ACCA, the Association for Chartered Certified Accountants, is a global professional body offering a leading qualification for accountants. It launched its ThoughtFarmer-based social intranet called Arthur in 2013.
I’ve been lucky enough to catch-up with the intranet team a couple of times previously, first shortly after launch, and then six months later. I think it’s interesting to see how intranets and digital workplaces evolve and while most case studies about intranets tend to focus on the initial launch, it’s also important to focus on what happens when its “business as usual.”
Now nearly two years on after launch, the team have just implemented the first significant changes to the intranet homepage and it seemed like a good time to check in with Arthur again. I went for a coffee with Sarah Moffatt, ACCA’s ChannelManager within Internal Communications, who talked me through some of the main changes.
New branding, same moustaches
The intranet is named after Arthur Priddle, ACCA’s first president. I love the stylised cartoon persona of Arthur who sits on top of every page complete with proud 1904-style moustache. Arthur simultaneously gives the intranet a little warmth and humour, but also reminds employees of ACCA’s heritage.
Some of the changes to Arthur have been spurred on by a new branding initiative for ACCA. There is a new strapline around “Think Ahead” and some tweaks to the organisation’s visual identity which have already been implemented externally.
Subsequently the new ACCA strapline appears in the banner along with a more prominent “Arthur” label and a small tweak for the Arthur character. Thankfully his moustache remains.
The news carousel
The new Arthur also features more space for corporate news. This has primarily been achieved through a new carousel feature which holds up to four stories. The news stories under the carousel also appear as a grid of four rather than one list.
Previously there had only been only space for one main story feature with an associated image. This meant that some important communications were not staying long enough on the home page to reach a wide enough audience.
The new carousel is also a reflection of bringing the new brand positioning to the fore and placing more emphasis on the firm’s new strategy.
Some intranet folk (including me) have mixed feelings about carousels but the new feature also allows for a more prominent image across the homepage. This makes Arthur look more attractive in what was previously quite a text-heavy homepage.
Aligning internal and external
The new intranet branding means there is now more alignment between internal and external channels. Ultimately this helps to present a more coherent and joined up service to customers and clients.
At ACCA this is also partly a reflection of changes behind the scenes which have meant those responsible for internal and external communications (PR, publishing) now physically sit together and are able to work more closely. For example they are establishing a joint fixed editorial calendar which will be available to view on the intranet itself.
At the moment Arthur’s task-based global navigation hasn’t changed, although the left-hand navigation on the homepage replicates this and the team are considering removing it to open up more space.
They have also reduced the “trending” box from ten to five items to make more room for a link to a section of the intranet dedicated to ACCA’s current strategy. This “trending” space is based on what is new and how many people have “liked” a particular item. I was amused to hear that occasionally some departments have “gamed the system” by liking a piece of content so their story appears in the trending box.
Meanwhile the “quick links” which are on the left hand side of the homepage (see below) have proved very popular and have been extended. These now include links to extend to include ACCA’s external-facing digital channels including the website, social media and learning community.
Up to now the team has not really had a focus on metrics, but ThoughtFarmer has built a custom area for ACCA which allows the intranet team to export various statistics into Excel from which they can do their number crunching.
They can focus on visits, engagement and also search terms at both a broad and granular level. They can also dissect numbers by different groups so they will be able to draw some conclusions about user behaviour from which they hope to identify issues and make improvements.
They also plan to use the statistics to validate the hunches they have about user behaviour, as well as help them plan internal communications.
I was pleased to find out that Arthur now has a friend called Ethel. Using the same styling, Ethel is a closed ThoughtFarmer-based intranet used by around 60 users for ACCA’s Council Members.. Although the team behind Arthur give the Ethel team some occasional help, they are largely self-sufficient.
Like Arthur, Ethel is an important figure in ACCA’s history. The character refers to Ethel Ayres Purdie, the first woman to be a member of any professional accountancy body in the world (in 1909). She was also a suffragette. Again Ethel is a reminder of ACCA’s past, but also embodies the values that the organisation wants to project with its “Think Ahead” campaign and strapline.
Waving goodbye to Arthur
So after a couple of coffees it’s time to say goodbye to Sarah, Arthur and Ethel and make my way home. As I go down the escalators of Holborn tube station, I’m reminded again of the alignment of internal and external branding as I recognised images on posters for ACCA which I’d seen during my intranet demo.
To me the intranet seems like in good shape. There are minor tweaks but Arthur with its social and collaborative elements intact is not significantly changed which suggests that the social intranet model was right for ACCA.
While sometimes there’s too much news on an intranet, it’s not uncommon for a decentralised and social intranet to evolve to have more of a formalised news structure. With a new strategy and brand to the fore there is also a solid reason for more corporate content at this time.
Going forward having access to new metrics and data, as well as a closer knit wider digital team, should put Sarah is in a position of strength to keep the intranet performing well. I’m sure Arthur Priddle would be a regular and satisfied user if he was alive today.
My thanks to Sarah Moffatt for all her help in this case study.