Webinar Recap | An Intranet Migration Case Study with HKS

Thank you for your interest in “Breaking Out of the Box with Out of the Box SharePoint: An Intranet Migration Case Study.” If you were able to join us for the webinar, we sincerely thank you for being there. We hope you had as much fun getting to see Out-of-the-Box SharePoint being used to it’s fullest extent as our speakers did sharing their experience with you. 

Didn’t get a chance to catch our session live? We’ve got you covered.

This Session:

When global architecture firm HKS found their third-party intranet reaching its limits, they knew they needed to design a new solution. Their wish list centered on an intranet that would be driven by SharePoint and assist in providing employees with knowledge and insights at every turn. By listening to users, building prototypes, and working with partners like PixelMill, they broke out of the “intranet-in-a-box” and created an intuitive, adaptable hub that delivers true value.

Episode Takeaways:

  • Why HKS’ existing intranet was missing the mark
  • Prioritize a human-centered intranet experience
  • Surface new knowledge to empower users
  • Develop prototypes and usability tests
  • How PixelMill fulfilled the HKS vision

Show Links:

Key Takeaways

09:37 – Why HKS’ existing intranet was missing the mark

Emily said that HKS’ intranet had essential features, but wasn’t able to support the immersive experience employees needed.

“Since 2016, we had grappled with a third-party intranet in a box product that sat on top of our SharePoint environment, but it had lagged far behind Microsoft’s enhancements. To compound the problem, the platform had increasingly severe compatibility issues. It was heavily customized, so we had a locked-in homepage layout and major functionality. And it also had some significant quality management problems. It really just wasn’t serving us well. It had a small but important footprint though, and delivered a few key pieces of functionality including the homepage and our global navigation. But because of its limitations, we were unable to deliver the immersive experience that we were already providing elsewhere within the intranet. And that was a really big problem. With such limited functionality in the homepage and in the navigation, we were missing out on our primary opportunities to engage our users.”

11:12 – Prioritize a human-centered intranet experience

Emily said that HKS’ priority was creating an intuitive, agile digital workspace that supported key stakeholders while implementing their values of public interest design, diversity, and inclusion.

“We really needed to deliver something that our coworkers and our own team would not only use, but really actually enjoy. So our intranet is human-centered. It’s informed by user interviews, hands-on exercises, iterative prototyping, usability testing, and of course, user acceptance testing. It’s guided by input from users across a wide variety of roles, locations, tenures, and areas of expertise. It’s intuitive. It prioritizes existing Microsoft and familiar HKS design patterns and uses simple, unambiguous terminology. And importantly it prioritizes HKS’ policy, programs, and resources for sustainability, public interest design, and justice equity, diversity, and inclusion. Another principle is that our intranet is expert-driven. It supports the priorities of some key stakeholder groups via our information, architecture, and design. And it removes obstacles for those groups whenever possible. It weaves resources from our subject matter experts throughout the user journey, and it relies on the right partners like PixelMill and Sue Hanley for guidance in areas of high complexity or high dependence on Microsoft’s roadmap.”

15:13 – The role of discovery exercises

Laura said that direction for the new intranet came from a combination of user feedback, data, and experts. This allowed HKS to zero in on which features to include in the scope for a new, customized solution.

“When we approached this effort, we took the opportunity to build on those insights with a few focused discovery exercises. We accomplished this by looking at what the users told us, the interviews, what the users generated with us via card-sort exercises, brainstorming, and interaction with low fidelity prototypes. What the data told us, our intranet-in-a-box and SharePoint analytics helped us to identify highly used features and content. What the experts told us through engaging Sue Hanley and of course the PixelMill to provide specific recommendations and best practices. And then finally, what our experience told us from our previous projects, our knowledge management communities of practice, and a bit of intuition. And through that discovery work, we arrived at a specific scope. Home page replatform and redesign, billable navigation replatform and redesign, apps and bookmarks tool, unified and streamlined search experience, and a custom web part with improved query and display control. And those last three pieces of functionality weren’t possible with our existing out-of-the-box options.”

17:21 – Create an information hierarchy

Emily said that the content strategy was driven by existing documentation and organized into a hierarchy that reflected key priorities.

“We already had a close working relationship with the internal communications team, and unfortunately knew all too well that the existing homepage was really difficult for them to update, which often led to a lot of stale above-the-fold content. So we already had ample documentation around the existing issues. So we were able to spend time discussing what the optimal future design and functionality might be. We started by understanding their recently updated content strategy and how the homepage should operate in concert with all of their other communications tools and channels. Once we understood the scope of that content, we recommended an information hierarchy that reflected their communication priorities.”

