Diederik Hommes spoke back in 2013 at Congress Intranet about the social intranet that management consultancy firm Rijnconsult has been using for over two years. Rijnconsult helps organisations implement changes, and Diederik explains here why a social intranet is ideal for his firm.
Our consultants and interim managers mainly work at clients’ locations, and don’t see each other every day. Despite the fact that we hold joint sessions to encourage knowledge sharing, this was still a problematic area. The CRM system is a bit cumbersome, and requires quite a bit of effort to update it, let alone do any active searching.
We used to have various harddisks, which we could access via a VPN connection, instead of a proper intranet. We were flooded with emails, with some members of staff receiving as many as 50 per day. We really wanted to integrate the separate systems (email, CRM, hard disks) as much as possible into one social intranet.
Eventually, after the intranet went live, an extra feature arose, namely collaboration within open or closed teams with our clients. Now there are more people from outside our organisation on our intranet than our employees.
We did various things to ensure that the project was successful, and carried out a brief survey before going live; we distributed questionnaires among employees, then used the results to determine the implementation strategy.
First of all, we as management set an example in using the intranet. From the outset, I’ve been posting and answering all my non-personal incoming emails on the intranet. In addition, all the members of the management team take turns to write blogs. Every week, a new blog is published in which we discuss further developments, commercial activities, and interesting projects.
We only share certain crucial knowledge via Embrace. We don’t send emails or newsletters anymore. The intranet is indispensable if you want to know what’s happening in the organisation. We also take people to task if they don’t know something or have omitted to share something.
Initially, the management group was closed, but later we decided to make it an open group. After all, what is there to hide, and what happens if you do hide something? So, we decided as a group to simply make it open. However, we do continue to use email to discuss really delicate matters.
We also work with special #hashtags, such as #FAWQ, which stands for First Aid for Quotes. These are tips for writing quotes, referrals to templates, and references to overviews about who will be available in the coming months.
Various new features are introduced over time, some at the request of employees. For example, the intranet is now accessible through an app. We will soon be incorporating social analytics, to give us an even better picture of how the platform is used.
The first responses when the intranet was launched were very varied. Most employees saw its added value, but of course not everyone was enthusiastic from the start, or immediately aware of the advantages. Even so, we are seeing an enormous growth in cooperation. When users see contributions from others, it encourages them to make their own contributions.
Our intranet has already been in use for two years. We’ve also noticed that people who we invite to use our system from outside our organisation find it easy and intuitive.
We receive significantly fewer emails per day, and a lot fewer CCs. Information is no longer spread over different mailboxes; it can now be found on our intranet by all our employees. In addition, we share much more knowledge in our network. We can draw up better quotes, because it is now easier to ask colleagues for help, even if we’re not sure who to ask in the organisation.
Information is now easier to find, and our employees have a much better understanding about what is happening in the organisation. In addition, it’s good for our image (progressive) and fits our positioning (organising networks).
The benefits I mentioned above already help us enormously, but the intranet is also great to use in collaboration with other organisations. Shortly after the intranet went live, we could already see how it was benefiting our projects with other organisations. As a result, we set up separate environments for many projects so we can collaborate with our clients and colleagues.
We discovered that this way of working with our clients has led to the collaboration being much closer and more transparent, because all those involved are Embrace members, and can access all the documentation. That means that acquired knowledge is recorded more efficiently. We have a better overview. Engagement is increasing. More things are co-produced with our clients, and trust grows. This really benefits us; the working method has simply become a USP in our approach!
Exemplary behaviour, showing that you as management use the social intranet, is crucial. It’s also important to take people to task if they use emails to ask questions that should be posted on the social intranet.
Finally, you shouldn’t impose too many don’ts; in other words, not too many restrictions, rules or protocols. Give people the flexibility to use the system as they see fit, and trust users’ capacity for self-management.