A top national insurance group was growing quickly by acquisition. Over the past several years, the group had acquired over 30 insurance agencies across the country and integrated them into the larger group of over 600 associates in dozens of offices. This exceptional growth has made the group one of Inc. Magazine’s “Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies” in 2018.
With that staggering growth came a few pains, as one may expect. Through the acquisition process, new agencies and their staff were being added to the group but there weren’t a common set of shared tools for those agencies to work together, learn from each other, and generally share information of interest and importance to everyone in the group. With agencies spread across the country, the physical isolation often resulted in agents operating within information silos. The company needed a tool to open up sharing, communication, and collaboration across the entire group.
There are a number of off-the-shelf corporate intranet products available in the market. The problem with these tools is that they aren’t built for any particular company in mind — thus they are often weighed down by lots of features that not everyone wants or needs. This leads to low-levels of adoption and usage of intranets within many companies, which is a vast loss on investment and missed opportunity for better collaboration and information-sharing.
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Building Only What Is Needed
COLAB suggested building a custom intranet on the Drupal 8 content management system, which had only the features that the group needed most. This would serve a dual purpose. One, it would provide the staff with a tool that was focused on addressing their most pressing needs. Two, the company would be investing in only the software it needed, and not excessive or unnecessary features.
COLAB began the project by gaining a thorough understanding of the group’s needs by conducting several rounds of stakeholder interviews. This exercise was pivotal in defining the proper feature set to address the group’s most pressing pain points. These interviews yielded an understanding of the business’s needs that were slightly different from what the company had originally approached COLAB to build. In short, the requirements and definition process we undertook helped us build more precisely the set of tools that were targeted to create real business value for the group.
Additionally, COLAB followed many of the best practice recommendations suggested by the Nielsen Norman Group, especially with regard to user experience and adoption of intranets in cases of an acquisition or merger.
One of the most highly recommended and desirable features for any intranet, and the most valuable intranet feature according to Nielsen, is an employee address book or directory. COLAB built a directory in the Drupal CMS which was integrated with the group’s Azure Active Directory system, allowing all of the employee data to be synchronized automatically. The Active Directory integration also allows for single sign-on to the intranet, making it that much easier for staff to use. COLAB also integrated Apache Solr for powerful global search and Redis for caching to maintain site performance standards with many users logged in concurrently.
COLAB also built a suite of information sharing tools for documents, policies, and procedures. These tools allow brokers to access information about offerings, as well as share information about specialized policies or expertise. The tools enable the Human Resources team to better manage and coordinate with staff distributed across the country.
As a top national insurance group growing very fast through acquisitions, the company could not afford to have its business model disrupted by communication siloes. And, as a growing company regularly indoctrinating new agencies and employees, their growth could only succeed if they were able to communicate standard practices and processes across all parts of the business.
COLAB was able to provide them with the tools they needed, not only to keep growing, but to do so sustainably with greater efficiency and effectiveness. Since launch, the new intranet has created business efficiencies by saving hundreds of hours of manual communications via phone calls, emails, and physical mail. The intranet has also enjoyed high rates of employee adoption because its tools are focused on solving the group’s most pressing pain points as they grow.