Gisborne District Council’s new intranet improves communication with Office 365 and Information Leadership

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Cat Mules

Gisborne District Council (GDC) is a local government authority based in the North Island of New Zealand. Information Leadership partnered with GDC to deliver an intranet on their existing Office 365 platform. This sets them up to take advantage of the Office 365 toolset and incorporate cloud technology enhancements as required. The purpose of the project was to improve communication and bring staff together.

The challenge

GDC’s old intranet platform was bespoke, heavily customized and no longer supported. Content was out of date because only a small group of staff could complete updates due to the difficult-to-use management interface.

The council’s staff used various technology to communicate and there was no ‘one place’ to bring it altogether. They relied heavily on emails to send news around the organization. In addition, the Chief Executive and management were not easily able to communicate organization-wide news with staff.


The strategy

GDC were keen to get the most out of their Office 365 licensing – an intranet built on top of SharePoint was consistent with this approach. They had confidence in the longevity of the Microsoft platform and potential support from multiple partners, despite being located away from the main centers in New Zealand.

The council were already making good use of Microsoft tools, such as Skype for Business and Yammer. The project team took the intranet development as an opportunity to test Microsoft Teams for internal and external collaboration. They benefitted from features such as video calling, conversations, shared Document workspaces, OneNote for tracking meetings content, and Planner to track project tasks.

Design workshops held as part of the project kickoff helped to educate the project team about what was possible using the SharePoint platform; and to agree on the functionality and information architecture. The workshops included examination of audience needs, how to inventory existing and new content, wireframe mockups and discussions about navigation. Key considerations throughout this process were to provide easy to use Content Management and functionality that would present users with lots of opportunities to interact with the content.

Other outputs subsequent to the workshop included development of a creative brief and design mockups to make sure the look and feel of the new intranet would accurately reflect the organization’s cultural identity.

Information Leadership led change and governance management workshops to handover tried and tested approaches to managing change, communications and role definition to ensure ongoing success of the project post go-live.

To ensure self-sufficiency a ‘train the trainer’ program was rolled out to ensure responsibility for managing content was de-centralized and the intranet was kept up-to-date and relevant to staff.


The results

‘Naumai’ – meaning ‘welcome’ in Maori was chosen as the name for GDC’s new intranet. With more than 50% of the population of Gisborne of Maori descent, this name reinforces their intranet’s unique cultural identity and relevance in the organization.

The Chief Executive regularly posts blogs to connect with staff to let them know what is ‘top of mind.’ The intranet is the social hub for staff where staff “shout out” praise for their colleagues and post photographs to build community via “post-a-pic.” Building a sense of community is enhanced by out-of-the-box features in SharePoint that enable users to “like” and “comment” on content they see, similar to popular social media platforms.

The intranet is used by all parts of the council, in particular Human Resources and Finance. Enterprise content, that currently resides in a different electronic system, is able to be surfaced in one place so users can quickly find the information they need to do their job.

The process of keeping content up-to-date is decentralized to staff in each business unit. Referred to a ‘Content Contributors’, these users are benefitting from use of the modern SharePoint lists interface to author much of their content (which is then automatically surfaced on pages). They are creating pages using custom layouts that ensure the process of authoring content is as intuitive and painless as possible. This includes use of the edit panel in page edit mode to provide a one-step process for in page content creation.

”Super users manage the administration and the back-end but they are not IT staff due to the relatively intuitive administration interface.”
– Jason Derr, Team Leader Business Solutions


To monitor usage Azure ‘Application Insights’ is used to measure traffic. Communication staff have set KPIs for continuous improvement of user adoption. If pages are not doing well, they work with the business units to improve the user’s experience of that content by providing suggestions for improvement and user feedback where available.

Staff are discovering other useful tools in the Office 365 suite such as Planner and One Note, and momentum is building as staff see how the tools help them in their job.

“We now have an intranet that is easy to use, engaging for staff and adaptable […]”– Jason Derr, Team Leader Business Solutions


As originally published by the Microsoft Tech Community.

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Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.


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