Flight Centre launches GO SharePoint intranet with Workplace from Facebook integration

Flight Centre, a global retail and corporate travel agency, needed a modernized intranet capable of custom integrations to meet their evolving business needs.

The challenge

To create an intranet for Flight Centre’s North American employees with customized integration for Workplace from Facebook, a cornerstone of their highly social and collaborative culture.

The outcome

A core digital workspace that combines the reliable, intuitive structure of a GO SharePoint intranet solution with the dynamic, engaging social culture of Workplace by Facebook – without sacrificing a thing.

Every day, Flight Centre’s 20,000 employees – or Flighties, as they’re known – sign on to Workplace from Facebook, an online collaboration tool that uses familiar Facebook features. They use the social platform to support each other by sharing travel tips, recommendations and feedback.

Workplace is the company’s collective “travel brain.” Fun, dynamic and a little bit messy, it reflects Flight Centre’s loose and friendly culture – and the nature of travel itself, where anything can happen, but you get by with a sense of adventure and the help of friends you make in unexpected places.

“It's a culture of fun,” says Donna Hanson, director, Flight Centre Technology. “At Flight Centre, we honestly want to open up the world for those who want to see it. It’s a common bond all employees share, no matter where we work around the world.”

In North America, Workplace eclipsed the intranet, which had become outdated and cluttered. If Flighties had a question, they’d head to Workplace for quick input from coworkers around the globe, but official corporate news, policies and procedures were hard to track down. Duplication was rife and versioning a nightmare. They needed a modernized intranet for official corporate information that people could trust and refer to quickly and easily, but they didn’t want to replace or rein in the flourishing culture of Workplace.

They needed a modernized intranet to bring these worlds together. Flight Centre chose Habanero’s GO SharePoint intranet solution with a customized Workplace integration to create OnePlace, a core digital workspace that makes the lives of their employees easier and more productive. Flighties now have access to reliable, consistent corporate information and the crowd-sourced expertise of their colleagues, all in the same place.

With OnePlace, Flight Centre is looking towards their future technology needs and business goals. Built on the SharePoint platform with custom integrations, OnePlace has the ability to accommodate integrations to help Flighties work smarter and better serve their customers.

“We have a vision of a consultant who comes to work in the morning and only has to open OnePlace to get a summarized view of their day,” says Nick Williams, head of digital workplace at Flight Centre. “We want to make sure they don’t need to open 100 different browser tabs or ask another consultant where to find something or what to do. Instead, with OnePlace and its integrations, they have everything they need at their fingertips to do their job well.”

By moving to the cloud with SharePoint Online, Flight Centre is now well positioned to explore Office 365’s extensive suite of apps and services to make collaboration and communication easier across the organization.

Connecting across the globe with Workplace from Facebook

In 2016, Flight Centre started using Workplace from Facebook because they needed a more effective internal communication tool – something to reduce the number of emails cluttering their inboxes. It’s a fun, engaging platform that fosters better engagement than email and makes group communications simpler and easier. As Nick says, “Workplace is a great tool for sharing information, ideas and photos. It’s ideal for talking about what's current, what people need to know right now.”

It’s now fully part of their culture, with 24,580 users across the globe, including senior leaders who regularly post and participate. “The fact that senior management are active helps enormously,” says Nick. “When you see them get involved in conversations or like content that you share, it removes barriers.”

Workplace functions as Flight Centre’s “travel brain,” where agents can seek and offer recommendations, bookings and destination advice that ultimately enhances their customers’ travel experiences. “Workplace gives us a sense of community as a global company,” says Donna. “It’s pretty cool when you can ask a question from your office in North America and people answer from London or South Africa or New Zealand.”

The case for OnePlace

The Flight Centre love for Workplace from Facebook is clear, but it doesn’t meet all their needs.

Workplace’s news feed shows users’ updates in a scrolling stream of posts. It allows employees to see what’s happening in-the-moment and connect with people or communicate quickly. It’s great for spreading the word or getting speedy answers to questions.

When it comes to official communications and documentation, though, information tends to get lost in the chatter.

Their existing ecosystem consisted of two separate intranets – for Canada and the US – each of which suffered from lack of use. Content was no longer actively managed, so information was out of date, often duplicated in multiple areas and not as engaging or compelling as they would like. Visually, the landscape was cluttered, with everything vying for the user’s attention. 

