Case: Ramirent’s Intranet – triumph over adversity

Ramirent, one of Europe’s largest machine rental companies, relaunched its intranet during the Covid-19 pandemic and major internal changes. Simultaneously, new communication and collaboration tools were introduced. Renewing the digital work environment is always a major task, and on top of that, Ramirent had some extra challenges. Nevertheless, the new intranet was successfully launched on schedule in early May.

North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.

6 August 2020

Camilla Heikkilä

Ramirent is a machine rental company operating in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Today, Ramirent is part of the French Loxam Group. However, during the planning phase of the project in the spring of 2019, Ramirent was still a listed company divided into different geographical segments.

The company had grown with acquisitions and this was reflected in the operating culture. Organizations in different countries were accustomed to operating relatively independently. Hence, the company had almost no communication and collaboration tools that would reach all employees and allow them to work together across national borders. Ramirent started exploring the possibility of some common working tools, intending to enhance communication and build a culture of collaborative working. In principle, there were various tools in use in different operating countries. Some countries had old SharePoint On-Premise solutions in use, while others did not have any kind of digital work environment. A common intranet and some country-specific intranets existed, but they were both technically and content-wise outdated. The company had a clear need to look at communication and collaboration tools as a whole. Thus, North Patrol was asked to assist with this task.

All employees had a say on the upgrade

First, the different needs for the communication and collaboration tools had to be analyzed in all the various Ramirent operating countries. The prestudy of the project identified problems, needs, and solutions. Challenges and needs were mapped extensively, down to the grassroots level. An employee survey was conducted and translated into local languages ​​to give every Ramirent employee a chance to make an impact.

The result of the prestudy was a recommendation to move exclusively to the tools in the Microsoft O365 environment - SharePoint Online for intranet, Teams for project work, document sharing and collaboration, and Yammer for communication and collaboration. The decision to switch using these tools was largely based on the fact that the O365 tools were already in use in all the countries where Ramirent operated, just with different purposes and uses. The Finnish organization had already successfully piloted Teams and steps had been taken in Central Europe to migrate the intranet to O365 SharePoint Online. However, there were obstacles to overcome to reach a joint O365 intranet.

Three different working environments but a joint intranet

The prestudy resulted in a total of three follow-up projects for Ramirent. Teams was launched as an individual project. The intranet reform was also a sole project and required that all Ramirent's Microsoft environments were integrated. The organization was divided into three separate Microsoft environments, namely tenants. For users to have access to the tools and communication to reach everyone, it was important to have all employees in the same environment.

The new joint intranet was launched in early May with the Finnish intranet going live sometime before this. The intranet for other countries was released in stages. Six of Ramirent's nine countries were already sharing a common, modern intranet, and the last three countries became users of a common intranet in early fall when the tenants were merged.

Instead of waiting to resolve the technical challenges, the company decided to be creative. Ramirent had been waiting for a new intranet, and the need was considerable. For all users to access the intranet right from the start, users who are technically in a different environment were invited to the intranet as visitors. The solution may not be ideal, but it will drive things forward until the challenges are resolved permanently. Now all employees have access to the new intranet, and the feedback has been very positive.

-The users are partly in different tenants, which is why we ended up bringing our Baltic and Central European colleagues into the intranet as “guests,” says Terhi Jokinen, Ramirent's Communications Manager. Visitor status is not enough for the full and trouble-free intranet experience or other channels of communication and collaboration. Thus, a project to connect tenants has already started. We want to create a united Ramirent and build positive, smooth cooperation. It requires common tools and practices - in the same Microsoft environment.

O365 created a multilingual corporate intranet

Ramirent is a multinational company that needs a multilingual corporate intranet. O365 SharePoint Online is cautiously moving in that direction, but for the Ramirent project, the changes are happening too late. In the spring of 2020, the international, multilingual intranet O365 still had to be built from several different parts. Hence, it was decided to create one common English-language intranet, as well as country-specific local intranets. In total, there will be ten intranets.

Although each country has its specific characteristics and needs, size differences were large and resources varied, the concept sought to ensure that all intranets were structurally similar. This way each Ramirent employee would receive at least the same basic information.

In terms of content, intranets are divided into five main sections, which are divided into several content themes. The number of these themes varies by country, but the main sections are the same.

Each language version is structurally a separate hub site (SharePoint Online HubSite) and each hub site is associated with five Communication Sites. The original idea was to split the content into more than one site to refine the news coverage and make the information architecture clearer, but the large number proved technically challenging.

