Case: Uponor’s new intranet brings the entire organization together

All intranets are moving to the cloud, including multinational and multilingual organizations’ intranets. This shift to the cloud provides many benefits, but at the same time presents challenges. Often old solutions cannot be transferred to the cloud because of technical reasons. Uponor faced this challenge a year ago. As the technical reform loomed, Uponor decided to take the opportunity to rethink its entire intranet concept.

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.

1 March 2021

Camilla Heikkilä

Uponor is one of the leading sustainable building and infrastructure solutions companies in the world. Uponor develops products and services for safe drinking water, delivery, energy-efficient radiant heating and cooling, and reliable infrastructure. Uponor operates in 26 countries in Europe and North America.

Uponor's old intranet was seven years old and was built on SharePoint 2016. The intranet had been created as an internal communication and news channel for the entire organization but it only reached knowledge workers mainly in Europe. North America had created a separate intranet for its own needs, which received news from the shared intranet.

Uponor had decided to implement Microsoft 365 tools and at the same time decided to move the intranet to the cloud. However, moving the old intranet as it was to the cloud environment would have been challenging. Also, the North American stand-alone solution brought some additional challenges. Hence, the company decided to revisit the entire intranet solution. A concept that was also flexible to implement on O365 SharePoint Online was created to suit the Uponor group.

New concept was created via hybrid workshops

A large motivated team designed the new intranet for Uponor. At the beginning of the project, challenges that the new intranet should address were identified. The concept was started by mapping different needs and expectations for internal communication and collaboration in general, and the intranet in particular. With the assistance of North Patrol, Uponor's core team interviewed various internal stakeholders and conducted an open-ended survey for Uponor employees to gather ideas and thoughts about the intranet. The needs assessment results served as the basis for more detailed design work.

Uponor is a multi-dimensional organization. Thus, there were many aspects to the concept that needed to be considered. The concept was developed in four design workshops. First, the conceptual guidelines of the intranet were clarified, after which the concept was refined from the perspectives of business, communications and staff. Although the design work was done before the Covid-19 pandemic and the remote working recommendations, online tools were widely used in the workshops, as a large proportion of the workshop participants were from countries outside of Finland.

- The workshops were a really valuable part of the concept phase and the whole project. They were also a good way to involve employees, says Senior Communications Specialist Tiina Koivisto, who was responsible for the intranet project at Uponor.

- In the workshops, we got to discuss and decide important things about the new intranet. All participants were involved through online tools and video connections. I received a lot of positive feedback from the workshops, especially about the functionality of the online tools - a big thank you to North Patrol for that, Koivisto continues.

Creating a new intranet for an organization the size of Uponor is a big effort. Hence, before embarking on the implementation phase, it was necessary to ensure that all the policies and guidelines were correct. The new intranet concept, developed in the workshops, was presented to selected stakeholders and feedback was collected. Once the concept plan had been validated the role of the various tools was further clarified, and the technical boundary conditions were focused and the implementation of the project was planned. This was all done so that Uponor could start the tender process for the intranet implementation project.

The concept balances between different needs

Uponor's goal for the new intranet is to support both organizational and local communication while also providing modern digital tools for the entire organization.

Uponor's operations are divided into three different areas across several countries. The needs assessment revealed that employees wanted more information about what was happening in other segments. The new intranet was also aimed to reflect collaboration and enable learning from others.

In a large organization, the official language is often English. Although, this does not necessarily mean that the intranet should only have one content and one language. In multinational companies, there needs to be a balance between unified culture and the fact that some content must also be available in local languages, or the content is at least localized. For example, there may be considerable differences in staff guidelines between countries.

The fact that the organization operates in many countries and the intranet is developed with the same technology does not mean that all the intranets should be conceptually similar. This fact was also the case in the Uponor project.

In some English-speaking organizations, it may be perfectly justifiable to create comprehensive local intranets in local languages. In that case, the solution is usually to translate all the content and communicate both general and country-specific information. The risk with a fully country-specific intranet is that employees only identify with their country or local organization. Only a few people will view, or understand, the intranets of other countries or regions. Thus, knowledge and good practices do not flow from one country or organization to another.

Uponor did not want different countries or areas to operate in silos. The company wanted a solution where the intranet supports the idea of one joint organization. Uponor's old intranet was also in English, so there was no extensive change in the new intranet. Only content with local differences is translated into local languages in the new intranet. With this, there are country-specific differences in content and scope. Some countries may have broad country-specific documents, while others have only individual pages. However, the goal is for all employees to read the joint intranet and receive the instructions in the group language. Also, the news on the intranet is in English only.

Extensive content work and implementation of the project was accomplished remotely

The implementation project of Uponor's new intranet started in the spring of 2020 and it was executed by HiQ Finland. Although the new intranet was mainly implemented in English, the concept changed considerably and content structure had to be rethought. Simultaneously, the content was also reviewed. For almost the entire year, Tiina Koivisto led about 70 Uponor employees who worked on the content of the new intranet.

- During the reform, a lot of old content was cut and abandoned. No old content was imported into the new intranet as such, Tiina Koivisto says.

As the implementation work progressed, Tiina Koivisto has firmly adhered to the planned concept. In the old intranet, many divisions had their pages and many wanted these in the new one as well. However, in the new concept, it was carefully considered how the different divisions appear on the intranet. One division always communicates to two audiences, itself and everyone else. The purpose of the entire intranet was to be Uponor's shared space, thus division-specific sites and pages were eliminated from the concept.

Although the plans were clear, challenges were not avoided in such a large project. The exceptional circumstances and teleworking had little effect on implementation as the Uponor employees were familiar working virtually with colleagues around the world. Further, the situation was made easier by the launch of Teams for the entire organization in the early summer. Challenges were presented by both staff changes and regulations in different countries, which all had to be taken into account during the project. Nevertheless, Uponor's new intranet and Yammer were launched to all Uponor employees at the end of October 2020, just as planned, and the feedback has been very positive.

Case: Uponor's intranet

  • Customer: Uponor
  • Service: Intranet
  • Technology platform: O365
  • Intranet preliminary study: North Patrol (September – December 2019)
  • Intranet specifications and tendering: North Patrol (June – September 2019)
  • Intranet content design and implementation: Uponor (February – October 2020)
  • Technical implementation: HiQ Finland (March – October 2020)
  • Release: October 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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