Note: Gatehouse and Gallagher Communication were not affiliated with the project detailed in this article, nor is this article an endorsement of Gatehouse or Gallagher Communication by Philips.
In 2016, we tasked ourselves with a seemingly impossible task: replace Philips’ antiquated intranet with a new and improved intranet. Nothing is simple at a company this size, let alone a project of this magnitude. Try keeping tens of thousands of employees happy across 100 countries.
To understand why we were so motivated to enact a new intranet, you have to first understand just how clunky and bloated the original one was. For reference, the old intranet had over 123,000 different pages, and the new one has 6,000. Quite the jump. This was happening because local communicators were recreating exactly the same content from global, which, of course, resulted in duplicated pages. Due to the difficulties in updating the intranet our communicators were turning to third-party agencies to help maintain it and get content published. Of course, this came at a huge cost to the business not only in monetary terms, but also the effort required to make that relationship work.
We started by developing a business case for a new intranet, one that demonstrated why we needed it and that appealed to the financial side of the argument. From a sheer employee efficiency perspective, we estimated that the savings of rolling out a new intranet were in the millions for the whole company.
“The new intranet closely followed a mission statement we had developed: provide employees with a personalised intranet start page, which gives them the best access to information to do their job in the best possible manner, with the high levels of engagements.”
The new intranet closely followed a mission statement we had developed: provide employees with a personalised intranet start page, which gives them the best access to information to do their job in the best possible manner, with high levels of engagement. This statement was our core reasoning for the project and sticking to it was critical to our success.
Through everything that we did, we always asked ourselves: “Is this in line with our mission statement?” I think if you’re going to develop something like an intranet, it’s very important to have a mission statement to keep the focus on what you want to achieve.
We designed the new intranet with simple goal in mind: to create a tag- based intranet. With tag-based intranets, you can find content quickly, so duplicated content isn’t necessary.
There’s just one single source. So, for example, if you’re looking for something around IT, there’s one IT content, which is tagged as “IT”. There’s a content governance behind it, so there’s one owner for the IT topic, and that person can approve content.
Tagging was really key for making a personal page. That’s basically where we looked more deeply into the tagging. Then we made the decision to have a tag-based intranet. This means that you basically have a kind of Google-like intranet where content is very searchable.
Personas were also key in our creation of the new intranet. We interviewed people in specific roles and based on that, we created the personas. It went very deep. We still always check it with the personas. So, the personas were really a key thing for us in that sense. It was really the foundation for everything, because if it didn’t make sense to them, then we’d just simply decide to not do it. The personas were truly critical.
Implementation was tricky. People are naturally averse to change, and we were dealing with a massive base of diverse employees from all over, while trying to change something that had been around for a long time. That’s a challenge.
Roughly 50% of this project was change management. That’s not an exaggeration. We did weekly calls, helping people to understand the progress, testing with them together, helping them to really, really feel ownership of it. The scope was huge. We were moving away from 123,000 pages to 6,000 pages.
Our strategy was to take it piece by piece, one step at a time. Basically, there were multiple intranets co-existing in parallel. We created one big Excel file with all kinds of data about all the intranet sites.
If a site had not updated in a while, we would check with the owner if there was any critical information on it and simply delete it. We also used this data to have conversations with the owners – and potentially challenge the need for the site if its usage was limited. We reviewed one site at a time with their owner and transitioned their content to the new intranet – before moving on to the next one. Minimal changes, bit by bit.
This was communicated, of course, but on a local level – letting people know where to find new content and that old pages had been decommissioned. There was some education required, considering the fact that employees were switching from a navigation-based system to a search-based one.
The new internet is very simple. You just search, for example, for IT business partners. Then you get to your page, IT business partners, and you click on it. This took some time for people
to get used to, but it saves time from employees if they do it in the right way. One learning curve was to get people to search using keywords, rather than the Google style of searching, where you use whole sentences.
Despite all this, even though the intranet is our central platform, we still need email and newsletters to drive traffic to it. Our vision is that all internal news be on the intranet, so newsletters are always directing people to it.
“Our vision is that all internal news will be on the intranet, so newsletters are always directing people to it.”
When I receive a newsletter, I’ll click on the title and I will be directed to the intranet. That’s basically how it works and the way our channel mix is set up, with push versus pull. Email is our push, intranet is our pull.
We’ve also managed to establish a very open network of communication and feedback that helps employees tell us what features work and don’t work for them. This makes it easy for us to constantly improve and save our employees a lot of time and money, and, well, build a better mouse trap.
Biography: Dennis Agusi
As Philips’ Director of Communication Channels, Dennis is responsible for both internal and external communication channels. Dennis started his career at Philips in 2010 and has successfully introduced award-winning new channels since. His focus on business value helps to increase impact, productivity and to save costs.