look is old and boring

11. Stop lights on how we as a region are doing with performance goals.

Human Resources

1. This may have been corrected, but the HR tab within NCR Insite are not user friendly and information should be updated

2. HR Guidance for Supervisors

3. This is not very important. But I would like to have the calendar that shows the shows the holidays and pay dates for the year.

4. GSA Jobs website – Ready & available for GSA associates

5. I would like to see more job information on the quick hire process.

6. HR info should be current and complete. Associates should be compelled to fill in complete details and update them promptly when there is a revision. Announce relocations of persons like contracting officers and project managers.

7. Would be nice to see Performance Review / dates of APPAS actions somewhere – maybe on calendar – so employees and managers could plan ahead of time for this process. A simple how to guide, with a phone number of someone in HR concerning APPAS issues, would be wonderful.

8. Create a section for the new employees so we know who they are when we see them and they feel welcomed. Also create a section for retiring employees so we are aware of this and can make plans ahead of time.



Conference Rooms/Hotels/Restaurants/Meeting Resources

1. Prop Dev. Conference Rooms and other support

2. Listing of conference rooms.

3. A list of nearby restaurants, cafes, eateries, etc. would help out employees, contractors and visitors.

4. List of hotels, conference rooms, and meeting facilities for planning future meetings.

Employee Locator

1. Phone book could be more user friendly. You have to have the correct spelling or it will not find items.

2. I recommend that a cleanup be made of the Employee Locator database. There are multiple problems with hyphenated names, middle names, initials added to the first name, as well as nicknames.

Credit Union

1. GSA Credit Union Information

Navigation/Links (specific)

1. Phone numbers for the building manager’s office and the IT help desk should be MUCH easier to find (should be one click away from the home page). Link to Current Clips would be helpful. Occasional graphic, pictorial and-would liven things up a bit. It’s a helpful, well-run site, though. Thanks!

2. Links to other GSA Region’s intranet sites

3. Need better layout, make easier to find things (example – PBS customer list is hidden in PBS organization)

4. I like the fact that you can now see the icons. Please add the Motor Pool to the icons.

5. Make the overseas travel in E2 work.

6. Link to Central Office pages with contacts or organizational structure

7. Direct links to other regional offices

8. When titling resources, please ask the users to assist in the actual naming. Too often, names are dreamed up that no one knows what it might refer to. Experienced persons such as our contractor, Mark, can give some insights in this regard.

9. The links to policy documents needs to be clearer. There should be links to GSA Insite for National Policy on the same topics, while you looking at the regional information.

10. Please underline links! It is so annoying that you have to mouse over stuff to see if there is a link in it.

Social Networks/Communities of Practice/Knowledge Management

1. I believe each office should have a Questions Aswered and Comments staff to share information that may not trickled down to staff from management and for those employees who are not invited to attend informative meetings to be aware of recent policy, and procedural changes.

2. Communities of Practice – Social Networks

3. Isn’t there a Toastmaster’s club that meets regularly in the NCR ROB cafeteria?

4. It might be nice to know who/where/ are the residential experts on a variety of topics. . Such as “need information on” hoteling, where can a notary be found, carpooling, and other information that our colleagues might have a need to know

5. ‘Virtual library’ with form and other info, better-organized links (categorized)

InSite Design/Graphics/Images/Updates

1. The homepage needs to be more creative. Suggestions: along with the GSA symbol and flag at the top, make the main page a little more colorful, maybe changing according to the seasons (cherry blossoms for the Spring).

2. More images (very boring looking now)

3. Home page needs to be more attractive and colorful with graphics

4. I think the site is outdated and it appears from the surface (front page) to offer very little real value. I am sure there is a lot of useful information on InSite, but the site appears to static and hard to believe that it’s being updated at all.

5. Employees who use the tools and features need to be on the main page in bold. Easier to read, no searching, and the important features are on the front page instead of listing all tools on the side, they become very confusing.

