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The intranet business case of healthcare insurer De Friesland Zorgverzekeraar

The core business of financial services provider De Friesland Zorgverzekeraar is to serve customers. In order to perfect its services, De Friesland is firmly committed to its new policy: Strategy2020. The focus is on creating an active internal community, based on the assumption that the more active the community, the better the service.

Various departments are contributing to the new strategy: HR is focussing on talent management, while Corporate Communications is looking closely at accessible information, facilitating dialogue, and sharing knowledge. The members of the project team, namely Frank Rooze, Dolon Knol and Jenny Rodenhuis, talk about how Frits, their new social intranet, is contributing in all these areas.

Part 1: How is the social intranet strengthening the corporate strategy?

In this first part, we look at how the intranet is strengthening the corporate strategy, the requirements and preferences of the different departments, and the advantages of Embrace over Office365. In the second part, we look at how De Friesland implemented the new social intranet in four weeks in an organisation which relies on Microsoft, the lessons learned, and the plans to achieve the organisation’s 2020 goals.


‘In 2016, De Friesland introduced a new strategy to take it up to 2020, where customers are more actively involved. Since a more active attitude is also expected of employees, a social intranet was a logical part of this strategy. For an intranet to be successful, it’s important that it is linked to corporate goals. When determining the strategy, it became clear that we wanted to work on an active De Friesland community;

As De Friesland, we want to develop our community; talk to each other, face to face, via social media, and via the social intranet. Furthermore, we want to develop the community as we work, and make it a part of our working day. We want to share experiences and opinions, and achieve the goals we set together. We want to use the active community as a base to serve our customers even better.’

Session with Board of Directors

‘Together with HR, IT and Corporate Communications, change consultant Frank Smit of Embrace met with management. Those present at the meeting discussed specific aspects of the strategy for which the new intranet could play a role:

  1. Working closely with partners such as local authorities and healthcare providers; the platform allows externals to be added for simple collaboration;
  2. Believe in the talents of our employees: the Knowledge Connector allows everyone to access the knowledge and expertise available in the organisation. As a result, talent can be managed;
  3. Transform employees into self-managing information workers: the intranet facilitates self-management;
  4. Talk to each other to achieve results: the intranet facilitates dialogue and communication;
  5. Anticipate technological developments in good time: Embrace uses state-of-the-art technology, and is under constant development.

A crucial question arose during the meeting; who would own the product? This question is important to anyone implementing a social intranet. The product owner is an important link when it comes to making vital decisions, such as whether to focus on security or user-friendliness. Our Chairman of the Board rapidly assumed the role of product owner. On that day, the management also took decisions about transparency, security, target group and project planning. The role of management is crucial to the success of the platform.’ In part two, we will take a more detailed look at what the manager’s role meant in practice.

Department-specific preferences of the new intranet

‘HR and Corporate Communications sought a solution for department-specific issues that would meet the requirements of IT. We combined preferences and requirements, since it’s better to use an integrated solution rather than many different systems. Getting these departments on board increased general support for the social intranet.’

HR: focus on talent management

Discover and use talent

‘Our organisation consists of about 600 employees. HR was looking for a solution for talent management so we could understand the knowledge and expertise present in our organisation. For example, who knows about healthcare legislation and regulations? Who has experience with legislative amendments? Do we have anybody with expertise in analysing statistics? In other words, what hard and soft skills does an employee possess, and how can we use these skills to benefit the organisation? The employee can then use his or her talents to help the organisation, and can give the organisation a new perspective. That means cost savings for the organisation, since it can avoid the necessity to hire in an expert, creating a win-win situation.’

Knowledge Connector

‘The social intranet facilitates talent management. The Knowledge Connector makes it exactly clear who can do what, and where someone’s talents lie. Colleagues can also endorse each other’s hard and soft skills. Not just immediate colleagues, but colleagues throughout the entire organisation.’

Linking Feature to Business Processes

‘Together with Evolve, a consultancy firm specialising in adoption issues, we looked at how we could use the Knowledge Connector in processes, such as for evaluations and providing 360-degree feedback. Because we focus on adoption, and not so much on technology, it is important that features are integrated into business processes.’

Corporate Communications; focus on ease of use

People find SharePoint difficult to use

‘Corporate Communications had been working on setting up a social intranet for 5 years. De Friesland relies on Microsoft, so the decision to use a Microsoft product was made quickly. However, using SharePoint as a social intranet didn’t take off because people found it difficult to use. Users ran into problems with information and actions, it is not intuitive enough, managing content is difficult, and the flexibility people want is not there. As a result of all these issues, employees simply didn’t use the intranet.’

Prioritising ease of use

After this experience, Corporate Communications decided that SharePoint would never again be a requirement for a social intranet. This time, they wanted an intranet that would actually be used by those it was intended for. De Friesland set up a procurement process, and 3 suppliers were invited to demo their products. It soon became clear that Embrace was the most mature, user-friendly and intuitive package, and the best match for De Friesland’s requirements.

IT: focus on simplifying the IT landscape

An essential technical requirement was the software acceptance criteria

‘We are a Business IT organisation, so our IT goals are in line with the organisation’s goals. When a software package is chosen, we look at its current and future potential. The most important aspect here is that it must meet our software acceptance criteria; for example, whether the software is Microsoft compatible, if we can install it ourselves, if it’s suitable for on-premises hosting, and if it uses an SQL database.’

What is the advantage of Embrace over Office365?

‘When assessing the requirements, the question about how Embrace could be linked to Office365 soon came up. ‘We consider Embrace to be an umbrella solution in which the vast majority of end-users can do their work. Because the connection between features is more logical and simple, Embraces fulfils more of the end-users’ needs than the separate modules in Office 365.’ The two main arguments for IT to use Embrace were, therefore:

  1. Embrace is easier to use;
  2. It can be linked to Office365. For example, there is an active link with Skype for Business, Exchange, and after the next Embrace update it will be possible to collaborate online in Office Online.’

How did De Friesland manage to implement the new social intranet in just four weeks in an organisation that relies on Microsoft? What lessons were learned? What plans are in place to achieve the organisation’s 2020 goals? The answers can be found in Part 2 of this case study.