LL Bean makes old-model intranet shine with great content

With no resources to replace its 20th-century software, the outdoor apparel company adapted and streamlined the existing platform.

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How do you fix a messy intranet? For a lot of companies, the answer would be to buy the newest or shiniest intranet platform and let the information technology crew shoehorn the existing content into it. LL Bean didn’t do that.

“The reality is, we are an outdoor-apparel, product, customer-service, customer-oriented company,” says Corporate Communications Manager Marnie Flynn, a speaker at Ragan Communications’ 2011 Intranet Summit in November. “Most of our resources need to go to serving the customer.”

Lacking the resources to buy new software, Flynn, her team of content creators and the IT department turned what was affectionately known as an “intramess” or an “untended garden” into a streamlined content-delivery platform using software that was more than a decade old.

The turnaround

LL Bean launched its intranet about 12 years ago, using a .net, Microsoft-based platform that Flynn calls a “pretty static system.” Any function on the intranet that seems newer than that is the work of a developer who has taken on the nickname “MacGyver,” she says.

“We don’t have what I would describe as a particularly sophisticated or current intranet infrastructure,” Flynn says.

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