Intranet Discovery - Week Notes

For our workforce at Essex County Council (ECC) the intranet is a place that provides function for their roles, information on being an employee and vital resources for staff to become engaged, informed and heard. With that in mind we went to market to source a supplier who could provide the insights that we need to make relevant and informed changes where needed.

So that we can make sure ECC is providing staff with an intranet that is usable and helpful, while being efficient and simple to maintain, we want insights. As part of the project we decided to run a discovery in collaboration with a supplier to understand how we can better provide staff with job related information. Including but not limited to:
  • Understanding the job related information landscape at ECC
  • How might ECC better support users to find information that they need for their role quickly and in a way that suits them?
  • Understanding needs around corporate and functional communications
  • How might we better support content creators to update and amend content to ensure information is current?

Working collaboratively we have been producing week notes that provide staff and interested parties the information they need to be up to date and engaged about the project and the journey going forward.


Sprint 6 - Week Notes 7

Exciting times here for the intranet discovery team as we are halfway through our sixth and final sprint.

This sprint we’ve been reflecting on all of our data and insights and pulling that together into a set of useful and meaningful deliverables.

Before we dash off for a well-earned bank holiday weekend, here's what we've been up to:

  • Defining and prioritising user stories

Narelle and Fabi ran a great workshop to sense check our user stories. User stories capture what different types of employees need from the intranet and the reasons behind that need.

In the workshop, we sought agreement for each user story, identified missing ones and prioritised those we felt most important to explore in Alpha.

  • Exploring the impact of our findings and next steps

A key focus for the team this sprint is defining the impact of our research findings. What are the risks if we do nothing and leave the intranet as it is? What is the potential impact of us exploring alternative solutions? How do we create a compelling story around this work to maintain momentum? What evidence do we have to support this? Phew!

  • Defining our key user journeys

Chanel and Sarah have been defining user journeys that are particularly unique, problematic or common based on the research. This includes journeys that show employees struggling to find and understand information on the intranet, content editors updating content, how social workers use the intranet and how Essex Highways employees access it.

  • Highways survey analysis

Laura has been leading our survey exploring how Essex Highways employees access and use the intranet. This has given us really valuable insights into different experiences across the organisation, so a big thank you to everyone that took the time to reply. We heard how these employees struggle to access core parts of the intranet, leaving them feeling frustrated and disconnected. This has already prompted some great discussions.

  • Working on final deliverables

A big focus for this final sprint is deciding on the right deliverables: how can we best package what we have learnt, to support what will come next. The team have done a brilliant job of discussing this openly and exploring different options together. It's been really inspiring to see these candid conversations, the team sharing opinions and the people not being tied to any one deliverable.

Please do send the team some virtual high fives and coffee over the next week or so as they push through to the end of this discovery.

You can catch our final Show & Tell, Thurs 3rd June at 1430. Please drop me a line if you have any questions, comments or just want to know more!

Thanks for reading - Intranet Discovery Team


Week Notes 6

This week we’ve been wrapping-up the last of our qualitative research, and planning our final deliverables.

Here’s a summary of this week’s action.

More reaching out

We’ve continued speaking to the users groups that we know less about. This week, we spoke with Essex library employees (for the first time), and continued conversations with ECC new starters and content editors (those who create and edit content within the intranet).

Chanel spoke with our friends in Tech services to understand more about what maintaining the intranet looks like and the costs associated with this. We also learned a bit about the history of the intranet, content types and what Tech services is responsible for.

Sarah started System Useability Testing. That’s where we use a validated questionnaire to explore how well are intranet is performing. This will provide us with a useful baseline if we decide to make adaptions to the intranet. Sarah spoke about this at this week’s Show and Tell.

Synthesis and personas

Armed with additional insights from this week and last, we have developed draft personas. Personas are where we summarise what are identified user groups think, feel, need and do around the intranet. Chanel introduced these personas at our Show and Tell this week. We’ve also started to map key insights from across the discovery—this will put us in good stead for sprint 6

The final countdown

We’re very aware that we’re nearing the end of this discovery. We’ve spent some time thinking about what we need to have by the end. In the final weeks, we want to:

  • Prioritise our insights: what key things do we need to address?
  • Scope future directions:  what concepts might we want to explore in Alpha?
  • Explore and build the case for change.

