The 2019 Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards show that intranets and digital workplaces are still moving forward and changing for the better.
Organisations are implementing intranets and digital workplaces that are making a real difference by delivering exceptional digital employee experiences (DEX). These solutions are helping employees, driving efficiencies and supporting organisational strategic goals.
This year the awards received 64 entries from 58 organisations across 17 countries, with submissions coming from both well-known large global organisations and very small companies, from a variety of industry sectors. Across the winning entries, there were a number of key themes.
Full details including a huge number of screenshots can be found in the Intranet & Digital Workplace Showcase report.
Here’s six of the stand-out themes:
1. Intranets are winners
Intranets continue to grow more sophisticated, acting not only as the main channels for communication, but also the gateways into collaboration and other digital services.
Organisations are investing in intranets and getting great value. Vendors are investing in developing intranet products and enjoying commercial success. Even Microsoft is working hard to bake basic out-of-the-box intranet features into Office 365.
What might be considered to be classic ‘intranet’ solutions are delivering an extensive range of capabilities that truly would have blown our socks off just three or four years ago. One of the reasons for the enduring success of the intranet format is a successful evolution. Intranets have been flexible enough to incorporate new features, capabilities and approaches.
Award-winning intranets vary greatly, but if there is one common thread it is that they deliver a great digital employee experience (#DEX). At Step Two we define this as the ‘sum total of digital interactions within the work environment.’ An intranet that delivers excellent #DEX has a consistent experience that helps employees get things done in their working day, but also informs and engages.
Across wining intranets we see several factors that are increasingly essential for delivering strong #DEX:
- highly sophisticated and granular personalisation to ensure relevance
- well-thought-through integrations with the wider digital ecosystem for efficiency
- implementations and designs that really are centred on employees, and often driven by their input and extensive research
- a commitment to excellent content and findability
- high-performing teams who can exhibit the dexterity and tenacity required to ensure intranet success.
2. Integrations are the powerhouse of the digital workplace
Powerful integrations between different applications allow users to view aggregated data, perform transactions and get work done from just one place, without having to visit a multitude of different tools and sources. This drives efficiencies for employees without the need to sign into multiple applications or navigate confusing systems that are only used infrequently.
In intranets and digital workplace tools the levels of integration are more extensive, more impressive and more complex than ever before. Intranets and portals are becoming the focal point for the digital workplace, exposing content and data from different sources in one user experience.
Public Works Authority Ashghal in Qatar aimed to build a portal where employees can complete all tasks from one place. A huge array of integrations powers the intranet, for example allowing users to view all their notifications, reminders and approvals from multiple systems. Integrations with CRM, document management, service desk management, a meetings room application, a correspondence tracking system and more means the portal is a true ‘one stop shop’ for employee tasks and services.
At Wells Fargo a new microservices architecture is allowing a range of applications to be easily plugged into the intranet homepage. This has already resulted in a comprehensive notifications tool involving a range of applications, but also the development of a library of micro-apps that can be added to a row on the homepage.
Apps have already developed include the ability to view training courses from the company’s learning system, but integrations are also being developed across different lines of business for more specific use cases. The central team has set up a governance process for decentralised app development, meaning targeted integrations will really add value for employees.
Some of the most complex integration work has been carried out by law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn where client and project (matter) data from CRM, financial and other core systems is presented to help lawyers manage their work and to achieve targets. Underpinned by a complex data architecture, the team has also begun to integrate more isolated applications to drive further efficiencies. Law firm Feagre Baker Daniels has also integrated financial system data to present a performance dashboard right into the homepage to keep targets and KPIs front of mind among staff.
3. Leading intranets are a step ahead of Office 365
Office 365 and SharePoint Online have rapidly become the dominant base technology for intranets. (SharePoint on-premises was already very popular.) But despite the advantages of a cloud-platform and an IT policy of generally ‘buy’ over ‘build’, many leading-edge intranet teams are choosing to customise their intranet or digital workplace to deliver a compelling employee experience wrapped around the way people actually work.
Even when intranets are based on SharePoint Online or on-premises, teams at Duke Energy, BHP, Public Works Authority Ashghal and the Bank of Russia have chosen to make extensive customisations to the design. enabling integrations and developing a range of their own web parts.
Other teams go even further. At Wells Fargo the team decided to get off what they felt was the ‘vendor merry-go-round’ and develop a new suite of homepages based on microservices. While developing this from scratch was felt to be risky, the rewards in improved performance and future possibilities have been clear. One advantage of using microservices is that the intranet is still able to connect to SharePoint as the existing CMS.
Another trend among winning intranets is that a surprising amount of the development has been completed in-house. Although Wells Fargo hired some additional staff, the initiative was broadly managed within its IT division.
Perhaps the most advanced example of an in-house development is the digital workplace environment of small Polish Bank Spoldzielczy we Wschowie. This has been built from the ground up and presents a huge variety of interconnected proprietary applications housed within an intranet environment. This entire ecosystem was built by a team determined not to rely on any outside help. Subsequently the digital workplace is truly built around the way the bank works, with no compromises.
4. Digital channels foster a sense of community for the frontline
Internal digital channels must connect frontline staff to an organisation and foster a sense of community. An essential part of the digital employee experience is to drive engagement and encourage connections between individual employees, between employer and staff, and between the front and back offices.
