Why Bechtel Chose Chatter (Not To Boost Sales)

Largest construction and engineering company in the U.S. is an example of an enterprise choosing Chatter on its own merits, rather than as an adjunct to sales productivity.
"We blew past our projected numbers in the first three weeks, but it happened so quickly we didn't know what to do. Then, after 35 or 40 days, the numbers started to go off a cliff," Burleigh said. After the initial surge of enthusiasm, people discovered that the most important conversations weren't actually in Chatter--because it was new--and so they didn't start their own conversations, and so no one had a reason to come back. To function properly, the Chatter network needed to have what he calls "data gravity," he said. "It needs to be where the work is getting done."

As part of the project kickoff, Burleigh had recruited "Chatter champions" throughout the company who committed to posting to the Chatter environment at least three to five times a week as a way of getting things started. Because a lot of corporate content was in other systems like SharePoint, they also made a point of linking to SharePoint documents and building a discussion around them.

When activity stuttered, the Chatter advocates worked to get it restarted, putting an emphasis on the use of @mentions of employees as a way of reminding them of discussions that they should be participating in. "You have to have that impetus and give them a reason for coming back," he said. "The more activity, the more gravity, the more people will gravitate to the platform."

Burleigh also found it was really important to solicit feedback and then demonstrate that you're willing to make changes in response. "When you do, it pays back tenfold," he said.

Mannella said another key to success, and one of the ways Model Metrics helped, was identifying a set of practical business uses for the technology, categorized according to degree of difficulty and potential payoff. That makes it easier to decide what to tackle first, he said.

"Bechtel avoided probably the biggest mistake people make before they deploy Chatter, which is: don't just turn it on. Without a focus on change management, without a plan in place, you're not going to have the success. You may have pockets of success, but you're not going to get to that social transformations stage."

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and

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