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Providing quick and easy access to corporate information presents companies with a competitive advantage. Grant Thornton LLP, an independent audit, tax and advisory firm, found that its intranet was becoming outdated. So the company turned to Rightpoint, a digital transformation agency, for assistance and implemented a digital workspace, which has increased employee engagement, improved search accuracy and extended its capabilities to mobile users.
Founded in 1924, Grant Thornton LLP is the U.S. arm of Grant Thornton International Ltd., a conglomerate with 42,000 employees located in more than 120 countries. The U.S. business advisory firm, which has 8,500 employees and generated $1.8 billion in its last fiscal year, has an intranet internal knowledge base that makes information, such as state and federal tax codes, available to employees.
Showing its age
The knowledge base application, which runs on Microsoft SharePoint, was installed in 2007. "The system was elegant for its time, but was showing its age," said Doug Kalish, the deputy chief knowledge officer at Grant Thornton LLP.
Its limitations had become more pronounced. Keeping the content, which included about 25,000 documents, up to date was time-consuming because the system was highly customized. The application was not user-friendly. It ran on only one browser, Internet Explorer, and did not work well with mobile devices. The search features were limited and access required users to work with a cumbersome virtual private network.
In early 2018, Grant Thornton LLP decided to upgrade the system. The firm relied heavily on Microsoft business applications and already had a license for Office 365. Moving to another vendor would mean additional software costs and integration challenges. Finally, like most businesses, Grant Thornton LLP wanted to move quickly, and sticking with Microsoft eliminated the challenges in deploying completely new software.
The professional services firm then began evaluating potential partners that could help with the update. They broke the process down into two rounds of evaluations, which took about four months. First, they went through a technical discovery phase. Then they conducted a listening tour where they tried to better understand how the employees worked and what functionality they desired.
Rightpoint, a 12-year old business with 450 employees in 10 offices, emerged as the winner. "We liked their vision," Kalish said. Rather than providing a canned presentation, the channel partner went to a whiteboard and started brainstorming about how the new system would work.
Rightpoint's digital workspace background also came into play. "We have helped more than 1,000 companies deploy this type of system," explained Jeremy Williams, senior director, productivity and collaboration at the company. "So we have seen a lot of different scenarios and can put that experience to use for others."
Taking a simple approach
Grant Thornton LLP wanted to make sure that the system was up and running before its busy period -- the first four months of the year -- started. In April 2018, they created a roadmap and began working on system functionality. "We wanted to keep the initial implementation as clean and simple as possible," Kalish noted. So, they started with basic search and personalization functions.
But the deployment hit a few blips. In some cases, the company needed to upgrade employees' systems, network connections or browsers. Also, Grant Thornton LLP needed to create a change management system to track upgrades to any of the components.
Doug KalishDeputy chief knowledge officer, Grant Thornton LLP
Rather than do a typical small-pilot test, Grant Thornton LLP in December 2018 implemented the system throughout the organization simultaneously. One morning the firm's 8,500 employees arrived and the new system was running. "We kept the beta label on for three to four months," Kalish said. The professional services firm had to complete numerous tweaks but avoid any major snafus as employees became comfortable with the new system, dubbed Canvas.
Benefits of the digital workspace include one-stop shopping: employees don't have to go multiple places to find relevant information about their clients. In addition, the firm added new external free and paid news sources. And the personalization feature profiles each employee, providing details on his or her role, industry, office and contact information.
The digital workspace upgrade has resulted in a 99% increase in the number of employees who use the intranet regularly, while increasing search efficiency by 100% and boosting mobile device support by 500%.
Preparing for upgrades
Employees interacted with the system in surprising ways. Certain senior leaders were not tech-savvy and required handholding, while millennials did not use mobile options as much as expected. "The millennials seem to separate work from their personal life, which is represented by their phones, so they often will not use them to examine corporate data," Kalish said.
Grant Thornton LLP is now beginning a second phase, one that will include various upgrades. "Now, a lot of management eyes are on us because they see the potential impact this application can have on the organization," Kalish said. The organization is looking at incorporating chatbots and machine learning into the application.
Rightpoint will continue to play a role in the next transition. "Rightpoint has been a great teammate and partner," Kalish concluded. "They came to the table with a lot of design and implementation experience so we quickly got a lot of out of the system and expect it to become even more helpful in the future."