Scripps revamps old intranet to deliver what employees want

Scripps Network Interactive turns to ICF Interactive to help create new SharePoint portal to replace old, inefficient system.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s new distance-learning portal, The site contains more than 200 hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. Learn more about this session.

Yukky. Top-down. Clunky. Old. Confusing. Lacking. Inefficient. Frustrating. Inflexible.

If those are the words used to describe your company’s internal communication system, you’ve got problems.

Such was the case at Scripps Network Interactive, said Kristin Alm, communications manager for SNI, the parent company of brands such as HGTV, Food Network, and Travel Channel. With thousands of employees in a dozen U.S. offices, London, Singapore, and Rio de Janeiro, the growing company needed a better way to connect them to corporate information and to one another.

“What we really needed was an all-encompassing, flexible solution to better serve our employees,” Alm said in this Ragan Training session, How to create an intranet that supports employee work needs and increases collaboration. She said the company’s “yukky, old intranet,” MyScripps, and an overloaded email system helped spawn a bunch of software workarounds that further complicated the communication picture.

Partners work to find a solution

Leaders at Scripps, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., turned to ICF Interactive for help.

“When we started this project, Scripps came to us with what they thought was a technology challenge,” said Bill Buell, principal of interactive at ICF Interactive. “They had over 2,000 websites and properties internally and externally facing, and multiple overlapped intranet components. They said we need a common platform because we’ve become the Wild Wild West.

“As growth has happened, they not only acquired new people and diversified their business, but, unfortunately, they diversified their technical landscape as well,” he said.

Buell and his teammates at the digital technology agency began to work with Scripps employees to understand their business objectives and the current system. He said he saw it not so much as a technology problem, but as an opportunity to create the right user experience.

“We really began to look at this as a way to standardize not only a platform, but an experience—an experience that becomes a window into all of the different sites, systems, applications, and data repositories that Scripps has as an organization,” he said.

This is excerpted from a Ragan Training video titled How to create an intranet that supports employee work needs and increases collaboration.”

Alm outlined the major points on the SNI wish list:

  • The new intranet should be the primary means for employee communication.

“We shouldn’t be asking employees to go search their email on this old clunky intranet or an internal blog somewhere to get the information that they need.”

  • The new tool must present an authoritative, unified voice that keeps employees informed.

“We have people in different departments in different locations and (the old intranet) didn’t allow them to really see what each other was doing and get ideas from one another, which we know can be very important.”

  • The intranet must feature video presentations.

“We’re a video company, and yet internally we just weren’t leveraging the world-class production teams that we have right in house.”

  • Employees should be able to prioritize messages and customize their experience.

“A one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it style wasn’t working for us, so we felt the employees should be able to opt in and opt out of non-critical communications.”

  • It should be easy to find things.

“Help employees help themselves, because in our workforce, they need help in everything from changing a light bulb in their office to changing their email password. It’s all important.”

  • The intranet should encourage social networking.

“We’re kind of spread out, but we felt like there was so much opportunity for all these creative minds in the company to feed off of each other and aggregate ideas if only they had the digital tool to do that.”

  • Feedback from customers should be integrated into the new portal.

“We need to be listening to our viewers and taking the cues for our next moves directly from them.”

Thorough review of sites, applications

Buell and his ICF colleagues partnered with SNI to design a portal that meets the needs and objectives across all business units and stakeholder groups. They reviewed the 2,000 Web properties and the applications being used as workarounds because of the inefficiencies in the existing intranet platform.

“One of the most valuable aspects of a project like this is really defining the audience segments and personas that are going to be using the experience,” he said. “The personas then become a tool for us to make sure we’re looking at design deliverables, requirements, anything that we’re creating and building through the lens of a user community.”

SharePoint was chosen as the single-platform solution for SNI and work began on implementing a strategy to improve communications today with a system that will also meet future needs.

In creating the Inside SNI portal, designers consolidated messaging, eliminated communication silos, introduced more videos, provided intuitive search capabilities, simplified structure, and improved usability. They integrated systems to provide access to common tasks and information, and allowed flexibility so users could edit their own settings.

Seeking a positive user experience

“We’re really tailoring that experience very uniquely to that user based on metadata, what we know about them,” Buell said.

They also built in social features to encourage conversation, collaboration, and innovation.

“The social element is the icing on the cake to this project and will become irresistible to our users in the end,” Alm said. “It’s sort of like Facebook for work. Instead of being a time waster, it’s going to be a productivity booster, because it is going to bring all our people together and help them get to know one another.”

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