To achieve this, we will need to work as a project team. So we’ve planned workshops to help us explore these things at pace. These workshops will take place in the final sprint. Thanks for reading and we look forward to checking back in next week.

All the best - The Intranet Discovery team.

Intranet Discovery Stream Channel


Sprint 5 - Week Notes 5

This is the fifth set of weeknotes from the Intranet Discovery team.

We’re now in the middle of Sprint 5 and it’s been a busy one, so here’s a quick run-through of where we’re at.

Interviews & insights

This sprint we’ve been getting back out there interviewing people from across those user groups we haven’t heard from yet.

As a reminder those groups are:

  • New users
  • Line managers
  • Content editors
  • Services we believe have some specific needs not captured so far

These interviews have given us loads of good insights allowing us to better understand user’s needs. With the final sprint approaching we’ve now started to bring our research together by creating personas and journeys.

Audits & evaluations

Cyber-Duck also completed their user experience audit of the Intranet this week

We’ve been encouraged by this to book in some usability evaluations with willing volunteers from across ECC. This will provide a better understanding of how users perform certain key tasks on the Intranet and where their main pain points and opportunities are.

Show & Tell

If you want to learn more about what we’ve found out this sprint then please attend our next Show & tell this Thursday 3-4pm. You can also find all our Show & Tell recordings on our Intranet Discovery Stream Channel.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to checking back in next week.

All the best - The Intranet Discovery team.


Sprint 4 - Week Notes 4

This is the fourth set of weeknotes from the Intranet Discovery team.

We’re just over half-way through now. We’ve spent the second week of Sprint 4 reflecting on what we’ve discovered, and agreeing where to go next.

Here’s a quick run-through of where we’re at.

Going wide, not deep

With limited time left, we’re using what we’ve already learnt to focus our efforts.

We had some dynamic team debate and agreed to go ‘wide, not deep’ with our research. Rather than learning more about groups we know quite a lot about already, we will focus on learning more about user groups we have not heard much from so far.

These are Line Managers, Content Designers & those users whose work is largely ‘non-desk’ based, or who we have non-standard contractual relationships with.

Priorities, priorities

We quickly contacted users from the first two groups and have scheduled in interviews for next week.

Talking to the other groups has proved more tricky! Users from 28 services fit this criteria, and we couldn’t talk to them all in the time we have left. We had to prioritise.

The fab five

We gathered information about these 28 services to help us prioritise the following five:

  1. Essex Highways
  2. Social workers (Children’s)
  3. Social workers (Adults)
  4. Residential Home workers
  5. Libraries

The team is now liaising with these services to find out more about how they use the intranet. This list isn’t definitive though and we’ll definitely try to reach out to further services if we can.

Show & Tell

If you’d like to hear more about our key insights from the last few sprints then we’ve got good news. You can find this week’s Show & Tell recording on our Intranet Discovery Stream Channel.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to checking back in next week.

All the best - The Intranet Discovery team.


Sprint 4 - Week Notes 3

Sprint 4 has seen us finish up most of our initial investigations and start to get to grips with the analysis of the evidence we’ve gathered. As we saunter into what we’re hoping will be a sunny bank holiday weekend, here’s a really quick run-through where we are.

Drilling down

Following a fantastically high response rate for our intranet survey, we’re now sitting on a mountain of insightful data about how people use the intranet and how it could be improved. We’ve started the work of drilling down into this to extract and organise findings.

No further questions

Thanks to a herculean effort from the team, we’ve finished our initial round of stakeholder interviews. Having had the benefit of some very cooperative witnesses, we’ve now got some detective work to do to analyse and organise this, so it can feed into the rest of our work.

Widening the net

We’re determined to leave no stone unturned in our quest to make sure the intranet works for everyone. That’s why we’ve taken a pause to decide whether to pursue some other lines of inquiry. Of particular interest are groups who it’s harder to get to, who might not be represented in the stakeholder interviews or survey data. This could be people who aren’t office-based or who might find it difficult to access the intranet. We may be approaching some of you with appeals for more info or useful contacts next week to help us with this! We’re also making a real push to get the intranet survey to colleagues in Adult services to make sure their voices are heard.