PBS Specific

1. Samples of A&E Solicitation using the 2 step process

2. Being able to search by building address on the Building Locator search page would be nice. Thank you!

3. A continuously updated list of all the building managers and their assistants in all the GSA-operated buildings.

4. As an engineer I would like to see more topics on being more energy efficient.

5. Is it possible to access the database for lease files through Insite?

6. The site should be easier to navigate, the colors are boring and provide users with links to more in-depth information about and for the different PBS divisions


1. IT

2. Can’t think of anything at this time

3. More timely content – and less broken links.

4. None

5. Don’t have any suggestion.

6. The site is very well developed

7. Better organization of site.

8. Better organized – – terrible way to locate anything the site is confusing

9. Maybe an icon you can click on that give a short description of all of the different locations on the website so that it would be easy to see what is available.

10. I have none in mind.

11. At this time I can not think of anything that will improve InSite, it is very useful in its current format but taking this survey has encouraged me to take the time to surf through more topics to learn to better for navigating purpose.

12. Hot Links


Twitter Strategy

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

How GSA FAS ITS has been using New Media – specifically, Twitter

(excerpt from an at work “Brownbag” working lunch. Presented via this blog to take advantage of links to real time conversations – which is part of the attraction of Twitter).

Twitter: ITS’ Twitter account is GSA_ITS.

Background and experience: I became acquainted with practical uses of Twitter – vs. the useless ways – when I used my personal Twitter account – joyrenee – to publicize GSA regional events. This strategy was so successful that we formally adopted Twitter at GSA FAS ITS, and as of March 2010 it is the third most followed Twitter account at GSA.

Best uses for Twitter: Outreach, search engine optimization, brand awareness and surveillance.

Outreach: To promote events, training, conferences, conventions, speeches by senior management, news releases,  job openings, blog posts by senior management, and other noteworthy GSA or GSA-related people and activities. Not everyone will come to your website to learn about these things – but millions of people are on Twitter. Fish where the fish are.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): tweets show up in a Google search. Tweets also show up in a Twitter search. So by tweeting you are exponentially increasing the possibility of this tweeted information to be found. NOTE: you must tweet a url for this to work. Hint: tweet the url with a link shortener that will provide a count of the number of times users clicked through your tweets. Include the appropriate hashtag(s).

Brand awareness: often organizations have a name or image that is problematic – one that doesn’t fully convey who they are or what they do. Tweeting regularly with noteworthy accomplishments, did you know? factoids, that link directly to web pages about those programs can help deepen understanding and awareness.

Twitter strategy: An organization should create its own Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for tweeting, retweeting, and responding to tweets and direct messages. Generally tweets should:

1. Include a url so a user can accomplish a task (register for an event, training or conference, learn more about an organization (be a donor, buy something, find their address or contact information, etc.) or attend a speech or press conference). Use URL shorteners that provide tracking of how many times a user clicked on the link that was tweeted.

2. Be scheduled all at once by 9 a.m. with tweets occurring every half hour. The earlier you tweet in the morning the more likely it is to be retweeted.

3. Be funny, snappy, and personable. Boring tweets that are blatant advertisements are a waste of your time and your users’.

4. Follow those with an affinity to your organization and many of those followers may follow you back. Advanced Twitter users create lists of Twitter accounts and curate those lists. For example, @GSA_ITS has Twitter lists: Cybersecurity, Cloud, Telecommunications, Government Agencies. @GSA_ITS is itself listed on over 100 Twitter lists. This topic deserves its own blog post.

Surveillance: involves searches twitter conversations to find out what is being said about one’s organization, program, or self in the twitterverse. GSA = Corporations and organizations such as DHS and the Air Force mine Twitter for rumors and disinformation.

I have a personal example of how Charter cable reacted to my tweet that my cable service was out =

Screenshot of Charter's conversations to me on Twitter

Twitter, as you can see, is not a one way conversation, but more of a collection of many multi-threaded conversations.

