My latest client intranet project to come to fruition is Kewnet, the intranet for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Continue reading “It’s not just the Temperate House that’s been revamped at Kew Gardens”
I’d been waiting with anticipation for our latest client intranet launch. It’s the nearest I’ll ever get to fatherhood, but these past weeks I’ve been acting like I’m looking after a newborn.
After a little intensive care, the CCS intranet is up and running. A real staff-centred intranet, it has a staff directory, forums, blogs, commenting and feedback forms. Looking from the outside, the launch seemed like it was first day at the sales. Okay so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but what I’m trying to say is that staff haven’t been backward about coming forward.
The trusty feedback form, at the bottom of every page, is producing a steady flow of comments from staff. Broken links, missing documents, factual corrections. And the comms team have been straight on the case, correcting problems, adding new content, keeping in touch with staff.
Perhaps more unexpected, are the positive comments coming in. The intranet launched with a blog post by the Head of Comms, and the comments make me smile with glee. “Brilliant!”, “I love it!”, “So easy to use!”
Apart from the general positivity, staff are pointing out specific areas that they like; the staff directory, the search function, the simple content and IA.
Google Apps integration
Being part of the Cabinet Office, CCS uses Google Apps. The majority of forms, policy documents and templates are stored on Google Drive. In hindsight, this was probably a blessing when it came to content migration as all those documents still live on Google Drive, leaving the intranet free for some good ol’ plain English content.
The CCS intranet is behind a firewall, but staff still have to login to view the intranet. The good news is that it’s just a button click to login via their Google accounts. A combination of plugins handle the security authentication, and automatically create staff profiles on the intranet, pulling information from Google accounts, including avatars. It’s been amazing to sit on the sidelines and watch the staff directory grow from the dozen or so editors who first attended training, to the full workforce of around 500 staff. All with a click of a button.
The plugins also allow editors to insert links to documents, or even embed documents in intranet pages using a simple search and click interface, integrated with Google Drive. A great way to maintain one source of truth, documents are kept up to date in Google so the intranet doesn’t become blocked with numerous versions of documents.
Content training and migration
I spent two days training the comms team on the GovIntranet theme. Intranet training consisted of:
- Content training: half a day of writing for the web, plain English, accessibility and SEO
- WordPress administrator training: half a day covering GovIntranet admin and configuration
- WordPress publisher training: a full day of CMS training on the GovIntranet theme
The team have had the usual challenges when departments are faced with rewriting content. The usual objections from HR staff who are used to writing in official language and stock-piling documents into some electronic receptacle. But the comms team have triumphed. The intranet is not filled with endless left-hand menus representing the HR policy structure. Staff are finding information. Bite-size pieces, helping them to do their jobs.
With the number of government intranets that I have a window into, it’s a little hobby of mine to compare content, to see how teams do things. This exercise can be useful when trying to demonstrate that content doesn’t have to be written like a policy document. Take whistle-blowing for example. On one of my client intranets, the guidance for this is a few short paragraphs; this is what it is, this is what you need to do, this is how you do it. On another client intranet the guidance is a mile long, starting with an introductory letter by the Perm Sec, followed by all the clauses of the policy, nicely numbered of course, ending with what you actually need to do. Which version helps staff and which helps the HR department, with their commitment to excellence, to tick their boxes?
After initial ideas of creating an intranet launch video (and me getting excited about the chance to appear on Ellen’s wall) the team decided to go with an intranet treasure hunt instead. Being the geek that I am, I spent a weekend afternoon planning and plotting a complex operation involving time-locked pages and a secret safe, within a vault, within a building. And having been reminded that staff are actually awfully busy and that maybe I should have been a games designer, they’ve opted for a simple mission of finding four keys, hidden around pages on the intranet. The mission takes staff through four sections of the intranet as they collect keys containing the combination to unlock the vault (or the password to unlock the WordPress page, to those in the know).
We didn’t want to plaster the intranet with treasure hunt posters, should there be any staff not game enough to take part. So we did it with intraverts, a feature of GovIntranet that allows targeted messaging. We created a new team called “Intranet Explorers”, to last for the duration of the treasure hunt. We encouraged staff to add this team to their staff profile if they wanted to take part. Then we crafted some intraverts to appear on selected pages around the intranet, only visible to members of the explorer team.
For me, it’s been a mission of my own to come up with the concept and orchestrate the pages and intraverts. For the comms team, it’s been a way to introduce staff to sections of the new intranet and to familiarise them with searching and navigating the intranet structure. Hopefully, it’s been a bit of fun for all of us.
The end of the hunt contains a very quick satisfaction survey where staff are asked to choose from a list of positive and negative statements regarding the intranet. As I write, the survey hasn’t closed but, the initial results are overwhelming at 95.3% positive sentiment.
I have a dozen clients now all using the same WordPress theme for their intranets. The intranets are all different. They have their own tones, from cosy and friendly to vibrant and alive to formal and reserved. Sure, they all have their own style, typeface and colour scheme too. But it’s the content and what staff do with the theme that makes them different. Once you delve beyond the “look and feel”, what’s really important is the content. Both corporate content and staff-generated content. It’s the difference between a lonely news story and a blog post filled with comments, between a letter from the Perm sec and a phone number to call.
