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Showcase: Single Sign On, Internal PR, and Human Resources Solution Built on SharePoint Online for American Office

ao-logo.gif 
This Solution Works with
Works with Microsoft Office 365
Built on
Built on Microsoft SharePoint 2013

Customer Background​

American Office is a Herman Miller partner; they sell furniture and design office space solutions. They're headquartered in downtown Baltimore, Maryland and operate regionally with 200+ employees and many branches throughout the mid-Atlantic region. American Office has been a Liquid Mercury client since 2014.

Time Period

February to March 2015

The Challenge

American Office had an aging intranet site that was not seeing much use. Built on technology that was quickly becoming obsolete, content was not being frequently updated, and interest in the site had all but disappeared. Like many companies in their industry, American Office struggled with the costs and challenges of employee turnover. People were underinformed and had difficulty keeping track of news about new and departing staff, where to get information, and different activities happening at the various store locations and office branches.

AO's President, David Kuntz, had a vision of an intranet site that would allow HR and marketing staff to internally promote events like the company picnic as well as open houses and other sales oriented activities. He also wanted to be able to share the results of the most recent Herman Miller Customer Satisfaction Surveys with employees.

HR Manager, TJ, also expressed a need for better organization of their human resources documents and information. Yet, they also needed to keep this information secure and stay compliant with regulatory requirements for HR and personal/private employee information.

In order to keep staff engaged, it was important not just to have new and interesting content but to enforce that the AO intranet should be set to each employee's browser home page.

Our Solution

To provide a rapid and cost-effective solution, we broke down American Office's requirements into four parts:

  • Single Sign On
  • Branding
  • Internal PR
  • Human Resources

Each component was scoped out separately as a Solution Jump Start, each taking 1 week or less to complete.

To allow for sharing information, we proposed a solution that would allow staff from HR, marketing, or any department to quickly and easily create article pages in SharePoint. Our Internal PR solution uses SharePoint's native search capabilities to collect these articles from each departmental sub-site and display the most recent or important content on the company's intranet home page. Now, HR can post an anouncement about a new hire, and marketing can post information about an upcoming event, without needing to involve the IT department.

To make AO employees feel at home, we branded the SharePoint site using a responsive design that would adapt well on PCs, tablets, and smart phones. To conserve space, news articles, calendar events, and HM survey results were presented in a tabbed format on the home page. Articles are displayed in a collection of tiles that mimics the familiar feel of Windows Metro, allowing for eye catching images that can easily re-arrange themselves for different screen sizes.

Responsive SharePoint home page with Metro UI tiles highlights internal PR articles 

Events calendar displayed in a second tab to conserve scarce screen real estate. 
Customer satisfaction survey in a third tab, at ready reach to those who are interested.
  • Above, default tab shows news tiles with most current articles automatically displayed in larger tiles.
  • Second (left), events tab shows this months calendar of events using a SharePoint web part.
  • Finally (right), customer satisfaction KPIs from the Herman Miller survey are shown.
  • The screenshots below demonstrate how the site adapts to mobile devices:

    Mobile friendly view of responsive intranet home page built on SharePoint 
    Desktop view of responsive intranet home page built on SharePoint
  • First (left), the mobile friendly view of the AO home page shows how top navigation adapts to smaller screens and content stacks to fit the space available; quick launch (not shown) is moved to just below the top navigation.
  • Second (right), the desktop view shows how content appears on the PC; the quick launch navigation is hidden from view unless the browser is maximized.
  • In order to ensure that the company home page displays as the default page, it was necessary to ensure that users are already logged into Office 365 and SharePoint Online when they open their browser. This was done using ADFS and smart-links that would pass users through the login process, sign in with their existing Windows account, and forward them to the intranet home page. Among other benefits, users never have to sign into Office 365 while they are using company equipment.

    Finally, to ensure that TJ could work with her HR documents securely, we leveraged our HR Site Template for SharePoint, which allowed us to quickly stand up a customized HR site with just a few days' effort.

    Benefits

    • American Office has a modern platform to share company information that feels like home.
    • Employees can access the intranet even when on the road or working from home.
    • Users are presented with the intranet home page by default; there's little effort needed to get the latest company news and informatioon.
    • Departments can publicize internal information without placing an undue burden on IT staff.
    • Staff have ready access to information and are more engaged in team building and promotional events, helping to mitigate the impact of employee turnover.
    • HR now has a place where it can store and organize documents in a secure way that respects privacy and compliance requirements.
    • Since deployment, AO has been largely self-sufficient, requiring only occassional support.

    Technical Accomplishments

    • Demonstrated that our Solution Jump Start framework can be used to effectively manage larger projects, provided they can be broken down into smaller sub-projects.
    • Implemented ADFS single sign on scenario for SharePoint Online and Office 365.
    • Successfully integrated third-party web content into SharePoint Online intranet.
    • Responsive design was developed entirely in CSS, without the need for custom SharePoint master pages or layouts.
    • To make support easier, use of jquery was kept to an absolute minimum.
    • Customized Search Result Web Part to produce attractive and fluid web content.
    • Deployed repeatable SharePoint infromation architecture using Site Columns and Content Types.

    The Bottom Line

    For a mid-size business, this project was a substantial commitment to provide a lasting improvement to the company's use of technology for internal collaboration and information sharing. Thanks to the impressive capabilities of SharePoint Online - and the Office 365 platform in general - we were able to accomplish all project goals in under a month, and total project cost was approximately $15,000.

    Talk to the Client

    Matt Davis, IT Director during this project, has since left American Office to pursue other opportunities.

    American Office remains a valued customer to this day; their IT department is planning to expand use of Office 365 in coming months to include e-mail and other services.

    Vinny Avalone has returned to AO, and now directs IT efforts with support from Nick Nikitkin. If you'd like to speak with Vinny or Nick about this project or our other work with American Office, please contact us and we'll be happy to arrange an introduction.