NII Holdings provides wireless communication services in Latin America under the Nextel™ brand, servicing four different countries under their Nextel Argentina, Nextel Chile, Nextel Brazil, and Nextel Mexico companies. Headquartered in the United States, the company employs 13,000 people and not only gives customers mobile voice and data services — with roaming services outside of coverage areas — but provides solutions to businesses in the area with security, workforce management, and logistics support.
When administering their employee engagement survey, the Internal Communications team at NII Nextel found that the number one thing that needed improvement was employee communications. Because NII Nextel operated in four countries — along with its headquarters in the United States — it was extremely difficult for employees across the company to connect and collaborate with each other. At the time, the company didn’t even share a common email infrastructure. Employees told the team in no uncertain terms: they needed this changed right away.
The way the company operated was decentralized. Each company had its own intranet — six in all — and they looked like completely different companies, with slightly different branding and very different capabilities. A few issues included:
- Multiple outdated versions of SharePoint
- Platforms that couldn't talk to each other
- Different look and feel
- Specialists between markets couldn't reach out to each other
The company had decided to revamp their brand, moving to one that is more simplified and modern — so why not take the opportunity to introduce a simplified and modern intranet simultaneously? The timing would work out perfectly. The team didn’t want to completely ignore their existing intranets, they wanted to take the best of each of them. They picked some best practices so they could recreate them in a new solution.
But of course, the path was a little more complicated than it might initially seem. In addition to being separated by geography, there were three different languages spoken at the sites: Spanish, Portuguese, and English. Rather than make everyone speak one common language, they wanted to find a solution that accommodated a variety of languages.
In addition to the language issue, NII was outsourcing their IT function. As a result, the Internal Communications team found it difficult to get the support needed, so they were going to need an intranet solution that would have low IT involvement from not only an implementation perspective, but an ongoing support perspective.
The first thing the team did — which they did with the beginning of every major global project — was to set up a mission, a rallying cry: "Engage NII Nextel employees through a global intranet that informs them about our business and connects them to our strategy, markets, customers, and each other."
Setting up objectives
To help realize that mission, the team talked to employees and used what they learned to set up five strategic objectives:
- Improve collaboration within the employee base
- Support employee connections with a global employee directory
- Make the employees feel like part of a community
- Allow better team collaboration
- Implement business social networking tools
After assessing their needs and objectives, the team were able to start searching for a new intranet solution. In addition to being easy to use (both for users and administrators), easy to deploy, and cost effective, they decided that it would need to:
- Deliver consistent information to all employees regardless of where they work.
- Improve productivity by implementing a user-centric navigation.
- Contain a powerful search, not only for documents, but for people.
- Allow for personalization — each person should have some space to have their own contacts, favorites, subscriptions, and content to follow.
Working with IT
Due to an outsourced and fragmented model, engaging IT at NII Nextel was very sluggish. IT requests typically resulted in waiting two months to finally just receive a quote that would outline the level of effort they could put in — never mind the subsequent work to have to get the budget approved. Even though they thought it would be a low priority for IT, they quickly realized that it would be impossible to move forward without including them in the process. In the end, they needed something flexible and dynamic, something that would not be too intensive on IT resources. After a thorough search of the market, the team decided that the best solution was Igloo.
Igloo had everything the team was looking for: being able to help improve collaboration among employees, implement business social networking tools, and a powerful search function that covered documents and people — all within a personalized, secure, and user-centric platform.
Deciding what their intranet should be
Before implementing their intranet, a few non-technical things needed to be decided. First off, the intranet needed a name — one that would be easy for employees to remember — and the team hit upon Mundo Nextel (Nextel World). Beyond that, they needed to make sure there was a team to not only monitor the intranet, but to enhance and nurture it. Without that, their intranet would fail — no matter what technology is used to power it. So a governance team was established with a steering committee and an owner.
Employees would be using brand new functionality — such as the ability to post comments in very public areas like their homepage — so the HR and Legal departments were understandably concerned about possible issues that could arise. As a result, a few rules were put in place to ensure it would be a smooth process:
- No anonymous comments allowed.
- Comments on certain parts of the site would require approval.
- A code of conduct for the intranet would be followed, just like one for the physical office. Violating site policies would result in newly instituted consequences.
In addition to the rules of the intranet, the team decided to share some proactive tips to employees to make sure they were set up for success:
- Respect confidentiality and copyrights as well as the code of business conduct and company ethics.
- Keep your user ID and password safe.
- Don't upload or share anything that is personal, private, or highly confidential, and do not upload content that is illegal or prohibited.
Staring down the implementation of a solution geared towards an employee base of 3,000, the team decided to start small and move incrementally towards their goal in order to ensure a smoother rollout. They initially rolled out Mundo Nextel to 300 people in the U.S. for almost six months while they collected feedback and enhanced the solution based on what they heard.
They moved on to implementing at their Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil sites and thanks to the illuminating feedback given in the pilot community, they received glowing praise from employees on the new solution.
In order to achieve success, the team treated the rollout with the same marketing mindset as they would have given an external product release. They treated employees as customers that needed to be impressed so they put in a lot of time and effort creating a marketing campaign that was unavoidable. The month before each country’s launch, they would start with some deliverables like posters, table tents, emails, signs, and even balloons around the office.
