The blogosphere lit up earlier this month with post-holiday treats for intranet-folk as the Nielsen Norman Group released their latest review of the world’s best intranet designs. Much to my excitement, the 2014 Intranet Design Annual included AMP’s social intranet that features a homepage experience delivered by Sitrion (formerly NewsGator Social Sites). At Sitrion, we are really fortunate because we have been able to share some of the thought leadership behind this implementation with our entire community of customers. Luke Sinclair joined Sitrion as our Director, Community Management, and he played a vital role in deploying the social intranet at AMP when he was Community Manager there. I thought I’d share Luke’s impressions about building an award winning intranet.
Cuneyt: Luke, what was the motivation for the project, and did your team intend on a "big hairy audacious goal" like winning an award from the get go?
Luke: The motivation for the project was to help our employees work better and the four pillars that we used to construct the vision were "Discover, Connect, Collaborate, Share". We'd had huge success with our internal Yammer network which I grew from around 400 users to over 4,000. We also had a really successful intranet that had won the NNGroup award previously in 2011. The problem was that the information was housed in silo's and employees were confused about where to go for what. Our only real collaboration tool was email - so we decided to bring together the intranet, social, and collaboration using Sharepoint and Sitrion to create THE place where AMP employees went to do their work. We always said "Let's win that award again" and we had a hugely encouraging, supportive and close knit team who had their eye on the prize: to be the best intranet in the world.
Cuneyt: Right on. I think if more intranet project teams aspired for a great end result, and used the competitiveness of an award as motivation, you could really bring out the best in your teams. What were the biggest challenges when aiming so high?
Luke: The biggest challenge was influencing key stakeholders to get onboard with this transformation. When you're bringing about such a radical change to the way employees do their work, it requires a lot of change management from the top down. This wasn't just a new intranet, but a whole new philosophy and approach to work. Having an open security model for team sites was a tough sell. And getting IT Security to agree to off-network single factor authentication was a flaming hoop of fire! But we jumped through and the result was awesome!
Cuneyt: Great points. I have seen from personal experience that executive engagement is absolutely critical, especially in accelerating support from the middle management that ultimately has to “live” the vision to encourage participation from the front line staff they lead.
From your perspective as a community manager, how did this progressing to the next level of social functionality with Sitrion add to the value of the overall intranet strategy?
Luke: Social added value by breaking down normal hierarchy's and silos and promoting cross functional and geographical collaboration. For the first time at AMP an employee in Sydney could collaborate on real business objects, in team or project sites by sharing their work, ideas and feedback in the activity stream. It made us more accountable, and more innovative. It permitted serendipitous discovery too - being able to locate experts more easily, get instant feedback from people who's interests matched your conversation subject and empowering ownership through a 'work-out-loud' model. It enabled the start of a wider cultural journey for the whole enterprise which was to create a digital space where employees instinctively shared their work.
Cuneyt: Very cool. I love hearing stories about real work getting done, via social tools. I think you hit it on the head when you mentioned collaborating around “real” business objects. Invariably, the conversations in your communities happened around an object: content. If your staff can’t easily start conversations about, share or reference content easily from their favorite desktop or mobile tools – they will run into a frustrating barrier, and ultimately have less of a compelling business reason to use social tools.
Luke: Thanks for your time and I’m sure we will all be looking to see what AMP will do in the next generation of their award winning intranet saga!