Case Study: CELESC intranet in Brazil

Written by | 11 November 2018 | Published in Submitted articles bucket
Concessionária de Distribuição de Energia Elétrica do Estado de Santa Catarina - CELESC - is an electric concessionary in the South of Brazil. During Joomla Day Brazil 2018 I had the pleasure to meet João Batista P. da Silva aka jbfloripa. Currently, he is at the IT department and is in charge of both the company's website as well as its intranet.

The first attempt to create the intranet at CELESC happened around the turn of the century when having an online presence was a must and desired by many.

One of my colleagues in the Department of Information Technology - DIT - designed a site to make some of the company's information available and it was a success! Soon, the first intranet was put on the air.

As time went by, new sites, new pages and new directories were created in the intranet environment, as there was low access control in the network. Several mini-sites were created and because of the high demand, jbfloripa started training people in creating HTML websites in the following years. There was a lot of blinking GIFs and bright coloured backgrounds.

Soon it was noted that a huge scattered environment had been created and many employees from different areas had to also work on maintaining their department's website structure, which was not their actual responsibility. By that time, some associates had created code with ASP and used Access databases to store intranet information.

In 2007, we realized that associates and their departments had a demand to make information available in a simple, fast and objective manner, without the need to learn new things that had nothing to do with their job position.

At first, we gave a try to an IBM solution, but after a while, it showed to be too much for our needs.

Then, a new associate mentioned Joomla and that it might be a good option to meet our goals, as we were looking for a Content Management System. We wanted to provide and share content. And as Joomla is a free open source tool, maintained by an ever-growing community around the world, we took a closer look.

We started by installing Joomla 1.0 in a desktop computer which posed as a server and soon it grew stronger and we had over 30 Joomla sites running in that machine. Problems were near to none and the CMS performance was considered very good. As a result, we got a "real" server and the intranet was put together and we named it CELnet, after CELESC. All HTML websites were moved to Joomla through copy & paste. I started training associates in Joomla, creating department websites, local agencies' websites and any demands related.

Joomla was a huge success and got many new admirers. Each department could publish their own information, create files, reports and graphics available for download. As there was no need to code, many associates were relieved with the use of the CMS. As there was not an efficient ACL at that time. Sites were managed through the back-end, thus, there was still a need for some training. Everyone was learning, including me.

Joomla was on version 1.7 when we noticed our intranet had turned into a Chimera. As users fully administrated their websites - and by that time there were about 100 sites - they could do as they pleased, including choosing which template to use. There was no visual unity or identity. As the IT department didn't see the intranet as a relevant tool for the company and jbfloripa was the only person taking care of it, there was not much concern on changing this situation.

Joomla 2.x was about to be launched and there were huge expectations on the brand new ACL and other features of interest. I brought together a committee to create a strategy for CELnet, even if most parts of the administrative responsibilities remained in the hands of one person.

We contacted associates to find suggestions for our new model. By using special techniques we found a way to guide our taxonomy and we started working on the project of redesigning the intranet as a whole.

We reduced the number of sites from 100 to around 30 installations with better structure, friendlier and more productive content management workflow. The committee made sure CELnet brought together information on how much users were satisfied with the new version and its new features. The need for more redesign returned as Joomla 3.x appeared on the horizon. By that time, the committee had 5 people representing communications, the presidency, human resources, special projects and IT.

When I moved to the IT Department, there was a desire to create an intranet. At the time - early 2000 - this project emerged as a solution to many problems. One member of the department created a page and it was quickly approved. I had to learn HTML and ASP to provide site maintenance. The content was duplicated to create the company's first website. Departments were free to create their own directories and websites in HTML.

Around 2006 we realized we had created a monster and some associates had to perform functions that were not part of their daily routine. For example, an electrical engineer had created and maintained the HTML website of his department. Some even used Access databases.

We contacted companies and started to use a solution from IBM, which was overkill. We needed a simpler and more practical solution. A member who had joined recently the team suggested we used Joomla CMS version 1.0, which it was exactly what we needed. We looked into other CMSs and picked Joomla, which had the largest active Brazilian community at the time and was open source.

After some testing to verify Joomla's performance, the company decided to adopt it. We started structuring the intranet site and named it CELnet, after the acronym that represents the company name: CELESC. Existing HTML sites were copied and pasted into Joomla and I became an in-house Joomla instructor at the company headquarters and its branches around the state of Santa Catarina.

Joomla 1.0 quickly got admirers in the company, because of its ease for publishing content such as files, reports and images. As ACL was still very restricting at the time, all users had access to the backend, which demanded training while I was still learning how to use the tool.

Once again, as all users were administrators and we had around 100 Joomla installations, we created another monster. Each department used its own template, with separate visual identity. It looked like we were back in the 90's. We had some sites with flashing images, bright colours and poorly designed backgrounds.

Joomla 2.5 was on the horizon and we were excited to know there would be a new and powerful ACL. But, as the company still did not see the intranet as a priority, we had no support to allocate more people to help to move existing installations to the new version. I created an Intranet Management Committee to help me plan this next move. We conducted a survey among associates to gather inspiration to reflect the staff's needs and guide the project's taxonomy. We reduced about 100 sites to 30 with a better structure and a more user-friendly and productive environment with updated information.

When Joomla 3.x came to be, we followed the same previous steps and added the experience acquired to improve the user experience. We launched an in-company contest to create CELnet logo to engage associates to use the intranet and create buzz on the upcoming of its new version. We got 141 proposals and the winner received an insulated stainless steel bottle.

The result of our survey showed us a demand to create a classifieds section and have theme blogs to stimulate engagement and show associates how to belong. The blogs replicated external information, as internal access to news, legal information and entertainment sites is limited. Information is published with their source links, which can be used when associates access outside of the company environment.

As the integration proceeded, we gathered more knowledge on Joomla, information management issues and how associates behaved when facing these issues. Classifieds section became a hit and we started actions to engage users more and more, like placing easter eggs around the intranet, allowing associates to fill a form that might reward them later. Other actions were published for special dates, like Mother's Day, Christmas and Easter.

In-company restaurant's menu was made available and we created CELnet TV, where we show the daily life at the company and other videos of interest. We have a Shared Documents Section where users can find company's documents. Many company's systems use CELnet as their starting point through links or iframes.

When I look back I realize how much we have learned through all the experiences we had. CELnet is the result of this process and has been showcased in 3 Brazilian IT events as a successful case study. It has received praise by the Gartner Group, considered one the world's leading research and advisory company.

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Helvecio da Silva

Helvecio da Silva

Graphic and web designer, I use Joomla since 2005. Currently based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I run my own design studio - HLVC Design - as a consultant in web and graphic design, Joomla, Wordpress, Online Social Media and Online Marketing. Passionate about my work and Joomla, I'm always eager to find more and more about the system and share my knowledge with the community. Visit my profile at http://volunteers.joomla.org/joomlers/helvecio-da-silva
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Designer Gráfico e Web, uso Joomla desde 2005. Atualmente baseado no Rio de Janeiro, trabalho em meu próprio estúdio - HLVC Design - onde atuo como designer para web e gráfico, consultor em Joomla, Wordpress, Midias Sociais e Marketing Online. Minha paixão em aprender me leva a sempre conhecer mais a fundo o sistema e a compartilhar o que sei com a comunidade. Visite meu perfil em http://volunteers.joomla.org/joomlers/helvecio-da-silva