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6/22/2007
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At Procter & Gamble, The Good And Bad Of Web 2.0 Tools

It once bet its collaboration strategy on Microsoft tools. It’s expanded to consider more Web 2.0 tools, but getting them implemented and used is far from easy.

Ever since A.G. Lafley be-came CEO of Procter & Gamble in 2000, he has pushed employees to improve how they collaborate with one another and with partners in order to develop new products faster. With a supportive CEO and today's myriad Web 2.0 options, what possible problems could face Joe Schueller, who's driving P&G's adoption of new collaboration tools?

How about e-mail, which Schueller describes as the biggest barrier to employee use of more interactive and effective tools. "As a sender of an e-mail, I control the agenda of everyone around me," Schueller says. E-mailers decide who has permission to read a message, and the Reply To All button ensures that peripheral participants will be prompted long after they have lost all interest. Blogs, in contrast, beg for comments from those most interested. Schueller also faces the harrumphing of employees who see anything other than e-mail as an addition to their workloads. "We consistently hear that information posted to the intranet is incremental work," he says.

Schueller's got an e-mail problem -- Photo by Alex Dunne

Schueller's got an e-mail problem

Photo by Alex Dunne
Business technology execs at last week's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston are past the new concept stage; they're looking to put practical technology in place. "A year ago, I met with a group of Fortune 25 CEOs who didn't know anything about wikis. Now they ask me how these tools can integrate with their existing content management systems," says Kim Polese, CEO of open source systems integrator SpikeSource, which is selling a suite of Web 2.0 tools that includes Movable Type blogs and Socialtext wikis.

P&G provides a study of how Enterprise 2.0 will take shape given the scope of its project and the way it draws on tools from startups as well as big-name vendors. In 2005, P&G laid plans for a Microsoft-centric collaboration initiative, with instant messaging, unified communications, and presence using Live Communications Server; Web conferencing with Live Meeting; and content management and collaboration via SharePoint. About 80,000 employees use Microsoft IM, and 20,000 have moved to Outlook. P&G has a few SharePoint sites running, and the major rollout begins in August.

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For the past year, Schueller has been leading an Enterprise 2.0 effort with the backing of CIO Filippo Passerini that aims to bring employees a more diverse toolset. The company has brought on Movable Type blogging software, which employees have used to create hundreds of blogs, including ones by the VP of design (inspired by a blog by General Motors design guru Bob Lutz); by the public relations department on how to discuss company issues externally; and by Schueller, read mostly by IT folks. In the next few months, P&G will launch social networking intended to make it easier to find people with needed expertise.

Even as Microsoft and IBM keep expanding their Web 2.0-style collaboration capabilities--with social networking tools like Lotus' Connections and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007's support for blogs, wikis, and calendar sharing--many companies are concluding that one platform won't be enough.

"If I do everything in Microsoft, what does that do to your modularity, to flexibility?" says Schueller, whose title is innovation manager in P&G's Global Business Services. "I wouldn't generalize that just to Microsoft. It's all the big vendors." IT also needs to learn how to incorporate tools employees bring in themselves, he says.

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