“We had too many systems, too many places to find information. There was confusion, and no one was sure where to go to find what they need,” says Donna.

What they needed was a more holistic approach – a reliable core, OnePlace, that could provide some structure without limiting the innovation and engagement that are key facets of their culture.

Integration: the best of both worlds

With OnePlace, Flight Centre and Habanero created a SharePoint intranet solution with key customized Workplace integrations. Flighties can now access reliable corporate information and capitalize on the social interaction capabilities of Workplace in an intuitive, seamless way.

For Flight Centre, it was important that nothing be lost in the process. “We needed a platform that would allow us to integrate, especially from a data perspective,” says Nick. “We’re committed to research and using data to drive our decisions, so having access to that information is critical.”

Customization always starts with a conversation to determine the requirements and possible alternatives. “One of GO’s selling features is that we don’t shy away from customizations if they make the most sense for the client,” says Mark Bice, Habanero’s Front-End Solution Architect. “Our product is a great standalone intranet solution, but each client has different needs and integrations can be an important part of their story.”

Flight Centre’s Workplace integration was a ground-breaking customization in GO that can now benefit others. “We like to try and architect even client-specific customizations as general-purpose solutions that could easily be re-used for other clients or brought back into the core offering,” explains Mark.

Creating a full, production-ready integration took the team into unknown territory, but it was an exciting challenge that paid off. “We started with a detailed requirements-gathering session to understand how Workplace was set up and how it could work together with GO,” says Mark. “We did our own deep dive and thinking about the architecture, then collaborated with Flight Centre and the Workplace from Facebook team to vet the approach.”

“It was easy to work with Habanero,” recalls Nick. “We could talk deeply about technology and work things out together – both for the Workplace integration and other changes we needed that were bespoke to Flight Centre.”

An integrated feed, so you never miss a thing

A custom module on the OnePlace home page rolls up content from the Workplace feed. The module sources recent posts from pre-determined groups so that users always see content from those specific groups. Flight Centre can define and manage groups for different regional audiences. Users set their location preferences in their OnePlace profile, and posts are displayed from their associated region groups, detected from their profile.

Sharing files to Workplace

With the “Share to Workplace” feature, users can share any list or library in OnePlace and add comments that will appear on the Workplace feed. OnePlace features a knowledge centre that manages documents, like policies and procedures, and allows employees to easily search by term or browse by category to find what they need. It was important for Flight Centre to allow document sharing on Workplace while keeping this centralized library to rein in duplication and confusion. The sharing feature retains file permissions, so only users with access will be able to view the file, even from Workplace. 

Likes and comments driven by Workplace

GO comprises a collection of news article and content pages, which are published by a group of content authors. If social page commenting and likes are required for a page, the objective is to have that activity powered by Workplace’s social feed capabilities.

Content authors can publish a news article on OnePlace and Workplace simultaneously with the click of a button. The “post to Workplace” button in GO triggers the automatic creation of a corresponding post on Workplace, with a title, description and link back to SharePoint. Once that has been done, all users see the comment thread, plus a “Comment on Workplace” button that takes them back to the original Workplace thread to interact directly with it. Users can see any existing comments and likes directly within the SharePoint page. Article roll ups (such as to the intranet homepage) show the social commenting and like activity generated by Workplace.

Synced profiles for a seamless experience

Flight Centre’s own system manages user profile information, syncing up with all their various systems, including Workplace. To integrate Workplace with OnePlace, Habanero created a custom-built service that maps users via Azure Active Directory to their Workplace accounts.

Understanding the different experiences

Both Workplace and OnePlace work together in different ways to help Flight Centre employees share knowledge across the organization. Clearly defining the roles of each platform and understanding the different employee experiences was an important part of their integration.

OnePlace intranet

  • Official company resources, messaging and news
  • Knowledge base
  • Structured document and records management
I feel informed about what’s happening in the organization.

Workplace

  • Organic connections to a global community
  • Dynamic social communications
  • Collaboration within groups
I can quickly tap into our travel brain and leverage our global travel knowledge.

Above and beyond: integration is the future

OnePlace is the beginning of this integrated digital workplace for Flight Centre. It’s the foundation for them to continuously improve, develop and integrate to meet the needs of their employees – and ultimately, their customers.

“Integration was important to us from the start,” says Nick. “Workplace was something we wanted straight away, and we wanted it to be built into the product. At the same time, we did not want to limit ourselves, and GO allows us that.” 

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