Posts Tagged ‘GSA’

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


Gov 2.0 Camp, UnConference Spectacular #gov20camp

April 3, 2009 9 comments

Washington, DC just hosted an amazing unconference – the Gov 2.0 Camp. It was held at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Georgetown (Washington, DC) on 3/27 and 3/28/09.

The discussions in the hallways were often as interesting as the official classes. Sometimes the students in the atrium couldn’t hear over the animated conversations taking place and someone would have to shout for everyone to be quiet.  Some people attending that I knew included Bev Godwin, Leilani Martinez and Sheila Campbell of, Jeffrey Levy and Kay Morrison of the EPA, Gwynne Kostin of DHS, Lisa Wolfisch from the Census, Claudia Isaacoff from the Coast Guard, and Mark Drapeau of the NDU (@Cheeky_Geeky). Lurita Doan was there, as a reporter, as was Daniel Mintz, acting as a volunteer. I met some amazing people who I had only known through Twitter – yes that’s you Sarah Bourne (@sarahbourne)! And it was cool to meet a neighbor I’d met only through Twitter – Noel Dickover (@NoelDickover).

I feel grateful for all those who made this Gov 2.0 Camp possible, and am so inspired by the brilliant presentations of people who are so knowledgeable and passionate about finding better ways to use technology and trying to get us all feeling that Gov 2.0 groove. I’ve included an overview of sessions I took notes on, with links. Enjoy!

-Twitter: the Air Force led a fascinating session where they presented case studies on how they actively use Twitter for outreach AND continually monitor it to find rumors, stop them immediately, avoid a crisis and to respond to bad information being promulgated. The Air Force had some good examples of why they think this is mission-critical. There is a follow up Crisis Communications camp – how to use Twitter and similar services in crisis communications. Many people in the class recommended Ragan Communications for their great seminars on Twitter and how organizations (Ford, GM, Comcast) monitor it for customer complaints – learn more and SMS were mentioned as Twitter alternatives, with SMS being the best proven alternative. Presentation: Rumors Quashed at the Speed of Light. Tips: Air Force uses to monitor Twitter. The Mass. State government creates an RSS feed from, and O’Reilly Media uses TweetGrid. – was recommended as a url shortener and clickthrough counter.

Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin at Gov 2.0 Camp Wash DC

Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin at Gov 2.0 Camp Wash. D.C. Photo courtesy of Eric S. Brown (@ericsbrown),

Macon Phillips, White House Director of New Media, and Bev Godwin, White House Director of Online Resources and Interagency Development.

Tweets from this session:@macon wants to inspire innovation stuff outside whitehouse-‘we’re not the hub’ very encouraging.

RECOMMENDATION: Create a cache of “White House Approved” methods for engaging citizens that any given agency can follow.

We want top down endorsement to encourage us: “Go!”

Tweets for Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin to answer or comment on appear on stage with them

Tweets for Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin to answer or comment on appear on stage with them. Photo courtesy of Eric S. Brown (@ericsbrown),

Tweets for Macon Phillips (@macon) and Bev Godwin (@bevusa) to answer or comment on appear on stage with them.

While at first the commentary was related to the first-of-its-kind Internet town hall meeting at the White House, camp goers could and did ask other questions and make other comments.

Typical of many, one questioner asked if her agency had to wait to use new media? What permissions were necessary before they could start? Should they wait for a new agency head to be hired?

The audience was told that all agencies should use new/social media now.

“The White House is HERE at #gov20camp” that’s an endorsement of social media right there. ( Steve Raddick @sradick).

