Lessons learned from internal communities #e2conf

Peter Kim (formerly a Forrester analyst, now Dachis) moderated a panel on lessons learned from internal communities – that is, the social networking communities inside enterprises – with Jamie Pappas from EMC, Joan DiMicco from IBM Research and Patricia Romeo from Deloitte.

I met DiMicco at last year’s conference in a session with Jeff Schick talking about IBM’s social networking strategy, and she focuses on Beehive, their internal Facebook-like social networking site. I have friends who work for IBM who really like Beehive, and use it both for socializing and for finding like-minded people for work projects; the 60,000 other people inside IBM who also use it likely agree. Beehive is an internally-created research project that is only available within IBM; eventually, the functionality will be productized in Lotus Connections.

EMC’s EMC|ONE is similar in nature, providing an internal social network that helps to break down silos within the organization. They see this as a way to learn about social networking and work out some of the kinks with their usage, as a starting point for eventually engaging their customers and partners. They’ve used Jive’s ClearSpace as the technology platform, including the wiki and blog functionality. They have about 12,500 internal users with another 10,000 lurkers who haven’t registered as users but access the information, representing about 2/3 of the employee population.

Deloitte’s D Street was developed for the same reasons of connecting people across the organization, but was also explicitly created to make the workplace more attractive to the incoming Gen Y/millennial workers; in fact, Romeo comes from the HR side of the house, and this had a big HR push behind it. They built on a SharePoint 2007 platform, but customized it significantly to create a more complete experience. 90% of the US Deloitte employees have visited D Street at least once, and they currently have 20,000 profiles which represents about half of their employee population.

Peter Kim started on some panel questions:

  • With respect to who funded the social network, for Deloitte, it was HR; for EMC, it was marketing (since they have a goal to have an outward-facing site) and they still can’t get their HR involved.
  • DiMicco stated that the age demographics of the users match the demographics of IBM, and are not biased towards the young engineers that everyone else figured would dominate the site usage. I’m so relieved to hear this, since I’ve been saying that it’s not an age thing – her hypothesis is that people will socialize their achievements internally in order to support their own career growth, and that inside a (more or less) private walled garden, people will share and participate. Maybe the difference that people are attributing to age is really about what people are willing to expose in a public forum, rather than how willing people are to participate in social networks.
  • There was an interesting discussion about the balance between internal and external social networks, and whether there was some consideration of how people were already using sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • An audience question about attrition indicated that there is no real tracking of any dropoff in participation: once someone creates a profile on the enterprise social network, they’re considered to be a participant even if they never update it or contribute in any other way ever again. I think that this should be measured; otherwise, there will be a burst of people who sign up initially then never contribute again, without any good understanding of what is required in order to keep the community alive. IBM is doing some research in this area; they have a bit of an advantage because they are a research organization and are developing a product, which is quite a different focus than EMC and Deloitte who are just end-user organizations in this context.
  • D Street has a staff of 3 people who are monitoring and moderating content that is added to the site, plus technical resources to keep things running. Beehive is not actively monitored, but allows readers to flag content if inappropriate; a team of four people built and maintain the site. ECM|ONE has a bigger team of moderators, probably because they have a goal for outward participation and may have bigger legal/compliance/governance concerns.
  • IBM has a social media policy, grown out of their original blogging policy, which is part of their general policy on what is appropriate in the workplace; they have very few problems because it is just part of general employee behavior guidelines. EMC and Deloitte said pretty much the same: very few problems have occurred (although they both have content monitoring/moderation which might impact that) and mostly it falls under employee behavior guidelines.

There was an audience question about whether the usage levels of these three technology-oriented companies would be representative of enterprises in general, and how they marketed the social networking sites internally. EMC tailored the message for each individual group to tell them what’s in it for them, rather than trying to have a one-size-fits-all collaboration message. Deloitte, since they came in through the HR side, use the profiles as the launch point for any internal references to employees, which led people to click through and see the profiles, sometimes inspiring them to create their own. This tied into a discussion about measurement, and what each of these companies were measuring about their sites. IBM used Beehive as the networking site for an internal conference last year, so had the opportunity to measure how people used the site in the context of that conference (Beehive users must feel like lab rats sometimes), as well as some analysis of the social graph that is created as people use the site. DiMicco had a great term, “return on contribution”, to show how they measure the value that contributed content provides to the enterprise. I can completely get into the concept of return on contribution 🙂

This was a great panel with three very different views on enterprise social networking. In all cases, the companies see the social network as being a bigger part of their intranet, and even a part of their externally-facing network.

One thought on “Lessons learned from internal communities #e2conf

  1. Is anyone using the internal social networking community web sites to promote internal initiatives or in conjunction with employee e-newsletters that link back to the sites? I’d really appreciate hearing about whether e-newsletters have been replaced by social marketing or alongside it. I work at a global software company and we’ve just implemented an internal FB-like site for employees but have a long way to go. Thanks for any advice in advance!

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