Northern Ireland Office goes live with DCMS intranet theme

To kick off the New Year, the Northern Ireland Office launched their new intranet, using the GovIntranet WordPress theme, based on the DCMS intranet.

Una Flynn, Head of Communications at NIO, wanted to improve the existing intranet, which was a collection of documents that had grown organically by content publishers.

Having introduced social media to our comms strategy and migrated our website to GOV.UK, my next project is a radical overhaul of the intranet.
Una Flynn

After initial meetings with the comms team in August 2013, we kicked off the intranet project in September. The project brief was a little different to DCMS, who had already completed their information architecture and content planning. Two days of the NIO project were devoted to content publisher training for 8 of the comms team, bringing them up to speed on writing in plain English, search engine optimisation, categorising and tagging content and working with the GovIntranet WordPress CMS. We also spent a day cardsorting with staff to create the main content categories on the intranet.

Publishers have been busy rewriting content that was buried in Word docs and PDFs, making it much more accessible to staff, and the search engine. In addition to writing good content, they’ve been taking advantage of other WordPress features and plugins. On the Justice intranet, I remember having to upload a monty spreadsheet of budget codes every month. Staff would have to download the new document each month and then wade through the spreadsheet tabs to get the latest information.  At NIO, publishers have used the TablePress plugin to produce some useful ajax lookup pages, allowing staff to quickly search and browse through the table of expense codes, online without refreshing the page.

Expense codes
Finance staff can search up-to-date expense codes.

The new intranet went live in early January to staff in the London and Belfast offices. Static content on the old intranet is being kept live for a month while remaining content is being added to the new intranet.

The NIO intranet uses the blogging features of the GovIntranet theme and is already seeing blog posts from Directors. And, like DCMS, staff forums are in place, aiming to improve local staff engagement and collaboration between London and Belfast offices.

In a weird turn of events, the NIO intranet has benefitted from other developments to the GovIntranet theme, going live with new features ahead of the other departments that originally commissioned them. Having only asked for an intranet “the same as DCMS”, the NIO now have an intranet with a Staff directory, an A to Z index, an autocomplete omni-search box and a new look and feel, all developed by other departments yet to go live with the new features. This is the beauty of open source. And of course it also means that the other departments are getting advanced beta testing  and bug fixes before they go live.

The new intranet has taken four months from kicking off the project to launch, including content inventory and audit, cardsorting, publisher training and a total rewrite of all content by NIO publishers. The cost was around £8K.

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