Over the years many organisations have been slow to ensure frontline staff have full access to digital channels and services, partly due to logistics and partly due to a management mindset. But leading organisations that concentrate on delivering DEX tailored to frontline staff get excellent results.
Seventy percent of employees at global currency exchange provider Travelex are lone workers, often working in small units located in busy airports. The company chose to drive a real sense of community for these staff using its intranet, The Lounge.
A series of initiatives has been introduced including adding subtitles to videos, allowing employees to blog extensively, gathering feedback on matters such as a new uniform and encouraging ideas from frontline staff. Content focuses on people and their achievements, with a homepage dominated by pictures of staff. A gamified sales initiative delivered through the intranet has not only produced a remarkable uptick in particular product sales but also been highly engaging.
The net impact of all of this is that the intranet is widely regarded as playing a major role in a rise in staff engagement. There is a real sense that The Lounge had made the working day a little less lonely for many employees.
Mobile apps are also a popular way to engage frontline staff. At UK transport provider Stagecoach, a new mobile employee app is revolutionising communication and processes, driving both efficiency and engagement.
The app allows bus drivers across depots to access key operational information, submit various forms, access news, and converse with colleagues in the depot and at head office. It was heartening to see some immediate efficiencies including a reduction in the number of buses leaving the depot late because drivers were no longer wasting time seeking information from noticeboards or supervisors – they can look things up on their smartphones. But there was also a sense of an increase in engagement, with excellent levels of adoption and a feed with interactions both social and service-focused.
Other organisations have a different emphasis. Duke Energy’s portal homepage is dominated by the ‘Employee Connections’ section where engineers are acknowledged for great work, years of service and thankyous from peers. Lloyds Business Group designed homepages for branch staff leading into their social collaboration platform. NLMK also uses blogs and communities to connect staff in steel plants with an aim to bridge the gap between office and plant staff. For all these companies, frontline DEX is a priority.
5. Stewardship unlocks collaboration and knowledge sharing
Effective collaboration and knowledge sharing with high levels of adoption and doesn’t just happen on its own – it takes sustained effort and stewardship from dedicated central resources.
Collaboration teams and knowledge management (KM) functions provide channels, tools, support, guidance and change interventions to embed collaborative behaviours in the everyday flow of work. Without their leadership, good adoption and value from collaboration and knowledge tools is simply less likely to happen.
KM functions provide that vital stewardship to encourage sustainable knowledge-sharing. At Domodedovo Moscow Airport the KM function has helped to drive good adoption of a social intranet but also introduced a number of high-value knowledge formats including an organisational wiki and structured approaches to expertise.
With an additional in-house consulting service which helps subject matter experts to package up and promote their knowledge, and a media analytical service, the KM function is simultaneously providing an innovative knowledge service and driving a knowledge-sharing culture.
At Lloyds Business Group, a mature collaboration platform called Hive, based on Jive software, has excellent levels of adoption and has become an essential part of everyday work, for example becoming the go-to place to ask questions to colleagues.
This has been achieved by the actions of the central team, initially focusing on an onboarding process that prioritised valuable use cases to stimulate more sustainable adoption, and then continuing with imaginative initiatives such as a ‘Hoscars’ awards celebrating success stories. A range of other change programs are also stimulating collaborative and agile behaviours, helping to drive the long-term transformation of the bank.
6. Designing for employees has parity with customer experience
The quality of design work in the intranet and digital workplace space has been as strong as external, consumer-facing channels for a while now. Taking inspiration from website and social media trends, design for the employee experience is increasingly regarded as important as design for the customer experience.
To enable high quality design work and a consistency of experience, digital workplace teams are increasingly working from the same style guidelines across the entire digital workplace, and even across internal and external channels too.
At the Bank of Russia, an ambitious intranet team sought to deliver a modern intranet and a beautiful user experience that would appeal to a multi-generational, dispersed workforce in an organisation with a traditional culture and high security requirements. The team ended up succeeding, delivering a very attractive range of templates and web parts that include many social elements.
The design has proved to be a huge success. Indeed, a design guide has been created to guide future digital workplace projects and is now being actively used in order to create the same high quality user experience across multiple channels.
Duke Energy wanted to craft an experience that was attractive, easy to use and would resonate with their employees, as well as strongly referencing the customer brand. The new iteration of the Portal delivers strong design on top of SharePoint Online,. building a library of 30 customised web parts which make up attractive, uncluttered and highly consistent templates.
Most impressively Duke’s UX team has led the way in building a design system branded as <electron> – a site including brand guidelines, web standards, assets and code for developing sites and apps for employees and customers. With <electron> all teams that develop applications and sites can ensure that designs are on brand and user tested, bringing consumer-grade experiences in-house. At Duke Energy, employee experience is being given parity with customer experience.
Get inspiration from 15 great case studies with screenshots
The full 2019 Intranet and Digital Workplaces Showcase report features detailed case studies of all 15 winning entries, each detailed with multiple screen shots of the sites in question. At $249 it’s exceptional value, helping to both inform and inspire intranet and digital workplace teams. Report sales also support the effort it takes us to keep on running the Awards (which have no associated fees).
Enter your intranet or digital workplace in 2020!
If you’re currently doing great work on your intranet or digital workplace, visit the Awards page, and sign up to be notified when next year’s Awards opens for entries in January 2020.