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One year of a new intranet

"The tool sells itself"

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One year of Coyo: At the beginning of 2020, a project team led by Xenia Sarigiannidis, Johann Sebastian Schmidt and Markus Wasch launched a new intranet for the Vorwerk Group. Then came corona. We asked about the role the new information and communication tool plays today, the challenges of its launch and use, and how colleagues are embracing the social intranet. 

A somewhat provocative question to start with: Do we actually still need an intranet in times of messenger and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams?

Markus Wasch: We of course also asked ourselves this question. And the answer was a definite yes, especially when I want to share information with a larger group within the company. An intranet tool such as Coyo then offers better options than, for example, a traditional collaboration tool such as Teams.

Xenia Sarigiannidis: Coyo gives us flexibility and scope in page design, which Teams does not. We wanted a communication tool that is very easy and intuitive to use for editors as well as for any member of staff.

Markus Wasch: We can now make discussions accessible to anyone who is interested. Not only are we then helping with knowledge transfer, but also making it easier to find specialists on specific topics and areas of expertise.

How happy are you that you were able to launch the intranet just before the first corona lockdown?

Johann Sebastian Schmidt: The prompt launch of Microsoft Teams and all the Microsoft 365 applications was a more important step for working from home. This needs to be clearly stated. But Coyo has certainly enabled us to create an important basis for collaborating when working from home.

Markus Wasch: It has been a blessing to be able to communicate through Coyo. For example, as new concepts and solutions were being developed in individual countries at the beginning of the first lockdown, the ideas could be quickly and easily shared and accessed by every colleague concerned. We started a news series under the hashtag #CourageousAgainstCorona featuring success stories and lessons learned, and shared them with the relevant people. This both motivated and encouraged. With our previous intranet, that would not have been possible.

How does Coyo differ from the former Vorwerk intranet?

Markus Wasch: The main difference is probably that the former intranet only allowed very linear, top-down communications. Put bluntly, content was simply poured in, whether or not it interested users. In Coyo, colleagues can now share information on specific topics in communities, and subscribe to pages with content that is of particular interest to them. 

Put bluntly, content was simply poured in, whether or not it interested users.

Johann Sebastian Schmidt: The intranet is part of a major cultural initiative that was launched within the company some time ago. Under the motto "Go4Courage", open communication and working across departmental boundaries are being more strongly promoted. Any employee can now create articles and share them with their contacts. You become part of corporate communications.

Markus Wasch: Another difference is that we have finally been able to get more employees connected because Coyo works great as an app and therefore also for our "non-desk workers". This has been a major benefit in the 2020 corona year. It enabled our production staff in Germany and France to use the social intranet to instantly gain access to all relevant information about new corona rules.

How long did it take to develop the intranet?

Johann Sebastian Schmidt: After preliminary investigations and the decision to use Coyo, it took about half a year to complete the project, with a project team consisting of six people and our service provider.

Did preliminary investigations also mean also involving employees in developing the system?

Xenia Sarigiannidis: Yes, exactly. Our first workshop with stakeholders and employees from different areas and countries took place without any precepts. We started with a blank sheet of paper. We posed the questions: What do you actually want? How do you want to communicate? How do you want to share information?

We then prioritised requirements, some of which were very specific. It was soon obvious that individualised "pages" were needed for communications within the company. However, we were unsure whether we really needed the so-called "communities" as they were all very similar and overlapped with teams.

Johann Sebastian Schmidt: We took great care to ensure that use cases were kept separate. This meant working closely with Vorwerk's Microsoft 365 team.

How strictly is usage defined?

Markus Wasch: One danger we saw was Coyo being used for project-based communication with important things possibly getting lost. To avoid this, we intentionally renamed the groups originally called "Workplaces" to "Communities". In this way we wanted to avoid any misunderstandings, something we have achieved.

We also created a quick guide for employees to give them a clear idea of what, how and where to communicate. That doesn't mean we are monitoring the intranet and checking and reprimanding any incorrect usage. So far, the intranet is being used appropriately anyway. 

That doesn't mean we are monitoring the intranet and checking and reprimanding any incorrect usage.

We all know that change is not always easy. How has the new intranet been received after one year?

Johann Sebastian Schmidt: I think that there were employees who had concerns about this new, more open way of communicating, and were therefore reluctant to use it. Just like in many other social networks, there are those who are initially passive in using it. But there are also many colleagues for whom it is a new form of communication and who are actively sharing and commenting on content.

Xenia Sarigiannidis: Before the launch, some critical voices had to be reassured about features in the new social intranet. But after they got to know Coyo better, it was no longer an issue.

Markus Wasch: For many colleagues, the changeover has brought obvious benefits. They see it as an opportunity to get more involved, to have a voice and to raise awareness of their issues. The statistics after one year of Coyo also confirm this. In the first year, 1,875 blog articles were posted. 1,329 new wiki entries were created and 20,000 documents were shared. There have also been more than 2,000 contributions and 2,100 comments.

Looking back at the situation more than a year ago, what were the biggest challenges?

Xenia Sarigiannidis: Decision-making about technology in the company was definitely challenging and complex (laughs). It took quite a bit of persuasion to finally be able to work with Coyo.

Markus Wasch: The social intranet's new structure also presented us with challenges. Migrating older content into this new structure, in close cooperation with the different countries, required a lot of effort and thinking by the project team. (laughs too) 

You don't want colleagues suddenly wondering where the old intranet has gone.

Use this field as backend label

We started off by talking about learning and knowledge transfer: What tips do you have for other organisations wanting to launch a new intranet?

Markus Wasch: This is of course difficult to answer because requirements differ greatly from one organisation to the next. However, I do think that planning and launching an intranet should not be done from an ivory tower. Ideas and feedback from everyone should be sought early on. What users want from this kind of communication tool is as varied as the employees and their tasks.

Xenia Sarigiannidis: Other key points are good communication and providing information about the planned change at an early stage. You don't want colleagues suddenly wondering where the old intranet has gone, along with any information and important links they had stored there. We intentionally didn't do any hard selling to get people to use the new intranet. The tool sells itself. 

About the people involved:

As Corporate Communications Editor, Markus Wasch is responsible for internal communications at Vorwerk and has also been in charge of the new intranet since its launch.

Xenia Sarigiannidis works as Solution Adoption Manager Intranet & Cloud Apps at Vorwerk. Her current project is to set up the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) service in the company.

Johann Sebastian Schmidt is a Junior Project Manager in the IT Applications division. He is currently responsible for and is coordinating the worldwide roll-out of the Sourcing 3.0 Network project.