Hi, my name is Luis Miles. I'm a communications manager for Nextel Mexico. And Nextel Mexico is part of a larger company called NII Holdings. We have about 13,000 employees, spread out in five different countries.
Igloo goes out of their way to get to know their customers. They get to know me. They weren't satisfied with signing the contract and helping me launch my intranet. They kept in touch with me on a weekly basis via my project manager there. Also, in a quarterly basis, we get together, and we review site metrics, and they give me advice on how to make it better.
My company had a set of very significant challenges. First of all, we received our employee engagement survey, and the number one thing that we needed to improve as a company was employee communications and collaboration, especially between markets, between countries. As I said, we operate in five countries; Nextel Argentina, Nextel Chile, Nextel Brazil, Nextel Mexico. Up until this year, we had Nextel Peru,-- I't's now no longer with the company-- and the headquarter's Office in the United States. So our employees did not have a way to collaborate and connect amongst each other. We didn't even share a common email infrastructure. So they told us, we need that now more than ever.
Also, we cover three different languages, right? Mexico, Argentina, they speak Spanish. Then we have Brazil with Portuguese, and in Headquarter is English. Most of our employees only speak one language. So that in itself, it's a pretty tough communications challenge. So we knew that whatever solution we would select, it needed to accommodate trilingual employees. Actually, no, three languages. I'm sorry.
New brand identity.
Back in 2011, our company decided to revamp, upgrade, and renew our brand, our logo, our image against our customers. So at that time, it gave us a great opportunity. Okay, so our entire company, for the first time, is going to move to a common, standard, simplified, modern brand. Why don't we try to introduce a global, standard, simplified, modern intranet for everybody? So it gave us that opportunity to do that.
IT no more
At that time as well, we were outsourcing our IT function. It was a very confusing and challenging time for us, because we were not getting a lot of good support from our IT department. And we, I'm saying the internal communications function, we knew we were not going to get a lot of their support to launch a new Intranet, so we went ahead and looked for a solution that would have low IT involvement from an implementation perspective and from an ongoing support perspective.
Our situation on the technology side was pretty clear back then:
- Multiple outdated versions of SharePoint.
- The platforms couldn't talk to each other.
- They all looked different.
- Specialists between markets couldn't reach out to each other.
- Employee ask: Get me a platform to collaborate with other markets.
And this is an example of what I meant by that we operated very decentralized. Our six intranets, they almost looked like completely different companies, not many things in common. Even our brand, it was slightly different on each of the markets. So we said, "We're going to replace those." We didn't completely ignore our intranets. We did take the best of each of them. We picked some best practices and took note of them to try to implement them or recreate them in the new solution. But literally, we did replace those six intranets with a new solution.
The first step
The first thing we did, as with every major global project, is we set up a mission, something that we could all rally behind as we were launching this.
Our mission was clear:
"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."
We took it one step further. After we set up our mission, we set up five strategic objectives. We want to deliver consistent information to all our employees regardless of where they work. We want to improve their productivity by implementing a user-centric navigation, something common across all markets. Powerful search, not only for documents, for information that you need to do your work on a daily basis, but powerful search for people, for colleagues. Some personalization. We do not want the intranet experience to be the same for everybody. We wanted them to have a little wiggle room to have their own contacts, their own favorites pages, their own subscriptions, content that they could follow. We wanted them to have something like that.
Then we set up five strategic objective that we needed to have from a platform:
- Improve collaboration within our employee base.
- Support employee connections with a global employee directory.
- Make the employees feel like part of a community.
- Allow better team collaboration.
- Business social networking tools.
Those were our objectives. We hadn't even selected a technology yet. We just selected a mission and five strategic objectives. Then we moved on to, okay, how should we roll out this new platform or solution? Whatever that will be.
We started here on the top right. We conducted an assessment. We talked to a lot of people, as Mike did, in Hulu. We talked to a lot of stakeholders to ask them, what do you really need? What are your needs? Where do you see that we have gaps today? We gathered a lot of information. We did a planning session where we selected our mission, our strategic objectives, among other things. Only then we moved on to, "Let's look at the market and see what's out there from a technology perspective." We were really open to anything that would help us achieve our strategic objectives. So we were not biased to any particular technology. Obviously, we were going to move on to implementation, and then finally, adoption - marketing, communicating, training.
At the end of the project, the most difficult step, the one that took the most time, the one that I am working as of today to try to improve is the adoption, by far. Implementing it, launching it, piece of cake. Getting people to really use it, and I mean really use it. Not just visit it, but take advantage of all the features and functionality that we do have, that's something that that's why basically, I have a job. That's my job; to continue that adoption and that promotion.
Just because you're building a great intranet doesn't mean that your employees will come. Or if they do come, they may just come to the home page, and a couple of minutes later, move away.
"So adoption, have it in mind. If you're thinking about doing something like this, spend a lot of time in marketing, in education, and in training - before launch, during launch, and after launch."