Taking care of business

We’re also taking some time to think about how our research reflects the needs of the council, and trying to include this in our thinking. We’ll be in touch to let you know what we get up to in sprint 5.

All the best - The intranet discovery team.


Sprint 3 - Week Notes 2

As we come through our third sprint, our team of researchers and designers has really hit its stride, and the pace hasn’t slackened. We’re starting to see some real payoff from the work of the first 2 sprints.

Personnel best

Over 300 colleagues have now filled in our intranet survey, which is fantastic. As well as getting great information from the standard survey questions, we’ve been particularly pleased to see some really valuable, personal insights shared by users in response to the more open questions. Having this feedback is crucial for us, so we can identify patterns in the issues staff face when using the intranet. The more responses we get, the more confident we can be in our recommendations at the end of the project. Really big thanks to internal comms for helping us promote this!

Running our mouths

As we mentioned in the last lot of weeknotes, we’ve also been holding more in-depth user interviews to really dig down into how people use the intranet and get a more rounded view of user behaviour. We got through 4 more of these this week, so we’re really building a bank of knowledge to help us with those recommendations.

In the field

Another crucial way to get to know our users and their habits, is by observing them through a diary study. To help us with this, we’ve pulled together a field-guide to help us collate all the great insights that we’re hoping to collect.

Hard yards

As well as the fun stuff, talking to users and observing their behaviour, there’s some pretty been some pretty serious heavy lifting to be done, going through the intranet and auditing what’s there. This is really important to get a full understanding of what’s there at the moment and why.

Performance enhancement

Our performance analyst, Laura, has been really kicking on this sprint.  It’s her job to gather stats and insights about the number of people using a page, where they’re coming from and what they do next. She’s added HotJar to the intranet, so we can capture all of this in completely new ways. This is helping add another layer to our understanding of the way users interact with the intranet.

Taking a breather

As well as all this, we managed to find time to take a breath and assess how the first 2 sprints had gone in our team retro. This is a really open forum to celebrate things that have gone well, and to look for ways that we can improve. We’re a team that prides itself on making things work better, and we’re not shy of applying those principles to our own way of working. We’ll be in touch to let you know what we get up to in sprint 4.

All the best - The intranet discovery team.


Sprint 1&2 - Week Notes 1

This is the first set of weeknotes from the intranet discovery team. Here’s a quick summary of sprints 1 and 2.

We’re a mixed bunch of user researchers, designers and delivery folk drawn from the Service Transformation team and our project partners CyberDuck. Our aim is to pool our research and design skills to find out how people use the intranet, what they need from it and how we can make it better.

We’ve been quick out of the blocks, after taking a few days to get to know each other, we’ve decided to split this discovery into 7 week-long sprints.

Quick questions

We’re very keen to base our work on what users need. So, naturally, our first step was to find some users. We pulled together a survey to find out more about what different users need from the intranet, what they like and what they don’t. We’ve had a really strong response so far, with about half the respondents saying they’re willing to help with further research, which is fantastic.

Deep questions

We’ve also conducted 3 in-depth interviews with users, and we’ve got more of these coming next week. These are vital to make sure we’re not making assumptions about the work and are representing all our users.

Showing the thing

We were delighted to see more than 60 colleagues turn out to hear about our work in our inaugural show and tell. If you were indisposed yesterday afternoon, we totally understand, and suggest you watch it on catch up here.

Ed introduced the project. James presented a really interesting landscape analysis, which highlighted the shared struggles organisations have with intranets peppered with some really insightful nuggets about how they’ve overcome them. And Narelle expertly plugged the survey.

Be prepared

Away from the razzle-dazzle of the show and tell, some really great work’s been going on to prepare for our diary studies, which are going to be starting soon. Again, we’re hoping this will give us a level of insight into how people use services on the intranet we’ve never had before. We’ll be in touch to let you know what we get up to in sprint 3.

All the best - The intranet discovery team.


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1 comment

  1. Comment by Mr M P Cole Esq posted on

    Great stuff! Keep it up!


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