14 Replies Latest reply: Mar 26, 2009 1:41 PM by Ted Hopton RSS

    "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."

    Gia Lyons

      I have a customer who, upon seeing the ease with which end users can create and organize content within my product, said that they want to replace their intranet with my product.

       

      Here's why.

       

      They want to delegate intranet authorship to their lines of business, and they know that any authoring and site organization tool they pick must be crazy-simple to use. The old Web content management systems are simply too complex.

       

      In parallel, they also want to implement social software in the traditional manner - you know, get people discovering, talking to and getting work done with each other, not only within their departments, but across the organization.

       

      Here's my issue.

       

      Traditional intranet site organization wouldn't promote cross-organizational conversations if it were applied to a social software solution. I'd hate to have to navigate to "HR", "Marketing", "IT", etc. to try to discover people and join in conversation with them. Blech.

       

      What do you think of this idea?

       

      What if a section of the "New Intranet" still had the traditional organization, specifically for the staff divisions who need to communicate to and serve the rest of the organization? HR, Marketing, IT, whatever. Then, the rest of the "New Intranet" would be organized by another scheme, one that promotes cross-organizational conversations and collaboration? Maybe mapped to corporate initiatives, for example.

       

      Is this a dumb idea? Stellar? What other ways could a "New Intranet" be accomplished?

        • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
          casadyc

          We have a similar scenario in my company using Clearspace.  Initially, I started configuring CS using the traditional manner -- Top-Level / Divisions / Departments.  It didn't take too long to discover that even though that was the configuration that the various key users had requested, it just didn't work.  There were far too many occasions where people say, "should I start this discussion in Department-A, or Department-B?"  It just didn't make sense to people, so we've already started changing the structure according to topics and lines of business.

           

          However, there are definitely situations where having some organizational structure does make sense.  One example is with executives and top-level management teams.  Unless those teams want the company to be transparent and allow employees to participate in their discussions, they probably want to control those content areas separately.

           

          In our case, making the necessary changes to the structure was relatively easy with Clearspace, so we were able to do that without too much negative impact on the users.  But, if I had it to do all over again, I would have started by creating "topic" or "line of business" spaces rather than "department" spaces, and then add departments or traditional organization later if necessary.

           

          To make a long story slightly longer, I guess I would say that my answer to your question is to try to educate your customer on the benefits of a topic or line-of-business configuration, and limit the amount of traditional organization within it.  I believe that having both causes confusion.

           

          Chad

          • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
            Yoshi Takahashi

            A large part of a person's corporate identity is derived from their place in the organization.  This means their title and an affiliation with a particular segment/business unit/work group.  This feeling of ownership and belonging cannot be denied, however insignificant it may be for company or enterprise collaboration.

             

            That said, my strategy for site structure is to separate cross organizational collaboration from hierarchical group oriented collaboration.  This provides for the best of both worlds.  For new users, the determination of where to place a piece of content can be challenging.  I've found that having early conversations with users regarding the correct placement of content has been helpful.

             

            All people want, to borrow from George Carlin, is "a place for my stuff".  The tricky bit is defining "my".  Is the "stuff" for myself?  For my group/unit/segment/enterprise?  I would posit that the best landing place for "stuff" is in the most open and general environment possible.  If the stuff is more narrowly focused on a small working group, then let it move there later.

             

            As an example, here is our site structure (logical names are being used instead of our actual names):

             

            • General Area
              • Work oriented content
              • Life oriented content
              • Group specific content
                • Community of Practice A
                • Community of Practice B
                • Community of Practice C
            • Business Hierarchy
              • Business Group A
                • Business Sub-Group A-1
                • Business Sub-Group A-2
                • Business Sub-Group A-3
              • Business Group B
                • etc.
            • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."

              To me, it depends on the organization.  Not everyone's ready to move headfirst into the social software movement.  It can be a scary thing.  Especially for organizations that have been around long enough to a) have big investment in whatever their current intranet is, and b) remember the "Knowlege Management" movement with its overpromise and underdeliver.

               

              One could argue that the current social software trend is kind of an evolution of the old KM model, sure.  Enterprise-wise, it's still about getting people's brains out there available to the organization.  It's just less heirarical, more people-centric and feedback is built in now.  It's hard to explain it to certain types of organizations but I find it encouraging that there is some success in surprising places like certain areas of the US Defense Dept.

              • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                aqualung

                Our existing Intranet (although established on a very Web1.0 product!) has had multiple content providers since day one - each department/line of business has its own body responsible for getting "their" stuff up onto the Intranet. It has been (and will, I believe, continue to be as we move to Sharepoint) structured on department lines. As pointed out above, this CAN work against cross-functional collaboration ... but using tags can be a first step to breaking down those silos. Finding things via the folksonomy will start to connect people with common interests and/or searching for particular skills. So the "social" part of the deal may take a little while to happen, but over time new connections will emerge. I suspect that the silos will remain, but additional communities will develop that are less structured/strictured.

                • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                  mdcrocker

                  We are looking at this as a way to augment, not replace.  People have invested in thier current information collection system, be that SharePoint, intranet, etc.  There are a number of processes in place that people use to put thier "stuff" out and find other "stuff".  By offerring this as an augmentation where we can gather to discuss, share and collaborate, we also avoid the battles with the entrenched organizations invested in some solution.  By slowly adding content or links to existing content, we create the missing online "watercooler" where people can comment and respond to the information.  That is an easier sell than defining the tool as a replacement.

