Introducing a discovery into the Royal Greenwich intranets
Senior Product Manager Alex Douglas introduces one of the priority projects that the new Digital team is tackling in its first year: to reimagine the intranet service within Royal Greenwich council.
A multi-intranet landscape
There is no single “intranet” for staff at Royal Greenwich. Council staff can use:
a corporate intranet, which is owned by the Communications team to find certain policies, process and guidance documentation, a newsfeed, and links to other staff applications, such as the room booking tool
an intranet owned by HR, containing specific policy, guidance, forms and templates for HR processes.
And then there are the business continuity pages on the public Royal Greenwich website, which were spun up for staff during the pandemic to make certain information accessible to the staff who were suddenly working from home and unable to get inside the network to access either intranet.
We know too that staff trying to use these intranets face a challenge: between these three sites there are over 600 pages, and more than 2000 downloadable documents. The look and feel varies between the sites too since they are built from different technologies (with fairly inflexible design options), and the search function either isn’t there or doesn’t seem to surface what you’re looking for. We’ve also heard that once you’re on the right site and have managed to find the thing you’re looking for, the information itself can be difficult to use, is in places inaccessible, or is out-of-date.
Giving staff tools that help them get work done
Early conversations about the intranet(s) revealed that staff are working around the service where they can: they save documents to their devices, contact colleagues for help on what processes they need to do and how to do them, rather than relying on guidance materials, and even develop their own microsites for storing information. The pandemic has piled pressure on to the staff responsible for the sites, who are communicating continuously and with changing messages – and they must deal with a service that now isn’t fit for purpose. It’s hard to measure the extent of these problems at the outset, but regardless there is a clear energy within the council to make a change, and for it to be one with long-lasting benefits to all staff.
The Digital Strategy contains an entire workstream designed to improve the working lives of our staff by improving the tools and technologies they use to do their jobs. There’s an emphasis on flexibility for staff and empowering them: both to do their best work, and to do it remotely when they need to. What’s not mentioned explicitly in the strategy is the potential for an intranet to unlock social value in an organisation: to help staff feel a greater sense of connection and belonging in the council, and to increase trust.
Our early concerns
We’re not under any illusions that this will be an easy job. The true value of an “intranet” to an organisation can be a contentious topic. In some initial conversations with people around the council, we’ve heard concerns that if a new intranet tries to be “all things to all people” we may not succeed in truly transforming this space. It’s a particular challenge in a council where there are hundreds of frontline staff without personal access to a device when they are out doing their jobs. At the moment they don’t use the Intranet and rely on print-outs of information and accessing services via their managers and team leaders.
We’re confident that we’re not looking at a simple replacement of the technology and a lift-and-shift of the existing content. To work out what is really going to work we’ll need to be user-centred and creative in our approach to designing a new service, which was the approach taken by the team building the Wellcome Trust’s “Trustnet”. Our aim is to identify a proposition that provides the best value in the unique context of the systems, processes, and staff that make up Royal Greenwich.
How we’re starting the project
We’ve started the project with a Discovery phase, in which we’re breaking down the problems we know exist with the current intranets (and other ways staff access organisational information) into greater detail. We know we’ll find other problems too. By doing this work we hope to understand why they exist and how severe they are – we’ll need to think about which ones it would be most valuable for us to fix.
By the end of the Discovery phase, we need to have an idea about what to do next. We’ll have some ideas of how we might solve the problems through design – these could be with a new website or service, or with changes to the way the council writes and publishes its content. We’re trying not to jump to solutions too early, until our understanding of the whole service is firmer. Whatever those ideas are, we’ll need to test out solutions in the following phase to make sure we’re on the right track.
If you are interested in learning more about our work, or would like to share your views, please get in touch. We’ll publish again on what we learned in Discovery and what we’re intending to do next.