THE CLIENT: Mencap is a major UK charity supporting people with learning difficulties through support and residential services.
THE CHALLENGE FOR THE CLIENT: Mencap wanted to find a way of connecting its 8,500 staff through a replacement intranet, while moving staff to the Microsoft 365 platform using special licenses provided direct from Microsoft through its not for profit social benefit programme.
The Challenge for Me
Working with CompanyNet, this project was twofold – to introduce senior business and IT representatives at Mencap to the opportunities and challenges of using 0365, including SharePoint.
Our work had to dovetail as part of a major multi-programme modernisation for the charity, which was updating its IT and mobile infrastructure and internal ways of working at the same time.
This meant at some stages holding back on work to ensure that it wasn’t delivered too early. In addition, given the sensitivity of data held by Mencap, the charity’s risk appetite was limited, so I had to deliver a phased approach of proof of concept, pilot, soft launch and then final go live for all staff in order to meet all of Mencap’s requirements.
WHAT DID I DO?: I managed the project to its successful conclusion, going live to quality expectations, within the agreed budget and to the agreed timescale. This involved co-ordinating: review of predecessor site, agreement on O365 setup, decision-making on publishing approach, decision-making on content provision, user training and testing and a technical workstream around information design and architecture.
I took on the project in August 2018, with the site’s soft launch was delivered on time in November 2018, ahead of a period of review and improvement, followed soon after by a successful go live in April 2019.
THE COSTS: This nine month project was in the under £500,000 annual cost category.
THE OUTCOMES: Site went through three iterations to manage risk; the first phase took us through technical deployment to the deployment of the first version to a group of employees as a pilot. Then this moved to a soft launch, again to a restricted sub-set of employees, but this time many more people than the pilot, and then finally, we went to a hard launch for all staff within nine months of me taking the project on.
This was part of a programme of work to deliver a digital workplace for Mencap’s 8,5oo workers. Most of these workers are in support roles, working with people with learning disabilities in their own homes or in residential environments. Previously, visits to the Mencap intranet were from desktop PCs – there was no mobile version. The latest figures for the three months up to the end of December 2019 showed that the number of people visiting the site from their mobile went up from zero to 20% of all visits. The site has had almost 2m unique site visits (December 2019) and it was praised in the charity’s annual report for 2018-19. THe new intranet was one of a number of new initiatives which saw ratings for engagement increase in the Big Listen, Mencap’s annual staff survey.
Last year, based on what our people told us
would be most impactful, we focused on three
• Improving our systems and wider information management – to better connect colleagues and make more of the wealth of data we have across the organisation.
• Improving our employer brand and reward– making sure the experience of working at Mencap matched expectations of colleagues joining us and working hard to pay and reward our people as well as we can.
• Improving our leadership support –developing the right tools, support, listening and monitoring to ensure that all our people experience consistently great leadership from our managers.
We have made significant progress on these areas, and for the first time in Mencap’s history, all our colleagues are now connected to our new and improved digital workplace. Mencap Annual Report
What were the lessons learned?
1>A strong relationship between IT and Comms at your client organisation is really important in ensuring your intranet project goes smoothly. It can’t be done without IT unless the organisation is prepared to open up their tenancy to you by giving your technical colleagues full admin rights.
2>There’s a learning curve involved in MS SharePoint, even for people with knowledge of CMS systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
3>Out of the box, Office365 is set up to encourage collaboration, but the default settings are too open for most organisations and it should be configured as restricted in the first place, with limits eased as you build confidence, rather than the other way around.