And so, a butterfly: How Nationwide set themselves up for a sustainable intranet transformation
After the stress and intensity of a new intranet launch, the temptation can be to sit back and relax. The Nationwide team, however, knew that a “launch and leave” approach would ultimately get them back to square one in a few years’ time. Instead, they worked hard to set up the governance and team structure they needed to make their intranet transformation project sustainable over the long term. In this final blog post in our Nationwide series (read the previous post here), we take a look at how they kept the momentum going post project, and what’s next for the team.
“… a beautiful butterfly!”
This is it! The big reveal! The final page of The Very Hungry Caterpillar shows us a beautiful butterfly, emerged from its cocoon, transformed from the caterpillar we’ve come to know and love. The hard work is seemingly done. But what next for our butterfly? That can’t be the end of the story?
And so it is for our Nationwide team. We left them last time having launched their new intranet, with freshly trained publishers, cleaned-up content and a user-friendly platform. The feedback from users was good. At this point, it would be tempting to congratulate yourself for a job well done – and congratulations are indeed in order; successfully launching a new intranet is no small feat. The job, however, is not finished. As Jon Simons, Nationwide’s Digital Channels Senior Manager, says: “Launch was step one. Governance is what allowed us to push through delivery and then keep improving.”
A series of Digital Workplace Group (DWG) benchmarks in 2013 had called out Nationwide, in particular, for its lack of governance. The team, for example, had no content review cycle in place. They found that they were reactive, often lacking the capacity to do much more than the simple, small-scale activities expected of an intranet team, and unable to focus on larger, strategic improvements.
With the case made for their new intranet, the opportunity presented itself also to overhaul the way they approached governance and how their team was structured. Says Jon: “We refocused the team during the project. We set the team up so that we could make sure the intranet could continually improve from a content perspective but also a functionality perspective.”
Maintaining quality content over time
A dedicated team was set up to focus specifically on content, overseeing Nationwide’s decentralized publishing community. Supporting them was a new governance model that set out precisely what should and shouldn’t be done in terms of creating and maintaining the platform’s content.
Another essential success factor was the inclusion of “Intranet Partners”, who were tasked with building relationships with different parts of the business. Not only did this aid the creation of high-quality and effective content, it also meant the Intranet Partners could work closely with the business well in advance of any changes coming through.
During the project, the team were responsible for the initial content review and for applying the new standards to content. However, the work wasn’t finished with the launch; the project had specifically focused on cutting down the amount of content and rewriting the top 1,000 pages. This left a lot of work still to be done. In fact, it took another two to three years for the team’s full review to be completed, and Jon says: “That’s had a much bigger impact on the quality of the content than the project itself.”
In addition to the focus on content, the team took a new approach to how it maintained the platform itself. A separate team was created, tasked with managing platform enhancements and support, and making sure the intranet was continually improving as the needs of the business shifted and changed. Nationwide was also careful to keep the user experience (UX) expertise that had been so essential during the project, as it would be important to maintain a focus on usability as the platform evolved.
In contrast to the previous approach, thought was given as to why enhancements were being deployed and the best way – and time – to launch them. An example was the social feed within SharePoint 2013; the team knew they wanted to introduce the functionality but took time to make sure it was right for the business. After speaking to different teams across the business, and also assessing whether Yammer could potentially work for them, the decision was finally taken to switch on the feed, a decision that has ultimately proved to be the right one.
Another example of enhancements made over time is the provision of blogging, introduced in response to a request made from a new CEO. Yet another key milestone was making the intranet available on iPads. This had been surfaced as a requirement during the project, as it would be an essential way of helping senior managers to use the platform. However, it was moved to further down the roadmap as an enhancement, rather than a “must”, for the project; this choice meant the deployment could have the attention it required to make sure it was a success. The team were also tasked with keeping close to the user base, gathering requirements and feedback from around the business to enable improvements to be made to key areas such as the homepage.
