Redesigning Caltech's Staff Intranet to improve functionality and user experience

Case Study: Caltech University
Project Highlights
  • A central library curated by content managers
  • Link customization
  • Updated news and relevant information
  • Flexibility to construct content queries
  • Esthetic and functional SharePoint intranet

At a glance

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private doctorate-granting research university located in Pasadena, California. Known for its dedication to advancing natural science and engineering, it is often ranked as one of the world’s top-ten universities.

Caltech’s Office of Development and Institute Relations (DIR) is the centralized fundraising operation for the university and works to expand Caltech’s community of supporters while seeking financial resources to accelerate discovery and innovation to sustain Caltech’s scientific and educational excellence.

DIR has used an intranet built on Microsoft’s collaboration platform, SharePoint, as the main tool for communicating, sharing information, and collaborating among DIR colleagues. Originally launched in 2015, DIR’s intranet is named The Nucleus.

At a time of heightened fundraising activity, Caltech required an improvement for a more effective intranet that could be accessible by DIR’s 127 team members from within the four offices on Caltech’s campus as well as remotely throughout the world while on business travel.

Optimizing an effective implementation

As a result of an assessment provided by Definity First, The Nucleus content managers met, reviewed the recommendations, and voted on which should be prioritized as part of the refresh project. In advance of the project kick-off, they did the following:

  • Provided training for powers users to address the knowledge skill gap.
  • Built their own knowledge base with content from online blogs and books.
  • Revamped their metadata protocols so the access to information can be conducive to operate.

Their intranet strategy: a simple one-page bulleted outline of goals and principles for the new site, to guide the content managers in their daily activities and decisions.

Redesigning the staff intranet

After a work schedule - that included functional analysis, template design, development and quality assurance, and testing- was completed, the current site was migrated to the new designs.

The new site—version 2.0—was accessible to content managers so that they could clean up their migrated pages, add new content, remove outdated information, and re-tag metadata on documents using the new protocols.

Since March 2018, we have had the opportunity to tell our story about our intranet redesign project at two industry conferences. The audience response to our presentation has made us realize that we have created a “best-in-class” intranet compared to many of our peers. Because of our recent presentations, we have already had three peer institutions reach out to us for a more in-depth demo of our site and to hear more about our lessons learned as they each begin to plan their own staff intranet redesign projects.


Key features

The Nucleus 2.0 seamlessly combines the aesthetics of an external website with the functionality of the SharePoint platform. It is designed to offer DIR staff:


Through SharePoint integration with OneDrive, users can collaborate on projects and their associated work products.


The Nucleus serves as a “hub” for sharing the latest campaign news, information.


The built-out “resources” section includes pages that are specific to user types (e.g., development officers, event planners, etc.).


Users can know access a consolidated calendar, workflows, and forms that help team members perform at their best.


The Nucleus is a place to celebrate milestones, achievements and to participate.

Recognized internally as a useful and functional platform

The launch of the staff intranet served as a cultural milestone for DIR: it changed how they conduct business, collaborate, and consume information. In the first month following the launch, the monthly number of hits on the intranet increased by 147%, and the number of unique users to access the site, increased by 36%.

With the power of a SharePoint platform, The Nucleus 2.0 has been designed to help users embrace its staff intranet and for DIR to become more efficient and agile in solving business problems.

Caltech Staff Intranet | Key Features

Do you have a problem that we can solve, or a project that we should chat about?

Contact Us