Top 15 post: Duane Nicol

Confident and Inspired – A Communication Revolution in the Making

What do we really need?

Our project mandate was clear. Replace acupedia with a new and improved intranet site. We were convinced, however, that what our credit union truly needed was a bit more nuanced. From the beginning we believed that this wasn’t a technology project that impacted people, but a people project that impacted our technology. We believed that, if done right, a new intranet would improve employee satisfaction, enhance our members’ experience, reduce costs, and help attract new business. 

Our project team envisions an intranet that enables our employees to serve our members with confidence because they can find and trust the information and tools at their finger tips.  We see an intranet that reduces member impacting errors, increases the speed of communication, flattens vertical hierarchies, facilitates collaborative problem-solving, inspires trust and a gives employees a shared sense of purpose.

This isn’t a regular corporate project, we do dozens of those every year. This is a radical transformation in how we communicate and exchange information within our credit union. 

The medium is the message

The vision for our new intranet is that it will not simply be culture reflective, but culture shaping. Our approach to communications will fundamentally change. Whereas today we put the onus for finding and understanding information on the end-user, our new intranet will make it the responsibility of the communicator to prepare information that is easy to understand, easy to find, and even easier to act upon. Our project will not simply add social networking and other web 2.0 tools to transform our intranet (think Wikipedia meets LinkedIn with a side of Google). This project is about our people. It is about creating the quality of internal communication that arms our employees with the competence and confidence they need accomplish their tasks and wow our members.

First pick the right who

As Jim Collins points out in his treatise Good to Great, you must pick the right people before you decide on what you are going to do. This is the model we followed when selecting our core project team. This was also the model we adopted when selecting a software provider.   

In the end we didn’t just find a software vendor – we found an intranet partner. We selected the ThoughtFarmer product and we’ve been in awe ever since. Like us, the ThoughtFarmer team knows that intranets are about people. They are experts in knowledge management and in designing with the end-user in mind.

Cow, Grass, Chicken

We created this video, to explain to our employees how their participation in a couple of crowd-sourcing exercises helped us create an intuitive menu structure and information categorization system. This is but one demonstration of the employee engagement and the science that is going into creating our new intranet.

Where are we now?

Today, we are finalizing the content migration and conversion plan. This includes the development of communication style guides, protocols, and system conventions that will help us achieve the change in communication approach we know to be critical.

We have developed a plan for engagement that leverages the principles of change-management to ensure a successful transition to this new site. It includes training and empowerment of local intranet champions who will be selected for their status as informal leaders and influencers within their departments and branches. They will lead the roll-out in their areas using engagement tools and exercises we have strategically created to demonstrate the benefits of the new features through practical application relevant to their daily work.  We have launched a project blog site where the project team posts updates and is hosting an organization-wide conversation about the naming of our new site. Each employee has a user profile and can comment on the project updates, ask questions, and propose suggestions to the team. By mimicking key features of the new site, we are acclimatizing employees to its social functionality pre-launch.

As project sponsor, I am more confident today then ever, that our project will be an unqualified success. I feel extremely fortunate to work side-by-side with such a resourceful and dedicated project team.  We have a shared vision, we are on schedule, on budget, and focused on the right thing – giving our employees the understanding and skills they need to use a new and more powerful intranet to deliver an unmatched member experience. Beyond that, we know that our employees are excited too. Daily, we overhear comments like “Well, when we get the new intranet we’ll be able to…”, or “I can hardly wait for the new intranet because it will make this easier/faster/more reliable…”. We are excited too. 

Duane Nicol, Assiniboine Credit Union