18:59 – Surface new knowledge to empower users

Emily said that the more information employees have at their fingertips, the better. Thanks to SharePoint web parts, new information is a natural part of the daily intranet experience.

“We wanted to bring in content from the firm’s website and social media platforms really to help our own employees stay in tune with how the firm was presenting itself at any point in time. We needed to match the requirements of each type of content to sets of SharePoint web parts that we knew would also be really easy for that team to use. We were looking at opportunities to release some of the publishing pressure on that really small team by surfacing knowledge and technical content from other internal content owners. So working iteratively with that team allowed us to quickly prototype a few different options and arrive at this vibrant and engaging homepage that was also really easy for them to manage. And the proof is in the daily experience. Now our users see new content multiple times a week. They can more easily connect to HKS news and events, understand the multitude of resources that we have for them, and explore thought leadership and all sorts of technical resource updates.”

22:52 – Develop prototypes and usability tests

Emily described how various prototypes were narrowed down, and then transitioned to a usability testing phase. That’s where concepts were ultimately validated or revised.

“We did a lot via prototypes. Many, many prototypes. A lot of the prototypes could be pretty quickly discarded, but we ultimately wrestled them down to one really high potential model. And we also had a plan B. So we moved the most promising model forward into scenario-based usability testing. And this was really where the rubber met the road. It quickly validated the most sound navigational areas. Our test participants were really generous with their insight, especially when they’ve provided explanations at the end of each session. And those provided us with some of the best points of improvement. So we analyzed the test results, incorporated a lot of the user insights, and updated our prototype. We went through testing again with a completely different yet still diverse group of users, and we were really pleased. We got consistently improved test results. So from there, we consulted with a few key stakeholders for some tiebreaker decisions and we had it, the brand new navigation.”

31:22 – Improve the employee experience

Laura said that creating a knowledge base that is useful to employees was the ultimate goal. The new Insight Center is one of the highlights of HKS’ new intranet solution.

“It’s really about improving the employee experience by centering employee knowledge, making it easy to find what they need, and giving them opportunities to grow as thought leaders. So the Insight Center is our team’s signature knowledge product, and it’s designed to serve as a hub for a topical exploration and learning. So as opposed to search, the Insight Center is all about browsing. Any knowledge resource that gets pulled into our knowledge ecosystem, whether that’s peer-reviewed articles, recordings, news articles, or internally authored reports are discoverable within the Insight Center. The landing page at the insight center surfaces the newest materials by content type, such as recordings, documents, blog posts, et cetera. We allow people to access knowledge resources by practice area, which is commonly where they think to go. But in order to bust silos, we also encouraged people to browse by four practice-agnostic mega topics.”

33:16 – How PixelMill fulfilled the HKS vision

Laura said that thanks to PixelMill’s customized web parts, they can display exactly what they need to on the HKS intranet.

“When we engaged PixelMill, we asked for a customizable, highly configurable web part that could pull in documents and pages according to specific criteria. We are now able to display the exact information we want in those web parts, any fields we’ve identified. They also gave us a solution that lets us customize the “see all” link, and lets us send users to any URL that we designate. And ultimately this has given us a level of control we really needed to fulfill our vision of a knowledge-centric, user-friendly, SharePoint-driven digital workplace.”

41:28 – Don’t be intimidated by an intranet project

Emily said that despite the fact that they are a small 4-person team with a full existing workload, they were able to accomplish this seemingly huge project with relatively low manpower and technology resources.

“It’s possible to have really meaningful user engagement on a project like this regardless of the size of your team, your tools and resources, or your prior experience. If you spend your time identifying really just what you need to know and then figuring out the exercises that will help you elicit those answers, that is the important piece. And if you end up just talking to only one person, that is going to be an improvement. And the only thing that’s really out of your control is actually just whether the users will be willing to talk to you. So start working on that one early. To prove this point, let’s actually talk about ourselves. We’re a four-person team. We had multiple other projects in flight. This was actually a project we took on in addition to all of the rest of our daily work. We also don’t have sophisticated tools, as you may have noticed from some of what we showed on these slides. We did our discovery and prototyping using the free version of Miro, PowerPoint, Excel, and Zoom. And that was really it.”

Check out our next webinar on Thursday, February 24th!

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