Managing a global intranet is challenging for central teams, and the wider scope of the digital workplace makes it even more difficult. Teams must deliver a powerful and relevant experience to a highly diverse workforce with different roles, languages, cultures and needs:
To achieve this, central intranet teams must:
- Assemble the right team
- Develop a more detailed governance framework and operating model
- Have the right strategy
- Get the right balance between global and local content, and
- Deliver this in a compelling way to a global audience
It’s also crucial to build a strong relationship between local site managers and central intranet teams. That can be difficult when there are many locations in different timezones, diverse cultures, and a small central team. On the flip side, working closely with colleagues across the globe is also one of the most rewarding aspects of working for a global intranet.
Working closely is not just about providing support through training and resources, it’s also about developing successful relationships and partnerships.
Here’s how successful global intranet teams are working hard to help develop partnerships with local intranet managers.
Meet face to face
One of the key challenges of designing and managing a global intranet is understanding your users across scattered locations. Equally important is building bridges with the individuals who are going to be managing sites in those places. While not always possible, leading intranet practitioners have often found it’s worth travelling to meet stakeholders face to face. Trying to conduct training and user research online might be more practical but does not always reap as rich rewards.
For example, when global mining firm Goldcorp launched a new intranet with some significant changes from the previous version, they chose to visit individual mine sites to carry out training. Making those visits was well worth it, with the team concluding:
“Investing in this training has been a key driver of early success. Change management is more successful if delivered in person as opposed to over a video conference or remote training solution.”
Similarly, at Arla Foods, the central intranet team from Denmark tried to recruit local news editors and champions in Germany for its new intranet via online sessions, but nobody volunteered. After a face-to-face visit to Germany, they had 10 recruits. A similar pattern occurred in other locations.
Providing clarity about roles and processes for local site managers makes roles and activities more sustainable as personnel change, but also ensures that any future misunderstandings are avoided. With different languages in play and differing priorities, clarity helps underpin strong relationships.
A great example is from German pharmaceutical company Merck, which provided clear roles and templates for a variety of local sites (or “rooms” as Merck calls them) including locations. These important individuals were responsible for “the operation of one location room in terms of structure, navigation, content, functionalities, access restrictions and user management”. There was also a coordinating tier with a set of “Key Room Managers”.
Global law firm White & Case also provided clarity for different locations by building a clear template for location sites. Each page includes useful features for staff in that location, including targeted news, but also information for those visiting the office, including the local wifi code.
Develop a partnership approach
A key element of developing a true partnership is allowing some flexibility and autonomy for local teams. This means local site managers can take more ownership of their site while global teams can leverage local best practices and even innovations. In practice, the need for and ability to provide flexibility can be influenced by your organisational structure and your platform.
PwC is a global network of member firms across different countries, each of which has some autonomy and control over the digital workplace and intranet solutions provided locally. When the global knowledge function was rolling out a new Jive-powered social collaboration platform called Spark, it was not mandatory for different member firms to use. Instead, the central team gave some autonomy to local countries on how they wanted to implement it.
Ultimately this approach resulted in better adoption as local teams chose to use Spark in ways that provided local value, for example as a local intranet or just as a social network, depending on the solutions already in place. They also were able to launch at suitable times. Providing some autonomy also drove more buy-in across member firms.
The central team was also able to directly benefit from this approach, leveraging some of the innovations and approaches developed in PwC member firms. For example, PwC in the USA developed its own “Sparkpad” solution which allows site managers to deploy a library of icons into Spark. This proved very popular and was eventually adopted centrally across the whole platform.
As another example, the small Australian subsidiary of global tool manufacturer STIHL developed its own local intranet called “The Shed”. With some useful features such as a product catalogue, a leadership blog and a distinctive identity, the highly effective intranet caught the eye of the company’s German headquarters. The central team are considering whether to adopt some of the approaches and features for STIHL’s global intranet.
Actively support multi-language content
Making an intranet truly multilingual can be difficult, but it’s also where site managers in different locations will appreciate your efforts as it means they may have a more effective platform to communicate with their local users. When there is no multi-language capability, it increases the chance of local alternative intranet solutions being created.
Actively supporting multi-language content starts with developing a global language strategy but must be reflected with features on your intranet. For example:
- The Philips intranet has powerful personalisation capability which delivers the right news content based on location, role and more. Content tagging ensures that translated content appears for users whenever it is available.
- At Goldcorp, tagging of content has helped to create a truly multi-language search capability. For example, a search term in Spanish also returns translated content in English and French.
- On global oil company Repsol ‘s intranet, users can easily toggle between English, Spanish and Portuguese language versions of the intranet through the footer.
Focus on people
Successful global intranets are centred on people – not only the employees – but also the communities of local site managers and publishers from all round the world who provide content and run local sites. By building strong relationships between the central team and these key individuals you’ll help to deliver a compelling and sustainable intranet. Use some of the examples in this article for inspiration and if you’re not already doing so, start connecting with your colleagues across the world.