Good morning, I’m Ayesha, intranet manager and internal comms advisor for an organisation called the Federation of Small businesses, and my talk today is about Transforming the intranet – with words and pictures…but mostly pictures.
I wanted to talk about how we’ve approached the site navigation on our intranet with the use of visuals – changing what we had on our site to create a completely new look, feel and user journey.
I’m going to talk about how form has to follow function; and in particular, how we've:
•Reworked our intranet for field based sales team •Making it much more visual •Removing the dynamic elements to make it much more streamlined, •Reassessing the value of collaboration over simplicity for this set of users
… which brings me to a nice little question to pose for you, namely: “Can you have a (good) intranet without collaboration?”
To which I’ll say…let’s see.
Before I go on let me tell you a little bit about the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). We’re an organisation set up to support small business and the self employed throughout the UK, by providing benefits, advice and a voice in Government [*] for our members and the small business community as a whole[*]. FSB is a grass-roots, not-for-profit organisation, run for its members by its members. In practical terms this means a core of member volunteers supported by around 200 staff across the UK. Recruitment of new members is delivered by a network of Membership Advisors (which is what we call our sales force). To support these groups, [*] we have an intranet, myfsb, which is an out of the box solution provided by Interact. Extranet access is provided as standard, as around 70% of our users are field based.
We’ve had myfsb for just over 5 years – it was initially bought for staff, and it’s become extremely successful for staff, who have embraced is brilliantly. [*] This is the last 6 months, but its been that high for the last 2 years - which is a really great story, but it’s not the one I’m going to tell you about today.
The users I want to talk about are our Membership Advisors, who’s use of the intranet is significantly different from staff [*] and definitely not all sunshine and roses!
MAs make up 18% of intranet users [*] and they were given access to myfsb because of the obvious benefits around communication and resources. However their needs from myfsb were very different to what our existing staff and volunteer users required.
So who are these MAs, and what do they do?
Well, FSB is a membership organisation, and our bread and butter are our members. Most of our new members (and therefore sales) are delivered year in and year out by MAs [*]. Their priority is recruiting new FSB members, through knocking on doors, attending events, and good old fashioned talking to people[*]. The majority of sales come from this one to one interaction, with online sales making up only a fraction of the total. [*]
You need a particular skill set for that – and it often isn’t digital. [*]
One more thing about our MAs [*]: they’re self-employed business people.
So the challenge with these users is that they are self employed, sales driven, on the road, time poor; navigating an intranet is frankly a very low priority for them – but from the FSB perspective it's essential, as it’s our key channel of communication and provides supporting information, tools and best practices.
So how do you get MAs to engage with an intranet when you’ve ruled out training, coercion and bribery?
What I came to understand when I really focussed on their requirements, is that they actually behave more like website users - the site had to give them what they needed quickly and easily or they simply won’t use it.
With that in mind, we had 4 pillars that provided the foundation of our new design:
[*]1 – people [*]2 – aesthetics [*]3 – amplifying things that worked [*]4 – letting go of things that don’t work
People are important: It's an obvious point but always bears repeating - you can’t start a project until you have the right people. Sometimes you have to be patient - it took 3 years to assemble the right combination of people to work with me on the MA area. [*]
Last year we appointed a new manager in the sales team; her knowledge of the user group and my knowledge of the intranet, combined with the support of staff and MAs, created a perfect storm of people to move the project forward.
When you get the right people together, things fall into place.
My second point is (not surprisingly) about aesthetics: the design, the look and feel are all so important.
There is a delicate balance between providing a site that is streamlined, dynamic, and interactive, while still supplying corporate information we need it to.
People may tell us ‘There’s too much going on’ but look at all the things we want our intranets to achieve (that whole ‘one stop shop’ scenario?). On top of that they want it to look nice!
That said, people do think visually – we do it all the time, and that's something we can use; [*] for example, these are from my intranet, but I bet you can all have a pretty good stab at what they signify.
How it looks is incredibly important; for me the key is to try and make that functional, too.
You’ll all know that you need to constantly review and update your intranet. So if you do something that people like, reuse the formula!
Here’s how we laid out the H&S area [*] on one of our internal pages for staff – it was really well received, so we did it again[*]…and when it came to rethinking the user journey for our MAs, here’s what we designed – as you can see, something of a theme going on here! (if it ain't broke...)
When we tested this ‘Support’ area with some MAs the response was extremely positive.
If it doesn’t work for your users, let it go (even if you think it's the holy grail) (Yes, Take life lessons from sean connery!)
The hardest thing that I had to do was to let go of an idea; that the collaborative elements of myfsb are something that everyone can benefit from. Our intranet is full of some really fantastic collaboration, almost entirely from staff. The blogs alone are phenomenal. I think everyone on myfsb should see this because it’s useful – it tells other users about what we do. BUT that doesn’t work for the MAs. They don’t go to the intranet to see the blog about Ray’s amazing apprenticeship event in Canterbury, they go there for their sales figures, for the order forms, or to find product information. Those are the building blocks for MAs; their interaction with myfsb is completely distinct to that of other users.
We’ve always been able to get MAs on myfsb, because we publish their sales information on there every month. So we had the right content to pull them in, but not the right journey.
Initially, what I did was build them a site that was very similar to the staff one [*] -here’s the homepage - and I came to realise that was wrong.
So we went from this to this. [*] As you can see, we cut back hugely on this homepage, in favour of creating a series of ‘tiles’/ buttons. We’ve removed all collaborative and dynamic content in favour of these. We’ve nothing ‘below the fold’.
This approach is carried through to the internal navigation and content pages and echoed on the mobile interface [*]
I don’t think I’m saying anything that’s new to any of you – definitely not rocket science! – it was just about refreshing the way I thought about these users and what they needed and then reviewing what I could do to support them.
Here’s a quick look at a couple of user journeys to give you a taste.
Changing how MAs behave on myfsb is a fairly glacial process, but we've had some great feedback from them and have already seen an uplift in page views - good to see as obviously that means that they are exploring the site more. We know they're finding more, as we can see an increase in the use of forms and orders submitted from pages they've not previously used.
So to sum up – of course you need collaboration on your intranet – that's how they evolve, as it’s collaboration that helps you to find the solutions that fit all your users.
What we don’t have – for the MAs – is digital collaboration and dynamic content front and centre. That approach was not right - it’s too overwhelming and unfocussed for them. What worked best was something very very tightly designed [*] – The complexity lies behind the scenes (where it should be – with me), in being able to manage the site for the different audiences of our intranet in ways that suit them best. Our staff facing intranet is very different from what you've just seen, it's hugely collaborative, with a massive amount of interaction, blogs, comments and the like taking place.
But for our Membership Advisors, replacing those collaborative and text heavy elements with something image-based has made the site more effective and easier to use. It’s an approach that perforce leaves out some of the value of our overall intranet, but it delivers in other ways…and that’s ok.
Transforming the intranet with words and pictures — Ayesha Graves