Dorma+Kaba prove you can build a world class social intranet in record time


If you were asked by your new CEO to create a social intranet from scratch in just 60 days, you would probably fear for your job. Yet to launch such an intranet on time and also win a coveted NN/g Intranet Design Award as well would be a result few of us could hope for.

Yet this is exactly what happened at Dorma + Kaba. Adrian Gagala is the man who took the challenge. He is Team Leader for Collaboration & HR Systems at the global window and door company. He works in the Group IT Division of Dorma, which recently merged with Kaba – the Swiss security group. More about the merger later, but first how did Adrian deliver a spanking new social intranet in just 60 days?

“Previously we had a static intranet with low adoption which was not fit for purpose. A Gallup survey showed us that people wanted a voice; they wanted a bottom up approach to communications that would enable employees to connect with each other.”

And so Adrian got the edict to launch a social intranet by January 2015 to be live before two important events: an International Group Conference for Dorma’s top 100 managers and the BAU Trade Conference in Munich – the most significant selling opportunity in the year. No pressure there then.

“What was good was that both events delivered very good content – so people had interesting content to follow. But we only had two months to do it! From 0 – 100 in 60 days was only possible with Unily and through the power of the Microsoft cloud.”

Unily is an cloud-based SharePoint intranet designed by BrightStarr. The advantage of this product is that you can put it in without huge time commitment from your own in-house IT team. So what did it replace? Adrian explains:

“Before we had the Unily intranet we had diverse systems around the world – not one dominant one. Dorma World existed but not all employees went there. The good thing was that the driver was the CEO of Dorma Group and the project was headed up the Directors of Group Communications and IT. With the new CEO we had a new programme to shift the company culture and the intranet was key to that.

“The specification was for different layers of content you want to present to your audience. Everyone focuses on the Homepage and how it is structured, but a social intranet should be a place where you find all the information you need, connect with each other using Yammer: a place where you can get your job done. That means delivering collaboration, where you can organise your work as a department team or project in simple SharePoint team project rooms.”

Using Unily the BrightStarr team bundled all this functionality into one system where information content is automatically presented to users through one single point of entry. Following a competition that whittled names down from a list of 60 to 5, the CEO christened the site and Inside was launched on 12th Jan 2015. Almost exactly a year later a merged site was created for the enlarged group following the acquisition of Kaba and the doubling in the staff population to 16,000 worldwide.

Doubling adoption

“What has been significant for us was the huge jump in adoption when the merged intranet was launched. We have social adoption of 60% for those who have a PC. From 4th Jan till 18th Jan 2016 total click rates were 160,000 coming on the site and 30,000 users have read some content.“

It’s early days for the merger but over the previous 10 months the average click rate has been 140,000 openings and 18,000 user clicks. Basically the site has doubled in adoption in a year. Compared to the initial launch there has been a 543% increase.

“No one from Comms would have predicted this level of growth. You can’t plan social growth – it follows a path you can’t predict. It has been a fantastic journey for all of us.”

Certainly the merger has been a spur to adoption as people in both companies want to know more about their future in the merged group that is now a €2bn turnover company.

“We launched the joint intranet at the beginning of January – coincident with winning of the Nielsen Norman Group award. We used our existing system with some temporary branding.

“It was essential to have a joint platform so all the new employees could see the new ways of working together. They were able to share experiences on Inside from the merger workshops. Mergers don’t have to have a negative vibe and the platform has helped us step forward as one company. We could not have planned it better.”

What has changed

The new intranet has been a breath of fresh air:

“We have a fantastic change of content: you are producing more stories and making them more attractive to users. We use more symbols and pictograms. Content authors find it easier to post material and be creative. We are really taking care with photos and video, which plays a growing and more important role in today’s intranet. A year ago we had 14 videos on the site – today we have 77.

“We benchmarked with other companies – the most valuable were the Nielsen Norman Group examples in terms of design and user experience. We wanted to learn what are the trends are and the does and don’ts and applied them to our own user experience on Inside.

“We have adopted a more global approach. Whereas Germans tend to use social for more project and task-driven work rather than social, the two-way participation in Asia has been very good.”

As a German company Adrian and his team had to work closely with the Works Councils. There is no commenting function to express anger for example and guidelines have been written: a ‘social’ etiquette on how people should behave.

“Our Works Council is very open-minded because we were open with them throughout the development process. This takes the fear away. There has been no misuse of the social channel so far. People are sensitive enough to share but do not discuss performance on the channel.”

At the first meeting of the 120 managers of the joint companies the CEO demonstrated Inside onstage. Comms provided a closed group for them where they could experiment. It gave the new arrivals a sense of just how simple it is to have online conversations.

“At the start of the conference it was the Dorma colleagues who posted but pretty soon people saw it was not rocket science. By the end of the conference the usage was 50/50 between Dorma and Kaba managers. These senior teams took it away with them from the conference and spread the word. It was the best advertisement we could have had. This level of openness and collaboration has become part of our DNA for the future merged company.”

“People sometimes need more time to adapt. The mindshift for Gaba was huge; they came from a more traditional base and were astonished to see how much people are encouraged to contribute at all levels of the company.”

Secret sauce

In choosing the platform Adrian and his team looked at a variety of vendors but limited it to suppliers who could deliver on O365. By accident they saw BrightStarr at a conference and invited them to do a test and prove of concept.

“It is the perfect package combining the power of the cloud with good-looking design and innovative solutions within the system. It was frankly the only chance to get this level of functionality up and running in the time available. The benchmarks showed others took on average 1.2 years to deploy and we had less than 3 months. You can’t postpone a Trade Fair and we wanted to use the new site at BAU.”

It was not just about the technology. Adrian admits that a large part of the successful ‘secret sauce’ was down to the communication heroes (or Power-Users). These have grown in number from 30 at the original launch to 55+ today.

Also lessons learnt from the first launch were applied at the re-launch for the merged company. Adrian describes the key learning:

“Don’t underestimate your employees. They are smarter than you think. We were surprised that in their private lives they are already using social platforms and tools already. It cuts across cultures and across generations. It is not just the young guns but the highly-experienced who have been with the company 25 years.

“Also do not try to make everything perfect. This was the message for the launch and we learn as we go along to find new ways to help people: show me how to edit my profile picture; how can I make use of the global phone book? Our online help function means that we can train people up independent of time zones and geography. We can deliver the same quality of support around the world.

Feedback is so useful; it has taught us to take away complexity and make something more intuitive. To create a very easy-looking interface for the users is the magic. A couple of years ago I would have thought it was only Jonny Ives at Apple who could create such beautiful simplicity by investing a lot of money.

“But our dream has come true and people are proud to have achieved such a good social intranet with such high adoption rates against the time pressures. And it was even nicer to get the expert endorsement on the NN/g Intranet Award.”