Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to meet up with some other intranet folk for lunch at the central London offices of ACCA. Besides spending a very pleasant hour or so nattering away, Toby Moseley and Sarah Moffatt also gave us a quick tour of ACCA’s brand new intranet, Arthur. Below are some of the things which stuck in my mind during the tour.
First a little background on ACCA and its previous intranet. ACCA, or the Association for Chartered Certified Accountants, is a global body of professional accountants. It organises a global qualification and although headquartered in the UK, has about 1,100 staff in over 30 global locations. Within the UK, its central office is in London, but it also has a large office in Glasgow.
ACCA has a history and a heritage, and was founded in 1904. The name of its first President was Arthur Priddle. (As you’ll see in a moment, this is important!)
The previous iteration of the intranet’s content management system was inflexible and painful to use, and also offered no social or collaborative features. Yammer was being used to plug some of those gaps.
The new intranet uses Thoughtfarmer and is hosted. It’s largely out-of-the-box but there has been a little customisation here and there. Employees are required to authenticate into the intranet, but there is also an out-of-the-box mobile version which provides a good user experience. The intranet is owned by internal communications, and the implementation has been handled with IT’s approval, although they are not heavily involved in the actual development.
The new intranet is far more social, and offers the ability for commenting on content, as well as offering both more open community-orientated sites and more business-focused project sites. There are also all the traditional intranet features you’d expect such as news, employee directory and search. It has now been live for about a month.
The first thing that stands out is the name of the intranet, Arthur. It’s based on ACCA’s first president, Arthur Priddle, and there is a cartoon figure of Arthur at the top of each page, complete with turn-of-the-century moustache for good measure.
Giving an intranet a name or persona is a fun tactic which I covered briefly in a post I did for IBF last year, and can be a nice way to make your intranet feel less corporate. It’s not right for every organisation, but I like how the internal comms team at ACCA have gone about this. I think they get the balance right between humour, and reminding staff of the organisations’ heritage.
Giving the intranet a strong and memorable brand is also a good way to position it as something new. It’s also allowed the team to have some fun with the launch campaign, involving teasers of ACCA staff members and teams either wearing or posing with false moustaches of various sizes. (Check out Sarah Moffatt’s Twitter profile photo for an idea which is complete with ‘tache at the time of writing).
They have also given Arthur his own employee ID so he can update his status and comment on stories, for example. Internal communications controls the account. This helps to keep the persona alive, and is again a bit of fun. I see interesting opportunities for Movember later in the year!
I wasn’t taking notes during the tour but from memory, but some of the things that stood out include:
- When a user is a member of any community or team site equivalent a link to that site is automatically included in a personalised list on the intranet homepage, which is standard Thoughtfarmer functionality.
- The news feed on the front page is actually personalised from the different groups a user is a member of, but also features centrally generated news. This means the news remains relevant to the user.
- The Thoughtfarmer search is quite basic (e.g. no best bets) but it has a really nice feature of being able to restrict the search to just the section of the intranet you are in.
- There are tabbed activity steams on the home page covering stuff like status updates and contributions.
- Task-testing was used to test and refine the IA. Originally a “How Do I” section was envisaged but it was taken out because it caused confusion for users as it seemed to make the rest of the navigation slightly redundant.
Influence of Yammer
I was interested to hear how the use of Yammer helped to influence design and launch. ACCA actually had a corporate Yammer account which was being used quite extensively for both business focused conversations as well as more “social”, non-business use. Increasingly it was also being used to upload files, either documents or photos.
I get the sense that ACCA’s positive experiences of Yammer helped to influence the more “social” direction of the new intranet (and perhaps the selection of Thoughtfarmer), and also some of the extra functionality that ACCA wanted, including the ability to “like” comments. This was specifically developed by Thoughtfarmer for ACCA and wrapped into the latest release.
The use of Yammer also allowed the intranet team to be able to identify active “Content Champions” who could be engaged to help launch the platform. Yammer’s use also got generally get users used to working with social tools.
It also sounds like Thoughtfarmer has largely delivered the goods as all the groups have been migrated off Yammer successfully and the account shut down.
Overall Sarah and Toby have done a great job with Arthur, and it looks like it will make a real difference to how ACCA staff communicate and interact. A big thank you to them for hosting the lunch and also allowing me to blog about it, as well as providing input and the screenshot.