Intranet Example – Tour of ThoughtFarmer’s Own Intranet

Looking for a clear and simple path to a new intranet? Download our free Intranet Buyers Workbook to learn 10 key steps in evaluating intranet solutions.

Here at ThoughtFarmer, we take the “eat your own dog food” approach to software development (how this icky-sounding metaphor became an industry standard, I’m not sure. I much prefer “drink your own champagne”). This means our company uses our social intranet in every aspect of our work — not just software testing. As early social enterprise adopters, our own intranet, “Sparky”, was recently featured as an intranet example in the Nielsen Norman Group’s (NN/group) report on Intranet Social Features. We thought this would be a good opportunity for you to “take a peak under the hood” and see how the people who design, build, sell, and support ThoughtFarmer actually use their own intranet.

The hompage of ThoughtFarmer's intranet, including newsfeeds, activity feeds, and IA
ThoughtFarmer”s social intranet “Sparky” – View of the homepage

Taking a look into Sparky, we find ourselves in a unique position. Gordon Ross, VP of ThoughtFarmer explained in the NN/group report. “We usability test our new features, both recognizing that while we are the authors of it, we’re not perhaps ideally the target users. We have a few clients our size (small) and in our general industry (creative/design oriented). But for the most part, we sell to larger organizations and testing is important to get out of the self-referential developer-oriented ‘works for me’ way of building software.”

Based on being a small-ish company, NN/group was curious just how much content we had created since the intranet’s inception in 2006. As it turns out, quite a lot. In the past seven years, our staff of 30 have made over 10,000 pages, 10,000 documents, and 11,000 comments. This not only makes sure we catch bugs and are committed to the user-experience, but also enables us to get a lot of work done.

Table - Heavy intranet usage
We use ThoughtFarmer heavily. In March, for example, Carolien looked at more than 2000 pages and made 260 edits and 41 comments

To illustrate this point — this blog post is currently (as I’m typing) a forum post under the “Ideas for Blog Posts” forum. Once our marketing team has commented on and edited the post, it will move from the idea forum to the editorial calendar. From the editorial calendar, it will be published to our public ThoughtFarmer website.

Another situation where we find the intranet highly useful is writing responses to RFPs. If you’ve been involved in the RFP process, you know that they can be complex, involve a number of contributors, and travel through several stages. By using ThoughtFarmer, our team can collaborate on each requirement, keep a constantly updated main version of the document, and easily access and search past RFP’s for reference.

OpenRoad Intranet Example of RFP Response Process
We use our social intranet to write RFP responses.
Screenshot - Comments on intranet document
Employees reviewing and commenting on an RFP in process

NN/group also questioned how corporate culture plays out in a social intranet — a question we hear often. Many executives are concerned about letting employees loose with social features. Gordon responds to these concerns by explaining, “Our intranet is a valid reflection of the communicative norms that play out in our office everyday. There is no digital dualism in our office. There is only one company that has different modes of expressing our feelings, working together, and being together. Staff that post funny animated gifs to the intranet are just as likely to say something silly in a meeting or crack a joke in a conversation at lunch. Perhaps some of our staff who lack the confidence of speaking in front of a larger group find a voice through the intranet that they might not have otherwise. And those who lack confidence in their writing skills are perhaps still hesitant to write, knowing that the audience for their communication may possess better skills and may be judging.”

As you can see below, the culture in our office results in a lot of foodie discussions, hockey playoff predictions, and historical statue impersonations.

Mobile Intranet Example
Our intranet has a blog to review lunch restaurants near our office.
Mobile Intranet Example - Photo Gallery
A mobile gallery, including posing with the George Vancouver statue.
Intranet Example Archiving
The archive report shows just how much hockey content we’ve created.
Intranet Example Gallery and Comments
Staff commenting on Gord’s City of Vancouver talk.

Today, Sparky is truly a central hub for all things ThoughtFarmer. Just like with our clients, adoption didn’t happen in a day. Initially, staff thought it was a “cool tool”, but had pre-existing tools they were comfortable using. There were early adopters, lurkers, and laggards. However, as content was migrated, documents were uploaded, and comments were added, it started to become a relevant and useful source of information that drew people in. As with any intranet, there is an evolutionary process. Seven years later, Sparky is a part of our culture, and a necessity to getting work done.

Chart - Growth in intranet adoption
Usage has grown steadily over the years as we find new uses for ThoughtFarmer

Looking for a clear and simple path to a new intranet? Download our free Intranet Buyers Workbook to learn 10 key steps in evaluating intranet solutions.

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