A dirty secret of even the most forward-thinking companies is that their intranet is often a total mess. It’s a basic conflict: The demands for speed and adaptability required by the company do not necessarily jive with the caution and oversight required for that company’s intranet. What’s painstakingly designed and built is out of date as soon as it’s launched, and the process of updating information requires plunging through so much red tape that the intranet never catches up. And, hidden behind a firewall, the intranet is inaccessible to most mobile devices.
“Most companies’ intranets are black holes of information of unknown quality,” says Andy Bean, a Lead UI/UX Designer for Concierge, Salesforce’s new intuitive, search-driven internal ticketing app. With 20 years of intranet product management experience, he’s seen the model over and over again: lists of links requiring the user to know exactly where the desired information lived, a navigation feature that kept branching off as the user got pulled further and further into a search, a tree that hides what you want rather than revealing it. And all of it stale because IT hasn’t got the time or resources to update it.
Salesforce wasn’t immune to this problem either. Bean says that authors didn’t know content was out of date, so the “information black hole” grew. Employees had to rout their own case to one of more than 1,500 possible case-routing scenarios. Case routes and the teams working on them kept shifting, so where you sent a ticket last week might be a dead end thisweek. At least half the tickets were misrouted. “If you were trying to design a system that made it difficult to request timely help for an international company, the old ticket routing was perfection.”
Bean was involved at the beginning of the Salesforce project to redesign its intranet, a system called Concierge. HR, IT, employee services, and several product teams collaborated, says Bean, to answer a basic question: “What if we could create a Q-and-A app whose entire goal was to predict what you wanted and then get out of the way and let you do your job?”
Salesforce has many departments. The average user would hope that the ticket she logged would go to the right one. “There wasn’t anything that allowed that cross-organizational discussion,” says Wendell Martin, a senior software engineer who worked on the project. “We didn’t want to present the users with choices they were likely to get wrong.”
Concierge was created with only three full-time developers on Salesforce App Cloud. The front end, a custom application running on Heroku, gave the developers the ability to link data from many different departments, the flexibility to incorporate new features as needed, and the power to to handle the traffic of tickets moving among the many different departments.
Concierge is designed to be searchable and scalable. It offers a Google-like search functionality of hundreds of Service Cloud Knowledge articles, aligned with the way users are accustomed to searching for information. Crucially, it knows who you are: your employment history with the company, your records, whether you are an engineer or a salesperson or a manager, where you live, how long you’ve been with the company. Tickets are routed to the proper queue across many different orgs and service teams down to the article level. It works to put users in context from the first screen rather than letting them wander through the IT wilderness.
“We should never ask the user what they want to know,” says Bean. “We should try to get in front of it and do that in such a simple interface.”
Concierge launched last year, first on mobile and then on desktop. Users have applauded it and now, half of all IT service requests run through the app.
And as we continue to grow, the automation of Concierge keeps employees moving and contributes, at least a little bit, as Martin says, “to solving the age-old problem of the intranet.”