TFG (The Foschini Group) is one of the leading fashion and lifestyle retailers on the African continent – encompassing 19 retail brands and a combined footprint of more than 2 700 stores. Driven by teams of talented and engaged individuals, TFG is guided by a strong set of ethics and a social conscience, with the vision of adding value to its customers’ lives.

The company’s roots trace back to 1924, and it has been listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange since 1941. Now regarded as one of South Africa’s foremost independent retail groups, TFG’s success emanates from its desire to provide the right merchandise to the respective target markets of all its trading divisions.

The Challenge
TFG needed to evolve their Intranet from being an essentially static document hosting service, to a more dynamic environment that made finding information easier, encouraged collaboration between teams, and facilitated internal communication and innovation.

With over 6,000 head office, administrative and field management staff required to access the Intranet, the user-base is large and the various needs of users is highly complex. It became clear that helping users find updated and correct information has a direct impact on the company’s ability to provide excellent customer experiences.

Being a fashion-leading, contemporary brand, it is important that every aspect of TFG’s services promotes a strong focus on fashion and design. This principle applies equally to the Intranet, as it does to the public-facing branding and store experiences.

The Solution
Partnering with Intervate – an enterprise information management (EIM) specialist and T-Systems Company – TFG distilled the vision of its new Intranet to be: “A place where everyone in the business can feel connected, to be as one. A central location where people communicate, collaborate and share knowledge.”

The strategy – which focused on the three core EIM areas of collaboration, content management, and search – was to change the way employees in the head office work together. In just nine months and with a fixed budget, the team built a new solution to support employees at the head office, regional offices, distribution centres and field management.

The solution features rich visual designs that emphasise the top company news in a rotating carousel, key performance indicators, as well as leadership messages, updates from the various retail divisions, and those simpler features like birthdays, work anniversaries, canteen menus and weather forecasts.

In the ‘About Me’ section, staff are encouraged to populate their profiles with details on their skill sets, their recent projects, and what they’re currently working on – all with the intention of fostering greater collaboration leading to increased productivity.

Social tools and gamificaton elements were introduced to encourage casual interactions. By including birthday and company anniversary information, for example, TFG is lowering the barriers that prevent staff from connecting, and making it easier for employees to reach out to someone they don’t yet know. These ‘weak connections’ can lead to collaboration opportunities down the road, creating introductions that may not otherwise have been made.

These collaboration features are supported by a strong focus on quality content. During the project, over 100 key individuals from across the organisation were asked to provide updated information – in a variety of media formats. For the content owners, training workshops and quarterly user forums help keep the content fresh, and bring the content teams together to discuss content tips, challenges, and develop the future content strategy for TFG’s Intranet. To help users find the information they’re looking for, the team used sophisticated SharePoint search capabilities, giving users quality outputs and fast response times. Content owners can manually augment the native search capabilities by adding keywords and other metadata to their content. Finally, by optimising the Intranet for mobile, staff can remain connected to the latest company events and their colleagues’ newsfeeds from wherever they may be – from their smartphones or tablet devices.

The Results
Just nine months after the project kicked-off, staff were already benefitting from the new Intranet – finding information more quickly, starting to populate profiles and get acquainted with the new features, and connecting more fluidly with each other. New features and enhancements are constantly being released in an iterative, agile manner; and fresh content is added on a daily basis.

TFG’s Enterprise Knowledge Management Team Manager, Marius Botha, notes that: “The new Intranet is a vehicle for collaboration and innovation that promotes an environment of engaged and high-performance employees.”

In fact, TFG’s Intranet has been recognised globally, confirmed as one of the world’s top 10 Intranets in the prestigious 2015 Nielsen Norman Intranet Design Annual. TFG and Intervate became the first South African, and indeed the first African, winner in the Design Annual since its inception in 2001.

“The joint TFG and Intervate team set out to change the way that TFG employees at head office and in the field collaborate and share. This was achieved through an agile delivery methodology which ensured that the project stakeholders and business were continuously involved in shaping the solution that delivered on its objectives of reducing cost and improving collaboration,” says Wilhelm van Rensburg, General Manager of Intervate Cape Town.

This was achieved through an agile delivery methodology which ensured the Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman Group, encapsulates the essence of TFG’s Intranet in describing it as “a dynamic and engaging way to access information, connect with colleagues and get work done”.