We have talked many times about how an intranet could help increase collaboration and productivity, as well as discussed the path companies need to take to ensure a successful launch. But one of the most common questions about intranets and social collaboration software is how to prove their value.
At the IABC Southern Region Conference in Austin, Texas, Devan Hanna shared the story of Golin's intranet, called Simon, along with a bit of perspective on how to gain buy-in from your employees and executives during a relaunch.
Our Intranet Story - Meet Simon
With Devan Hanna, Marketing Manager at Golin
Chapter 1 - About Golin
Golin is a global communications firm with over 50 offices and about 30 affiliates. We were founded around 60 years ago, by a man named Al Golin, in Chicago, who really instilled a sense of Mid-Western culture in the fabric of our company, which trickled through to different aspects of what we work with. We are now a top ten firm, with over 1,000 employees and 150 clients.
Internally, we have a very unique structure, organized in four specialty communities:
- Strategists: our business analysts who provide a lot of insights and research for our clients' business.
- Creators: web developers, graphic designers, and writers who shape all of the content that we create.
- Connectors have anything and everything to do with human relations, from social to traditional.
- Catalysts are the ones who manage the relationships.
From those specialist communities, it's paired down by practices. We have eight different practices and, from there, based upon geographical locations. As you can see, it's a bit of a complicated internal communications landscape.
I also want to touch on our culture. Our Mid-Western roots have really helped shaped our people-focused culture. We tend to attract a lot of top talent who, not only want to share their expertise, but also want to work with others who have completely different perspectives, and come together to create something new. We try to foster this collaboration with open-concept office layouts and each office has their own unique solution for sharing information. However, as we work in teams, we are always looking for new ways to package and share globally.
Chapter 2 - Before Igloo
Before Igloo, we had a very silo-ed, outdated method of communicating globally to our employees. Meet Victoria, this lovely lady sits across from me, with our open-concept offices in the background. Victoria works in New Business. She needs to get content fast; it needs to be updated and current and what we were supporting as a team wasn't helping her and ended up making her job more difficult.
We had multiple social portals, similar to Twitter, but they were closed by communities, where people weren't working together. They were just talking amongst themselves, which they can easily do in emails or shouting across the office. These platforms promoted a bit of a silo mentality and we would see outdated content circulated, making it hard for us to manage.
We also had an extremely unpopular SharePoint-based intranet that was not aesthetically pleasing, was not organized well … ultimately not liked. No one was on it and it wasn't helping foster the collaboration that we created within our company.
Our old intranet was very much based upon transactions. There was the "command and control", with facts, dates and commitments. It was very much a single source of truth, the higher power Of corporate and nothing else.
This is a screenshot of what we were working with. I told you it wasn't aesthetically pleasing. There is no content hierarchy, it's all one-way communication and it wasn't working for us. From there, we knew what we didn't need. We needed to figure out what we ultimately wanted to achieve.
In the big picture, we wanted the new platform to:
- Foster collaboration and interaction.
- Promote ideas, insights and engagement.
- Be an open forum, where everyone can grow together and share information.
We also created goals that we wanted our platform to achieve:
- We needed one place where everyone can get and share information.
- We wanted to foster this global community that we had, instead of silo-ing by continent or office.
- We wanted to make sharing knowledge easier so that people do it more often, which happens rarely for busy professionals. We wanted to create an environment where that can happen.
- We were trying to decrease the dependency on emails - still working on it, but it also freed us up a lot from the limited 20Mb of space you get from attachments. It's wonderful.
- And then, of course, the ultimate bottom-line is to stop reinventing the wheel - why do we keep doing the same thing because we forgot where we saved that document on our desktop?
With these goals in mind, we needed to figure out what our platform needed to achieve for us. We are based under IPG and our IT team supports multiple other companies under the IPG umbrella. Which means, we didn't have a lot of access to them.
- We needed a site that would be intuitive and we needed a team to help us if we couldn't figure it out - we wanted something built and the relationship built-in.
- It needed to be easy to use.
- We didn't have the resources to put an enormous team behind this project. It was crucial to have an easy roll-out.
- Of course, it needs to offer file sharing capabilities. Everyone has Dropbox but everyone is doing their own thing - it's segmented, it's living out in no-man's-land - we needed it in one area.
- We needed to foster our culture of communicators.
- We needed to make sure it was seamless with other applications that we couldn't get rid of.
- It needed to grow as we grow. It needed to change as we are changing.
- Since it's 2014, mobile-enabled was a must.
- Most importantly, we needed to show the C-suite that it was cost-effective.
Chapter 3 - Getting to Work
Choosing a name was a pretty intensive process for us. Your name needs to be:
- Easy to spell,
- Easy to say,
- Easy to remember,
We sent an email to all of our staff - Hey, we are building this awesome intranet and we want you to be a part of this. So let's all get excited! What kind of names do you want?
