A catch-up with Arthur: six months into the launch of ACCA’s new social intranet

In the weeks before Christmas I was fortunate to be able to drop in for a coffee with Sarah Moffatt and David Jones at ACCA, the Association for Chartered Certified Accountants. Although they have other comms-related roles, Sarah and David make up two thirds of the intranet team at ACCA.

I last met up with them in the Summer of 2013, a few days after their new social intranet Arthur had been launched. You can read the accompanying blog post here.

It was interesting to see what progress they had made after six months.  What is very clear to me is how important the first few months after launch are in terms of driving adoption. The intranet team is critical in ensuring this happens.

  Arthur’s homepage, shortly after launch

Arthur’s homepage, shortly after launch

While not many still believe in “build it and they will come”, some observers believe that social intranets and networks can be launched virally and the need for change management is minimal. While this does happen in some isolated examples where the organisational culture and circumstances are right, I believe most organisations require effective stewardship from the centre for successful adoption and use.

Adoption

Arthur the intranet was originally launched with an email teaser campaign, and some fun photos of ACCA employees around the globe posing with Arthur-style moustaches. The 31 May is now “Arthur Day” – a Friday was deliberately picked as intranet traffic tends to go up on a Friday afternoon.

Since the energy of the launch, adoption has been steady, with awareness and knowledge varying dramatically from person to person.  “Maybe we thought people would get it a bit quicker, but we’re addressing it” explains Sarah.

The team are addressing this by running regular training sessions for users, content managers and stakeholders.  As well as specific sessions, they also hold a drop in day once per month in both the London and Glasgow offices, and there is a drop-in online session for markets (global offices). To shore up usage in global offices, targeted  Webex sessions are now taking place.

Anecdotally it sounds like the intranet team are doing well with adoption. For example 50% of all staff has voluntarily uploaded pictures to their profiles, a highly respectable figure after six months. The team’s interventions have undoubtedly helped this along, for example suggesting people update their phone numbers on Arthur when the corporate telephone directory was down.

Random people profiles are also selected and highlighted on the intranet. When a photo on a profile has not been loaded, a placeholder image suggesting Arthur’s moustache is posted. Arthur himself has left messages to suggest that if you don’t want a moustache then you should post your own photo!

Different content managers are being encouraged to get people to complete their profiles. The team are also planning to report to their leadership function detailing directorate by directorate on completion rates of profiles. They are hoping this will apply a little more “gentle” pressure.

Social tools

Adoption on social tools has also been encouraging. Personal blogs appear under each individual profile and some have been quite popular, for example two employees sharing progess and pictures during Movember. (Notice a recurring moustache theme).

However it is also fair to say that some of the initial enthusiasm has dampened since launch.

Some senior leaders are writing personal blogs, for example the Head of Finance and Operations. The post appears both under his personal profile, but also in the departmental pages.

The CEO also does a blog of sorts. She used to send out a monthly email communication but the intranet has replaced this with a monthly video, with a click through to a more detailed written report. Naturally this is a more effective and engaging form of communication, particularly as employees are able to comment..

Community groups and accompanying discussion forums have probably proved to be the most popular social tools. There are about 20 active groups, most of which are open. Themes have included a sales community, those involved in social media and competitive intelligence. Some of these groups had a presence on Yammer which was then migrated over to Arthur prior to launch.

  The Social Media Hub, one of Arthur’s community groups

The Social Media Hub, one of Arthur’s community groups

Planning meetings

Although the intranet team have a weekly meeting, they have a quarterly meeting which helps to brainstorm and plan for the quarter ahead. This focuses on four main areas:

  • What processes and activities can be moved into Arthur
  • IT developments for Arthur
  • Big campaigns coming up
  • Housekeeping and training needs

All ideas are then prioritised from 1 to 4 to work out a programme of work for the next quarter.

Practical governance

The team do not have a steering committee or any other over-arching intranet-related functions. However they feel they have enough processes in place and authority to maintain governance on the site.

The process around starters and leavers is already tight, and requests for new communities involve the central team for set-up, so any questions can be addressed there and then.

There has been some pushback about the information architecture which is task-based. Some support functions thought task-related content should appear under their departmental areas, but the team have been able to stand firm on the navigation.

Arthur

Arthur appears as a character all over the intranet and even posts occasionally as himself. This makes the intranet more informal and friendly. “Having Arthur as a character rather than a person makes him more approachable. He’s clearly quite a friendly guy!” explains David.

For example Arthur has added some comments or invited commentary to some key posts. When the team recently referred to him as being poorly, some colleagues even added comments wishing him a speedy recovery!

  Arthur posts as himself, and is often referenced  as  a real character.

Arthur posts as himself, and is often referenced  as  a real character.

Overall I think the team at ACCA should be really pleased with the progress they have made. After six months they have:

  • Integrated communications and collaboration within one environment
  • Achieved active use of social tools
  • Regular leadership communications
  • Decent completion rates of profiles
  • Convincing mobile access
  • A strong brand for the intranet
  • A training programme in full swing
  • An environment that’s not too formal and stuffy
  • An overwhelming consensus among users that the intranet has improved

I think it is also fair to say there is more work to do, and I am sure they will continue to work hard to drive adoption. I’m hoping I’ll be able to report on the future progress, with another catch-up with Arthur later in the year.

Many thanks to Sarah Moffatt and David Jones for their help in preparing and approving this post..