Project: Intranet Design
Time Line: May 2014-May 2015
Contributors: BIGWIDESKY in St. Louis, MO
1998 called – it wants its interface back.
If you know anything about Sharepoint, you know immediately why this project was a big challenge. Sharepoint is like being three years old again and having your PBJ cut into squares when you really wanted triangles.
Caleres, a 2.2 billion dollar fashion company, came to BIGWIDESKY in 2015 to help them make their intranet “look better”. What we eventually delivered was a living, social, internal online tool to educate and empower their 2,000 associates. The intranet we created is used on a daily basis at their St. Louis and New Your Corporate offices and has played a major role in company changes around culture and work styles.
And it was all built on Sharepoint.
Of a team about 8, my role was highly involved in User Experience and design. I worked with my team to create the concept, wireframe the site architecture and user experience, conduct a focus group, research development solutions, design the look and feel of the overall project, and produce the final presentations in the form of a lookbook and a video.
One does not simply “make your intranet look better”.
Initially, we were told the goal was to simply “make our intranet look better”. This is a vague goal that would neither help us create a vision or make lasting change. Creating the real goals of the project was a challenge in itself because there were widely different opinions on what their intranet should do and be. To solve this, we gathered all the stake holders in the same room and ran through a series of workshop activities to come to a consensus of our objectives.
The final goals we landed on were:
- Inform associates about current announcements
- Align the intranet with their brand, culture and company goals and ideals
- Engage associates with daily activities, their co-workers, and workplace culture
- Encourage a positive and engaging work place
- Reduce frustrations around communications
- Provide a place to reward and recognize outstanding teams and employees
- Provide a place for associates to find answers to their questions.
We have to know where we are to know where we’re going.
The first step in my UX process is to learn all the information I can. I dived deeply into understanding their current intranet, their communication tools, their different work styles, and the Caleres culture. I did a thorough audit of the current intranet and it’s analytic data. I held a focus group to talk with associates about their thoughts and feeling around their current work tools and styles.
This is what I learned:
- Their current intranet had no style, organization or hierarchy
- Their current intranet had no way to search, save or archive content
- Associates were very frustrated by an overwhelming amount of communication
- Associates didn’t know what information was relevant or important to them
- Associates were frustrated with questions they didn’t know how to get answered
- The cafeteria menu was the most used feature of their current system
- Associates were confused by which tools to use for different situations
- Their current tool was full of redundant or conflicting information
- Less than 1% of employees were using more than 5% of their current intranet
Can an Intranet change the culture of a company?
With the heart of the project lying in the goal to engage employees, we wanted to design something that encouraged associates to take back their autonomy and individuality. We were inspired by common social media platforms because of their democratic and engagement abilities.
Our design provides Caleres associates with a place to communicate and collaborate with those they worked closely with (or those they rarely work with) and leaders of the company. It allows them to find information on their own, collaborate how they want to, and consume information on their own time.
The experience is focused around a newsfeed. A newsfeed allows Caleres as a company to make announcements and influence attitudes. It also empowers all associates to post their own good news, start their own conversations, and congratulate others. Just like all other social platforms, this one allows for liking, sharing, and commenting.
To empower associates to find their own answers, we designed a robust document storage and Q&A platform. Associates can easily search to find policies, forms, documents, and answers to frequently asked questions. Long form articles and published videos allow Caleres to make large and small announcements.
Changing culture is easy compared to using Sharepoint.
(am I being too harsh?)
The technical challenge of figuring out how to turn our concept into reality is a challenge I took on myself to solve. While I did heavy research on the best platforms to complete our concept with, we were faced with the reality that Caleres was determined to use Sharepoint by Microsoft.
Several ideal functionality had to be scaled back because of Sharepoint limitations but we found that our overall goal of a social intranet was still going to work. As we learned more about what Sharepoint could handle, I made design changes on what would work for Sharepoint without sacrificing the heart of the concept.
Once we knew our concept, our feature set, and our technical restrictions, I designed a wireframed prototype to demonstrate the final architecture and functionality.
Let’s throw a wrench in that.
When I started on the project in 2014, Caleres was known as “Brown Shoe Company”. We named the tool Bspoke and designed the tool to live in this brand ecosystem. As we came to the final touches of design and brand for the tool, “Brown Shoe Company” changed their name to “Caleres” . With a new name, came a new brand of high class fashion design. With the new direction, Caleres and the BIGWIDESKY team updated the name of the tool to “Plaza” and redesigned it to accommodate.
While the change uprooted our original design, we were granted the privilege to help Diane Sullivan, the CEO of Caleres, create the presentation she used to announced this major name change to the whole company.
We have liftoff.
We felt the best way to both introduce the whole company to the new tool and teach them about all the capabilities was to create a video. I took it upon myself to fulfill this challenge – please watch below.
The Success of the Project and What I Learned
Plaza has been very successful since the launch over a year ago. During my remaining time at BIGWIDESKY, I kept up with design updates and small tasks daily to keep it living and brand focused. Employees enjoy using it to share and collaborate with their colleagues.
I learned a great deal from this project as it was my first intranet project. I learned that most times the hardest limitations and challenges came from client requests rather than the project itself. I learned a great deal about trusting my gut on pursuing challenges earlier to allow more time and effort to solve them. I learned that sometimes you have to go to your account director and tell them news they don’t want to hear. And I also learned with a tool centered about social interactions, posts about cats gets you a lot farther than posts about company history.