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Getting fresh with Microsoft SharePoint
“The Fusion5 SharePoint consultant’s depth of knowledge, and proactive approach to finding simpler and better ways for the end-user to engage with the site, has been invaluable. Our goal has always been an easy, friendly system. And that’s been delivered.”Melissa Rowe, Quality Coordinator
Dairy Goat Co-operative (DGC) is the world's leading manufacturer of goat milk nutritional powder products. The Hamilton-based company is farmer-owned, and has over 200 staff. As a food manufacturer, a tight focus on quality and processes is critical to their success.
Melissa Rowe joined DGC as their Quality Coordinator in 2015. She was tasked with creating a centralised solution that provides DGC with a platform for effective internal business communications, that stores all their organisational documentation (with full version control), and has the level of document management compliance required for ISO auditing.
Although DGC had a 2007 version of Microsoft SharePoint in place, its potential had never been fully explored or realised. It hadn’t been professionally set up, it was poorly organised, the menu was overly complex, and critically, it failed to gain traction with users.
While the old solution held some documents, others were distributed in privately maintained folders on the shared drive, or existed only in hard copy. The site’s ‘search’ function didn’t work - so it was difficult to find documents, let alone be confident that you had the latest version. The outdated web parts – which are the building blocks of pages that appear on a SharePoint site - made it difficult to modify the content, appearance, and behaviour of the site’s pages.
“We knew we needed help,” said Rowe. “The site wasn’t engaging in looks or usability.”
An engaging solution
In 2015 Fusion5 were invited to demonstrate SharePoint 2013 to key DGC stakeholders. Based on the capabilities of both the latest version and the expertise of the Fusion5 SharePoint team, it was clear to DGC that a solution was at hand which would support all their objectives.
Rowe was the Coordinator of Transport and Quality Systems at Fonterra prior to joining DGC. This experience meant she brought a wealth of process knowledge to the design and set up of DGC’s new SharePoint site. Rowe worked closely with a Fusion5 SharePoint consultant to develop the creative and structural direction of the site. Rowe’s vision was of a site that was highly visual, clean, and intuitive.
Structurally, the new site needed clearly delineated sections so users could easily navigate and use it, upload content to the right place with minimal effort - and of course, find it again easily.
Delivering the vision
The starting point was an evaluation of how the old site managed the company’s needs against how it could be streamlined and improved. Rowe and Fusion5 built the foundations of the new site methodically and organically, over a period of six months.
The solution features a simplified menu showing the most popular items on the site. Content is easy to find with a working search function. By entering key words, the internet-style function brings up documents that fit the search parameter along with meta descriptions.
The personalised My Sites page allows users to ‘follow’ specific topics, people or the progress of a document. A newsfeed, much like Facebook, presents the latest company news and updates on activities and people users have marked as favourites. Forums encourage discussion on topics and projects, and automatically send notifications to ‘followers’ whenever new content is added.
Branded with DGC imagery and colourways, and using a series of stylised illustrations, the new site is intuitive and logical, and supports the engaging look Rowe was keen to create. The whole solution has the familiar feel of a good website, rather than presenting users with the sometimes daunting experience of a complex intranet.
Sales at a glance
DGC sales reports are now presented graphically on screen. Access to the reports is granted through user permissions, which are built into SharePoint’s functionality.
The graphics for each report are automatically updated each time the spreadsheets behind them are refreshed with new data. This presents one version of the truth so DGC management have full visibility of and access to the company’s sales performance.
The previous staff list was maintained manually. Now people profiles are grabbed from the Active Directory function and presented as a dynamic organisation chart. Staff contact details can be viewed in the context of who they work alongside, or who they report to. As soon as a new staff member is added by the HR department, their details automatically flow through to the chart, so it’s always up-to-date.
Rowe says this function has added considerable value. “Before, new staff data was input into four or five different systems. So we used to struggle with maintaining the organisational chart. Finding someone’s correct role and contact number could be challenging. Now that people are added to the org chart through Active Directory, any errors are obvious. It’s a lot easier to find people in the business.”
Rowe says that team feedback was encouraging from the outset. “We had some very positive comments from the communications team. They liked the clean and clear approach we took to the design and functionality. And as we started each new section we had feedback from other teams – like HR and Health and Safety - about how impressed and surprised they were with what SharePoint 2013 can do, especially compared with the old version.”
The new solution also delivered a different way to approach internal communications. Instead of playing round-robin with emails, staff now use message boards to discuss and advance projects. Every decision is tracked because messaging is consolidated in one place.
All internal messaging links directly back to content or activities to drive traffic to DGC’s SharePoint site. Rowe is confident, that in time, the old habits of saving documents on shared drives and generating unnecessary emails will change. The development of eForms on SharePoint for leave requests, expenses etc., has already encouraged more individual and team engagement with the solution.
Rowe envisages a time where the DGC SharePoint site becomes a single source of the truth for the company. SharePoint’s value to DGC will increase as it manages more and more processes. Paper forms will be replaced by online forms and approval workflows, especially for the HR team, will be automated.
Documents managed, ideas captured
Rowe is especially enthused by the new document management capabilities. “We’re still working on this part of the project, but it’s looking really, really good for the end user. All the work we’ve put in behind the scenes on how documents are controlled in the system is paying off. It’s now much easier for staff to update documents, so we’re expecting great improvements in that respect too.”
Adding metadata and descriptions to documents is an important part of the process. It enables users to locate documents quickly using SharePoint’s highly effective keyword search function.
DGC’s site also includes team-maintained Wikis where ideas are captured and shared by creating simple pages and linking them together. Once created, team members can add or edit content, or add supporting links. DGC teams can use the Wiki for planning, brainstorming, reference or to collect ideas for a large document or manual.
A delivered vision
As the site continues its evolution so does the vision. Buy-in from stakeholders is so positive that a long to-do list has been tabled, which will take at least another 12 months to complete.
Rowe’s full-time immersion in the project means a close and happy working relationship with Fusion5. “Their SharePoint consultant’s depth of knowledge, and proactive approach to finding simpler and better ways for the end-user to engage with the site, has been invaluable. Our goal has always been an easy, friendly system. And that’s been delivered.”
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