The Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Foreign Ministry for short) decided in spring 2012 to upgrade its intranet because the existing NetCommunity software had reached the end of its service life.
Work started in April 2012 with an in-house specification project based on the Foreign Ministry’s strategic values: information sharing, transparency and cooperation.
“We wanted to get rid of the ‘siloed’ way of processing information. We wanted every employee to be able to find the information they need easily. Another objective was to facilitate interaction between employees and management,” says Project Manager Sirpa Astala of the Foreign Ministry.
The Ministry put the SharePoint development project out to open tender. The upgrade, now completed, was part of these development efforts. The contract was awarded to Affecto and the cooperation agreement signed in February 2013. As part of the bidding process, the suppliers were asked to complete a test project, which weighed heavily in the evaluation of the bids. Affecto passed the test with flying colours.
“The test case gave a good indication of the capabilities to resolve problems and an opportunity to get to know the people we would be working with,” says Astala.
Since much of the specifications had been prepared in-house, the project got off to brisk start right after the summer holiday season in 2013. The project was carried out using the Scrum framework. It was completed a little more than year later in December 2014.
“We didn’t want to carve the date of completion in stone because we knew that things always crop up in a project of this size that need to be addressed in order to achieve the best outcome. However, we did pretty well in terms of being able to stick to both the original specifications and the planned timeframe,” explains Astala.
Cooperation with the Affecto people was smooth throughout the project. “We had a good project manager from Affecto right from the start of the implementation. It was important to us that the experts were physically present on our premises learning about our work all the time. It was easy to test ideas and experiment with the people working side by side.”
The new intranet was rolled out on the eve of Independence Day in 2014 on a festive staff occasion at which the top civil servants voiced their support for the reform.
The biggest benefit offered by the new system is that all the information required by the users is available at a single location. This has also contributed to rethinking and a revision of the old ways of working as users have learnt to make full use of the new transparency and been able to rid themselves of the ‘siloed’ mode of operation.
Now, the users also have the right to produce content for the intranet whereas previously it was only provided by select editors.
“Employees are now free to post news and the discussion forums are right there on the start page. This has increased transparency and the discussions have been quite lively right from the beginning.”
The electronic desktop is divided into two sections. Half consists of communications intended for all and the other half of the contents of the workspaces, which are displayed according to the workspace the user belongs to.
“We’ve improve internal communications by placing the extranet news feed on the front page. Users can also post RRS feeds on the desktop on topics that they find interesting.”
The new desktop has improved the search functions tremendously. “The extensive and reliable search function is one of the key elements of the desktop. It is used for highlighting issues and composing content.”
Now that the extensive upgrade is finished, cooperated with Affecto continues in the form of minor SharePoint development tasks and various project plans. No wonder!