AB Thinks  →  6th June 2018

How do you implement a new intranet?

John Rockley

At our AB Thinks Live event on 12 June John Rockley will be joining us to share his story of introducing Workplace by Facebook – here he shares some of his key learnings ahead of his session.

Not like we did it…

Back in October 2017 my colleague, Flick, came back from a conference and asked, “have you heard of Workplace?” She’d seen a demonstration and thought it was an interesting product, but didn’t know what our plans were for replacing our intranet system.

In 2017 we were not in a hugely optimal world for intranet. The housing management system was so elderly it forced us to use IE 9 as our default browser. The previous executive team had decided that ‘thin clients’ were the way to go, soundcards weren’t used, but the speed on the servers precluded any multi-media content on the intranet anyway. I added our Twitter feed to the home screen… and killed the entire system.

Staff engagement was low priority; we were in a command and control world.

A new Group Chief Executive and a new Director of People and Performance changed that.

We went from a late 90s office (it really was) to an agile, clean, workspace in 5 months. That includes new personal IT, new telephony, new desks, kitchens, offices, new corporate values, new five-year vision, new business planning, new procedures and policies… and a new priority on staff engagement and culture.

Workplace fits what our business is now, not what it was then.

These are the top three things I learnt launching a company-wide intranet whilst a root and branch refit was going on in the background.

  • Make space for the project. Basic isn’t it? We had to do it quicker than we’d have liked. In a relatively complex organisation spread over two counties and 20-odd offices there were many functional and emotional/intrapersonal interdependencies that were dealt with when they became problems, rather than before.
  • Get the key mood influencers on board at the start. They are the ones teams either follow or are blocked by, the ones that have a psychological effect on everyone else, whether good or bad… the ones that make or break a culture. They were the early adopters and the administrations.
  • The ‘Terry Test’. We all have a Terry – the down-to-earth, hugely valuable team member who people respect and listen to and can smell bullshit a mile away. If you can get your comms, training, and rollout passing the ‘Terry Test’, everyone else will accept it.

I love Workplace, because it fills the big hole in our culture.

When we get to the six-month mark, I’ll be taking stock of how we’ve let it evolve and find its own level and then we’ll get rid of the bits that we’re not using, give it a prune, and then see how it grows. It’s not so much planning, more like gardening.