Category: Social Media, Technology

Problems Well Defined are Problems Half Solved


Technology-terms---460102561Over the past couple of weeks Kristin Ferguson and Maura Linehan espoused the virtues of enterprise social networks and explained how a refurbished intranet can enhance corporate communication and efficiency. My job in this series will be to give you some insight into how we went about choosing our solution.

Before we started building our solution we thought it a worthy cause to spend a great deal of time truly understanding the problems we sought to solve. The more we discussed it, the more opportunities we identified, and the more our vision evolved. We wanted our corporate intranet to be much more interactive than your garden variety intranet chock full of corporate links. We wanted a central hub for all organizational and job specific content that was tailored for each associate. The business case was lengthy and detailed but essentially we determined that social for the sake of social would most likely land with a thud. In order to have a meaningful and actionable social experience, we needed to embed social capabilities within our day-to-day business processes. Below are some of the goals of the project:

  • Enhance organizational communication: With this tool we wanted to provide a platform for three-way communication. This included top down communication, bottom up communication, and cross departmental communication.
  • Implement a content management strategy: We knew we needed to make it easy for people to search for documents they needed rather than having them memorize where documents lived. We needed to consolidate all of the current file storage systems into one platform and institute a formal classification system. And we needed to implement a governance model to encourage content creation and growth in a controlled manner.
  • Enhance the business of doing business: Increasing efficiency was a big goal for us. We needed a solution for rapid application development for just in time business applications. We needed to convert unstructured business processes into structured measurable activities. We needed to create a consistent delivery mechanism for project related content and communications. And we needed to enable self-service reports.
  • Create a best in class enterprise search solution: The solution had to provide users a quick and easy way to find the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. This included content search, taxonomy browsing, people search, data search, and social search.

It was certainly an ambitious undertaking, but problems well defined are problems half solved. The good news is that these challenges exist in almost every enterprise environment and subsequently, the market has produced a myriad of solutions to help us solve them.

For us, SharePoint 2010 with the Newsgator Social Sites add-on was a sensible solution for a variety of reasons.  Most importantly, it met most of our requirements. This tandem was built specifically for the job at hand.

Our new social intranet, The Hub, launched in July of 2013 and adoption has been steady since. Each month, our associates consume approximately 1.25 million pages and those numbers are trending up as more and more departments matriculate their content and communications into the new platform.

In closing, I’ll share with you some of our lessons learned:

  • Social projects cannot succeed without senior management support. Rally the troops, demonstrate value and cinch up their support.
  • Engage your associates in the requirements gathering process. They know what they need better than IT does.
  • Governance! All content should be owned by the business and managed appropriately. IT can enable this, but business involvement is critical.
  • Don’t wait for perfection. Iterate often. You’ll learn quickly what does and doesn’t work.
  • Don’t ignore search! One fourth of your knowledge worker payroll is spent creating and handling content. Search makes those expensive efforts findable, reusable, and prevents the proliferation of stale content in your computing environment.

Good luck with your efforts to introduce social into your organization. Effective uses of these tools in the enterprise truly can yield some impressive results when planned and executed properly.

Read the other posts in this series:

Steve Sapir

Steve Sapir

Steve’s financial services experience spans over 20 years. Steve currently manages a team focused on developing collaborative tool solutions. He rejoined the Boston Financial IT team in 2004 as a systems analyst and has held a variety of business analyst roles. Most recently, Steve has been instrumental in implementing enterprise tools such as SharePoint and NewsGator. Steve is also pursuing his CBAP credential.

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