-Video: people who worked on Obama’s campaign and were in charge of creating YouTube videos for that campaign talked about that experience. They said that video was no longer just an add-on, but an important media component that helps citizens visualize important concepts. Without it, all citizens have is text. The class talked about the challenges that federal/state/local agencies would face creating video content. Bev Godwin was there, and made it clear that Section 508 applied to all videos and that all videos made by agencies must be captioned before publishing. They (sorry I did not write down their names) mentioned that the Google Audio Indexing Tool: GAUDI – automatically created transcripts of Obama’s speeches, which was very helpful for their needs.
-Wikis: the EPA talked about how they used wikis to quickly create and maintain documentation internally. The OMB wiki has over 11,000 users. There are over 108 open source engines for wikis at Using wikis to develop new employee orientation materials was mentioned as an excellent example – one wiki for new employees (policies, forms, transportation, etc.), one wiki for managers (how to hire, how to request an office, pc, etc.) The Coast Guard mentioned that they are using wet paint as their internal wiki. The media wiki is powering wikipedia. The social media survey indicated that many citizens would prefer to get gov’t information from wikis – over web portals.

-Social Media Survey: Lead by Jed Sundwall of Captura (@jedsundwall) this session was a compelling survey of over 500 users, asking them what type of social media they would want to use to get information from the government, and what kind of info. they would want to receive. Ambient intimacy was mentioned as a term that people feel when they develop online friendships, and something the government should cultivate with citizens. Highly recommended: Social Media Survey.

-Disability: Census has created a fully accessible flash player (Lisa Wolfisch). There is an Accessible Rich Internet Application (ARIA) standard API that can be used for social media sites like Facebook, so why isn’t anyone doing that?  Steve of Maine(@steveofmaine), a self-identified blind guy on twitter, routinely tests and comments on his experiences with various new media applications like Facebook.  Ian Lloyd of is an expert on captioning. Firebox is a free screen reader for Firefox browser. Note: could not find, however try Accessibar for Firefox. There is a Google Accessible Web Search for the Visually Impaired – finds sites that work well with screen readers – and the class wondered if the Google Audio Indexing Tool: GAUDI – could be used to create transcripts for videos or podcasts. If transcripts could be generated automatically, captioning would be faster. Jacob Nielsen recently wrote an article on a new flyout mega dropdown menu done in AJAX which is better for the disabled than flyovers. The Census has figures from 2007 of the numbers of the population that are disabled. Nat’l Fed. Blind has a page where people can report access problems with any page Note: I could not find this.

The US Now film(actually a UK film production) was premiered at the #gov20camp. Just clips are available now and it is expected to be more available in April 09.

Links to the Gov 2.0 Camp Produced Stuff
Friday, 3/27/09 and Saturday, 3/28/09 sessions.
Andrew Rasiej of Personal Democracy
Friday Photos
Saturday Photos
#gov20camp Flickr Group

Blog/News coverage:
CNET, Craig Newmark (Craigslist), and Huffington Post, Air Force, Dorobek Insider, Network Solutions, Federal Times, Nextgov, Personal Democracy, Poynter Online, Seattle’s CTO, Sarah Bourne, Future gov, You2Gov, 13th Floor Ellen Perlman (videos of agenda making), (videos of posters, Gov 2.0 Camp Recap, Steve Radick BAH, Viget Labs, Gov Social Media, Diane Cline Mural Maker Extraordinaire, Doug Watson, Future Fed – Microsoft Federal Blog – Trip Report from Gov 2.0 Camp, Paul Canning, Tony’s Place – an Outsider’s Take on Gov 2.0 Camp, Blackstone Technology, Devost, Mindtouch.

Groups for the Gov 2.0 Camp:
Gov 2.0 Bar Camp
Gov 2.0 Google Group

Upcoming events (similar):
MuniGov 2.0 April 10, 2009 Online only
She’s Geeky, Sat. 4/18/009 in McLean, VA.
Coders for Charity – Geeks Giving Back 4/24 – 4/26/09, Kansas City, MO
eDemocracyCamp2 4/19/09, Wash., DC
Enterprise 2.0: Social learning strategies GCN, 4/21/09 Wash., DC
Crisis Communications camp June 13-14, 2009, Wash., DC
Online Social Networks to Support Community Collaboration, Penn State, PA June 25-27, 2009
Gov 2.0 Summit (O’Reilly) 9/2009, Wash., DC
Bar Camps in the USA
Social Media Club event near you – (Google Search)
eGovernment at W3C