The focus on governance, on getting the right structures in place, on content and on usability all paid off. Three years after they were first benchmarked by DWG, the Nationwide team undertook a further two benchmarks, this time focused on Strategy & Governance, and Usability. The results were significant: they’d shot from near the bottom to near the top in the Strategy & Governance league table, and to the top half for Usability.
With a success story to celebrate, and additional advances made within their wider digital transformation as well, the team decided to host a DWG Member Meeting for fellow members that same year, taking the opportunity to share what they’d learned from their journey with others, in much the same way they’d learned from Barclays two years earlier. Insights into their approach to content and UX were shared, together with a tour of their new platform, wowing participants as the Nationwide team returned the favour, sharing back the knowledge they had accumulated during the course of their work.
That meeting is one that has stayed with both DWG CEO and Founder, Paul Miller, and DWG’s Managing Director of Strategic Partnerships and Membership, Nancy Goebel. Paul recalls: “One of the things that sticks in my mind was Nationwide hosting a DWG Member Meeting in London. As part of that, we had a demo session in a branch situated in the bottom of their office building; they showed a new service with an expert mortgage advisor who could be connected remotely into the branch. I remember everyone standing around and watching an expert from Colchester being beamed into the branch in London!”
The company had come a long way since its exploratory conversations with Barclays in 2014, not just internally but also more broadly in how it served its diverse customer base across the UK.
Looking to the future
With their content review fully completed, robust governance and processes in place, and a steady programme of enhancements, the team is now once again looking to the future. The successful segue into “business as usual” has now freed them up to turn their attention elsewhere; as Jon says: “There’s still a job to do in making sure [the intranet’s] maintained, but we don’t need to spend as much time on it now.”
The team has moved into the Digital Channels function as well, taking on additional responsibility for an ever-growing portfolio of internal communications channels such as on-demand video and webcasting, and with pilots running for a mobile app and podcasting.
With the increased headspace, they’re also again looking to developments in the outside world for inspiration, with mobile in particular expected to increase in importance for them over the next five years. “Mobile is becoming the core of what people live their lives on. If we can’t reflect that internally, we’ll struggle.” The team also recognizes the importance of building a holistic employee experience; while they’re focused specifically on digital channels, they’re part of a wider function that is also looking at the broader aspects of digital working. Jon knows that collaboration across the function will be essential for success: “We need to make sure we’re working closely with the other teams, so we’re not creating isolated experiences. A holistic experience is hard to achieve, but if we don’t pay attention then it’ll become disjointed.”
Lessons learned from Nationwide’s time with DWG
With Jon looking to the future, Paul Miller took the opportunity to reflect on what DWG has learned from Nationwide’s time as members and benchmarking clients. Some key components to their success come to mind:
- Getting your intranet or digital workplace right is hard work – and takes time. But if you’re able and willing to put the hard work in, you’ll get the dividends back. Nationwide’s story shows that doing the right and same thing persistently over time works.
- Have the humility to trust that other people can give you independent, unbiased advice, and that this is something you can use to achieve progress.
- Seize the opportunities to learn all you can from others, while still being generous about how you share your own experiences back in kind.
- Don’t be seduced by the “sexy” stuff. For example, don’t get preoccupied with AI because it’s exciting; the basics such as content and governance always need to be looked after.
- Make sure you’re gaining value through what you’re learning from others outside of your organization, and always share it back internally across your teams. Make sure the knowledge isn’t just kept in one person’s head, but is shared across teams and functions.
- Plug your more senior colleagues into strategic resources, thought leadership and conversations, so that you’re not just pushing your own vision and understanding but are helping them to develop theirs too.
- Don’t benchmark too frequently; give yourself the time to progress and make improvements, so that you can track meaningful changes over time.
The future looks exciting for Nationwide as they shift their focus away from solely the intranet to the wider opportunities to support both their employees and members. The journey from caterpillar through to butterfly is not an easy one and can be full of peril and danger. The Nationwide team have done a wonderful job in making the change – and we’re keeping a keen eye on them to see where their story will take them next.
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