As a Microsoft National Systems Integrator and a participant in the SharePoint 2010 Partner Evaluation Program (PEP), Ironworks has been hands-on with SharePoint 2010 since 2009. Most recently we launched a new corporate intranet for one of our clients here in the Richmond area.
Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, Luck Stone Corporation is one of the largest, family-owned and operated aggregates companies in the U.S. and is one of the largest producers of crushed stone in the nation. Luck Stone is also a leading architectural stone and tennis court supplier with operations in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland.
The Business Challenge
With a business model spanning 4 distinct brands and more than 30 geographically dispersed offices and an enterprise content management strategy that was entirely dependent upon file shares, public folders, and email, Luck Stone required a platform for both content management and collaboration that could help the organization better leverage its existing data and expertise.
Luck Stone’s overreliance upon public folders had resulted in terabytes of document content that were completely unclassified and difficult to manage. The organization had no system in place for managing content review or expiration. IT resources were required to provision new folders, manage permissions, and assist with finding content buried in nested folders.
Luck Stone was also in need of a platform for disseminating corporate news and announcements that could drive the organization’s values-based culture. As a communication tool, email was not meeting all of the organization’s needs. Information disseminated via email was not publicly discoverable or available for reuse through other communication channels. Additionally, the email communication model was not conducive to the two-way idea sharing that management hoped to foster with associates.
Finally, Luck Stone identified a need for implementing a consolidated platform for hosting line of business systems. Luck Stone envisioned a “one-stop-shop” where users could access business reporting tools and other back-end systems.
It is significant to note that Luck Stone had tried and failed to implement an intranet portal twice prior to engaging with Ironworks. Numerous factors had contributed to the failures including functional limitations and a lack of end user adoption.
Luck Stone partnered with Ironworks Consulting, a Managed Gold partner and National Systems Integrator, to develop a corporate intranet built upon SharePoint 2010. Leveraging Enterprise edition features as well as Office Communication Server; the solution delivers a unified platform for content management and collaboration while also paving the way for significant business process improvements.
Implementing a Custom Taxonomy
In the area of content management, the solution leverages the new managed metadata service, document sets, and content type publication to apply a custom taxonomy developed by Ironworks. The content types and site columns implemented were the end result of a comprehensive taxonomy definition phase that included an intensive review of the organization’s content. The intranet capitalizes on SharePoint’s existing content management strengths to deliver versioning, information management policies, records retention, and publishing workflows.
Leveraging Managed Metadata
Ironworks leveraged SharePoint Search to build a comprehensive information access solution to reduce the time to find information and increase productivity and end user adoption. A combination of the Search Core Results web part and Ironworks’ suite of custom-developed search controls were used to deliver a robust associate directory, a directory of vendor companies and a custom utility for managing frequently asked questions. Additionally, standard configuration, the new Refinement Panel web part and use of federation services were leveraged to deliver a much acclaimed Search Center experience.
Luck Stone's SharePoint 2010 Search Center
Leveraging Collaboration Features
Luck Stone’s goal of developing greater interaction and discussion among employees was enabled by developing a cohesive use of Blogs, discussion boards and wikis, all branded with a unified look and feel. In addition to these features, the new capabilities included with the My Sites as well as the tagging and commenting integration have proven especially popular with Luck Stone associates. Team sites have been leveraged to deliver a platform for project-centric collaboration, with unit-specific team site templates developed for targeted user groups.
Customizing the Look and Feel
Implementation of a custom look and feel for the Luck Stone site was accomplished through the use of SharePoint Designer 2010. Using a custom control and varied cascading style sheets, Ironworks delivered audience-targeted brand-specific design for each of Luck Stone’s core business units. In this way, associates from individual business units experience a different look and feel when accessing the same site. The solution has played a key role in fostering the high degree of end user adoption that Luck Stone hoped to achieve.
