6 lessons from Land O’Lakes’ SharePoint relaunch

The 10,000-employee cooperative successfully launched an intranet on SharePoint 2013, but things might have gone more smoothly. You can benefit from Land O’Lakes’ hindsight.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses.

At the end of a major communications project, most of us think about what we might have done differently.

At Land O’Lakes, a member-owned cooperative with 10,000 employees, internal communicator Juliana Wallace recently led a successful relaunch of its intranet on SharePoint 2013.

Rather than bask in the glory of boosted business goals, she describes pitfalls to avoid when you undertake an enterprise-shaking project. In “From productivity wasteland to a robust collaboration: How Land O’ Lakes reinvented its intranet,” she offers advice for internal communicators.

Rebuilding Land O’Lakes’ creaky old intranet was essential. The site was outdated and inaccurate, and it lacked key tools and integration. There were 80 sub-sites, and publishing took 45 minutes.

The overhaul resolved these problems and transformed the look and functionality of the site, adding things as basic as a calendar.

Here are her tips for your relaunch:

1. Put strategy first.

Of its total staff, Land O’Lakes has 6,000 information workers, 1,500 who work remotely in field offices or from home; the rest are not connected to the intranet. Communicators drew up a strategy to make the online staff more productive through an improved intranet.

The push gained relevance when it made clear what the new intranet could do for the business. For example, employees who had once spent 15 minutes hunting for a document on the clunky old system could now find things within seconds.

“Once we reached this point of higher relevance to our company goals, we had much better executive support,” Wallace said. “We were able to move a lot quicker.”

2. Build your case.

Everyone at Land O’Lakes knew the old intranet, and money to replace it was in the budget, Wallace said. So communications staffers were late in building the case with key departments, such as comparing the time it took HR staffers to do things on the old system versus the speed and efficiency of the new platform.

It also was slow to start a “roadshow” demonstrating the benefits of the system, leaving staffers to wonder, “What is this thing? Why are we doing it this way?”

“We lost ground because we waited too long,” Wallace says.

This video clip is taken from the Ragan Training session, “From productivity wasteland to a robust collaboration: How Land O’ Lakes reinvented its intranet.”

3. Staff up.

Land O’Lakes benchmarked staff early on, early on, learning that the top 10 organizations in a Nielsen Norman Group report on intranets have one full-timer dedicated to the task for every 10,000 employees, Wallace says.

Asking for 10 employees would have been wildly unrealistic for Land O’Lakes, but Wallace was able to use the figure to argue successfully that they needed at least one new staff member.

“You need someone that’s a product manager for this site,” she says.

4. Be a squeaky wheel.

“Tell—don’t ask—IT,” Wallace says.

They’re not going to set the enterprise mobile strategy, for example. If it’s going to get done, communicators draw up the road map.

“I really wish we had come out … and said: ‘This is a business need. I have CEO support. This is where we’re going,” Wallace says.

5. Bank evergreen content, and cultivate experts to create it.

Land O’Lakes was so absorbed in design implementation that it overlooked the need to pile up content before the launch. It had only a week’s worth on hand when the site went up. Luckily, it had a fast writer on staff to keep cranking out more content.

“Know who your experts are in the business, because they are your team,” Wallace says. “They are your sources of content for you.”

6. Know your culture—and prepare to train the slowpokes.

Wallace began the process presuming that staffers would not need training on how to use a website. “It’s not that complicated,” she thought. “You guys can figure this out.”

A lot of people got it, but she underestimated how much of a shift this was for the culture at Land O’Lakes. Instead, seek out influencers and make them your champions, she says.

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