At last week's Jive Software user conference, PwC was recognized with the "New Way to Business" award, the overall "best of show" award for the customer with the most impressive story to tell. Other awards, for both internal and customer-facing uses of social software, went to Deutsche Bank, Verizon, Premier Farnell's element14, Millward Brown, and HealthFitness.
PwC is a relatively new Jive customer, having signed last December and soft launched its social network (branded Spark internally) in April. In its first six months, Spark has attracted 90,000 users in a phased deployment, country by country around the world. PwC is the world's largest professional services company and the largest of the Big Four accounting firms, so it has a lot of territory to cover.
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The last of the national office deployments, in Germany, is scheduled to happen next week, said Paula Young, leader of the Global Knowledge Services team providing central support and coordination for the rollout. One of her favorite stories about Spark concerns a German employee who did not yet have access to it but called up a friend in London who did, in search of an answer to a question about IBM's OpenPages compliance software. Within minutes, another employee in London wrote back, mentioning about 10 technology groups that might have the answer, and the conversation quickly ricocheted across the Atlantic and around the world.
"The thing that blew this guy away is that he got his answer in 26 minutes--after spending four days trying to find it," Young said. That kind of responsiveness is hard to match with traditional approaches to codifying knowledge within an organization, which tend to be less suited to answering spontaneous, unanticipated questions.
"Historically, knowledge management was really focused on collection--it was just in case, rather than just in time," Young said. Both approaches are important and meet different needs, but PwC is decisively shifting to more of the "just in time" approach delivered by social networking, she said.
Another common payoff, in addition to finding information, has turned out to be "taking the pain out of proposals," Young said. In one recent example, a geographically dispersed team had to hustle together a proposal for a retail client within two weeks and found it was able to do so in about half the time, she said. One reason: coordinating the development of the document through Jive (in combination with its plugin for Microsoft Office) eliminated about 80% of the versioning issues that arise from emailing documents back and forth, she said.
In France, PwC launched a balloon to advertise the launch of Spark, its Jive-based enterprise social network.
PwC had experimented with enterprise social networking before, with different divisions of the company trying Yammer and IBM Connections (back when it was known as Lotus Connections), Young said. But Spark represents the first company-wide effort. "What this is doing is bringing all of it together, as the one and only" enterprise social network for the company, she said. PwC isn't necessarily dictating that all competing solutions be shut down, but "most of those died a natural death," she said.