Credit unions and intranets have more in common than you’d think. At least that’s according to Ilana Friesen, former internal communication specialist for one of Canada’s largest credit unions. Among her many credit union related projects, Ilana successfully researched and implemented a company-wide new credit union intranet, so she is something of an authority on the topic. In this piece Ilana explains why the two have so much in common, how that affects you, and what you can do to choose intranet software that’s right for you.
Consider this: credit unions and intranets have a lot in common. Like, a lot. “Okay” you may be thinking, “but a lot seems like a bit of a stretch”. Well, having spent time on both sides of the fence I’ve come to appreciate just how symbiotic the relationship between the two can be. Allow me to explain...
A key tenet of any credit union, and something that differentiates them from other financial institutions, is that members, as owners, can directly influence how credit unions operate. This means that credit unions must operate in a more collaborative fashion, and with more transparency than other types of financial institution. Coincidentally, these same requirements were among those that lead to the invention of intranet software: the need for a space where stakeholders could come to communicate, collaborate, and create.
So while there’s little doubt that credit unions can benefit from an intranet, picking an actual provider is far from easy. Believe me, I’ve got the scars to prove it: I was an internal comms specialist for one of Canada’s largest credit unions at a time when the company was pursuing a more transparent, collaborative culture. An admirable endeavour, but not one without challenges. One such challenge was finding a solution that would encourage employees to publish content, and allow us to see who was sharing it. After a little research, the solution became obvious (an intranet) but the specific solution (i.e. the intranet provider) was less obvious.
Okay, full disclosure: the company I worked for eventually chose ThoughtFarmer as their credit union intranet software, but that’s not to say our decision-making process was any less rigorous. We took a methodical, diligent approach that would inform us which solution would be best. And—self-five—we were right. So, what did that approach look like? A lot like this…
Step 1: Understanding needs and building partnerships
Interviewing a diverse set of employees was critical. Focusing less on features and more on roles and responsibilities was just as critical. This process not only revealed how employees would use an intranet to make work better, it also revealed which employees were most likely to become intranet champions.
Step 2: Must-haves of a new credit union intranet
The project budget (please sir, can I have some more?) and timeline (yesterday) were the first things we tackled. Once they were sorted, we hooked up with IT to ensure the new intranet would integrate with other enterprise tools. Finally, we decided to seek out professional support to help us with the actual implementation, since we lacked the resources to do it ourselves.
Step 3: Options, options, options
Build or buy? Self-hosted or cloud? Centralized or decentralized publishing model? While these were all tough choices, the toughest was probably the centralized vs. decentralized debate. It was genuinely difficult to let go of our centralized content publishing model but after careful consideration we realized enabling employees to publish content didn’t mean sacrificing quality, it just meant bridging the gap between our existing and desired culture.
Step 4: Try before you buy
When it came to getting down and dirty with demos and free trials, one vendor stood head and shoulders above the rest (I did say I was biased, right?!). ThoughtFarmer’s social platform was a radical shift from the SharePoint intranets we were used to managing and it fit perfectly with our ever-evolving workplace.
Step 5: Sealing the deal
Okay, long story short: ThoughtFarmer’s solution met our objectives and technical requirements perfectly, so it made complete sense to move forward with them. But not before we carried out our due diligence: we had a broader cross section of employees and users go through scenario-specific demos with the ThoughtFarmer team, we nit-picked at the onboarding process, and we spoke with some of their credit unions clients (all of whom gave glowing references). Boxes ticked, our legal team signed off on the contract and it was official: we were the proud owners of a new social intranet!
Moral of the story?
Choosing a new credit union intranet is easy, if you follow a few simple steps. It’s not an overly complex process, if you’re rigorous in your approach. It’s a rewarding project that, if planned properly, will deliver the ultimate reward: a super engaged workforce.
If you’re interested in learning more about the steps you can take to simplify the search for your next credit union intranet, download our free ebook.
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