Student Intranet Beta Test

We're delighted to roll out the first stage of the staff intranet to permanent members of staff for testing ahead of a full launch.

We're delighted to roll out the first stage of the staff intranet to permanent members of staff for testing ahead of a full launch on 26 March 2020 to all staff members. 

A Bit of Background

Building a staff intranet has been a long term strategic aim for the organisation with the first discussions about how a system like this could feasibly work beginning in earnest in 2015. It was put on the back burner while we prioritised urgent upgrades to our HR systems including the introduction of PeopleHR - massively improving our staff records, making it easy for you to book leave and allowing you to easily update your details online - before replacing Medusa with RotaCloud - completely digitising our rota system.

Fast forward from those initial conversations three years and the potential for a staff intranet was back on the radar. Since then scoping documents were created, initial stakeholder meetings pencilled in and papers submitted for budget approval. That approval came in the 2019 budgeting round, allowing the project to firm up timeframes for delivery with a six month project scheduled in, getting underway in October 2019 and fully launching in March 2020.

Building New Workflows

The scoping document had identified that the project would be impossible to deliver internally alongside our scheduled work which required the appointment of an external contractor. This posed a couple of challenges and required us to develop a new approach to web development projects:

  1. How could we give a contractor the required access to content within our current N Drive structure?
  2. What format did the content need to be delivered in? What structure would be clear and easy to understand?
  3. How would we manage when updates had been made to content pages?
  4. How would we quality control content? What was the QA approval process?

1. Access Requirements and Permissions

It was clear that we could not give free access to our shared network drives. Access to the N Drive is controlled by the University's IT department which limits our ability to lock down specific elements of our drive or share individual folders. Instead, we turned to G Suite - a system that has previously been solely used for the management of our student groups. This allowed us to create a dedicated area of cloud storage for the project with the ability to limit access to specific team members - a process that has now been rolled out to our Digital Advice Centre project.

2. Content Format and Structure

With multiple stakeholders involved in the project with differing levels of technical understanding, a clear and concise method for developing content needed to be created. This led to the creation of a Word document template that held the building blocks for a webpage as different types of headers which could then be added or removed depending on the specific page. While basic, it was easily understood by all and easy to replicate when creating new content pages across the site.

This was followed up with a folder structure that replicated the website. This allowed content to be grouped into relevant locations instead of dumped centrally, ensuring the contractor could easily find the content for each page instead of wasting valuable development time searching around for the right files.

3. Management of Content Updates

Spreadsheets. We ended up creating three different sheets to manage the development delivery timeline - which also served as a tracker for content creation progress and web build progress, a snagging list - to capture any bugs we discovered during development and note down any potential future requests, and a photography tracker - allowing us to note down any original imagery we needed to help enhance the pages.

4. Quality Control and Approvals

When working with contractors you need to have a system to approve that work has been delivered to the expected standards. We ended up building a two step system into the development delivery timeline spreadsheet with a simple traffic light system the highlight the stage of each relevant piece of content while each page required sign off before going live.

What's Next

Feedback from career staff during the beta testing phase of 2 - 20 March will enable a final series of bug and content updates to be completed ahead of the full launch of the intranet on 26 March. Post-launch, the SMT will have overall ownership of the intranet - identifying areas for improvement and new content - while the Communications team will have responsibility for minor content updates where out of date material has been identified. 

The learning from this project is already feeding into future web development projects with the live search functionality that was built moving across to the Digital Advice Centre while the process behind managing a project of this complexity has been refined further with the goal of shortening the delivery window for these types of projects.

Remember, please do complete the feedback form with as much information as possible to enable us to keep improving the site ahead of the full launch.