Finally, we did get to the selection criteria for our technology. So we said the first thing. This thing has to be really easy to use. We didn't want a complex tool. It needs to be easy to train people, both the administrators, the content owners that have to load content, and also the employees that are going to use it. It needs to be easy to train, very easy to deploy, cost-effective, very small team, and not a lot of budget for this.
Once we had the selection criteria down, we delved deeper:
- This thing has to be really easy to use.
- Ease of training, both fro administrators and the users.
- Easy to deploy.
- Very cost-effective, the budget was very low for this.
As I mentioned, we knew that we were not a priority for IT, so we needed something that would almost have no IT involvement, and we learned it the hard way. You do need your IT group to launch or implement such a global solution. But at the end of the day, it was a lot less than your typical intranet implementation. Something that matched our business and functionality requirements, allowed a two-way communication that would be mobile-enabled, very important for us. We're a telecommunications company after all.
Our IT process used to be very sluggish, we needed to go through the process of submitting a bid or putting a request into IT just to get, two months later, a quote for a level of effort, and then trying to get the money approved. And then six month later it would actually happen. That could be for mundane things like introducing a new blog.
We wanted something much more flexible and much more dynamic. So at the end of the day, we looked at all the market options, and our best solution was Igloo. And we signed that contract back in 2011, and our first launch was in March 2012. We're going to talk a little bit about that launch.
About the launch
Back around this time, we also selected our name. We wanted to select a name that was easy to remember for all our employees, and we selected Mundo Nextel or Nextel World. But it wasn't just about selecting the technology. If you don't have the processes to support that technology and to monitor it and to enhance it, to nurture it, your intranet is going to fail no matter what technology you use. So we did go ahead and establish a governance model for our intranet, with the steering committee, with an owner.
I am the global editor-in-chief, and I have people that work with me at each of the different countries. However, none of these roles are full-time, okay? We do not have a person assigned 100% to our intranet. We are able to manage and update and monitor our global intranet with about 7 to 10 people. And I'm going to say that 20% of a person's time, any of those resources that I mentioned, we spend 15% to 20% of our time working on the intranet. So we didn't need to hire anybody. We just added it to responsibilities of certain existing employees, and they're able to manage that on an ongoing basis without any problems.
We established a governance team, and we also established some basic ground rules; some rules of the game. We were going to introduce new functionality for our employees; the ability to post comments, to like things, to leave comments in very public areas like the home page or our CEO communications. So the ability to vote for things, yea or nay.
So our HR and legal departments were a little bit concerned. We're introducing this new functionality, what is it going to be? So we put a few rules in place to ensure this would be a smooth process:
- No anonymous comments allowed on the site.
- Comments on certain parts of the site would be subjected to prior approval before posting.
- Consequences were put in place for violating the site policies.
- Introduced a code of conduct for the intranet, just like the one we had for the overall office.
And then we explained to our employees some basic things. And these are gonna sound very basic, very common sense, but they're very important to reinforce:
- Respect confidentiality and copyrights.
- Make sure you respect the code of business conduct and company ethics even if this is online.
- 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.
Okay. As I've said before, we selected Igloo, we moved on to implementation, we have 13,000 employees. We rolled this out to 300 people in the United States in February 2012, and we let our 300 employees play with our new Mundo Nextel solution for almost six months. It was a great solution, very easy to implement, but we didn't want to just make a big splash and roll it out to everybody at the same time.
We wanted to make sure that it was a solution that work for our company, for our culture. So we rolled it out in a very small, what is it, maybe 1%, 2% of our total employee-base. They played around with it for about six months, gave us a lot of feedback. And then we took almost another six months after that to enhance and upgrade the solution before we moved on to our second largest market, Argentina. That brought about 2,000 more employees to Mundo Nextel.
So we started with 300 by second quarter of 2012. About a year later, Nextel Argentina. I cannot tell you how important it was, those six months with this pilot community. We found and learned things that we never thought that we would get. A lot of useful feedback that were submitted to Igloo, and they helped us strengthen and enhance the intranet in a few ways.
And a month later, Mexico went very smoothly, and they were really successful. Our employees welcomed it and celebrated our intranet. They were extremely happy. So in the space of a month, we brought about 8,000 more users. And just this year, in March 2014, we launched it to our final, largest market, which is Nextel Brazil, bringing another 6,300. So all in all, about 13,000 users today. Extremely happy with that platform, especially compared to what we had before. The leap was tremendous from a technology perspective.
Marketing your platform
As I've said before, marketing. Just be prepared to market your intranet internally just as if you would externally, just as if you would be launching a new site for your customers. Your employees are really, really tough customers as well, so we did spend a lot of time and effort doing a marketing campaign that was very much in your face. We were everywhere.
The month before each launch, we did a few things locally:
- Posters and table tents
- Signs and balloons in the office.
This wasn't just about announcing it, but telling them the new things that they could do. "Hey, you can start blogging and commenting on March 1. You can also like, and you can also have your own profile with your contacts, and you can have subscriptions and follow content and get alerted when new things come on the site. We were really in your face.
