Episode 33: Building a Better Intranet with Sam Dolan and Brianne McClure

Sam Dolan hsBrianne Mc Clure hs
Sam Dolan and Brianne McClure05/26/2021

#shifthappens caught up with Sam Dolan, Creative Director at Attollo Intranet, and Brienne McClure, Brand Content Marketing Manager at Keysight Technologies, about their joint work on Keysight's intranet. They discussed the importance of supporting a digital hub for workplace communication in the remote and hybrid office environments as well as the capabilities of the modern internet and how organizations can launch a strong hub or bring their existing site up to par.

During the conversation, Brienne shared information about Keysight Technologies, which develops test and measurement equipment for innovators who are working on next-generation technologies. They have 30 locations globally and just under 15,000 employees. She also talked about the value of being able to communicate and share information in a digital workplace, which is where the intranet comes in.

Sam and Brienne discussed the evolution of the intranet and how it has become more dynamic and evolving compared to its early days in the 1990s, where it was just a page with announcements and a few links. They also touched on the importance of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) in designing intranets.

The conversation between Sam and Brienne highlights the significance of the intranet in organizations' digital communication strategies, especially in the current remote and hybrid working environment. It emphasizes the importance of creating an effective and easy-to-use digital hub for employees to interact and share information.

The definition of an intranet can vary based on the generation of employees using it and their individual needs. Sam and Brienne explain that while file sharing and community building are crucial functions of intranets, they also serve as an acceleration point for companies, helping to speed up product development and change adoption.

During the discussion, they also touched on the importance of smart user experience and effective file management in creating a successful intranet by using the analogy of a race car driver hitting an apex curve to describe the goal of an intranet as an accelerator and catalyst for knowledge, communication, and connections.

Microsoft 365 has revolutionized the way information is managed and accessed, with the internet acting as the gateway to the digital workplace. While it may not work for all organizations, it's important to have a main place where people can go for information. Sam and Brienne emphasize the importance of quickly consuming information and highlight how mobile devices have become more prevalent in recent years. They discussed the shift from a weekly newsletter to an intranet, and now to social media, bots, and Alexa. While having a fancy layout is still desirable, it's not as important as having vital information accessible in one place. They discuss the overwhelming number of platforms available now and the importance of centralization, highlighting the difficulty for people to choose the right platforms. Ultimately, it's an exciting time for organizations with different technologies and capabilities coming together to make them more effective.

Brienne went on to share her experience with a project to improve her company's intranet. The existing intranet was not working well, and employees had to search multiple portals to find the information they needed. Brienne's goal was to centralize all the content into one location, but she faced challenges in getting the entire company on board since she had no authority to enforce the change. Instead, she had to rely on her influence. She started by looking at what existed, which was a homegrown intranet that was hard to navigate and had outdated content. She identified the teams that would be most impacted by the change and focused her attention on them to get their support. Brienne started with a pilot team of five departments to test the new intranet. Resource allocation was a big challenge for Brienne, as they had a one-time budget and only one dedicated person to the project. She emphasizes the importance of executive buy-in for the success of any project, as it helps in getting people to take the project seriously.

This project was designed to provide employees with a sole source of truth for company updates and to centralize content management. The feedback received was positive, with many people excited about the launch and wanting to migrate to the new system at once. The pandemic accelerated the importance of having real-time company updates and site-wide alerts that could be accessed globally. The platform allowed teams to put updated content on the internet whenever they wanted, which was particularly important during the pandemic when information was rapidly changing. The adoption of the platform across the company was impressive, and surveys showed that communication during the pandemic was better than expected and appreciated by the employees. While there was some nervousness about introducing yet another platform, the goal was to introduce a platform that people would want to use. Overall, the design and user experience of the platform were crucial to its success.

Usage and adoption of the new intranet exploded during COVID-19. While certain functions throughout the company must work inside a building, it started looking at where it makes sense to go virtual. As a result, annual executive meetings and other internal events went digital last year, and they may continue to stay digital. Brienne believes there is still going to be a huge need for the internet as far as connecting employees across the world, so they feel like one community for these virtual events.

She also mentioned that the company has been providing real-time updates to employees, and they launched the internet at the week of the annual executive development meeting. People loved it, and this year, they had three times as many people check in to those live updates. The speaker believes that everything they have adopted will continue as it has become part of their roles.

Going forward, Brienne’s company has put in place a ways of working strategy, which ensures that the intranet is used properly. She believes if the company sticks to that way of thinking, people will know that there is one single place they must adopt, and everything they need will be there.

Towards the end of the conversation, Sam and Brienne offered some advice to make the shift to a new digital workplace. Build with scalability in mind and think about what resources you have and who would manage it long term. Have allies and don’t build out cool functionality that your team won’t be able to manage and keep up to date and keep fresh.

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