4 months on, an intranet launches

Where an earth did the last 4 months go? I certainly didn’t go anywhere, other than to the end of the garden and back! But, here we are in August with summer in full swing.

The last time I wrote a blog post was back at the start of April, which means there’s 4 months of work to catch you up on! I’m not actually going to do that though, as we might be here for another 4 months! What I am going to share is the biggest project I was working on during that time – our new intranet. It officially launches today (12 August)!

We’ve not really shared work on internal sites before, but this one has taken a lot of our time over the last few months, and actually, the way we’ve been working on the project will have (hopefully) a lasting impact on how we work.

Let’s get agile

This was our teams first attempt at working using agile principles to guide the project. I won’t say it was a fully agile project, because that would be lying. But we took some of the principles, such as working in the (internal) open, sprint working and show and tells, and used them to run the project.

In the course of the project we’ve:

  • had 11 sprints
  • created over 600 pages
  • run 22 user testing sessions
  • run 10 show and tells to showcase the work

Building in live

We’ve built the entire site in ‘live’ – publishing and sharing immediately for feedback.

This has allowed us not only to engage with our colleagues on what they need, but also allowed us to make quick, iterative developments to the content. We’ve frequently adjusted content based on the feedback we’re getting.

It’s a funny thing though. As we are now at ‘official launch day’, for me, it feels like we’ve been live for months already! No big, scary panic situation has occurred as it’s been out there for as long as we’ve been working on the project! That’s a good feeling!

Show and tells

During each sprint we focused on a specific area of the site. At the end of each 2-week period, we ran a ‘show and tell’. We invited anyone who had been involved in that particular sprint, as well as let staff across the council know it was happening. This meant we quite often had at least 30 people attending a session.

During the show and tells we would talk about any key work we had done for that section, shared the results of the user testing sessions, as well as opened up the floor for feedback from staff.

Running these sessions allowed us to share our working widely, talking about accessibility principles, the move away from PDF documents, and the principles we were using to build out the site.

In general, the show and tells went down really well, and they are something we are now considering to use more widely in ICT and Digital to showcase the work we do and get feedback from staff.

Lessons learnt

It wouldn’t be a project if we didn’t learn some lessons along the way. The main one that I think of is ‘don’t run back to back sprints for 22 weeks’.

We’ve been working in sprints since March. Due to a hard deadline we didn’t build in any breaks or reflection time. This was a mistake as we’re all pretty much exhausted by this project. That said, it might have been OK if we didn’t also have a pandemic to contend with!

The other area we need to think about for our next project, is how we deal with the assumption that a project will finish, be handed over, and that’s that. We certainly are not finished with the intranet, despite it ‘launching’. It’s got a long way to go still, and we’ll be working with more teams across the council on their needs.

But we need to work out how to articulate that digital projects are never ‘finished’. That they are constantly works in progress, and that iterative development is how we get good products.