This is what Mundo Nextel looks like, the home page. We have a very simple navigation at the top with six major areas, a main carousel where all the latest or the most important news of the week are posted. We have news from other countries based here, a multimedia gallery. This is very common to everybody. This is the area where we have a little bit of personalization. If you belong to a team room or a collaboration space, it's going to show up on your home page as soon as you log in. And as you navigate the site, if you like something, anything, it could be a file, it could be a page, it could be a blog, there is a way, with one single click, that you can add it as your personal link or your favorites. It becomes your favorites list. So each employee that goes there has their own set of favorites for Mundo Nextel.
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. This is a sample of a team room, or a collaboration space, for a team. We usually create those upon request. A team comes and says, "I have this project. It starts this year. It's going to finish December of next year." So we create that space for them. We give it to the team, and they manage it themselves. Once the project is concluded, we usually archive the information and remove it from the site. The same functionality that we have on Mundo Nextel for our employees, but dedicated to a project team.
One of the most important things for us was to find each other. And that's why we grabbed the employee profile that Mundo Nextel has, and we enhanced it with several things like not just where you are located, and what's your telephone number, and what's your title, but what's your primary and your secondary responsibilities. What is your education? What is your background? What kind of technologies do you work with? What kind of social networking sites are you a member of? I'm a member of Facebook, Twitter. You can include your handles. There is so much more information here in this profile that is really helping our employees work better, connect to each other in a much more personal way. It doesn't matter the country that they work in. So this was very important for us, and we're taking full advantage of it.
A few numbers
Just a few numbers for our site since launch, and this is just for the U.S. site, the U.S. portion of Mundo Nextel. Remember, I said, we have about 300 employees. So we're getting about 392 visits per day. So that means about every employee in the U.S. visits the U.S. intranet, plus maybe 90 or 100 employees from other countries that come in and look for information in our U.S. site. Average visit duration, 5 minutes and 20 seconds. The most active day of the week is Monday when people come back from the weekend. We have over 18,000 files uploaded as of today. We have 322 blog articles. Over 1,000 Wiki articles, containing valuable knowledge for our company, that now it's basically exposed to everybody via Wiki. And we have over 502 calendar events.
So this is what I mean. This is real proof that Igloo is enabling a transformation in the way my employees collaborate and engage with each other and with our company. This is the proof. We never had a Wiki before where we could store knowledge about x type of project. It was usually stored in some made up site, and then kept, and nobody could access it. Now, we have a knowledge base here. We have calendar events for all employees, not just for one team but for everybody, and sub-teams. We didn't have that before. Blog articles, we didn't have one blog article before. It was so hard to get people to blog, people to get us news and events, and now we have 322.
So I'm not going to say that Igloo is solving all our problems, and it's the perfect solution, but I'm saying that it is enabling us to transform the way that our employees connect and engage in a very, very real way.
"I mentioned that before. The best technology will fail if you don't have strong processes to support it."
No one said it would be easy.
Take advantage of your vendor's project management capabilities, especially if you don't have them in-house. I didn't have them in-house. I mean, I have project managers, but none of them had launched a global intranet for collaboration before. So Igloo gave us Nanette, and I'm using her until today.
Cloud solutions means the entire infrastructure is outside your company. That means 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 mold your processes around them.
On a monthly and quarterly basis, I sit down and review the activity on my site. The tool does have very powerful analytics. And then we sit down and say, "What areas need to be ramped up? Where do we need to maybe pay a bit more attention? What are our most successful areas?" etc. So have that process added to your day-to-day activities to make sure that your site is improved in an ongoing basis and it doesn't become stale.
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
High levels of customization and integration may take a little longer than you think. We did grab Igloo's solution and work with them for a few months to do some customizations, some things that we needed specifically, so beware of that. Start small. A pilot is going to build acceptance with IT and other constituents.
You will not launch with all the features and functionality you want at first. Probably you already know that if you worked on a project before, you start with all these list of things that you would want. And at the end, you end up doing a priority list; the must haves, the nice to haves, and your wish list. So we did that, and we launched with all our must haves and a few nice to haves. And then from then on, we started adding as we moved forward. 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.
This platform is very simple to change, launch new things, try out a new blog, a new Wiki, a new contest, whatever you can image. It really gives you the tools to implement ideas very quickly. And if they do not work after a month, after a couple of months, just take it down the site, and move on to the next thing. Don't be afraid to do that. We do stop every time we want to launch something and think about whether or not it will be successful.
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.
And then don't be afraid to launch if the site is not 100% ready, maybe 90%. Finally, work with all your local markets or business areas 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. My company culture did not change overnight. It is still changing. We were not used to blogging and commenting and liking and posting and sharing pictures of family and friends, but they're starting to do that now. It's been three years, and I've seen the progress, but we're still not to where I would want them to be.
Select a name for your intranet that is easy to remember. 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, anything that you have-- to engage your employees during those first critical weeks after launch.
Push the boundaries of what has been traditionally accepted.
Don't be afraid to try new things.