Tanya Houseman - Data + UX Research, Design, Strategy
Data + Ux is kind of like peanut butter + jellly

ICF SharePoint Rebuilt

Replacing an old intranet with SharePoint 2013

ICF International, a professional services company, had an 18-year-old intranet. It had no search, and did not support the international company ICF had grown into. It needed a modern intranet that would help its consultants quickly find information and collaborate.

My role

I led the content strategy, including the organizational research, business requirements, stakeholder interviews, information architecture, ontology/taxonomy development, content inventories/audits, content migration, adoption strategies, content development, content lead training, metrics strategy, governance, developing internal branding guidelines, and daily platform management.


Content Management, Writing, Editing, Information Architecture, User Research, Taxonomy Development, Content Inventory/Audit, Knowledge Management, Presentation Development, Photo Editing, Presentation


SharePoint, PhotoShop, PowerPoint, Microsoft Office, Excel, Visio

The Challenge

ICF International offers advisory and implementation in strategy and policy analysis, program management, project evaluation and other services.

In addition, ICF had acquired more than 10 companies over the previous 10 years, including firms outside the U.S. that gave the company an expanded presence in Europe, Asia, and South America. Since one-quarter of the employees joined ICF through acquisitions, the company wanted to develop a "One ICF" framework in which all employees could come together in a central, interactive, collaborative space to share multidisciplinary knowledge and cross-cutting expertise and find information relevant to them based on their location, operating group, and interests.

The site supports more than 4,500 employees and contractors based at headquarters in the Washington, CD, area or who work in more than 60 corporate offices, project sites, client sites, or telework in the U.S., Canada, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

ICF had an intranet, however, it was built in Lotus Domino in 1996. The platform was no longer supported by IBM, and did not feature social sharing, an ontology/taxonomy, or updated content. By 2011, corporate business services and corporate IT decided to upgrade and modernize the company intranet.

ICF launched one of the first corporate intranets built on SharePoint 2013 in April 2013 to replace a 17-year-old platform.

Part of the goal was to refresh and consolidate content that was stored in multiple locations into a single hub for knowledge and collaboration. The old intranet's information architecture was based on the company's internal organizational structure, which had changed through the years. The new intranet was reorganized from the employees' perspective -- how and where they might look for information rather than who "owns" it.

Competitive/Comparative Analysis

We worked with a consultant from the Intranet Benchmark Forum to help us develop a strategy, goals, and technology choices for the build. It was decided early on that the team of four (two from corporate communications, and two from corporate IT) would build the intranet in SharePoint 2013.

Stakeholder Interviews

We conducted interviewers with employees and mid-level managers throughout different geographical offices. In addition, we conducted a card sort using TreeJack, and developed several scenarios.

Task Analysis + User Journey

After conducting user interviews and analyzing tasks, the team created a work-flow based on user-focused tasks and created several “I Need To…” menus and faceted searches.


We created several scenarios based on SMART goals for the first release of the build:


Increasing productivity

Increasing usability

Increasing collaboration

Building for scalability

Governance + Sitemaps

To facilitate a user-centric intranet, we designed the intranet with a federated governance—meaning that content “owners” could manage their own areas, with editing/oversight from Corporate Communications (to make sure content adhered to internal branding guidelines).

Content Inventory and Audit

There were more than 5,000 documents inventoried and audited. The team contacted content owners to review versioning, “ownership,” document retention, branding, accessibility, and other factors to determine where the documents could be managed and accessed.

The team decided on a global document structure for content, including documents, photos, and links. We could keep content in a global folder that pushed to different areas of the intranet. Using this organization, we were able to monitor versions to make sure that there was only one version represented, and that the version posted was the latest vetted content.

We also developed an ontology/taxonomy based on the user research conducted.


The team used Excel and Visio to create wireframes before we began the design phase, and to present to stakeholders for buy-off.


The Nielsen Norman Group featured the SharePoint intranet in its 2013 Intranet Information Architecture Report. The team promoted the intranet launch several months prior to launching, and then provided continual training through in-office presentations and developing “ambassadors” to help in various locations.

We identified the ambassadors as “power users” and provided additional training for them prior to launch.

What I Learned

Having executive leadership model behavior in the enterprise social areas was key to adoption. This included making sure their profiles were complete before launch, having a blogging “plan” for them, and encouraging them to interact with employees on the feed.

One of the weaknesses of the intranet was the governance. Without C-suite support of the structure, there was controversy when some executive leaders wanted to organized the content their teams managed to mirror the organizational structure, and deviate from the internal brand.

The content strategy was developed in 9 months, and technical build took 4 months. If doing this project again, I would advocate for more time to create personas with international employees (although this wasn’t in the scope of the first release), as well as building in time for usability testing.


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