This is a guest post by Tim Nelson, Managing Director of Parsec Pacific in Sydney, Australia.
When considering a staff intranet solution, it’s difficult for many organisations to define their exact requirements. This is because, quite simply, there are too many. There is a great desire for the staff intranet to do many things for many people.
And usually there are many legacy (or older) systems in place already doing some of this work. It’s not unusual for the problem to appear overwhelming and difficult to solve.
We were asked by one of our customers recently to help them define their user requirements for a new staff intranet. The organisation has about 5000 staff and provides education services to about 40,000 school aged children. The organisation was already using a mixture of technologies to provide some staff intranet services but it wasn’t working effectively.
Massive challenges with their existing intranet
The issues had evolved over time and were mainly due to an apprehensiveness to discard some older technologies and trying to integrate everything into the one single user-interface. It hadn’t worked and wasn’t likely to work with more “band aid” solutions.
Some of the most pressing challenges were:
- The search functionality didn’t work properly.
- There was no single source of truth for many key pieces of information like policies, procedures and staff directory details.
- Content was not properly categorised across these multiple platforms.
- No single sign-on for end-user authentication.
- No common integration service layer for other systems to connect to.
- No common and integrated communication process.
The intranet services were provided by combining a number of technologies including Microsoft SharePoint, Atlassian’s Confluence, Google.sites (and other Google services), Nintex and HP Trim (for records). Communication services were delivered via a workflow in SharePoint, which was then linked to “all staff emails”.
The processes supporting content management were inefficient and the user interface was ineffective.
Our approach to find a solution
Parsec Pacific was engaged to work with business stakeholders to develop new requirements and to look for new technologies, which may identify and support future requirements. We commenced the engagement by gathering some existing documentation on the current state of affairs, including some attempts to pull together requirement ideas for a future intranet services. We then set-up a series of workshops with key business stakeholders which enabled us to confirm and fully understand the requirements from the leaders in this educational organisation.
It is important to remember that our key stakeholders normally wouldn’t get involved in IT projects – and have backgrounds mainly in teaching and learning – so we needed to keep drawing connections from the solution ideas and potential future requirements, back to the needs and wants of teachers and their support staff.
A key concept that emerged from this process was a desire to introduce dynamic “enterprise interaction and collaboration” or “EIC”. It was clear that delivering this via a multi-system platform with a front-ending portal or skin – would not be effective. The solution needed to be fully formed and to have EIC features embedded in its core.
Prototype intranets help develop a list of functional requirements
We worked with a number of the technology vendors which were being used at this organisation, and we looked at some emerging players. During this phase of the engagement we considered the functionality that “Linchpin” had to offer – as an intranet service running on the Confluence platform – and compared this with many leading intranet solutions available in the market.
A prototype of the staff intranet was developed using Linchpin in order to demonstrate “how” some of the features would work in practice. This was a crucial step in the requirements confirmation process especially with stakeholders that were not particularly familiar with IT projects and the requirements gathering process. It enabled our stakeholders “to see” what the functional requirements actually look like – rather than trying to interpret a list of business requirements written down in some form of Requirements Document.
The winning intranet solution
The Linchpin solution was compared with a number of leading solutions in the market, including products that already had a presence in this organisation. The requirements were listed, and all products ranked against these requirements. Linchpin came out as the clear winner – and formed the basis for our recommendation for the customer to move forward with this solution.
The Linchpin prototype and our recommendations to develop further intranet services using this product was very positively received and the project is now entering its initiation phase.
About the author
Tim is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Parsec Pacific. He is a consultant IT manager of medium to large scale programs and projects – with deep experience with digital transformation, web CMS, infrastructure change programs (networks, security, firewalls) and application rollouts. He has considerable experience in the Banking and Finance sector (10 years), Education sector (5 years), and a number of years working with technology vendors and system integrators.
Parsec Pacific provides IT Management Consulting Services including IT Program & Project Management and Audits, Intranet Consulting, IT Applications Reviews and Selection, Business Process Reviews, Network Optimisation, Identity Management and Cloud Computing Strategies. Parsec enables organisations to successfully move their software and infrastructure to the cloud in a controlled manner – reducing risk is the top priority. Based in Sydney, Australia, our customers are generally in the Asia Pacific region. Our services are best utilised by medium to large companies looking to introduce efficiencies through greater use of Business Process Automation and IT applications, including Cloud Computing and/or hardware which supports this infrastructure. You can connect with Parsec Pacific on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.