                  Mike

                  • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                    Gia Lyons

                    Agreed. In my customer's situation, however, nobody is really using the intranet. And I'm talking to the people who own the intranet - Corporate Communications.

                     

                    For those who do use their intranet and are happy with existing file solutions, absolutely. Augment rather that replace is the way to go.

                    • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                      Claire Lash

                      At my company I would see us continuing to have a combination of both as we move forward with social software. Our intranet is a component of our enterprise portal which is used for static content, a corporate wiki, some blogs, application launching and a platform for transaction-based composite applications (both of these with SSO). It is used by both employees and vendor partners and as a secure, unifying framework it has distinct advantages, but unless you are currently using the application components there may not be a compelling reason to go there on a daily basis. I would expect that adding access to the social software solution will drive traffic, but I also expect that there will be a shift towards the collaborative tools that will result in the current platform primarily being used for static content that is easily mapped to our corporate organizational structure and application access. Ideally, I would like to be able to expose components of the social software within portal-based applications as well.

                       

                      We are a multi-brand business so I would think that organizing the social space by LOB would be best.

                      • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                        Gia Lyons

                        Interesting, Claire! Is there any desire to break across LOB boundaries?

                        • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                          Claire Lash

                          Absolutely! A few areas where I could see that happening are:

                           

                          • When we implement a new, strategic application that is used across LOBs, we generally have one go first and then the others go as "fast followers". There's a tremendous amount of knowledge sharing that could occur organically in that type of situation.
                          • Our company is very big on volunteerism. That crosses all LOBs and could generate many of communities of interest.
                          • When people move into new jobs in a different LOB they should be able to continue to participate in communities, maintain relationships and have access to accumulated knowledge that is relevant to their new role. 

                           

                          Not an exhaustive list by any means, but things that immediately come to mind.

                          • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."

                            I agree with many of the view expressed on this topic.  The Intranet and the social network are two very different communications tools that complement each other rather than compete.

                             

                            The Intranet is the place where the company communicates to the employees.  It is vital to have this "official" channel of communication from the company to the employees.  The social network needs to the the employees' space.  Although officially sanctioned and provided by the company, it is the employees place to discuss, share, collaborate, bond and contribute.  If the company stamp is too heavy on the social network there will never be the adoption that there needs to be.

                            • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                              drgoochmobile

                              I think we have a similar problem, but my solution is a software-development related one.  We need the ability to post content to more than one community at a time.  By setting up blogs that aggregate to more than one community I have been able to craft a work-around for some of my most common cross-community topics, but to truly get different departments talking to each other, I think everybody should be able to post content to more than one community on the fly.

                              • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                                Joe Cotellese

                                clash wrote:

                                 

                                Absolutely! A few areas where I could see that happening are:

                                 

                                • When we implement a new, strategic application that is used across LOBs, we generally have one go first and then the others go as "fast followers". There's a tremendous amount of knowledge sharing that could occur organically in that type of situation.
                                • Our company is very big on volunteerism. That crosses all LOBs and could generate many of communities of interest.
                                • When people move into new jobs in a different LOB they should be able to continue to participate in communities, maintain relationships and have access to accumulated knowledge that is relevant to their new role. 

                                 

                                Not an exhaustive list by any means, but things that immediately come to mind.

                                 

                                Don't know if you're still following this thread but I'd be really interested in knowing how you resolve the issues where things cross a LOB. I'm struggling with how I want to organize our spaces. It seems logical that it is a mix of both departmental and LOB but there are internal intitiatves that I think cross departmental boundaries. I haven't quite figured out how to address them.

                                • Re: "I want to replace my intranet with a social software solution."
                                  Ted Hopton

                                  In our organization, we recognize the independence and sense of identity that each of our divisions has by giving them each a space of their own at the root level. We also charge them with taking ownership for their space: they have to appoint a community manager and a local steering committee. It's up to them what to do with their space, and we have seen a number of different philosophies applied.

                                   

                                  While we want to see cross-divisional connections and collaboration develop, we don't see the spaces in Clearspace as the way to accomplish that. It seems more important to give each division, department and employee a "home" where they have a built-in community -- people they already know because they work with them. This fosters development of the online community since it's simply a new place to meet for a community that already exists offline.

                                   

                                  Where most of the cross-divisional, cross-departmental and cross-geographical connecting takes place is in the groups that people create in Clearspace. While our spaces form a hierarchical structure that roughly parallels our corporate hierarchy, the spaces are like stars in the sky -- they don't "sit" anywhere or fit inside any other structure.

                                   

                                  As a result, we have different kinds of activity happening in spaces and groups. We meet people with similar interests in our groups from all over the company (and all over the world, since we are a global enterprise). We interact with, share ideas with, and help out peers we have never met in person. Communities of interest are forming spontaneously and growing virally.

                                   

                                  In spaces, we have intra-divisional connecting and collaborating, again often among people who have never met (we're a big company with some large divisions). Teams are developing new work processes within the tool, having elaborate discussions that don't get lost in their email inboxes, and so on.

                                   

                                  I'd say this is working pretty well for us. We do have support areas that cross divisions, and I'll admit we're struggling with them. They don't fit easily into the hierarchy and they tend to lack the community identity that the divisions already have. But we're working with them and we'll get there!