CHS Source

CHS Source is an intranet for internal communications and employee self-service. A Fortune 100 agriculture, energy and financial services company, CHS has 11,000 employees in the US, the Middle East, South America, and Central and Eastern Asia.


Create a user-centered strategy for a modern, collaborative and useful intranet.


Productivity, communication

My Role

I was responsible for the conceptual development and strategy for an effective use of user experience and development budget. I also led the discovery phase to get the sponsor team and myself educated on problem areas within the company's intranet, and instruct members on the team on user experience principles that they could use within their own content strategy. I also introduced them to the idea of a "UX roadmap" or product model thinking to ensure continous improvement and evolution of the site to address upcoming requirements.

Research Methodologies

  • Sponsor and user Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Comparative analysis
  • Heuristic evaluation (Limited)
  • Site traffic analysis
  • Nielsen Norman Group Intranet Reports

The Big Takeaways

  • Third-party applications had created a confusing user experience, and had made the site unsupportable. "Decoupling" the tech silos will be an immediate priority.

  • People wanted 'utility' over 'news' content. Therefore, navigation and page layout needed to be restructured to be more task-focused.

  • Every employee uses CHS Source for enrollment in benefits, which is fulfilled by a third-party application. About half of those employees don't use CHS Source throughout the year. (See Scenarios) What's more, many of them don't have work computers, or don't work in an office environment. Some are even computer illiterate. To address these issues, we needed to create kiosks or tablet-based benefits portals, and send to non-office locations for easy and private enrollment.

Other Findings

  • 'Search' is mostly useless and distrusted
  • Benefits information and HR tasks far outweighed other content
  • Most users wanted utility over news
  • Limited or no value for employees outside of the US
  • Limited or no value for employees in the field (1/2 the employee base)
  • High volume of HQ-centric news, which many users found useless or offputting
  • Mobile users found resources quickly
  • Expert users (typically HR and management) found the intranet useful and visited frequently

Next Steps

  • Open card sort for navigation study
  • Wireframing home page
  • Explore customized or personalized bookmarks
  • Explore benefits / enrollment kiosk or tablet
  • Explore deep linking into human resources tasks
  • Explore single sign on / start decoupling third party application silos


Affinity Mapping Whiteboard (Invision)
Primary Themes and Opportunties.pdf
UX Strategy for CHS Source.pdf
UX Roadmap.pdf
Interviews Closure Deck.pdf
Discovery Closure Deck.pdf
Scenarios for Field Employee Benefit Enrollment.pdf

Comparative Analysis of Other Intranets

Pepsi, DirectTV, Medtronic (as well as other companies included in Nielsen Norman Group's Intranet Reports)


  • Sitecore 9.2
  • SXA Sitecore Experience Accelerator


UX Researcher / Strategist (myself), Project Manager, Creative Director, Chief Technical Officer (for Analytics and Search portions)


For this project, I was hired on as a UX consultant to a design agency. Agency models are typically about the "reveal", where UX and product design is iterative and collaborative. There was an initial resistance with the design agency in collaboration and "high touch" with the client's sponsor team. As well, the client sponsor team had an expectation set by previous agencies to get a final delivered design without much participation on their part. I'd said in varying degrees over time, I couldn't solve all their problems, but would find the common ground between users, business goals and technology limitations.

Fortunately, early on the design agency's mindset changed. We'd exposed the many problems the intranet had–and the design agency saw the potential for ongoing billable work. As we'd learned more about the sponsor team, we found their areas of expertise—and I was able to work one-on-one on certain goals, which gave the sponsors ownership and a good knowledge base of the issues we were facing. By the end of the project, I feel they could accomplish many roadmap goals on their own, without the use of the design agency.

Another challenge was that the IT group had adopted so many third-party applications that didn't have deep linking or guidance. Some content on the intranet pulled in media, like videos, into the intranet–but if the user didn't have access, the content wouldn't display. It was broken in many regards. The employees expected everything to work as one seamless site, and it would have been logistically impossible for the IT group to decouple everything. We'd taken off small bites, with very particular user flows or needs, and began passing data back and forth to support key tasks like town hall video integration, or passing user data to the benefits application so users wouldn't get lost or derailed. It was a challenge, and will be an ongoing challenge–but now they are aware thoughtful integration is needed when new applications are added.

Supporting Artifacts

"Before" Screenshots.pdf
User Experience Overview for Sponsor Team.pdf
Benefits of Improving Microinteractions in an Enterprise System.pdf
Intranet Best Practices.pdf
Interview Intro Script.doc
Interview Questions.doc
Sponsor and User Interview Notes.xls
Affinity Map Issues Breakout.pdf
Affinity Map Opportunities Breakout.pdf