Great Intranets Part III: DIRECTV

DIRECTV intranet executive blogs

It takes a highly engaging, collaborative intranet to be a great intranet. And a highly engaged workforce, led by a very active executive team that not only believes in and talks social, but walks social too.

DIRECTV, which has since announced a merger with AT&T, is one of the world’s leading providers of digital television entertainment services delivering a premium video experience through state-of-the-art technology to more than 34 million customers in the U.S. and Latin America.


DIRECTV began their evolutionary journey to a true social intranet (the former intranet was all hand-coded) with a need and want to better link (connect) their people.

The DIRECTV intranet team crafted a detailed vision:

“Make it easy for DIRECTV employees to connect, collaborate, access and share information in multiple settings, leading to greater engagement and productivity, better decision-making and increased innovation.”

This vision was supported by a business case crafted from internal feedback and input from executives and leaders, and McKinsey data:

  • 70% of companies use some type of social (web 2.0) technologies
  • 90% of companies using social technologies report some business benefit from them
  • 28 hours per week is spent by knowledge workers writing emails, searching for information and collaborating with colleagues
  • 20 to 25% potential improvement possible in knowledge worker productivity when using social technologies


The intranet features active bloggers among their executive team, including the CEO, and CMO. In fact, more than a dozen DIRECTV executives blog on the corporate intranet. Blog topics are typically those that are “dear to the executive’s heart” and those that employees and team members recognize as hot topics. All executives blog in their own words, no ghost writing. Among the blogging executives:

  • CEO often blogs about community, education, social innovation, and social innovation
  • CTO drives a lot of innovation, and talks about new products
  • CMO focuses on people development, community involvement, etc.


The CORE, the aptly named social intranet which is the defacto desktop for DIRECTV knowledge workers, was designed to be highly social, and collaborative. Among the top features and social tools that help bring more than 10,000 employees closer together at DIRECTV are:

  • Discussions / forums
  • Document creation, uploading, version control, near-simultaneous co-editing
  • Ideas, ideation, crowd-sourcing (voting, etc.)
  • User status updates
  • Action tracking, task assignment
  • Videos uploaded, embedded or third-party streaming (e.g. YouTube)
  • Events (for purposes of collecting registrations, adding to users’ Outlook calendars)
  • Following people, places, contents
  • Tagging
  • Groups
  • Polls



As with all great intranets, there is active participation and use at the executive, c-suite, as well as amongst average employees. Executives use the intranet to communicate and collaborate with staff; employees use the intranet to receive information and collaborate with colleagues.

This push and pull of information is best illustrated by ‘spaces’ (centrally administered with controlled hierarchy, akin to traditional intranet sites) created and managed by the company, and ‘communities’ which are created and driven by users where collaboration can occur via discussions, blogs, schedules, etc. Spaces and communities, as is the entire intranet platform, are driven by Jive, hosted in the Cloud (although there are additional elements of the greater intranet powered by and integrated with Microsoft SharePoint, and Lync).

Driving the expansion of the intranet, and the process, is a robust governance model. The governance model is driven by an Enterprise Collaboration Council, led by the VP of Communications and HR, along with the VP of Strategy in IT. Also participating on the Council are managers from supply chain, engineering, customer service, field services, etc.


“A change is more about helping people adapt and working with a new technology, with these processes… and this approach lends itself to success and adoption with these tools,” says Michael Ambrozewicz, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications and Diversity & Inclusion.

DIRECTV intranet home page
DIRECTV intranet home page May 2014

For many organizations, an intranet makes a fundamental change in organizational communications, and also, business process. Though the degree of change, and the required change management, depends on the type and culture of the organization (e.g. union or non-union, small or large, etc.) and the intended value and power of the intranet (e.g. self-service, executive communications, social media), a change management communications program is a requisite for any intranet launch. The challenge for most organizations is that if there’s no prior intranet, or worse yet the intranet is very poor, a new intranet may not inspire much use or it could promote a form of fear or distrust. In short, intranet change management becomes an exercise in “selling” or communicating not only the reason and purpose for the change, but especially anticipating and directly addressing the spoken and unspoken fears (or apathy) of employees. And selling the intranet, starts with the chief executive.

“The intranet is one of the CEO’s key components to transforming the customer experience. He saw the power of the social intranet to better share information, a strategic initiative for driving value for our shareholders, customers, and of course employees,” adds Ambrozewicz.

Prior to launch, a BETA version of the intranet was piloted with core groups in communications, IT and HR. The pilot was used to enhance the new intranet prior to launch.
When launching the new CORE intranet, the vision was communicated, as was the value and necessity of the intranet, via multiple channels including email, home page news, town hall meetings in all their major offices, etc.

Securing understanding and proactive support from all executives were key components of the change management initiative when launching the CORE intranet.
“We taught every VP (150 executives) and leader how to login and use the intranet,” says Ambrozewicz. “We use our executives as champions to model the right behavior and promote the intranet, and they frequently say: “This is a great tool, and this is how my team are using it.”

Reinforcing the executive charge, are 500 champions that have gone through ‘change’ training, a half-day training course, and have become active champions in promoting the intranet. CORE champions are active ambassadors and leaders, and “the first folks the intranet team talk to about testing, new features, etc. The first folks to work through new thoughts and changes.”

Reinforcing the change management and communications is a key necessity: the CORE is the default home page on all user browsers (instituted after 12 to 18 months for all users).


Not unlike other large, disparate organizations, there’s a large population set (outside the target audience) that do not have dedicated workstations, and work outside the office, in the ‘field’. DIRECTV Field Services (technicians and installers) has 8,000 employees spread out over 100 locations with very hierarchical, very distinct units. And while every field employee is welcome to join the CORE social network, DIRECTV has been realistic about rushing into promoting the CORE to staff that don’t work at desks.

“While field staff are open to join the community (social intranet), DIRECTV did not market the new intranet to them as they find potential change as highly disruptive,” explains Ambrozewicz. “But DIRECTV worked with senior leadership to determine these issues, and to communicate the what? how? and why?”


With an emphasis on change management, instead of technology, the payoff is significant: The digital TV leader has an 85% participation (of the target audience) on their social intranet (well above the norm of 10 to 30%).

Other key metrics:

  • 13,000 average daily page view,
  • 121,000 pieces of content (50% are documents)
  • 3,600 communities (1/3 are ‘public’ or open to all employees)


Continue reading the Great Intranets article series

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