For a growing regional community bank, one of the biggest frustrations employees faced was finding documents on the company intranet, right when they needed them. To stay productive, each employee used their own preferential mix of individual hard drives, paper printouts, network share drives, and saved emails with large attachments constantly getting sent back and forth. Most of this content included things like forms, training documents and quick reference guides. Because the existing intranet was built on an outdated version of Microsoft SharePoint with an ineffective search function, it needed an overhaul in capabilities, navigation and total user experience.
Although copywriter Mike Sweeney had no prior experience administering design and content within a SharePoint server farm, he was given the task of transforming this ineffective and cumbersome tool into the company news and information portal of choice for all employees to use. The challenge required his skills in web design, creative direction, small team collaboration and his ability to train others. Perhaps the biggest challenge he faced was accomplishing a goal of making people less dependent on network shared drives and dealing with those who would cling to a “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset.
To get a sense of “what’s out there” in current intranet design, Mike first went on a in-depth search for current trends and best practices. This wasn’t easy, because intranets by nature sit behind a firewall and are inaccessible unless you are an employee of that particular company. Nevertheless, Mike was able to locate some published intranet design reports, and he also networked with colleagues at local organizations who also use SharePoint in order to gain access to their intranets and ask his research questions. At the same time, Mike wrote a survey for employees in his organization to make known their needs, gripes and desires regarding a redesigned intranet portal.
In partnership with his team’s feedback, Mike also concepted several site designs for the new portal which were discussed and voted on. His winning site design was then sent to an internal programming team to make it a reality.
Next, Mike came up with concepts for training materials. Not satisfied with the standard training materials already available, he wrote and produced entirely new training articles and handouts for employees — especially the content publishers. These publishers were designated individuals who would maintain their own department sites. Mike worked closely with them in small group demonstrations and one-on-one training to help them effectively navigate the new intranet environment and get the most out of the bank’s considerable technology investment.
Mike, his manager, and his intranet team lead were extremely pleased with the overall results. He received many off-hand comments of a vastly improved user experience. Employees were engaging with published content and responding with comments to his company news articles, something they had never done before. Productivity went up as well because information was easily searchable and more accessible, thanks to his navigation and site design concepts. This reduced dependence on networked share drives, ultimately helping eliminate redundant and outdated versions of forms, policies and training documents. On the whole, the redesign improved perceptions of corporate communications and increased social interactions.
With laughter and applause at a celebratory team dinner one year later, Mike was one of two people to receive a humorous gag award showing only the back half of a horse. The inscription reads, “I worked my butt off!”
In addition, Mike received a public endorsement by the SVP of Human Resources. She said,
Mike did an outstanding job in his role on the SharePoint intranet software project team, transitioning the 2003 version directly to the SharePoint 2010 platform. He was instrumental in working with the team to establish the overall vision for our intranet and was the lead on many facets of the project, including publisher training, document conversion, and HR site setup. He provided extensive consulting with the internal content publishers and worked tirelessly on the myriad of details involved with upgrading a professional intranet.