Revamping an ageing intranet to better support the digital workforce

By transforming its decade-old intranet in an agile manner, SMU is able to better address the changing needs and demands of its employees.

By Adrian M. Reodique
July 18, 2016

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The iNet Project team of SMU.

As we move towards the digital transformation economy, organisations that insist on using legacy IT systems will find it challenging to meet new business and workforce needs.

Understanding this, Singapore Management University (SMU) decided to revamp its 10-year-old intranet in April 2014 to improve its online services for its faculties and staff. The project, called iNet, was recognised as one of the highly recommended projects at the 2016 CIO Asia Awards.

According to the university, its previous intranet sites were created manually by working with third party vendors or content owners using static HTML, and were often without corporate branding.

The sites were also not equipped with search function or document management capabilities to allow the users to find the needed information easily.

On top of that, the old intranet did not offer any collaboration tools; email was the only method of transferring and sharing information.

SMU's iNet project thus had three major objectives. Firstly, content must be well-organised so that it can be easily found and updated, which will indirectly foster knowledge exchange and collaboration. Secondly, the new intranet must deliver an "enjoyable" user experience and is mobile responsive. And lastly, it must be robust, scalable and can be easily integrated with other systems.

Revamping the decade-old intranet in an agile fashion

Instead of taking the traditional waterfall software engineering method, SMU adopted an agile process to develop iNet.

Using Pareto's principle, the team worked on the important 20 percent features for iNet that would have the greatest 80 percent impact to users or the university. The team also held weekly reviews that leveraged user feedback to make the necessary tweaks to iNet's features.

By doing these, SMU said they were able to regularly, flexibly and rapidly adapt to changing requirements - even if it was late in development - which ensures continuous improvement to the functions and features of iNet.

SMU added that the agile process enabled the team to better plan its infrastructure, operations, business plans and launch events. The strict assurance to the timescales in the plan gave the consistency needed to manage expectations and ensure focus on what is critical.

There were three phases to the iNet project. The first focused on building the sites for departments that heavily relied on the intranet, such as the Office of Human Resources and Faculty Administration (OHRFA), Finance, and IT.

For instance, OHRFA will no longer need to manually input the details and photos of new employees into an email before sending it out to the SMU community. They can now drag and drop photos and fill in the necessary details of the new employee in an easy-to-use content management system (CMS), which will then reflect that information on the "New Faces on Campus" onboarding section of the Human Resources and Faculty Administration portal. The CMS will also automatically send the "New Faces on Campus" newsletter on campus email which used to be drafted manually.

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