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NCIs Gateway

How we built an extranet for the CofE’s National Church Institutions.

Large organisations spread across multiple locations invariable need ways to share information, resources and culture.

The Church of England’s National Church Institutions (NCIs) was no different. Several hundred staff in 6 buildings across England all needed a single source of truth for their collective activities. They had an intranet that had served them well, but it was limited to LAN or VPN access, wasn't user friendly, and was roundly disliked by all.

We were invited to explore what replacing that tool could look like. As with all projects, we started with the users. Replacing an key internal tool is always a source of stress, even when the old is loathed and the new is necessary. So we wanted to ensure that we were fixing the right things, rather than replacing a tool with another that was just differently broken.

We began therefore with a series of discovery interviews with a full cross-section of the stakeholder groups. We met with representatives of every department, users and admins, and got to the bottom of their gripes.

From that we built a system which addressed their pains. A system that was easy to use, and keep up to date; that allowed teams to communicate and share knowledge; that revealed expertise across-departments instead of siloing them; that was accessible everywhere without a VPN, including on mobile devices. In short, a extranet that sort to solve its users problems - and nothing else.

The tool was built in 2014, and it’s been so successful in that time that the team responsible for it wanted to build on it, rather than replace it. As a result, we’ve just finished a major upgrade, building on the solid foundation of user research we began with.

We knew we’d done our job though, when we received this feedback: 

“Compared to Sharepoint - it’s the easiest system I’ve ever used. It’s limited in the right places which makes it not daunting.”

High praise!

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