This the best of the best. You'll see plain names, like the Golin Daily, the Globe, the Golin Global, etc., as well as far out suggestions, like the G-spot. We narrowed it down to the highlighted sections, but ultimately, we went with Simon.
Why Simon? The previous intranet was named Alvin. Simon was easy to reference - oh, go check Simon - there's also a 'Simon says' reference we incorporated in the launch: we enabled great interactive games from the web to let our employees' minds wander. If it's on the intranet, we are fine with it. Most importantly, Simon was a business friend of our founder and was really a great creative sounding board. We thought it aligned well with our message and what we were trying to do.
Remembering our structure, Communities, then Practices, then Offices, we knew our solution had to be specific to each of these groups. And this is an area where we really needed Igloo for. We vaguely knew what we wanted, but not the functionality or best practices, so we worked with Igloo to troubleshoot and figure out what would work best.
Chapter 4 - The Tour
This is the first thing that employees see when they get to Simon. We needed to make sure that it had top-light Agency news because we knew employees would be drilling down to their Communities, Practices, or Offices and ultimately skip over it. We made it very visual to catch their attention. Everything on the homepage is one click away, making it easy for them to get to watch a video, go to the Golin Awards, get a logo, etc.
We also wanted to showcase trending pages - which weren't really trending, we just wanted to make sure that they'd go there so employees would just think 'Trending, perfect, go'. We also have a rotating HTML slideshow, which provides employee with a quick burst of information.
- The Agency
We tried to promote a sense of knowledge, you will find everything, from credentials, to templates, to logos, to RFPs and case studies, as well as my favourite portion of the agency section: the Agency News Blog.
In it, the executive team and the marketing team compose important agency news. For example, our CEO, Fred, posted here about this major global hire, an information that would normally be shared through email - Hey, meet Pamela, here is her bio, enjoy. In his post, he is sharing personal thoughts about his feelings regarding this major initiative and he embedded a video where we interview her, giving us a little bit more insights into what she was planning on doing in her new role - it's really exciting.
What's great? There is also a comment section where people can share what they are thinking and congratulate Pamela on joining Golin. Our intranet allowed us to create this informal page where people feel comfortable interacting with our CEO. Through email, no one would respond to the CEO's email. Whereas here, employees interact with him and he interacts back with them. It works well on both ends.
- The Community sections
We really wanted to promote collaboration. These areas have everything from tools and trending for Specialists:
- Inspire Pages, which talk about external things that are happening - look at what this competitor did, it's really cool, let's check it out.
- Examples of client's work that did not get the ultimate approval but that a team was really proud of.
- Stories from the top major news outlets on the Media Specialist page, so employees can monitor for anything that would impact the clients that they manage. I'd like to think that it will replace Google Alerts.
- The Practice sections
We really wanted to showcase the expertise that lies with our employees. For example, Bryan shared information about how to respond to a specific client request about Wikipedia editing in a post, tagged other people that helped him come to this conclusion and discussed what worked with the client.
When you tag people, similar to Twitter or Facebook, they will receive a notification, which promotes quicker responses and increased interactions. What's great about this is? He will see comments and responses - Hey I was in that same situation and this is what we came up with. This is the attachment of what we did. Hopefully, it will be helpful.
It will all live in one place, instead of in twenty different emails that are only private to the people on the recipients list. If anyone else needs to find this information, they can search editing or Wikipedia. They will also know the content owners and can go directly to them, if they have more questions.
- The Office sections
We really just wanted our offices to promote culture. It does have HR information and company news, but also offers offices their own intranet space within the global sphere.
Offices have calendar events, photo albums, posts, microblogs - Twitter-like features, etc. Our London office does a great job at making everyone jealous about how social they are. They gather everyone in their office, go out to the pub for team building, post pictures the next day and then reminisce. We all get to see it, which is fun but makes you want to up your game a little bit and share information.
Question: Is this space available only for the London Office or can other Offices have access to it?
Everything is open and everyone can interact. I can go here and comment - That looks amazing. Where is this? Invite me next time.
Chapter 5 - The customization of our Igloo Intranet
I also wanted to touch upon the customization that we worked with Igloo to do, in particular the RFP Q&A Search. Remember Victoria? She's a little harried, she has a lot going on, she's friendly, and she's quick. We knew we needed to help her but didn't know how, so we worked with Igloo to create this customization.
In our intranet, you can find every RFP/RFI pitch for the last two years. Users can perform searches, respond to pieces of new business, or look for a consumer-focus, tech or product launch RFP. There is context within all this information.
This specifically allows employees to search for certain answers to commonly asked questions, reducing the need to email a co-worker asking what was done in the past. All of our RFPs are searchable and they offer information regarding the content owner, as well as if this piece has been used in context with other RFPs and RFIs.
