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Innovative Intranets in 2014

Accolade Intranet Innovation Award WinnersThis year’s Intranet Innovation Awards by Step Two unearthed a rich set of interesting practices in the intranet and digital workplace world. Notably, it was often the smaller organisations that set the standards. On November 3rd, the European-based winners and commended entries came together. Thanks to Richard Hare of Intranetters for hosting the event, and Steve Bynghall for organising the awards on behalf of Step Two.

As a judge, I went along to help hand out the shiny glass trophies.


Lakewood High School SharePoint

Not present, but worth a mention, is the overall platinum winner. The whole intranet is designed and run by the students in the school’s technology centre. The feature that caught the judge’s attention was a ‘hall pass system’. When pupils need to leave during a lesson, they swipe their ID card in a reader connected to their SharePoint intranet. This logs their permission to be in the hallways and can be checked on iPads by hall monitors and teachers.

View the Microsoft video of Lakewood High‘s approach and system.


Accolade social intranet

A social intranet that is deeply integrated into customer service through their CRM at this Dutch housing society. Their target was to resolve 80% of cases in the service centre, without reverting to colleagues in other departments. You might think the CRM alone would do this, but they found it didn’t fit their values and desire for flexibility. A social platform gave much more visibility to employees working with a customer or on a case.

Accolade social intranetThe intranet homepage is dominated by an activity feed, with a customisable apps launch bar with buttons for Skype, Outlook, Office Web Apps etc. ‘People search’ is also neatly done with a side-menu fly-out rather than a separate page. Notably, news and internal comms is barely visible – just a carousel at the top.

Tasks appear as a small notification also in the left menu bar, with status icons.

Accolade’s intranet (Image credit: Step Two / Accolade).


PwC’s large scale ESN rollout

PwC is more like a network of firms than one company. This leads to multiple systems that can be hard to connect. The goal of Spark was to have one system to network and collaborate within, accelerating the ability to connect and help clients. PwC recognised that they were unsure how people would use the platform, so their approach was to listen, learn, and iterate. They also took an advocate approach rather than a hierarchical one. Anyone could choose to be an advocate; it’s about enthusiasm rather than role.

Introducing the system was done by advocates, iPhones, and Skype to put together a short promo video. Adoption was the fastest ever in PwC’s history. There are about 2000 advocates, but they come and go – it’s a constant recruitment turnover, and that’s expected.

UK Spark has a customisable ‘Favourites’ launch pad for apps (bit of a theme emerging here). In the past, people were experts by tenure, but in this transparent world reputations are formed by online contribution.


NNE Pharmaplan’s gamification employee onboarding

Before this development, onboarding was different in each company where NNE operate. With significant projected employee growth, it became important to have a more standard approach to onboarding that helped new starters integreate sooner, and that improved staff retention. Induction was split into three missions. Mission 1 ‘I can tell my friends and family about NNE Pharmaplan in 2 minutes’ took place on a website, before new recruits even formally started. Mission 2 begins on the first day via the intranet. Mission 3 involves an interactive interview with the Chief of Staff, mentoring, and becoming acquainted with Communities of Interest. Each mission ends with an exam, but there’s no judgement or scoring, you just do it to progress to the next mission.


Liverpool University’s PC Finder appLiverpool University Room App

We heard from Paul Hagan how students complained that they could never find a PC that was free. The data on usage stats and logged-on PCs, showed that occupancy was only about 75%, so the issue was about directing people to the available ones at peak times. For example, there was nothing stopping Maths students entering the Chemistry department, but students were wary of unfamiliar buildings and rooms.

The location-aware app is a responsive web app, that works on any device and was built in six weeks. You can try it at pcseats.liv.ac.uk

A map-based view shows the walking route and even a room plan with available PCs highlighted.  A later development was the ability to filter, for example, where people wanted two adjacent free PCs. Even though not initially asked for, it has proven very useful.

The big win is that University staff previously had to escort students to the free PCs. Within two days this chore was no longer required. Staff have also found it easier to intervene when PCs are ‘reserved’ by students who leave a bag and then walk away.

This is just one of several apps the University have put in their intranet app store.


Yammer integration at RUFC (commended)

The Rugby World Cup is the third largest sporting event globally, and in 2015 it comes to the UK. Toby Jones explained that this was the trigger to bring their intranet up to scratch. There are 600 staff but a volunteer structure of 60,000 more. The old intranet lacked clear news or governance, the phone book was outdated, and field teams felt disconnected. This last part is what makes the social element so important.

The new site took nine months to develop, and was centred around an impactful news service and social integration. Halfway through development they launched Yammer so people could get comfortable with the social aspect first. When the rest of the intranet went live, around ⅓ of the homepage was given over to the Yammer feed.

There are about 15 active Yammer groups, full of stories and pictures shared from the field. The Yammer app provides the mobile option, which helped a lot considering budget limits (around 25% access from mobile devices).


BSI does a BMS

BSI (British Standards Institute) won for its Business Management System. BSI’s Dana Leeson is one of the few cool people with ‘Digital Workplace‘ in her job title. Their employees are largely field based, so they needed a way to access BSI’s management system documents and processes out of the office. It’s not a culture for social, what is needed – naturally – is standards.

Getting to the point of making it reliable, secure and executable meant saying ‘no’ a lot so as to consistently focus on the purpose of the BMS. They were keen that employees went into the system, got the document they needed and get out as quickly as possible in order to attend to the client again – no need for ‘sticky’ engaging content with regard to the mamagement system.

The document upload form has 25 mandatory fields and took eight months to agree and get sign-off. Because everyone understands that the fields are needed, there’s been no push-back on doing this. What makes it a BMS and not just a library is that uploading triggers a workflow for notifications, reviews, and (when needed) obsolescence. Now the BMS is so central to their work now that it is reviewed by three separate audit bodies twice a year; it is business critical system.



Sam Marshall

I'm the director of ClearBox Consulting, advising on intranet and digital workplace strategy, SharePoint and online collaboration. I've specialised in intranets and knowledge Management for over 19 years, working with organisations such as Unilever, Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Sony, Rio Tinto and Diageo. I was responsible for Unilever’s Global Portal Implementation, overseeing the roll-out of over 700 online communities to 90,000 people and consolidating several thousand intranets into a single system.


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