Audience-targeted look and feel
Enhanced Functionality through Custom Solutions
Luck Stone and Ironworks leveraged Visual Studio 2010, and took advantage of its dramatically enhanced support for SharePoint development. New SharePoint project templates helped to streamline the development of custom web parts, features and workflow.
The custom web parts developed included an Inbox Link control that ties into the organization’s OWA server to surface a link to the logged on user’s mailbox and a count of the user’s unread emails. Also developed was a suite of connected web parts that deliver weather, traffic, safety incident data, and driving directions specific to each of Luck Stone’s office locations. Embedded in the landing pages for each of the location web sites, the controls display the location-specific information based upon a connected page field filter. The location data is all managed centrally in a SharePoint list at the root of the primary site collection.
Issue Management interface for the Ironworks Newsletter Utility
Ironworks developed several custom features as part of the implementation. Ironworks’ Analytics feature adds a custom interface for managing Google Analytics integration to the intranet’s site settings page. Through the combination of a custom control embedded in the site masterpage and a user interface for setting Google application ID values at the site level, the solution facilitates granular management of analytical reporting. Ironworks also developed a newsletter utility that deploys as a custom feature. The custom application stores all newsletter content, including attachments, in SharePoint lists and comes complete with an easy to use administrative interface that supports different levels of access for authors and editors. The utility scales to support multiple newsletters and includes the ability to send out newsletters as HTML-formatted emails. This feature has played a significant role in Luck Stone’s updated communication strategy.
Audience targeting plays a major role in ensuring the intranet’s relevance to a highly segmented user base. To streamline the audience targeting process Ironworks developed a custom workflow which when associated with a particular list or library will automatically target the content in the list to a specified audience.
Custom Page Layout Content Type used to deliver FAQ functionality
Out-of-the-Box Business Process Improvement
The initial release of the corporate intranet includes the deployment and configuration of Excel Services which is used to surface key quarterly financial data to business users. The subsequent release of the Luck Stone intranet will include the development of a full complement of KPIs and dashboard components that leverage the PowerPivot and PerformancePoint tools now integrated into the Enterprise edition.
Delivering the Solution and Fostering End User Adoption
Strategy sessions related to the project began in August of 2009, with development beginning on the beta release of SharePoint 2010 in the fall of 2009. From the initial kick-off meeting through to final delivery, Ironworks worked with the Luck Stone team to build the case for end user adoption. Through inclusive strategy sessions with business stakeholders, the development of an internal “roadshow”, and day-long company-wide training sessions, Luck Stone and Ironworks paved the way for broad-based user adoption. With the release of the RTM build of SharePoint 2010 in April and the subsequent completion of content migration, the Luck Stone corporate intranet went live at noon on June 22, 2010, just 2 months after the RTM release of SharePoint 2010.
Early in the project, Luck Stone identified several key areas where they expected to realize a return on their SharePoint 2010 investment. These areas were as follows:
1) Infrastructure Cost Savings: The transition away from shared drives and public folders built on top of fixed infrastructure to a virtualized environment that leverages SAN storage achieves a more flexible, scalable, and cost efficient solution for document storage.
2) IT Resource Productivity: The introduction of self-service site creation and a role-based security model frees up IT resources that had previously served as the gatekeepers for provisioning public folders and managing access rights.
3) Process Automation: Moving the dissemination of key data (quarterly financials) out of manually generated reports and into Excel Services (and eventually a comprehensive BI solution) will speed the organization’s ability to identify and respond to evolving business and financial trends.
4) “Findability” Improvements: Implementation of a comprehensive enterprise search solution now allows users to find content that was previously lost in nested public folders and shared drives.
5) Cross-Business Collaboration:The intranet now provides a means for discovering resources and expertise across the organization. Associates from different business units can easily share ideas and identify areas for mutual business improvement.
6) Cultural Cohesion: Through the intranet, the business can better coordinate companywide communications, foster brand identity and build corporate loyalty.