Building a social intranet in the age of mobility

by Lindsay Forcino

How can your organization emerge from an intranet quagmire?

In today’s constantly changing work environment, one thing that has remained constant is the importance of communication and collaboration. But the great irony of this age of connection is that despite all of the technologies that exist to help people better communicate, if anything, it’s become more difficult to collaborate. Fewer workers are working within the office environment, taking away that one common area where people could meet, discuss important matters, and plot paths forward. Remote workers may be accessing the intranet from a mobile device, but they need the same information as employees onsite. And without that common medium, keeping everyone on the same page can be a significant challenge for any organization.

Social intranets were the tools designed by companies to meet this challenge. Especially in larger organizations, intranets were billed as a digital water cooler, giving everyone in an organization—from an entry-level worker all the way up through the CEO—a voice that everybody could hear. In reality, intranets haven’t lived up to that lofty billing. But they have evolved into a valuable collaboration tool for organizations — though, it has not been the smoothest road getting there.

For workers to make the best possible business decisions, they must be able to access, share and transform information in any format, at any time, no matter where they are.

We’ve walked every step of that road at Ricoh USA, Inc. In 2008, the company acquired IKON Office Solutions, which at the time was the world’s largest independent provider of document management services. A company with a 60 year history, IKON had approximately 20,000 employees who became part of the new, integrated company. As you can imagine, this presented some challenges as thousands of employees were now part of a different organization with new coworkers, a different name and ways of doing things, including two stand-alone intranets with plenty of unstructured data.

While there were many components to our integration, our intranet team’s challenge was focused on creating a new and enhanced collaboration platform to support our unified company. Throughout the process, we kept several areas top of mind:

  • Unify content and organize unstructured information across the two companies’ intranets to make it easily accessible to all employees.

  • Create a culture of continuous improvement dedicated to enhanced productivity, optimized information flow and increased employee collaboration.

  • Foster team cohesion by breaking down walls between the merging companies and their workforces, including mobile and off-site workers.

Building a new RWorld

Addressing the challenges of cultural and organizational integration required a comprehensive, integrated solution, one component of which was the Ricoh intranet, also known as RWorld. This digital platform is available to all Ricoh employees, and is built on the same foundation as the products and services we sell—being able to access information when you need, where you need it and how you need it. The idea is that for workers to make the best possible business decisions, they must be able to access, share and transform information in any format, at any time, no matter where they are. It’s a concept built for a new world of work dominated by remote workers and new technologies.

RWorld allows Ricoh employees to do that, by enabling them to follow colleagues, connect as teams, and participate in discussions with anybody in the company to collaborate, share best practices, and quickly search for and find the information they need. The goal was to make RWorld a place where employees wanted to go, rather than a place employees are forced to visit. To do that, it was imperative that RWorld be a technology where it was easy to get the information you need, whether it was benefits information or launch materials for a new product or service.

By consolidating all of this information onto one platform, RWorld has became a repository for nearly 400,000 pieces of content—a number that’s growing every day. Nearly 21,000 people access the technology on a daily basis, generating nearly 4 million page views and 1.2 million sessions every single month. Workers can now connect with colleagues they may never meet, deepening relationships between coworkers who may have only connected a few times, and can collaborate on new, innovative ideas. Because of RWorld, Ricoh’s collective learning, or the amount of knowledge we can share and pass along to others, has grown exponentially—and that means nothing but good things for innovation and our future business plans. Harnessing the knowledge of 26,000 people is powerful.

Information should work for you, rather than the other way around. RWorld, and all of the content it contains, is available from any device (including tablets and smartphones), at any time, from anywhere in the world. This concept is at the heart of what we tell our customers every day, and it’s something we’ve tried to build within our own organization as well.

Is your intranet inviting to employees?

When building your internet, make it useful and engaging for both remote workers and those in the office.

Lindsay Forcino is an Enterprise Community Strategist for Ricoh USA, Inc., responsible for the strategy, design, support and implementation of global enterprise social collaboration platforms. She builds spaces and groups to support company-wide Jive initiatives, and works with leadership on strategy, requirements and system integration of various business applications.