Anglia Farmers

Growing rapidly from 30 employees to 150, Anglia Farmers needed to update their patchwork internal systems. Holiday booking was an ordeal, face-to-face conversation became uncommon, and emails proliferated — cluttering up inboxes throughout the company. They used Igloo to bring their new intranet, ALFIE, to life and simplify the workflows of its employees.

The company

Anglia Farmers is the largest agricultural purchasing group in the United Kingdom. Formed in 2003, the company is owned by 3,500 shareholding members (while also serving 14,000 non-shareholding members), and pools its resources to provide low-cost bulk purchases for farmers throughout the U.K. They cover the spectrum of farming needs, including items like agrochemicals, fuels, livestock products, and even smartphones and as it continues to grow, Anglia Farmers will continue introducing new programs such as grant application assistance and PR services.

The challenge

As their operations rapidly grew from 30 employees to 150, Anglia Farmers moved to a new office space and quickly realized that the way they did things wouldn’t work. Face-to-face conversation became uncommon and emails proliferated — cluttering up inboxes throughout the company. Attempts were made to create a newsletter compiling relevant information, but by the time the team would have enough updates to collect, they would already be out of date.

In addition to this, they had one shared drive for their files, which quickly became extremely crowded with multiple versions of out-dated documents that were too much trouble to even sift through.

Samantha Barrell, a Process Improvement Manager in the Organizational Effectiveness Team, took the initiative to find the right solution to make Anglia Farmers more agile, collaborative, and unified.

“We’d outgrown the systems that had been put in place on a temporary basis 10 years ago. We realized that they needed a drastic overhaul.”

The strategy

Different options were pitched internally by various stakeholders; HR had their Access databases for company calendars, developers liked JIRA to track projects, but no suggestions seemed to be intuitive or comprehensive enough for the company’s needs as a whole. Samantha conducted an exhaustive online search for a solution. As she recalls: “We tried quite a few, and what we mainly found is that people would have a really smart website but when you demoed it, it was really old-fashioned and wasn’t that nice to use. We knew we wanted something that looked good but it also had to be easy to administer so we wouldn’t have to bombard IT to change things all of the time.” Once she found Igloo, her criteria were met.

“It was the easiest to use — particularly the drag-and-drop solutions. That was very important,” Barrell says. But it wasn’t just the intuitiveness and visual appeal that the company needed. They also needed to make sure there was a social aspect to the software. With newsfeeds, wikis, and people directories, they found a solution with Igloo that other intranets couldn’t provide.

Once the decision was made to go with Igloo, the team at Anglia Farmers got to work implementing it and, right away, felt extremely supported by Igloo’s staff, “The team was brilliant,” Barrell notes. They chose to ease the company into their new workplace destination, so they approached it in stages. Following implementation in December, and a training session in January, the first thing the team pushed live was a calendar for booking vacations. After years of adding steps to the process without any refinement, the simple act of booking vacation time became a convoluted process, with emails going back and forth between HR, managers, and the employees themselves. Now, with a straightforward system using the calendar function, employees could clearly see a quick reason to embrace their new intranet — breaking down some of the resistance that may have been there to begin with.

Since then, many employees have embraced the different knowledge management capabilities within Igloo, such as using newsfeeds and activity streams to keep people informed of company updates and automating collateral requests through a Forum widget and a template.

“Being able to post status updates and chatting was something we really wanted to go for. Although it was promised in some of the other intranets, it wasn’t as intuitive as it could have been.”

The results

Anglia Farmers now has an intranet that brings 99% of employees coming back day after day. “People love it,” Samantha says, and when talking about the culture she adds: “we definitely notice an improvement. Being able to put a face to the name is a huge way to keep connected — particularly for new employees. Being able to find the right people for the right project is also great. It helps keep that culture that we had when we were smaller even though we’re larger now.”

As a Process Improvement Manager, Samantha’s main goal was to improve efficiency and streamline processes. With Igloo, she feels she was able to do that and is looking forward to further breaking down any silo mentality within Anglia Farmers. As projects continue to pop up and overlap, knowledge management and sharing will become increasingly important to the organization. She’s currently working on clearing out the outdated files that live on the shared drive so people can access their documents easier on Igloo.

“We definitely notice how much easier it is to do things now.”

Helpful tips

Start small. Anglia Farmers found that by introducing a new vacation booking system, it drew employees into the platform instead of throwing them deep into it. Once people have success using it, you can build on it and add more functionality.

Release information consistently. To get the most out of your intranet, keep the information flowing. Waiting for information to collect and releasing it in chunks (as Anglia Farmers used to do with their newsletter approach) eliminates the timeliness of the message and slows workflows.

Create a face for your intranet and get employees involved. When they launched their new intranet, Anglia Farmers decided to get employees in on the naming process. They held a contest for a new name — with the winner getting an extra vacation day. After numerous submissions, they settled on ALFIE and decided to personalize it by creating an owl character. By using a mascot to act as a helpful partner, they were able to take some of the stuffiness out of a “corporate intranet” and get people engaged.

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