Building and managing a business critical intranet

Dana Leeson (BSI)

In her presentation at Intranätverk 2014: Malmö, Dana Leeson spoke about the long journey to create a business critical intranet for BSI. A journey involving many sleepless nights and a couple of grey hairs, but one that in the end became a great success, and also resulted in a prestigious award.

Dana Leeson is the digital workplace architect at the British Standards Institution (BSI). Her presentation at Intranätverk: Malmö focused on one huge question: What does it take to build and maintain a business critical intranet? According to Dana, it’s a journey that tests your limits. It can be quite exhilarating, but it can also be gut wrenching. Dana explains that an intranet has three fundamental purposes: communication, collaboration and transaction. Before they started the project, the communication aspect at BSI was quite good. But they wanted the intranet to be more than that. They wanted the intranet to be the place where people would go to do their jobs.

About BSI

The British Standards Institution (BSI) is a global company with 67 offices in 28 countries. The institution has more than 3 100 global employees plus 1 500 sub-contractors. Among the 3 100 employees, 60 percent are based in the assessment, assurance and testing parts. So, as you might understand, Dana and her colleagues faced a pretty big task in creating an intranet that would support the needs of the entire institution.

“The year I hardly slept”

Before Dana got started on the project, BSI had four different management systems. Dana explains that these four systems held all of the institution’s different processes and procedures. The auditors were complaining that they had no idea where to go, and that they often had to visit more than one of the four systems to get a handful of documents to complete their jobs. In September 2012, BSI kicked off an initial workshop with representatives from the different business streams and regions. The purpose was to find a way to implement the four systems into one. And at that moment, Dana knew that taking on this task would mean giving up on her sleep. Dana explains that they instantly knew that the BMS had to accomplish four different things:

  • Easy to use.
  • Externally accessed by our contractors.
  • Comprehensive document management.
  • Reliable and secure.

How do you manage 2000+ documents?

Because BSI had no standard practice, Dana and her colleagues had to review, re-format and amend 2000+ documents. Quite a lot of documents for a small team. Dana explains that the first thing they did was to look at the document ID-numbers. Given that BSI had launched a new brand, they also had to re-format every single one of those 2000+ documents into their new template. After they missed their first two deadlines, they realized the resources they had weren’t enough. The solution was to employ a document management professional temp to perform the huge task. A task that took her six months to complete. While she was working on that, Dana and her colleagues had to establish a common theme on document types and document categories. After months of meetings, they finally had four content types, six document types and eleven document categories. Each one of those content types, document types and document categories were defined, approved, signed-off, and circulated. Dana explains that because everything was written down, nobody could debate it. Alongside this, Dana and her colleagues also had to review and assign a technical owner, a document owner, a document controller and a document approver to each document.

Being bold enough to say no

During the project, Dana became pretty good at saying no. She explains that she learned something quite important from the auditors. The feedback from them was that they wanted to get into the system, get their documents and then get out. In order to accomplish this, a lot of features had to be shut off. The primary thing Dana and her colleagues focused on was making sure that the auditors could do their one core objective.

What the system looks like

If you’re interested in finding out how the system looks now, please have a look at Dana’s presentation from Intranätverk: Malmö (video on Vimeo).

Dana’s key learnings

  • Have the proper resources in place. It’s not just about having the resources during the project, but especially after the project.
  • Having problems before the project is launched is always better than after. It’s important to take care of as much as possible beforehand so that it doesn’t hit you in the face later on.
  • Define everything, have a record of it and circulate that. The fact is that people can have many definitions of something we think is very second nature.
  • Bring people who are not used to software development along the journey.
  • Take time. Even the simplest things can require a great deal of working hours to be done properly.

Biography Dana Leeson

With more than 10 years of experience in the third sector with companies such as WWF-Canada and the Huntington Society of Canada, Dana has worked in various internal communications roles before becoming the global Digital Workplace Architect at BSI (British Standards Institution). Managing all of BSI’s internal digital tools can be a multi-hat role with handling stakeholders, conducting usability testing, training, creating governance and processing documents, but most of all listening to employees. Dana has established a career as a leader on employee communication and collaboration and is an internal social media enthusiast. She is also the co-founder of The IC Crowd and is one quarter of the Intranetizen team – a world leading blog on intranets and digital workplaces.