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Case Study: Heineken Innovators’ Community

In a global business, great ideas can sometimes get lost.

Heineken’s Innovators’ Portal makes sure the whole company can develop and nurture ideas for improving Heineken’s business worldwide.

Heineken Innovators Community Homepage

Heineken Innovators' Community Homepage

A forum for innovation

Continuous innovation is essential to Heineken’s success. A simple idea, such as illuminating a beer pump in a dark, busy bar, can have a huge impact on sales. That’s why Heineken wanted to make sure that good ideas not only take life, but can also be adopted across the entire global operation.

The only way to do that effectively was to create a central intranet for everyone to share ideas, see what has worked in other territories, and get help to solve tricky challenges.

Essentially, the portal needed to:

Inspire people with ideas, examples and information from inside and outside the company

  • Involve

    the global Heineken community in finding new and innovative ways to do things
  • Create

    a fun, social forum for exchanging ideas and successes
  • Encourage

    the best projects to be carried through to implementation

The company already had an award-winning marketing intranet, the Heineken BrandPortal, which initially seemed like the natural place to host an internal innovators’ community. But with innovation pervading far beyond marketing – from new product development to packaging, branding and sales strategy – Heineken soon realised the portal needed to be a standalone site designed for everyone.

As Smallworlders had already built Heineken’s marketing intranet and e-learning portal, they knew we could deliver an innovators’ portal that did what it needed to do.

"Our old innovation portal was static and focused on one-way communication. Since we introduced a standalone portal with social, gamification and collaboration features, usage has shot up from 85 to 800 users, with engagement increasing all the time."

Lois Ding, Community Manager, Innovation, Heineken

Socialising the intranet

An intranet will only work if people find it useful and enjoy spending time on it. We worked with Heineken’s Innovation team to make sure the Innovators’ Portal is both useful and fun. That meant listening to users’ suggestions and implementing features that maximise its value and usability.

Here are just some of the reasons the portal has increased from 85 to 800 users in 18 months:

  • Great design:

    we made sure the standalone portal was easy to use, enjoyable to interact with and pleasant to spend time on
  • Social features:

    we took some of the best ideas from social networking, including:
    • User profiles

      and the ability to find and follow interesting people
    • Customisable news feeds

      , so users can follow projects and topics that interest them and filter out those that don’t. So packaging geeks can follow packaging news, but don’t have to see what’s going on in sales strategy
    • Rating and commenting

      to enable feedback, ideas and encouragement from across the organisation
    • Private messaging and team rooms

      to speed up engagement and collaboration
  • Alerts:

    Email and onsite alerts keep people updated with anything new and interesting happening with the people, projects and topics that they follow
  • Gamification:

    Users accumulate points for different activities, such as contributing projects and ideas, posting comments or ratings, updating their profile, and spending time on the site.
  • Mobile:

    Heineken employees are hyper-mobile businesspeople. Mobile access to the Innovators Portal means they can easily stay in touch with projects and colleagues while on the move.

"Smallworlders always help us to think in new ways and come up with ideas that are more creative than we expected. The gamification aspects of the Innovators’ Portal are a great example."

Lois Ding, Community Manager, Innovation, Heineken

From concept to launch

The layout and navigation of the portal reflect Heineken’s innovation process, with each project passing through different stages in the ‘innovation funnel’ as it moves from idea to (if it’s successful) launch.

At each stage of the process, the portal creates a dynamic environment for collaboration, ideas-gathering and feedback, to give each project the best possible chance of succeeding.

Innovation process features include:

  • Challenge:

    Users can set innovation challenges (such as “how can we make our brand more visible in a dimly-lit bar?”) and invite other portal members to contribute ideas
  • Inspiration:

    Ideas, examples and success stories from inside and outside Heineken can be uploaded, to inspire users in search of a novel solution to a problem
  • Team Rooms:

    Special interest groups can be formed to work on a project or challenge.
  • Innovation Funnel:

    Promising projects go through a series of tests to establish whether they merit investment. Those that make it through all the tests become full-blown innovation projects, which users can follow on the portal, contributing their feedback and gaining inspiration from their success

Users and engagement at an all-time high

Today, 800 Heineken employees in 65 countries regularly log into the portal to upload new projects, seek feedback and suggestions, get inspiration from others’ successes, and collaborate with colleagues in other offices and countries. More than 170 projects are being shared, which users can filter by region, country, product or project phase.

One interesting result is the way gamification features have contributed to an upsurge in use of the portal. After the introduction of gamification, site visits increased by 300% and visit frequency improved by 400%. Heineken has found that rewarding engagement increases engagement.