But it wasn’t just about announcing that it was available, it was about letting people know what they could do with their solution. So, in that collateral, they would highlight that people can start blogging, commenting, having their own profiles with their own contacts, having subscriptions, and following content to get alerted when new things come on the site.
Along the way, the team felt supported by Igloo. There would be regular check points via a project manager that would give NII Nextel a chance to share what they needed and get valuable advice on how to continue to improve their intranet. It wasn’t just a matter of signing the contract and walking away, it was a shared relationship where both parties wanted nothing but success.
Once the implementation was completed, the most difficult part of the process loomed for the team: adoption. Getting people to not only see the value in a new intranet to have it become a part of their daily process is a big reason why teams like Internal Communications exist in the first place. Now that the tool was in place, it was time to promote it, increase education and training, and drive adoption.
Mundo Nextel’s navigation kept it simple. It contained six major areas, with a main carousel where all the latest or the most important news of the week are posted — including news from other countries and a multimedia gallery. Employees could personalize their homepage too. If they belonged to a team room or a collaboration space, it would show up on their homepage as soon as they logged in. As they navigated the site, they could save files, pages, and blogs to their Favorites section with one single click. But they also have their contacts, their subscriptions, and a briefcase where they can upload content, and take it around the world wherever they are.
They also wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to find each other. Mundo Nextel’s Employee Profiles contain a variety of options including: telephone number, title, primary and secondary responsibilities, education, technology used, social networks etc. — all to give employees a chance to connect in a more personal and targeted way.
By the numbers
During its initial rollout to 300 employees in the U.S., Mundo Nextel got approximately 392 unique visits per day. That means nearly every employee in the U.S. visited their intranet, plus around 90 or 100 employees from other countries came in to look for information in the site. Here are a few other interesting stats around the usage of Mundo Nextel:
- Average visit duration: 5 minutes and 20 seconds
- The most active day of the week is Monday
- Over 18,000 files uploaded to date
- 322 blog articles posted to date
- There are over 1,000 wiki articles, containing valuable knowledge for the company. And they have over 502 calendar events.
The numbers show how Igloo is enabling a transformation in the way NII Nextel employees collaborate and engage with each other and with the company. Prior to Igloo, the company never had a wiki where they could store knowledge about any type of project. It would often be stored in a newly created site where few could access it.
Now, they have a knowledge base, calendar events for all employees, and blog articles. It used to be extremely difficult to get employee to collaborate and share their knowledge, and they have a library of resources.
Igloo’s platform is very adaptable. It’s easy to launch new things, try out a new blog, a new Wiki, a new contest, etc. and the Internal Communications team at NII Nextel have been freed up to act on ideas rather than let them die by committee. Now it’s easy to pivot when things aren’t working the way they wanted them to.
On a monthly and quarterly basis, the team sits down and reviews the activity on Mondo Nextel. Thanks to very powerful analytic tools, they can find out who’s using the site and how. From there, they’ll sit down and say, "What areas need to be ramped up? Where do we need to pay a bit more attention? What are our most successful areas?" They would make sure the process was added to their day-to-day activities to make sure the site is improved on an ongoing basis and it doesn't become stale.
Ultimately, they would say: “Sometimes, we talk too much. And now, we say, ‘You know what? Let's just put it out there and see how our employees react.’ You'll never know where your successes are coming from.”
You will not launch with all the features and functionality you want at first. Have a priority list; the must-haves, the nice-to-haves, and your wish list. Don't be afraid to launch if the site is not 100% ready…maybe 90%.
Work with all your stakeholders to get buy-in before launch. Plan on a high-touch implementation to engage your target audiences. Be persistent - company culture is not changed overnight. The culture at NII Nextel didn’t change overnight. It is still changing. They were not used to blogging, commenting, liking, posting and sharing pictures of family and friends, but they’re doing it more and more now.
Test all site functionality before launch. Launch, and then test it again. If you're unsure about something will be successful on your site, a blog from your President, or a contest, or something else that you want to try, and you're not sure if your employees will respond to it, just test it out. Put it out there.
There will be roadblocks along the way as you upgrade the platform and make it something bigger. Keep the following things in mind:
- Establish a governance model for big decisions about the site.
- Define your tech needs ahead of time so there are no surprises.
- Talk to IT often, and remember that you might not be their priority.
Cloud solutions mean the entire infrastructure is outside your company. That means you should do a few things:
- Establish a process to quickly escalate major issues.
- Have a contract in place with specific response times to be expected.
- Make sure you have a way to quickly tell your users when the platform is down.
- Gather, analyze, and discuss site metrics on a regular basis and mould your processes around them.
Train, market, and create excitement within your stakeholders. Identify champions to support you around the company. And then use anything that you can think of — contests, games, prizes — to engage your employees during those first critical weeks after launch.
Be creative. Push the boundaries of what has been traditionally accepted. Don't be afraid to try new things.
And be sure to select a name for your intranet that is easy to remember.
Read a transcript of the video presentation here.