An inside view of the Danish National Police's award-winning intranet
An inside view of the Danish National Police's award-winning intranet. PHOTO: Danish National Police

The Danish National Police (the Rigspolitiet) took home the Danish Intranet Prize for 2018. The annual prize, awarded by Danish intranet consultancy IntraTeam, is open to organizations outside of Denmark and is based on an annual benchmarking exercise and competitive process that considers user reaction to the new intranet.

As a group of users, police officers are straight-talking and need something that “just works” — they are not the easiest group to impress. To get the best benchmark score across many other organizations is a sign the intranet team is doing something right.

It’s also impressive that the new intranet succeeds within such a complex organization. The new intranet replaces a previously chaotic landscape, serving up content at  the national, district and local levels. Intranet manager Cecilie Rask explained, “We had a lot of different sites — an old unsupported intranet from 2002, an HR portal and a Knowledge Bank for police operations. This was not fair on employees and an absolute nightmare from a content management perspective.”

Per Birk, SharePoint Technical Lead and technical lead on the intranet project, added, “Several police districts also had their own intranet and didn’t share any content. In the police we work with both national guidelines, but also have supplementary local guidelines and documents. Before the new intranet there was a massive duplication of content, some of which was out of date, and users had to look in more than one place for the information they needed. A key requirement of the new intranet was to present national and local content on the same page for users.”

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Getting the Intranet Project Off the Ground

The Danish National Police’s complex structure, multiple stakeholders and vast amount of content made getting the intranet project off the ground challenging. In fact, two previous attempts to create a new intranet failed to gain traction.

Rask believed the project was successful this time around because stakeholders realized the project was more about business and cultural change than just a technical implementation. This was reflected in a highly active steering committee. “We had senior representatives from IT, HR, Communications, National Police and Local Police. They were so committed to the change and really cared about even the small details. They were a very valuable sounding board.”

Their commitment to the new intranet continued after the intranet was launched, as they remain involved in the platform. 

Although planning for the project started in late 2015, the main development only commenced in January 2017. The actual intranet launched in May 2017, with the last legacy intranet finally turned off on Jan. 1, 2018. The intranet is based on SharePoint 2013 and is a combination of custom-built web parts, with some functionality provided by SharePoint intranet-in-a-box provider Wizdom.

Danish National Police intranet
The homepage of the new intranet from the Danish National Police. Content is targeted based on a user’s profile.

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Success With Collaboration

One of the big successes for the platform has been with collaboration. Rask said, “We are not really a social intranet, but we do have about 70 project rooms and collaboration sites running where people share and exchange knowledge, both at the national and local level. Some rooms are open and some are closed and we use them for some key things such as coordinating the activities of our two main call centres in Denmark, or our National Traffic Centre project. We also have Communities of Practice.”

Adoption was quite slow initially until the team deliberately simplified the experience. Birk explained, “When we first launched it was hard to get people to use team rooms, but we stripped it all back, so a site is now primarily a news feed and a document library. The site manager can then add additional features such as milestones and project plans, depending on what they want to use the room for.”

Targeted Content Drives Communications on the Intranet

The intranet uses a blend of communications. News is generally delivered as more traditional intranet articles (with pictures), while shorter and more functional announcements are also shared. 

At the centre of the intranet’s success is the ability to target content right down to the police-station level, which means in effect there are 160 different audiences to target. “We have national and local channels,” explained Rask. “The national channel is mandatory. If there is something everyone needs to know about it will be there. There’s also regional content and items about the building you work in which tend to be very practical information. When you view the homepage of the intranet, you see the news that’s relevant to you.”

The intranet has also seen an increase in the use of video, both for news and for learning and knowledge-sharing. For example, some videos explain advanced techniques, such as how to take a DNA sample from a steering wheel. Rask feels video is a more suitable format for time-pressured staff. “Many police spend very little time in front of a computer. A video is going to be much easier to digest than six articles. We see video as a huge growth area.”

Danish National Police topic page
A topic page on the intranet about forensic policing, which features tagged documents and also a subject-specific search

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Improvements in Tagging and Search

The ability to successfully target content to users has been driven by a comprehensive and uniform approach to subject tagging. Birk explained, “What we have that is unusual compared to many other intranets is that every single document and page is tagged, both using controlled terms and user-driven tagging. It is mandatory to tag your content!” This uniform tagging drives both the ability to target content, but also allows users to subscribe to content on different topics.

The tagging has also been instrumental in a huge leap forward in search. With some advice from search consultant Agnes Molnar, Birk worked diligently to reinvent search for the Danish National Police. However, this involved significant efforts on the information management side of things.

“Although we moved from 54 to 14 police districts in 2009, our document model had remained chaotic. Previously no one had succeeded in making it uniform, not only because it was a huge logistical challenge but because many stakeholders didn’t want to change. But for this project we managed to change the document model, even reducing 54 document types to seven. That’s a huge achievement in a conservative organization like the Danish Police. It was really the key which allowed us to produce a world-class intranet. Now we can do proper content targeting and enterprise search. For example, you can look for a subject, use refiners and then find the action card for your region. And we’ve even been able to already improve the search experience.”

The improvements in search is delighting users. Birk added, “The majority of users are actually saying the search is excellent. We can find things! One said it is almost as good as Google. I think that’s a huge accomplishment and it will help us to start changing behaviours. Many people stopped searching and got out of the habit and now we have to teach people how to search again.”

A Culture of Continuous Improvement

So far, user feedback has been very positive, apart from a few users who were upset by the introduction of the new intranet. Rask said, “When things haven’t changed since 2002, restructuring everything doesn’t make you a hero. We are not awarded membership of the most popular club because we changed things!”

But any negative feedback makes the team determined to continue improving the intranet. They are looking to introduce more video, tighten up governance (potentially with different topic owners), enhancing search and also respond to user needs. Having the standardized tagging also puts them in a position of strength to develop even more intelligent searches and use artificial intelligence to push relevant content to individuals.

Rask explained, “We knew the intranet wasn’t going to be perfect from day one. We wanted to make something that we can change along the way and take a more organic approach. There is no such thing as a perfect intranet because it is always changing and transforming. It is never a finished product.”

Winning the Danish Intranet Prize

And how does it feel to be awarded the Danish Intranet Prize? Birk said, “We’re really really proud. I think in the public sector we’re less used to being recognized for making great systems. Now other government institutions and other organizations are reaching out to us and wanting to understand how we’ve gone about improving the intranet.” 

The recognition is also positive within the Danish National Police. Birk added, “It’s a real feather in our cap. After we won the Award and I came back to work, everyone was congratulating me.”

Although Rask and Birk worked extremely long hours on the project, they are modest about their own contributions. Rask said, “When we won the Award we sent out an email with a huge 'thank you; to our Steering Group and to our editors, including those working out in the regions. They are the real heroes in this project. We could not have won this without the contributions of a wide group of people.”