How Box Built A Coronavirus Crisis Portal in 4 Days with Refined

When COVID-19 swept across the U.S. in March, Box executives sprang into action. A key tenet of their response: a crisis portal built with Refined.

On March 11, 2020, corporate leaders at Box were alarmed by a soaring coronavirus case count in the U.S. Action to protect employees—and slow the spread—was imminent. 

“There was a storm brewing,” says Michael Cyr, an IT systems engineer at Box who administers the company’s Atlassian stack from headquarters in Redwood City, California. “The coming Monday we were going to announce that we were closing offices indefinitely, and everybody would be working from home.” 

Senior executives wanted a site where employees could access COVID information, policies and updates in real time as the pandemic unfolded.

Box, Inc.

HQ: Redwood City, California

Employees: 2,000 

Atlassian stack: Jira, Jira Service Management, Confluence

Refined Apps: Refined for Jira, Refined for Confluence

Refined sites: 15

Refined users: 2,000 (company-wide)

Use cases: ITSM, Support Service, Knowledge Management and Documentation, Crisis Management

“We had this very quick brainstorm, surfacing content that the other teams across the company needed on that portal to make sure that, one, everyone knew what Box’s stance was—which was that offices were closed—and, two, everyone had access to guidelines for health and safety,” he says. 

The task wasn’t as easy as adding a page to a company-wide site, because Box was in a transitory period between intranets. Software silos were another issue as different business functions were storing key documentation on different platforms. Tech ops and engineers favored the wiki-style editor in Confluence, while product and support teams were used to Jira. On top of that, a good chunk of information was living in Box Notes. 

Luckily, Cyr had a bridge to link it all together: Refined.

“Within the same page you’re able to link to all these different content sources across two different platforms in order to get the content easily accessible to the people looking for it on a platform we’re already heavily using for people requesting help and information,” he says.

Having built some 15 Refined sites enterprise-wide, Cyr had a method to make the site fast: templates. He put a wireframe in front of the group so they could start filling it in with resources. 

Box's Michael Cyr uses a blank template to launch site builds with internal customers.
Box's Michael Cyr uses a blank template to launch site builds with internal customers.

“We had been through this enough that we understood the requirements,” he says. “We needed to know what content we wanted to surface—the most important content—and slap that right on the top of the page, and evaluate what other resources people needed.”

After a few quick iterations, the COVID crisis portal was ready for debut on Sunday, March 15. Jessica Swank, Box’s chief people officer, plugged it the following day in a company-wide email announcing the new work-from-anywhere policy. 

The portal was an instant success. More than 500 users accessed it the first week, and traffic has been consistently high as the pandemic continues.

The first iteration of Box's Refined crisis portal (Left); The final portal, days later (Right)
The first iteration of Box's Refined crisis portal (Left); The final portal, days later (Right)

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