A move to a new CMS is an ideal opportunity to tidy the intranet, remove the clutter and possibly present things in a better way. You can choose to use your existing content as a basis for the new CMS, or wipe the slate clean and create new content. This guide covers moving content to a new CMS.
Methods of migration
There are several ways of moving content. It usually boils down to a combination of automated scrapes, exports and imports, and manual copy and pasting.
Using the bulk methods of scrapes and imports you end up with your existing content in the new CMS, and this means that you can do any content rewriting, culling and reorganising within the new CMS.
If you can’t use any automation then you’ll need to manually migrate content. This gives you the chance to rewrite and reorganise the content before it hits the new CMS, or you can still migrate everything over as is, and then do the rewrite work in the new CMS.
Whichever method you choose to move content over, it will help to know what you’re dealing with. A content inventory gives you a detailed account of your intranet pages, documents and images.
I’ve written about my content migration spreadsheet before. It’s a combination of the content inventory and a migration dashboard, showing the live rate of migration and projected finished date. It’s a great tool for keeping an eye on migration progress, for keeping migrators motivated, and because it’s in Google Docs it means that you can work in realtime with other content migrators. I’ve shared this spreadsheet:
Creating the inventory involves similar choices to the migration method. It may be possible to get an export of your site structure and assets from your old CMS that you can use as a basis for the inventory spreadsheet. Or you could produce a folder listing from your intranet server or from a scrape of the intranet. Or you can manually create rows in the spreadsheet.
Once you have the content inventory spreadsheet complete, you can start to sift through deciding if the content is still required or not, whether it needs to be rewritten or combined with other pages. This is also an opportunity to move content around and to categorise and tag pages.
The finished audit will give you a spreadsheet that you can use for migration and ongoing content maintenance. It could also be adapted for an automated import.
Migration planning and practicalities
For manual migration, the order that you move things across can help to speed up the process. I have found it best to migrate documents and images first so that these are in place for linking up to pages.
You will generally need to do two passes through the migration spreadsheet. The first round will get all the content in place. The second round is for linking up the content. Attempting to get it all done in one go can be difficult because you may come to a page containing links to other pages that don’t exist yet. Keep a note of these pages during the first round of migration. And then whizz through them in the second round to link them.
Think too about your different types of content. For example, if you have a news section containing news stories that mainly link to your publications section, then it makes sense to migrate your publications section first. You save time when you come to the news stories because you can already link to the publications in the first round of the spreadsheet.
If you are pressed for time, you can leave older content such as news stories until after launch.
The main pitfalls to watch out for are all caused by copying and pasting. The first problem is that whether you copy from a Word document or live from an intranet page, you sometimes copy more than you bargained for. Hard-coded styles, font sizes, colours and tables may all be lurking behind your page and need to be tidied up. If this is a constant problem you may have better luck by pasting into a simple text editor first and then copying again before pasting into the CMS.
As well as hidden styles, you may also copy over HTML including embedded images and links to documents. Pages will display the image because they are still pulling it through from the old site. When the old site disappears the image will no longer display. In this case you need to link up the new page to the new image. The same can happen with documents; you copy over a link to a document on the old site, it still works when you test it, but it will break when the old site disappears.
Once all the new content is migrated, a final broken links check will make sure that everything is linked up okay.
You can also setup some rules for redirections so that people with bookmarks or following links to the old site will be pointed to the new site, and preferably the relevant page in the new site.
How to use the migration spreadsheet
The spreadsheet is setup with 2 tabs. The Dashboard tab shows the high-level migration progress. The Main tab is for the content inventory.
On the dashboard, set your start date and target finish date. The rest of the information will update automatically using formulas in the cells. Key points are the projected finish date, which is calculated on the start date and the rate of migration. The dial shows percentage complete and the graph at the bottom shows where the projected finish date lies in relation to the target finish date. The dashboard does not count documents and images.
On the main tab, enter each new page, document or image to be migrated on a new line. During migration, enter your initials in the first column as each item is completed. This will feed into the dashboard to show progress.
Note: Columns D and E are used for the dashboard calculations. When inserting new rows, copy cells D and E from a completed row to the new rows. If you mark rows as completed and the dashboard doesn’t change, the likely cause is blank cells in columns D and E.
To help staff become acquainted with the new look and feel and functionality before the launch, we published a set of *intranet familiarisation* videos, using the new intranet template, and linked them from the existing intranet via a feature story.
In the month before launch we scheduled several intranet feature articles detailing the forthcoming launch. Our in-house design team created a flyer insert for our monthly staff magazine and we let our stakeholders know through email bulletins and newsletters. We published a final intranet article as we broke up for Christmas holidays saying bye bye to the old intranet.
I was very proud to press the button on New Year’s Day which would set the CMS in motion, publishing the new homepage, the news section and linking to all newly migrated content. It was then time to sit back and wait for the response from staff.
