Interview with Justine Young, Intranet Project Lead at Stevenage Borough Council, on driving positive change with a new intranet

Stevenage Borough Council became a customer of Invotra back in 2017.

Justine was initially brought on to the SBC intranet project to rebuild their content, but quickly became pivotal in shaping its function, features and aesthetic. Having developed her career in the areas of Digital Marketing, Justine largely focuses on digital content and internal communications.

What barriers/challenges did you face within your old intranet?

Our old intranet was called SX3. It basically consisted of a directory and it had a very basic A-Z of staff information and very basic organisational information. The news page was particularly uninspiring as it had no images, literally just text.

The intranet had roughly 20 thousand pages so for me coming in as a contractor it was a real test just to get on to the intranet and navigate to find information. I found it extremely difficult.

Certain things that you would expect to be under the A-Z of information, such as recruitment just wasn’t there. It was very unintuitive.  

It also really lacked spaces for collaborate working and didn’t offer any social features for us to interact with each other.

One of the biggest issues was the intranet itself had a severe security risk due to age of system. It had to be shut down very quickly, a month after I started, in fact. So, we were in the process of creating this new intranet whilst decommissioning the old one and trying to find an interim solution!

How do you feel Invotra supported you through the transition from the old intranet to the new platform?

Considering that I had worked on 2 intranets with Invotra (previously East Herts Council and now Stevenage Borough Council), I found that the teams were extremely hands on and you could tell that client satisfaction was very important to them as well as the success of the product.

From onboarding to delivery, they’ve been fantastic, going above and beyond ‘standard’ account management.

Often with external suppliers, they can push you towards a direction where everything is bespoke and can end up with lots of additional charges, however, Invotra has been really, really good at saying ‘this is what we can do for you without incurring any costs’, wherever possible.

Finally, it was great that Invotra volunteered to attend and wanted to be involved on our launch day. It was great having that support and Ross (one of Invotra’s Account Managers) was actually able to resolve a technical issue for us on the day.

What challenges did you think you were going to face prior to moving to the new intranet?

The biggest issue for me was the change in workforce culture. Naturally, every organisation is different. Here, I think we are not so accustomed to change and it was a massive shift in terms of digital workplace strategy as there wasn’t really one in place.

The other thing was the need for an interim solution. We had to shut down the old solution and were not keeping the old one running alongside the temporary replacement before the launch of our new intranet. I didn’t want the interim solution to linger so I knew we had to plan properly and prepare people to engage with the new intranet.

How did you overcome those challenges when implementing the new intranet?

We’re still in fairly early stages of being live with Invotra, however, we have some really great steps in place to ensure the success of the intranet platform.

In terms of changing the culture, I’ve opened up an intranet champions forum that takes key users from the organisation. We get together to discuss opinions, development, priorities/needs and then take that forward to our strategic leadership team, which is basically all of the assistant directors.

This is what helps up to prepare our agenda for Invotra’s PanGov meetings.

I wanted to put things in place so it’s not just senior people that influence the evolution of the platform. We want people to feel like it’s everyone’s intranet.

One thing that helps to encourage this is engagement and training sessions. These are friendly, open and interactive, generating lots of great ideas.

What are the benefits your organisation has seen since the new intranet platform went live?

First things first, people collaborating on the intranet.

Invotra Groups have been very successful, working really, really well. We’re consistently setting up groups, which is managed by myself to ensure that there are no duplications. People are also using the documents and folder system within the application which is great.

People are commenting and liking news stories which is fantastic. We really want to push the intranet as the main/only source of news. Previously we would email news using the corporate email system, whereas now I’ve been working to decrease that by directing redirecting people towards the news on the intranet.

The new intranet has really changed the way that we work. It’s been particularly great for our comms department. Previously, comms was extremely restricted and it’s allowed people to realise that they can now approach comms with content/news which is great as we are spread across two locations so we’re getting a lot more involvement.

The only thing that we hope to see pick up is @mentioning but the increase in engagement has overall been really, really positive.

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