Silver Fern Farms

Silver Fern Farms

SharePoint intranet a place that 800 staff now call home

The situation

As New Zealand’s leading procurer, processor and marketer of sheep, lamb, beef and venison, and with more than 800 intranet-using staff in various roles across the country, the time had come for a new intranet for Silver Fern Farms.

Not only was staff collaboration and document management the call of the day, a more complete and instant view of all areas of the business was also required. Business Intelligence, ease of use and collaboration were key considerations in building the intranet, HomeBlock – the online embodiment of the block on the farm that a farmer comes home to.

The pain

The previous intranet had been custom-developed in-house and sat  within the IT team. While it fulfilled its intended purpose, it required several full-time resources to support it, it lacked flexibility and it couldn’t be extended without significant effort. It became evident that the business was outgrowing the existing platform.

There was the issue of critical knowledge leaving the business: because it had been built from scratch in-house, there was a need to manage the risk to the business, should key staff leave the company.

Another bugbear with the legacy system was its ailing search functionality, which presented a significant barrier to the finding and sharing of business-critical organisational information.

The vision

Stewart Cowan, Silver Fern Farms’ Business Intelligence Manager, says: “We’re a pretty spread out, geographically diverse company, and HomeBlock – with its dozens of ‘paddocks’ (team collaboration sites) being built within it – brings people together.”

Silver Fern Farms was looking to select an industry standard solution, leveraging as much functionality as they could out of the box and customising very little. They wanted a solid platform from which to create “one source of truth” and a go-to place for collaboration, integration with other line-of-business applications, along with the ability to surface business-wide information visually through a BI portal and to quickly produce a more comprehensive and sophisticated suite of reports.

They selected SharePoint 2010 in beta state before the product had officially been released to market because, as Stewart explains, “The features, ease of use and the integration options were all so much better than the existing 2007 version of SharePoint, and on the BI side there was a far more evolved set of features available to us.”

This decision meant that Silver Fern Farms was one of the first organisations in New Zealand to have a fully-fledged SharePoint 2010 intranet. And in addition to being early adopters, the quality of Silver Fern Farms’ solution was recognised by Microsoft New Zealand with the accolade of Portals and Collaboration Solution of the Year.

The process

Migrating all information to the new intranet, the company’s core document management system, was no mean feat, with approximately 85,000 documents needing to be brought to sit within HomeBlock. A BI portal was created, with dashboard views delivered through Excel Services and Reporting Services in SharePoint, using SharePoint third party dashboarding product Tableau— “which is very visual and easy to use”.

“Paddocks”, the term given to dynamic, role-based team collaboration sites, give staff the tools they need to collaborate, contribute and share knowledge easily, including wikis, blogs and shared calendars. “The fact that teams can take full control of their own sites just goes to show how user-friendly SharePoint is,” Stewart says. “And a completely user-created project site has now become the go-to place for information on all current projects and product information. “

A completely user-created project site now has become the go-to place for information on all current projects and product information.

The gain

HomeBlock is now fully immersed within the business; it’s the first thing Silver Fern Farms staff see when they start their computers every day.

“It’s all power to the people with HomeBlock – no more having to go cap-in-hand to IT. One of the benefits of SharePoint is that you can address people’s concerns really quickly and easily – usually we can take on feedback and turn changes around within a week.”

It’s been “quiet” since go-live, with people taking to their new intranet naturally and with little fuss. Stewart explains: “People only tell you the bad stuff. Going on that logic, we’ve definitely got a lot more happy people now!”

The business case

Silver Fern Farms needed to support and unite its geographically dispersed workforce with an intranet that would enable collaboration and make critical business information readily available.

The business value

  • “One source of truth” allows timely and accurate business decisions
  • Leveraging out of the box functionality means greater flexibility and fewer IT overheads
  • Dashboard views surface critical business information
  • User-driven team “paddocks” empower teams to collaborate and share information
  • Easier to get new staff up to speed


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