Our client is a non-profit water utility company that serves over 430,000 customers across South Central Connecticut. They wished to improve the overall usability and user experience of their employee intranet and enhance the customer experience of their public-facing websites. They also wanted to transition to a new Azure hosting provider.
Chateaux was recommended to the client based on the award-winning web development work they provided for another water utility. Chateaux’s expertise in digital transformation, Managed Service Provider (MSP) program, and experience with utility clients was the perfect match for this initiative.
Since the client had multiple priorities of varying scale, Chateaux’s first step was to begin a discovery phase to assess the client’s needs. First, Chateaux interviewed the client’s team of subject matter experts (SME) from various specialty groups within the company. After reviewing feedback, Chateaux met with the client to discuss areas for improvement and explore opportunities for digital transformation.
After the evaluation, Chateaux and the client determined that a multiphase approach would be best for this initiative.
Azure Hosting Migration
The client sought a new managed service provider (MSP) to take over their Azure hosting, which was supported by another third-party vendor. Using limited database backups and source code, the Chateaux team rebuilt the hosting environment, including replicating code copies, setting up pipelines in Azure DevOps, and deploying to the new environment. Other steps required included API integrations, such as Bing search; new email service provider setup using SendGrid; integration for Google Analytics and widgets like Google Translation; and reCAPTCHA configuration.
After migrating the client’s websites, Chateaux transitioned to support mode, providing technical support to ensure the websites were up and running and business user support to client team members.
Our client’s existing intranet was built with WordPress and was no longer fit for purpose. The existing WordPress theme limited the presentation options and did not provide interactive functionality. The primary goal of the new intranet was to reorganize it for the best user experience, including making content easier to find, adding search capabilities, and digitizing static items. Because the client was adopting and rolling out Microsoft 365, using SharePoint for the new intranet was a natural fit.
Benefits of the new SharePoint intranet include:
- Microsoft Environment Benefits
Users will no longer require VPN access to log into the intranet since they can authenticate with their Microsoft login. Now service representatives can access the intranet and forms remotely via mobile phones when working in the field. Other convenient advantages include the integration with other products, such as Microsoft Teams, and the option to use the SharePoint mobile app. Managers can now build out the intranet quickly and easily using drag-and-drop layout builders and make use of web parts or web widgets.
- Enhanced Document Access
One of the top reasons users access the intranet is to find internal documents such as HR forms and company policies. The existing intranet hosted these documents as a series of links on a single page; this was visually overwhelming and made it hard to find information quickly. A reorganized document structure with simplified navigation and a new search feature allows users to find needed items quickly and easily.
- Form Digitization
Previously, forms were only available as PDFs or Word documents, and many were unfillable. Now, many forms are accessible in Microsoft Forms for faster, easier data input and simplified, more accurate data collection.
- New Interactive Org Chart
Colleague information, such as contact details or department organization, was another key use of the intranet. A built-in organization chart web part now grabs all user data from the integrated Microsoft 365 employee profiles inside Active Directory, making department structures, reporting lines, and record information accurate and easier to identify.
Chateaux created a Hub within SharePoint with a number of subsites to maintain a repository of thematic references. The Hub site showcases information about the client, such as news and general information for employees. A Crisis subsite was created for emergency information. Currently, this space houses Covid-related information. (Creating a categorial subsite that is not overly specific allows for it to be used for various like-purposes in the future.) The Communication subsite offers a single location where news articles and other internal messaging can be referenced. The client can also elect to generate a digest from posted information and email it to their constituency. This automates what was formally an internal newsletter process. The Safety subsite provides access to crucial workplace safety policies and guidelines, and the HR subsite provides access to content related to onboarding, benefits, and other HR-related information.
- Future Enhancements
As the client begins to navigate the intranet, more features can be added. For instance, permissioning is available if certain subsites require visibility to specific groups only. The templates that were created allow users to make new sites connected to the Hub, allowing better scalability as the company grows.
Website Enhancements and Support
The client offers a new well insurance program for well owners in Connecticut. Chateaux created a small website to support this program and modeled it off of the client’s existing site for a similar program.
They also recently acquired a plumbing company that supports similar services. They needed a small website to highlight the plumbing services, so Chateaux created a site using the Umbraco CMS to match.
Chateaux’s Digital Transformation team successfully implemented, designed, and supported the varying client initiatives to improve the overall digital user and consumer experience. The client’s hosting infrastructure is now managed by Chateaux and includes ongoing support, as needed. The client’s internal SharePoint intranet provides greater usability and enhanced functionality with opportunities for even more enhancements in the future. Public website redesigns and multisite initiatives are ongoing.