We had managed to migrate all of the content except for some older news stories and we were busy pedalling away in the background as the new intranet went live to staff.
There was an eerie silence after the launch. Business as usual. No cries of joy and no rotten tomatoes. Staff were just getting on with it. Hopefully our comms and familiarisation helped to bed them in a little.
The average time spent in a visit to the intranet has fallen from an average 2 mins 30 down to 1 min 20 since the launch. We’ve almost halved the time that staff take in a typical visit to the intranet. I’m optimistically reading this as evidence to show that they are finding and digesting information faster. Hopefully the improved navigation, legibility and layout are having an effect.
Uptake for feature news has almost doubled since the launch and is steadily rising. All the time spent in planning the news delivery was worth it.
Around 3 months after launch, we evaluated the *usability and design* benchmark as part of our annual IBF review. We also used Customer Carewords again to run the intranet staff satisfaction survey. See my previous blog posts for the results:
Since launch, the intranet has changed and adapted, due to requests for new content and campaigns, issues highlighted by analytics reports and recommended actions from benchmarking evaluation reports.
One glaring problem that came out of our benchmarking report this year was that although I had done a lot of testing with the navigation to ensure staff could find their way around the intranet, I had not paid so much attention to the task of downloading a document. In the new intranet, downloads such as PDF and DOC files were listed in the right hand column. However, staff (rightly so) saw this column as links that would take them elsewhere – *related information*. As a result, they often missed the links to the documents. So we’ve been working to remedy this, moving download links to the body section of the page, in context.
I feel now that the intranet has reached a level where further enhancements can dripfeed through, rolling out small improvements and developments one at a time. Although the intranet is alive and constantly changing, this redesign project gave it a much needed kick in the butt to bring it into a state where no further big bang launches are necessary.
Other intranets within the organisational group have adopted the new design template and this is a good first step in providing a unified experience across our family of intranets.The intranet has come a long way, but work doesn’t stop. There is always room for improvement, as well as trying to keep up with what’s happening out on the web and constant changes and restructures within the organisation. I blogged previously that we are currently working to introduce more engagement functions on news stories, including *Like*, *Share this* and *Comment*.
I’m aware that we don’t have a true task-based navigation system and that several sections still hang off the departmental structure. We have no proper social functions on the intranet because we don’t have the technical architecture or platform. We have *strap-on* sites such as Huddle and Civil Pages but they don’t talk to each other and they don’t integrate with the intranet. We still have the most useless employee directory, again not integrated into the intranet or any other systems such as Outlook. And I’ve been waiting over a year (or is it two?) for our Google Search Appliance upgrade.
So plenty to get on with.
For now, that’s the end of this budget intranet redesign series.
Thanks for all the mentions and RTs over the past weeks.
In this series
The end is in sight
Remember that migration plan from phase 2? Having decided to publish back-issues of news stories to the start of 2009, I could quantify how much content we would need to migrate. I managed to cut the original content from 6416 entries down to 3000 entries. Some of this was by losing older news stories. The remainder I did by reorganising content into simplified chunks. Where a section had dozens of one-paragraph pages, I grouped and combined them into fewer pages. I removed out of date content. Cut out duplicated content. Barred the *what’s this doing on the intranet?* content.
So it was at this point in the project, around September 2009, that we agreed on an unofficial launch date of 1st January 2010. We reckoned we could populate the new intranet in that time. We would divert all our attention to the migration and bat off any new development work.
We pulled a few extra resources from the web team to help out with migration. We had hands-on training for the CMS publishing and strict rules on page titles, metadata and file names.
I shared the master migration plan with the team through Google Docs which worked wonders for collaborating on our progress, showing up to the minute changes and no document check-out and check-in. Meh!
We announced a moratorium on intranet updates with the exception of corporate news and features and urgent ministerial and board messages.
Curious to note that having announced a content freeze, intranet content owners who had not done anything with their content for months and months suddenly wanted to update their pages. Don’t you love human nature?
Because we had agreed to continue to publish news stories, I divided the migration work amongst the team with one person responsible for publishing ongoing news onto the existing intranet and also entering into the CMS for the new intranet. We had a few people working on news story back-issues. And a few working from the existing Dreamweaver content, manually building the green, blue and purple sections of the site.
Migration production line
Cut and paste. Cut and paste. Robot-like for weeks. The migration team laboured on. The traffic lights on our Google Docs spreadsheet slowly changed from red to green. We took this chance to do a little editorial work on pages as we moved them across, rewriting in plain English and reformatting pages to improve readability. I was also keeping an eye on our Google Search Appliance as it indexed the migrated content. Up and up went the page count. Perfect page titles all round!
A URL was leaked at some point and from studying Google Analytics I could see that there were about 60 people around the organisation looking at the new site before it was officially launched. I’m glad they were that interested!
Communications and launch
In my next post I’ll cover how we worked with our internal communications colleagues to prepare staff for the new intranet and how we have evaluated and evolved the intranet since launch.
In this series