The General Mills headquarters in Golden Valley is a big place. Aside from various cereal-packed gift shops, it also has a gas station, a daycare center, a bank, a salon and the most profitable Caribou yet. Naturally, it can be hard to keep everyone in such a large company connected. That’s why they came to Zeus Jones. They needed a platform that helped employees work together not only across the campus, but from offsite locations as well. We were already working with General Mills on Green Spark, a centralized platform for communicating and inspiring corporate sustainability efforts. In the process of developing a system for sharing information, we were thinking through a lot of issues involved with social-centric information architecture. It turned out those problems were central to their frustrations with developing an internal collaboration program, so they asked us to step on board with developing what would eventually become Connect. At the time, they were using Microsoft’s SharePoint software, and they wanted us to build the new system on top of it. We took a hard look at just why SharePoint wasn’t fitting the bill, and a lot of it came down to having too many unnecessary features, making it a pain to learn and a pain to use.
As we’ve seen from many successful apps, focusing on just one feature that has a clear focus keeps users engaged and coming back for more. Shove in too many, and people aren’t even sure what the platform is for.
With that in mind, our first step was to pare the features down to what was absolutely essential for creating conversation and finding new connections.
Getting to Know the Culture
To do this, we researched the culture at General Mills in order to find out what barriers to collaboration were in place. The main problem was that it was difficult to know just who to work with on a particular task. It often took a series of emails and a couple days of waiting around before pinpointing who exactly that was, which wasted a lot of time. We decided to build the entire site around letting employees see what other people were working on so they could easily find the right person to work with.
The site has been incredibly popular, with many claiming that it’s one of the most successful software launches in the company’s history.