Engage, Alcatel-Lucent's social and collaborative platform, celebrated its 3rd birthday on April 6th. This article was originally posted in J. Boye blog, and is being republished with permission.


Is your organisation ready for a social intranet? Studies show that social often fails: A recent report from Gartner found that 80% of all social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits. How to make sure that you are part of the 20% ?  I recently spoke with Marc Jadoul, Marketing Director at Alcatel-Lucent and advocate for the company’s social intranet called ‘Engage’, about the benefits of a social platform – and how to reap them.

 

Knowledge workers in a high-tech company

Social intranets are especially relevant for organisations that rely heavily on knowledge workers, such as consulting firms and high-tech companies. In a previous blog post, I wrote about how a social intranet can unlock the tacit knowledge that sits in the brains of the employees. Alcatel-Lucent is a typical example of an organisation that is experiencing the benefits from going social:

  • A workforce consisting mainly of highly skilled engineers and technical sales people
  • A complex, multi-national organisation
  • Active in a highly competitive market where innovation and speed of execution are key

According to Laurie Buczek of Intel, knowledge workers spend up to 30% of their working day looking for people and information. A waste of precious time and human resources that may be dramatically reduced by providing employees with appropriate communication tools, putting collaboration and knowledge sharing on the foreplan. This is exactly what Engage aims to do.

 

Knowledge is power, but community is strength

Alcatel-Lucent’s Jive-based platform is providing a user-friendly environment that empowers over 70,000 employees worldwide to connect and collaborate with each other, and to contribute to over 4,000 work and non-work related communities. The screenshot below shows the home page of Engage (that can be further customised and personalised by each individual user). It illustrates the approach taken: a rich combination of various types of content, ranging from traditional news stories to blogs, group discussions, unanswered questions and tag clouds to help users find topics and communities of interest to them.

 

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Alcatel-Lucent’s implementation focuses strongly on internal communities and the value that they bring. “It’s all about growing cross-organisational knowledge that we can apply in our day-to-day business” says Marc. “Communities will help to break down organisational silos, put people in touch with like-minded colleagues and provide the opportunity to learn and innovate.”  A light governance model, based on a code of conduct and the principle of self-regulation, has proven its value – only on very rare occasions does the community manager need to step in. It must be noted however that – although a light governance has proven to be the right path towards rapid and smooth adoption – a new collaboration model like the one empowered by Engage can only succeed in an open-minded organisation, in which people, teams and leadership are willing and motivated to transform.

 

Measuring real value

The hardest part of any social intranet project is to demonstrate the ROI. Earlier this year I wrote about the case of Omron and how their intranet delivers value to the business.

To understand the ROI of platforms such as Engage, it's important to understand the costs of conducting business without these tools, including the missed opportunities of not using them. At Alcatel-Lucent the approach has been to demonstrate success by collecting both quantitative and qualitative feedback from employees and business stakeholders. Some examples:

  • “We saved 450 minutes/week in project status conference calls”
  • “We got better answers to questions in 30 minutes instead of hours”
  • “I have been working 11 years with this company now and because of Engage, I feel more connected with my colleagues now”

Sometimes even non-business related communities on Engage led to unexpected cost-savings. As an example, pictures taken by employees and shared in the community of interest on photography were reused in marketing materials, instead of paying for professional stock photos.  “Another KPI to take into account is the positive effect on company culture, corporate image and employee retention,” says Marc Jadoul. “Recent research by Alcatel-Lucent has shown that in highly successful companies management, IT and HR work together to equip workers with productivity tools that enable a ‘New Way of Working.’”

 

Intranet is a journey, not a destination

What’s the next challenge for the intranet of Alcatel-Lucent? More integration comes to mind: currently Engage co-exists with a traditional, managed intranet for official communication and with a SharePoint platform for team collaboration. This is a typical phase in the evolution of many organisations’ intranets and matches with Jane McConnell’s model for intranet maturity.

 

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“Today there is only basic cross-linking between the 3 environments,” says Marc. “The next step on our journey is to create a more integrated digital workplace, where employees are presented with a single user experience.”

 

Want to learn more?

Would you like to see more examples of social intranets and hear the stories behind them – including often some tough ‘lessons learned’? Check out these opportunities: