Turning Up The Gas On Communication


SGN is on a serious digital transformation and communication journey migrating the company’s tech into the O365 stack. Marc Wright of simply communicate talks to Jenny Naiff to find out if they achieved their aim of having everything in one place, accessible on any device, and able to work seamlessly with their other applications…

SGN is a gas distribution company founded in 2005. No, the initials do not stand for anything although the organisation has its roots in Scottish and Southern gas networks. Suffice to say they own and operate the pipework to 5.9m homes and businesses in Scotland and South of England.

The workforce is 3,000 strong with a Head Office in Horley Surrey, but with the majority spread around call centres, depots and in vans in Scotland and the South of England.

Jenny joined Jan 2018 to relaunch the external facing website, but was quickly thrown onto the O365 steering group with the job of re-platforming and launching a brand-new intranet. But she had done little internal comms before – and had no intranet or O365 experience. More than that Jenny surrounds herself with all things Apple, so how did she respond to being immersed in the complex and technical world of Microsoft and the O365 suite of products?

Jenny Naiff
Jenny Naiff, SGN

“I actually became a fan of O365 almost immediately. Everything I have around me is Mac –  but I really love O365.  In the Steering Group I am passionate about all the tools and applications. Basically I am converted.”

SGN is on a serious digital transformation journey migrating the company’s tech into the O365 stack. Jenny started her part of this Herculean by surveying the staff:

“They said they wanted everything in one place, accessible on any device, to be able to work seamlessly with our other applications.”

No pressure there then. Fortunately Microsoft Gold Partner Content and Code were already involved in the O365 migration and they were able to steer Jenny towards their out of the box intranet solution – Fresh.

Using Fresh Jenny was able to build her site much more quickly than with a traditional intranet and in March 2019 DigitalHub was launched.

“The name reflected our people’s desire for the new intranet to have an identity and be seen as the central source for everything they need to do for work.  But there is no point in building a cutting edge platform if no one goes there.”

So Jenny and the team did three things:

  • Made sure that the content was up to date and useful
  • Embedded Yammer so there was a credible alternative to WhatsApp
  • Encouraged non-work groups to drive adoption

“It’s not just about digital transformation – our staff are people.  Our guys out in the field have been using WhatsApp to take calls and share stuff. So when I was looking at how people communicate, I decided that if we were going the O365 route we should include Yammer”.

“We did a poll and asked people about their personal interests. What do you talk about and what do you like to share?”

The result are some funky non-work groups such as the Art of Photography, Big Screen (a group of cinephiles), and Waggy Tails, where colleagues can share pictures of their dogs, tell stories about their pets and arrange countryside walks.

DigitalHub was launched on 13th March with a fully integrated Yammer feed so that even documents can be liked on the social feed. There is even an AgonyBot – a super friendly digital helper which works like an agony aunt column for all questions to do with the platform. It is actually a real person from the digital team answering each query.

Jenny uses the outputs from the platform and presents them to the monthly Steering Group meeting:

“We take the insight we have gained from talking to our colleagues to the senior team and keep them updated. They are really getting into it. I was talking in the café with one of them, and he said:  ‘I have just opened delve for the first time.  It’s amazing and absolutely incredible’. I love it when that happens.”

Building on the App Builder

Jenny had the advantage of an existing social channel so certain behaviours were already embedded:

“With an O365 licence for all in the pipeline and DigitalHub now launched, we are in the process of reviewing the usage of both channels and how we can migrate over to Fresh in the coming months, if it’s deemed suitable.”

Managing migration

Jenny and her team took a pragmatic approach to migrating the data across from the old intranet: SGNNet.

“We split the task up between departments, nominated ‘content owners’ and provided each with a report on what was there, who owned it and how often it had been accessed. Inevitably a lot of the content was old and redundant so we used the migration process to clean up a great deal of our content and files.

“It was a big task and one of the hurdles was that we have some large, weighty engineering manuals that contain many internal hyperlinks.  Rather than go through each and update the links we have frozen the old content and taken it across with the same links so it will still work. SGNet is live but not accessible in the conventional sense – it just remains for old links currently, but this is being decommissioned in June, so we’ve got a lot of work to do before then to ensure we don’t lose the internal links and documents.”

Countdown to launch

“For the launch I created video animations and podcasts – these are particularly popular for our guys in vans. We created the AgonyBot, Yammer Group, and desktop screensavers. We have a network of comms champions who put up posters and leaflets.  We also worked with the content owners on how to update content and turned them into advocates for DigitalHub.  Our business change team even went out in the vans to feed back and gain insights.”

And the results?

“It’s still very early days and our KPIs relate to the whole Digital transformation programme so it will be some time before we have hard results. But already the introduction of DigitalHub has meant that we have been able to remove our expensive teleconference lines, are reducing the amount of travelling and we are already seeing improvement in productivity.”

“The task now is what we talk about as digital adoption and how we educate our business on how, and when to use which app within the Microsoft stack, because only then will we see the true power of DigitalHub.”

Jenny Naiff is appearing at smileexpo alongside Dave Bowman of Fresh Intranets. For more details and tickets visit here.