Question: Is that accessible from the menu on top?
Yes. In our Agency section. The RFP Q&A is what it's called.
Question: How did you involve the employees in the process to create the new, improved version?
We did focus groups originally to make sure we understood what was happening. We found out employees had favourites parts of the old platform. We decided to cultivate that when building the new platform. Our process was:
- We organized all the information on the previous platform.
- We built out a beta phase
- We launched this version to every level within the Community/Practice/Office to a select group of people to test it and play around.
Question: What was the preliminary research process you went through and how did you convince your leaders that you needed a new intranet?
All good intranets have metrics built-in. From SharePoint, where we started, we could see news articles or information wasn't being downloaded and asking employees if they had read or seen the information did not yield better results. We decided to send a poll to our employees worldwide to gauge how they felt and, from there, we looked into our options. I know we spoke with Socialcast, Jive and a few others. After chatting with these companies and with Igloo, it was easier to pare down what was working and what wasn't. Since employees were complaining they couldn't share information quickly, we questioned the vendors about best practices, what they encountered in the past, what worked and what didn't.
Question: How long did that take?
It took us over a year but we had a very special circumstance. I don't think that's necessarily a common situation.
Additional information on intranet metrics, from Andrew Dixon, VP of Marketing and Operations at Igloo.
Most of the intranet platforms, including Igloo, have built-in social analytics capability, monitoring and measuring all the interactions people have with people and with content. It provides you with reports on the health of your community.
Some the most common metrics to look at to assess the health of a community are:
- The last time users logged in,
- The percentage of people logging in on a regular basis,
- The percentage of people who have filled out their profile and
- How much of their profile - which helps you find employees in the directory,
- Which content is trending, through number of downloads or comments.
You can also compare reports, month over month, week over week, or team by team, telling you which communities or groups are doing better, and allowing you to take lessons from what's happening there and apply them elsewhere.
There is a lot of science behind it. That capability is already built into the Igloo platform.
Question: What metrics could a more traditional company, outside of engagement, use to prove they benefited from a new intranet?
Real business workflows - identify productivity gains, increases in performance, shorter time to market, or anything else that would be important to your company. In order to measure that, you need to establish a baseline for how it was before you invested in this new technology and how it is after.
As for the social side of things, that will happen naturally. People are social in nature. Instead of huddling around the water cooler in the cafeteria, you are offering your employees a forum where they can share that type of information, alongside of business information. This process will just be a digital version of what's already happening. It doesn't detract from the actual productivity, but offers what people want and shows the personal side.
Intranets allow you to increase collaboration in the business.
Epilogue - What I wish I had known
Lessons learned on how to successfully implement an intranet.
The people side:
- Executive buy-in and participation from the get-go. Not only are they the one signing off on the budget and approving the project but, if they are as engaged in this intranet as you are, it's going to be a top-bottom trickle down. Fred's post is a great example: He is posting content, people are interacting with him.
- You need to plan and staff appropriately. This isn't a three person job, or even a one department job.
- You need to assign content owners. You need content owners at all levels of the organization, including the executive level.
- You need to communicate regularly with those stakeholders. You need to have this unified mission that you stand behind as you move forward and build this out.
Question: Did you significantly change how you staffed the site from what you had before?
Yes. We had a two-person team when working with SharePoint. Because it was command and control, we just needed to update information and we were done. In this situation, we wanted to make sure that we had various bits of information for a Specialty level or for an Executive level. That's not something my team could or should do. People will be more receptive to the Executive Director of Digital talking about digital content than they are to me. When users see someone that they know and respect on the intranet, they are more likely to engage with them and come back.
Staffing accordingly truly meant getting an increased number of people in our organization to produce content for our intranet and participate.
The technology side:
- Scalable solution. We wanted a platform that could change after we launched it, in the event that what we built wasn't what our audience wanted. It needed to be quick and nimble at the time of the launch.
- Plan beyond your launch. Just having a 2-3 month communications plan won't cut it. This is an ongoing thing.
- You need to get to know your audience and it's why we needed a scalable solution. Your audience behaviours, no matter how well you plan, test and poll, are going to be different once they are actually interacting with the site.
- Get to know your "super users". "Super users" rise above the everyday and are going to be the one who are going to come up with solutions, interact with others and bring more people to the sites they want to hear from.
And then the two most important and the hardest to get over are these last two here and are
- Be patient - old habits die hard - even though you might not be getting the engagement you are looking for in the first month or two, it will change. Stick with it!
- It's never 100% finished. We pushed back our launch several times because we were nervous we weren't there yet. It's never there, ever. Be comfortable with that, move forward and evolve with your company, instead of behind it.