Case study: Providing comprehensive support for a public sector intranet
Managing and improving an intranet is no small task, but it is still only half the story. Even before new features go live, there needs to be extensive change management, communications and support.
This support must encompass content owners and authors, who are confronted by a new site structure and the requirement to deliver better content.
Training must also be provided on the new technology platform, which offers some complex and unfamiliar capabilities. These may include collaboration and social tools, which aim to change how staff work together.
Many organisations fail to put in place the necessary training and support for an improved intranet, and adoption levels suffer as a result. In the worst cases, the entire intranet project may be considered a failure when content publishers and end users alike rebel against the site changes.
These challenges make the work done by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) particularly impressive.
In the context of the merging of two federal government agencies and major changes in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, the DEEWR team established comprehensive training initiatives and support materials.
Members of the Intranet Leadership Forum (www.steptwo.com.au/ilf), DEEWR have been generous in sharing examples of their approaches and deliverables.
Don’t forget to provide training and support for a new intranet
Headquartered in Canberra, and a product of a merger between the Education and Employment departments in 2008, DEEWR is a large government agency that operates nationally. Its mission is to provide "national leadership in education and workplace training, transition to work and conditions and values in the workplace".
As its name suggests, within this remit falls a staggering number of services and responsibilities, from fair work standards to the federal education department, indigenous rights and initiatives and much, much more.
About the intranet
DEEWR’s intranet is ‘dnet’, and based on SharePoint 2007, and it provides a range of useful functionality, including:
- project spaces
- social networks
- video delivery
- application integration
- document management and recordkeeping
Those responsible for the site are situated within the organisation’s Delivery Branch. They’re a 10-person team that has worked non-steop for the past three years, with strong support from IT, to develop a powerful intranet platform for the department.
The team’s ambition has been to encourage use. They provide responsive, positive support and a ‘can do’ attitude that enables DEEWR’s organisational levels of clusters, groups, branches and teams to use the intranet to improve day-to-day working processes, collaboration, communication and more.
Training and support
While dnet is a good example of a well-designed intranet, this is not the most notable aspect of the site.
What has made the DEEWR intranet a stand-out success is the emphasis on education, training and community governance of the site. Comprehensive is the only word to describe it.
Since its inception, over 2,000 DEEWR staff have been trained on how to use dnet, including publishing, setting up sites, writing for the web and more. This figure represents over 50 per cent of those users at a computer for most of the day and summarises a huge effort on the dnet team’s part.
Activities are numerous:
- Site-based tools include video tutorials, FAQs, step-by-step instructions, user guides and a dedicated help knowledge base.
- Open house sessions provide a walk-in training opportunity for any staff to come in and ask questions and get support or assistance with issues or ideas they have for sites.
- Bootcamps have been developed to ‘take employees from novice to super users in just two days’.
- Floor walkers take the open house session format mobile, and provide visible, easy-to-access and face-to-face help.
- Custom sessions aim to provide users with tailored sessions in whatever amount of time they have available.
- Quick reference guides assist with specific, commonly asked about tasks.
Bootcamps create super users in just two days
To support the range of training options, extensive documentation, training modules and instructions have been developed. These provide detailed information and guidance, while a governance framework forms the basis of dnet’s sustainable growth.
These materials target a diverse range of audiences, from content publishers to site administrators and end users (staff).
- Policies and guidelines for managing dnet.
- Brief ‘showcases’ highlighting the use and benefits of key aspects of dnet.
- A ‘New User Guide’ to dnet, covering all aspects of SharePoint functionality and intranet content.
- Additional training modules designed for content contributors, content coordinators and site owners.
- Style Guide, covering basic style standards, writing for the web and accessibility.
- Step-by-step instructions for key activities.
- Video tutorials for common tasks and activities.
- Online support area on dnet, providing a single point of access for all these resources.
Support is provided for contributors and coordinators
"In terms of usability, SharePoint can be intimidating at first," says Stephanie Haxell, a dnet site coordinator within DEEWR’s Child Support branch.
Prior to taking on this role, Haxell had not been involved in managing an intranet site, but there was a clear business purpose for her branch to get on board.
Haxell goes on to say that "for me now, uploading images and documents, creating pages, using web parts … it’s second nature now. Having the site has enabled much easier updates, and people can find the forms and templates they’re looking for on our site. It’s become essential to our day-to-day functioning."
"There are still things I don’t know how to do, but the dnet team are very responsive and the open training sessions they hold are great."
Becoming the first destination
For an increasing number of DEEWR employees, dnet has become the first destination when considering where and how to share information, the first port of call to manage more complex projects, and increasingly the best place to host more social information.
"There are many, many people using the site, improving efficiencies, creating forms, collaborating, sharing and communicating. They provide the justification for us to use and keep improving the site," says the Director of DEEWR’s intranet section, Damien Battisson.
Talking to dnet users confirms that the system is indeed gaining traction, thanks to the level of support and help on offer.
This is the key lesson to be learnt from DEEWR’s experiences. The starting point is to deliver an intranet that is powerful but also simple to use. To really gain value from this, however, providing comprehensive training and support is critical.
Via a mix of online training, face-to-face support and documentation, the DEEWR team have set a benchmark for teams to follow in terms of ensuring intranet adoption and use.