Hashtags: an illustration of a conference currently underway now and using the hashtag g2e

Twitterfall: an illustration of a GSA Expo Twitterfall

Biz case for Events – after the home page was revised in Jan 2008 and the listing to all GSA events disappeared.  Regions became inundated with calls from people looking for events, specifically the “How to get on a GSA Schedule” which is offered monthly by almost every one of the GSA regions. Almost magically, when these events were tweeted, the attendance at the events increased, and sometimes exponentially. Small business training courses at NCR, which usually had 40 – 60 attendees, zoomed to over 100 attendees.

Metrics:Link statistics from URL shortening service

# Clicks Link title URL Date created
26 Outreach Europe & Africa 2010 18-May
64 Joint Alliant and Alliant Small Business – 6/16/ webinar 13-May
73 Joint Alliant and Alliant Small Business – 6/16 webinar 13-May
71 Joint Alliant and Alliant Small Business – 6/2 webinar 13-May
170 Alliant Outreach 13-May
106 Joint Alliant and Alliant Small Business – 5/26 webinar 13-May
82 joint Alliant and Alliant Small Business  – 5/19 webinar 13-May
73 Mganagement Analyst, 0343, GS-7/9, Fairfax 6-May
33 Mgmt/Program Analyst, 0343, GSA-14, Fairfax 6-May
79 Outreach Europe & Africa 2010×4 20-May

Link statistics from URL shortening service

# Clicks Link title URL Date created
4 out of 9 GSA Slams IT Modernization 25-May
8 out of 19 World congress 2010 20-May
9 out of 97 6th Annual Natl Vets SB Conference 20-May
10 out of 10 Inst for Entrepreneurial Studies/Dev (Ike Skelton procurement conf) 20-May
10 out of 10 Tech council of Maryland calendar 20-May
6 out of 6 Environment, Energy Security & Sustainability Symposium 20-May

Changes to the ITS Twitter approach: recently we reached out a team approach where poc’s can tweet directly through the GSA_ITS Twitter account. This was announced on Tuesday and we look forward to proving usernames and passwords to poc’s so the GSA_ITS Twitter account outreach reflects the wisdom of the hive.

Six success stories for GSA’s Regions « Strategic Online Presence

March 8, 2008 Leave a comment

GSA’s Regions have made huge strides in improving the breadth and depth of content on their sites. Here is a listing of the top six achievements:

1. Online event registration for monthly small business workshops is in place for Boston, New York, Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

2. Expanded points of contact have been posted in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver, and Washington, DC

3. Some regions advertise vacant federal space: New York, Heartland, Washington, DC

4. News and tips on energy conservation and outreach: Atlanta, New York, Denver, San Francisco and Washington, DC

5. Some regions post newsletters online: Philadelphia, Denver.

6. Some regions publish public notices: New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, Auburn, and Washington, DC.

Here is a breakout of GSA’s eleven regions:

GSA Region Number GSA Region Name GSA Region’s headquarters Areas served by this GSA Region:
1 New England Boston Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont
2 Northeast & Caribbean New York, New York New York, New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
3 Mid-Atlantic Philadelphia Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey (southern), Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Europe, Africa, and the Middle East).
4 Southeast Sunbelt Atlanta Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee
5 Great Lakes Chicago Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
6 Heartland Kansas City, MO Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri
7 Greater Southwest Ft. Worth Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas; and Canada, and Central and South America
8 Rocky Mountain Denver Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming
9 Pacific Rim San Francisco Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada , as well as overseas in American Samoa, Diego Garcia, Guam, Japan, Korea and Saipan
10 Northwest Arctic Auburn, WA Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington
NCR National Capital Region Washington, DC Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia

Working for GSA, National Capital Region (NCR)

April 30, 2007 Leave a comment

I work for GSA, General Service’s National Capital Region, located in Washington, DC. I work as a web content manager and editor for

NCR hosts quite a few events, workshops and seminars – learn more about NCR events at We try to help our clients learn about what we do, and how they can work with us, and what we can do for them.

GSA’s regional websites, at, have to comply with a number of federal mandates and internal policies, just as any government websites are required to do.

If you have any comments about the websites listed above, I would be interested in listening.