- We could not have reached a more complicated solution than the one we were using, says Terhi Jokinen. However, from the end user's point of view, the original concept has been maintained, as in O365 the menus are created manually.

Ramirent's intranet has taken advantage of the features that have been available in O365 SharePoint Online during the time the intranet was created. However, some customizations have been required to make ten separate intranets to work as a multilingual group intranet.

Each user has their own, named intranet, but all intranets are open to everyone. The user can visit other intranets simply by changing the intranet from the menu bar. Intranet news feeds are also displayed crossplatform. The common so-called “Group intranet” is in English, and its news is displayed on the front page of each intranet in its column. In addition, each local intranet has its news feed in the local language.

The user may also need to follow news from other countries, which is why Ramirent has a customized feature that allows the users to follow the different intranets. In this way, for example, Ramirent Group employees can follow the news in their own country, even if their intranet is in English.

Ramirent has invested heavily in their news concept. The goal is to have news and information shared through the intranet and not by email, as has been the practice in the past. Baby steps are being taken towards this and the introduction of Yammer will help to support this goal. The original plan was to launch Yammer together with the intranet. However, as the intranet project progressed, the launch of Yammer was postponed.

- The reform of the intranet is a big piece to break down. The intranet developers and content producers in all the countries already had a lot to do with the reform. However, I see the role of Yammer as significant in the future alongside Teams and Intranet, says Terhi Jokinen.

Challenging intranet reform

Renewing an organizational intranet for a company like Ramirent, which has more than 3,000 employees, is very demanding at its simplest. However, this time the framework of the project was particularly challenging. In addition to the fact that numerous Microsoft environments caused challenges along the way, in the middle of an intranet project, the French Loxam Group bought Ramirent. Thus, Ramirent was delisted. Merging with Loxam has resulted in a lot of work within Ramirent. This has also been reflected in the availability of human resources and content used in the intranet project.

- Most of the content on the intranet is completely new, says Annika Berg, a communications expert who has been responsible for the content of the Group intranet and training the content producers. Due to timeline pressures, not all content providers had time to create new content by the time of the launch. We haven’t let this effect us as the intranet evolves gradually and we’re already really proud of the current version. The feedback from those involved in the project and users has been very positive.

HiQ Finland is responsible for the technical implementation of the intranet, and both Terhi Jokinen and Annika Berg praise their expertise. HiQ held one training session for Ramirent's core team. After this, the administrators in different countries have been training content producers. There are approximately a total of 150 content producers, some of whom are more active than others. Learning has been accumulated as the content creators have created content on top of the intranet “skeleton” which was configured by HiQ.

- O365 is wonderfully intuitive and logical, so almost all content producers have only needed one training session to create content, Annika Berg says.

With the ease of use, creativity can also flourish. The project team has already used their creativity to keep the intranets of different countries in the concept, even in terms of common elements such as layout and main navigation.

Terhi’s and Annika's tips for a successful intranet project

  • Do the groundwork carefully. Prestudy is necessary to understand the challenges and needs of the project
  • Engage content producers and management
  • Share responsibilities widely so that the concept is internalized across the organization
  • Dare to publish, even if everything is not 100% complete
  • Create a model for content lifecycle management
  • Choose good partners and share the best practices with your network as well

Case: Ramirent's intranet

  • Customer: Ramirent
  • Service: Intranet
  • Technology platform: O365
  • Intranet preliminary study: North Patrol (January - April 2019)
  • Intranet specifications and tendering: North Patrol (June - September 2019)
  • Intranet content design: North Patrol (June - October 2019)
  • Technical implementation: HiQ Finland (September 2019 - May 2020)
  • Releases:
    • Ramirent Finland, April 2020
    • Ramirent Group, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Norway, May-June 2020
  • Future releases:
    • The Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland in autumn 2020

(This article has been translated from the Finnish original. Read the original article.)

Camilla Heikkilä

Camilla Heikkilä is a specialist in web communications and digital services.

Camilla has a broad experience in communications, particularly in web communications and knowledge of digital services and service design.

Camilla has experience in web concept design, project management, usability testing, content strategies and training users. Camilla has specialized in content design and can help organizations crystallize the content into a working web service, where the users’ needs are taken into account.

Camilla has worked nearly 15 years in communications in different NGOs and with the government. During her career she has had numerous of responsibilities in web project of different sizes.

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