Transforming Portals into Digital Workspaces #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

Rebuilding aging portals is a daunting task. Years of accumulated knowledge and information are stored in portals that have become too big and too convoluted to function efficiently. The potential value of the information stored there is clear, but cleaning portals up and transforming them into a modern, flexible, and scalable digital workspace is no small feat. Our speakers discuss devising and executing a program to transform a dinosaur of a portal into an active hub of multilateral information exchange, describing how they did it and what they learned along the way. This includes the structured and patterned approach to redesign and rebuild the old portal in a systematic and predictable way; the role of internal social networks as tools for both communication and collaboration; the role of information items and contextual search as building blocks of information repositories; introducing the concepts of portal transformation to content owners who were initially resistant and functionally fixed; and selling the large information management project to C-level executives. Merck (known as MSD outside of the U.S. and Canada) is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop, and provide innovative products and services that save and improve lives around the world. Hear how it implemented a KM strategy for self-service that considered user experience-driven technology, as well as a change execution management methodology that included process, people, and content. Get tips and success factors on the case for change and the holistic solution for an IT self-service portal that included people, process, content, and technology components.


  • Craig St. Clair, Principal Consultant, Enterprise Knowledge LLC
  • Cindy Larson, Director, Digital Channels and Platforms, Adient
  • Karen Romano, Associate Director, Knowledge Management, Merck
  • Charles Denecke, Director, Global Operations Management, Merck

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2017 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]



Romano & Denecke – B101_Romano.docx
Romano & Denecke – B101_Romano.pptx
St._Clair & Larson – B101_St_Clair.pdf
St._Clair & Larson – B101_St_Clair(1).pdf




  • Cindy Larson:  They started with an old-fashioned portal site that they had rebranded after a mergers & acquisitions event(without changing the underlying functionality). So they were ripe for an upgrade. Their executives wanted something different, something new, something that users would truly miss if it went down.
  • Major Workstreams:
    • Productivity
    • Engagement
    • Collaboration
  • Constraints. They had to work incrementally. And they could not take the portal offline while doing the upgrade. It had to be fully functional during the transition.
  • Employee Communications. They expanded their Yammer use. In addition to existing peer-to-peer use, they now started using it for top-down corporate communications. To help identify corporate communications, they created a corporate “avatar” for the internal communications stream.
  • Content handling. They separated the all-company facing content from team content. Then they adjusted search scopes to ensure that the users got to the intended target quickly.
  • New Info Infrastructure
    • enterprise metadata and content types
    • common search facets
    • a patterned approach for interface and repository design
  • Prioritization Plan. They focused on content and processes in the following order
    • End-user value and importance
    • Relative size and complexity
    • Readiness of individual content owners
  • Repeatable Process. They created a process for tackling the huge amount of legacy content they had
    • Engage with content owners
    • Guide content owners through a cleanup of their legacy content
    • Extend the enterprise metadata and content types — but just as much as necessary
    • Extend the standard information  and document repositories
    • Migrate refreshed content
    • Build out contextual landing and search result pages
    • Launch and announce the newly transformed functional area
  • Marketing
    • they use internal social media announcements (via yammer and blog posts)
    • they talk up the changes in town halls and other meetings
  • To learn more about the Adient Portal effort: See the white paper that Cindy Larson and Craig St. Clair wrote

Merck: Self-Service for IT Support

  • Massive Support Requirements. The Global Support Center has close to 200,000 interactions with internal and external customers each month.
  • How they create content. They record support calls, capture the knowledge, and then use that knowledge to fill holes in their knowledge base.
  • Plan for change.
    • Stakeholder analysis
      • what behaviors do they need to learn?
      • what behaviors do they need to stop?
      • what behaviors do they need to continue?
    • Sponsorship requests — they were explicit about their asks. This clarified things for their sponsors and increased success.
    • Incent behaviors
    • Promote benefits
    • Measure effectiveness
      • They compared the results for Tier 0 (online self-service), Tier 1 (Helpdesk), and Tier 2 (specialized help)
      • They were looking for an increase in Tier 1 and a corresponding decline in Tier 1 requests
      • They use net promoter score to assess customer satisfaction
  • Marketing Plan
    • Digital
    • Signage
    • Onsite events
    • Having business leaders speak about the new service portal. “People don’t love the HelpDesk but they love the portal.”
  • Lessons Learned and What’s Next.
    • Before you start:
      • be prepared to demonstrate the business value of the proposed KM activities
      • strong sponsorship is a key enabler of change.
    • Plan for change — change is the hardest part of the process, not the new technology
    • Do extensive end-user interviews and testing. Then listen to them carefully to discern user requirements.
    • Forget about perfection. Use an agile approach: improve and iterate.
    • What’s next: keep track of progress and share results with sponsors (to maintain their commitment) and with users (to maintain their engagement).