Leverages Handshake Software’s Relationship Framework and SharePoint technology to showcase industry leading intranet portal
Known for its uniquely collegial culture that emphasizes collaboration to support client needs, Perkins Coie has longprovided a user-focused intranet portal to help foster internal communications and knowledge sharing. In 2014, the firm unveiled a brand “refresh” to further energize its internal and external audiences. The Perkins Coie Connections Portal redesign, completed in July of 2014, was part of this brand rejuvenation and epitomizes what a firm can accomplish while leveraging the foundation of a solidly performing intranet portal.
Firm rebrand: challenging the status quo
Once the portal project was prioritized, the firm quickly established a methodical planning process and execution strategy vital to the intranet re-launch. The firm partnered closely with Handshake Software, the leading provider of Microsoft SharePoint-based products and services for law firms, to translate their business and communication vision into a new and improved SharePoint portal reality. Specifically, a Perkins Coie technology group worked collaboratively with the Handshake Software development team to plan, prioritize and ultimately deliver SharePoint 2010 as the architectural back-bone of the firm’s newly launched Connections intranet.
“We wanted to make our intranet more interactive; get users more engaged; encourage sharing, collaborating and connecting; and instill a sense of community that is reflective of Perkins Coie’s culture.”
Karen Clanton, Director of Internal Communications
“The core objective for our Connections intranet redesign was straightforward … focus on the front/home page as the initial focal point for all communications and user collaboration and site interaction,” noted Karen Clanton, Director of Internal Communications, whose team was tasked with keeping content fresh and user interest high. “Overall, we wanted to make our intranet more interactive; get users more engaged; encourage sharing, collaborating and connecting; and instill a sense of community that is reflective of Perkins Coie’s culture.”
According to Mark Thorogood, the Director of Application Services, Perkins Coie initially developed an aggressive six month timeline, from concept to delivery. “Based on our thorough pre-planning process, a well executed project management plan, the technology capabilities afforded by the Handshake portal toolkit, and the overall dynamic and proactive communication between the Perkins team and Handshake’s engineers, we were able to deliver the portal ahead of schedule. As a result, we leveraged the additional hours at our disposal to include 50 percent more functionality than originally planned.”
Technology highlights of the Perkins Coie Connections portal include:
- Personal(ized) user experience: Handshake Software’s Relationship Framework architecture and pre-defined integrations for Microsoft SharePoint have enabled the Perkins Coie team to create its user-centric, needs-based portal. The firm has utilized Handshake web parts to configure the home page based on maximum visibility and use. The firm also delivered a streaming media/video platform that now gives users a ‘YouTube-like’ experience without having to leave the SharePoint portal. The breadth of the Handshake portal tools as well as the ease of use and integration enabled this unprecedented level of personalization.
- SharePoint 2013 Search integration: Prior to integrating SharePoint 2013 Search within the new Connections portal, firm users where unable to search for document (and related DMS) content from within their intranet home page. Limitations of previous third party search tools were addressed by adapting a hybrid SharePoint 2010/2013 approach to enable SP 2013 enterprise search functionality. Perkins was able to embed full search within the portal enabling users to search all HP Worksite DMS content within SharePoint and pulling content in from a multitude of external searches and sources.
Mr. Thorogood further summarizes the Handshake software value proposition: “Handshake provides a flexible and rapid system to design and deploy intranets which is easy to learn and straightforward to make changes. In addition, the use of standard technologies makes it extremely browser friendly and easy to extend.”
Firm challenges – portal solutions
The Connections portal re-launch last summer has enabled the firm to address several challenges that typically plague intranets, making them repositories of stale content and impeding overall usability. “Perkins is well known for being a great place to work and our intranet needed to reflect the thriving collaborative culture the firm embraces,” said Ms. Clanton. “Our overall challenge was to create a content strategy that engaged readers and offer tools and a design geared toward users’ productivity. The combination of content strategy, utility and design was our focal point.”
Challenge: Provide compelling content on an ongoing basis.
Solution: The main news area was transformed from a text driven display of 5 articles to a news section that is rich in its use of images and displays 10-11 stories at a time. The Internal Communications team created an editorial calendar centered on publishing 1 – 2 lead news stories per day and 1 – 2 brief stories to a section of stories that rotate beneath the feature. Because of the visibility of the news and the ease of submitting news (through use of a ‘Submit News’ form created by the Internal Communications team), the team receives story ideas from every corner of the firm and is consistently managing a backlog of content.
Challenge: Allow customization that appeals to all users and individual interests and needs.
Solution: Users value quick access to the tools and resources that they use the most. The firm’s legacy intranet system was completely customizable. When the firm moved to a format that created a common, shared experience, users liked the change, but still wanted some ability to tailor content to their role and preferences. Role-based content includes an “Attorney Finance Summary,” which provides a snapshot of key metrics for timekeepers. A “My Picks” section allows users to create a quick path to frequently used sites, whether to locations on the Connections site (such as an office page or department page) or to external sites.
Solution: The updated site is more interactive and more communal showcasing firm culture and how users interact with one another. This was achieved by adding new social features to the bottom half of the home page including the “Perkins poll,” a user survey designed to highlight interests and showcase popular culture; the “Perkinsgram,” a ‘submit-your-favorite-photo’ section based on popular themes such as “What I Did this Summer” and “Holiday Traditions;” and a “Quote of the Day” area that features quotes related to the firm’s brand principles of excellence and client service and sometimes features firm leaders.
“Handshake provides a flexible and rapid system to design and deploy intranets which is easy to learn and straightforward to make changes. In addition, the use of standard technologies makes it extremely browser friendly and easy to extend.”
Mark Thorogood, Director of Application Services
Challenge: Maintain user engagement across the entire Connections home page.
Solution: The development of the site flow and overall placement of content was done strategically to balance showcasing updated news and drawing readers’ attention to other social and interactive areas of the site. While the top of the Connections homepage is dedicated to users’ business — main news, financials, relevant events, documents, etc., the bottom half is focused on social and culture aspects that drive connectivity and encourage collaboration, not only with the site but other portal users.
According to Gwyn McAlpine, Perkins Coie’s Director of Knowledge Management Services, the ‘new and improved’ site is a major step forward, especially in terms of usability and content organization. “Our new Connections home page better organizes news, relevant links and other information and makes better use of the real estate on that page, addressing frustration in accessing content and a desire for more interactivity.”
So what’s next for the Perkins Coie Connections portal? As both Ms. McAlpine and Ms. Clanton pointed out, the firm portal is ever evolving to meet the current and future needs of the firm’s users. Future development will focus on providing more audience-focused content and better access to information especially as it relates to specific departments, offices or practice pages. In addition, the firm’s technology team is exploring ways to make the new portal pages even more social and interactive by integrating more blogs and wikis, using Yammer for collaborative messaging, and even exploring portal gamification options.