A portal for real people: Fidelity Life’s Hononga transforms two organisations



Fidelity Life, with the help of modern workplace experts Deptive, launched a unique design process to manage the transition to Microsoft’s SharePoint and Viva Connections in a way that put people first. The result changed the way both Fidelity Life and Deptive work - for good.

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A company’s intranet shouldn’t be thought of as just a hub for information, but as a way of connecting and celebrating its people. New Zealand-owned life insurer Fidelity Life had a dream of turning its outdated portal into a trusted go-to destination to reflect the business – but more importantly, the humans behind it.

During times of large scale, transformational change, every successful manager understands the value of building strong engagement with their team. Just as important as engaging with customers, creating a strong, resilient team who are all on the same page and feeling connected, empowered and supported is essential to navigating change successfully and building a sustainable business in the long term.

New Zealand’s largest locally-owned life insurer, Fidelity Life, is working to achieve just that. For the past two years, it’s been on a substantial customer led transformation journey, anchored around an aspiration to reimagine life insurance for New Zealanders and underpinned by a brand new technology platform.

When Covid-19 dispersed its workforce to their home offices in early 2020, Fidelity Life – like many organisations – saw an immediate need to increase engagement and connection with its people, wherever they happened to be.

Microsoft Teams had earlier become a permanent fixture in Fidelity Life’s meeting rooms and on its people’s devices, bringing those working from home into the room with people in the office, and enabling new forms of engagement.

Building on this success, a temporary SharePoint site was created to host important news updates and essential resources during extended periods of lockdown.

The temporary ‘Covid-19 HQ’ SharePoint site was another immediate success – one that clearly showed the previous intranet wasn’t up to the job and didn’t reflect the modern and dynamic business that Fidelity Life is.

Putting the human in technology

“From an early scoping workshop, it became clear our people wanted to hear more about themselves and our teams. They wanted to see more “human” content that delivered stories about our people outside work, not just at work. They wanted to know more about who our people really are.” – Hamish Anderson, Head of Corporate Affairs at Fidelity Life.

Having worked with Fidelity Life on previous tech implementations, digital workspace specialist Deptive was the perfect partner for the task. It was engaged to show where the existing Microsoft 365 platform with SharePoint and Teams could be extended to support the new intranet.

“Because of lockdown, suddenly the power of chat, virtual meetings and working off shared documents in Teams became a critical part of the way we work,” says Hamish.

Andrew Pacey, Modern Workplace Practice Manager at Deptive, was very excited about a new Microsoft tool that seemed ideal for what Fidelity Life wanted to do.

“Fidelity Life wanted the intranet to be used for communications, events and news and to provide genuine two-way engagement. Something easy to use, as well as truly mobile to enable its people to access the intranet on any device, wherever they were. Viva Connections is about all those things, targeted to their needs, presented beautifully and easily integrated into their existing Teams platform to maximise their investment,” he says.

To ensure the project was designed in a way that truly put humans first, Deptive consultant Jason McDougall identified that a fresh, collaborative consultation process was required. The purpose was to enable Fidelity Life’s people to understand, embrace and adopt the benefits of Viva Connections, and ensure the new intranet was designed in a way that added the most possible value to their teams.

“Fidelity Life has a human-centred design team that helps us design and deliver great customer experiences. The influence of this team and its ‘Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver’ design methodology has now spread across the organisation and been applied to a much broader range of problems and opportunities. Lucy Ratcliffe, our Experience Design Lead, helped Deptive create an approach for the project based on this methodology, which ensured we were set up for success right from the beginning.” Hamish says.

It was a new way of working for both Deptive and Fidelity Life, co-chairing workshops focused on understanding the “humans” of Fidelity Life and their needs, then business needs and the user experience among other things.

Dubbed Hononga, or “connection”, the brand-new Viva-powered intranet began to take shape. Microsoft’s Power Automate was used to establish a proper process for reviewing and approving content, automatically notifying the relevant person when content was ready for review. It was also set up to check in with the content owner after six months to make sure everything was still up to date. A central asset hub was created for maintaining all brand assets, with Microsoft’s secure identity management capabilities enabling access for each asset to be restricted to the relevant people to ensure consistency.

Empowerment was a central theme for both companies.

“We like to show people how they can manage and run things themselves. We created easy-to-use templates to support specific business content, so the relationship changed from Fidelity Life needing support to driving and managing the intranet on their own.” – Andrew Pacey, Modern Workplace Practice Manager at Deptive.

Ask not how technology can enable your business, but how it can enable your people

Hononga is already living up to its name.

“I still remember when we switched it on and the Hononga icon popped up on my Teams sidebar. I suddenly understood the power of having everything in one place,” Hamish says.

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. People automatically think “I need to put my content up there”, and all our internal communications ultimately link back to it. Empowering our people to own and manage their own content within a set of guidelines has completely democratised our communications, so it’s taken the pressure off our communications team to manage everything.”

Now Fidelity Life’s team are able to share their stories in a way they weren’t able to before, embracing Hononga to post fun people updates, events and videos as well as business-related tools and resources. The platform is also fully branded.

Viva Connections even has new features that weren’t available on the previous intranet, such as the ability to “like” and comment on content, enabling engagement to be measured. Better still, because of Microsoft’s regular and automatic upgrades, the intranet will continue to benefit from ongoing improvements and additions.

“Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index report shows Kiwis place more value than ever on building networks, with workers who have strong work relationships being 50 per cent more productive. Tools like Viva Connections to support company culture and strengthen the human engagements behind the business are vital to thriving teams. We’re thrilled to see how Deptive and Fidelity Life have integrated this in a way that asks not how technology can enable the business, but how it can enable Fidelity Life’s people to be their real selves at work.” – Robert Havranek, Modern Work and Security Business Group Lead at Microsoft New Zealand.

Hononga and beyond

The whole process of building Hononga has transformed Deptive as well as Fidelity Life.

“I haven’t seen a project where a customer’s been so enthusiastically involved. It’s changed our approach for good, after seeing the amazing results of the human-centric design way of working.” – Deptive founder Jason Poyner

Building on their joint success, Deptive is now working with Fidelity Life to explore Microsoft Viva’s other modules, Viva Learning (for professional and personal development) and Viva Topics (for enhanced knowledge sharing). It’s also working on the management of important controlled documents, ensuring this is consistent across all business units. Similar to the asset hub, it’s developed a Document Bank 365 solution featuring Power Automate to act as a central repository for policies, templates and other important documents, with automated check-ins and review cycles to ensure they’re updated regularly.

Above all, Fidelity Life’s teams have a new confidence in Hononga to support them as employees – and people. For a company dedicated to protecting New Zealanders’ way of life, there’s no more fitting achievement than that.

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The nature of work has changed. Employees expect to work securely from anywhere, on any device, and they put a high premium on work that enriches and fulfills them. When their productivity tools enhance the quality and effectiveness of their work experience, they’re happier, more valuable, and more likely to stay. Companies need to provide that empowerment, but they also need to protect vital IT assets. Modern Workplace solutions improve employee productivity and satisfaction, and create more seamless communication and collaboration across locations and platforms while maintaining the security and integrity of systems and data. It empowers people to work the way they want.

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A portal for real people: Fidelity Life's Hononga transforms two organisations - Umbrellar Connect

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