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Wells Fargo Weighs Internal Social Network Strategy

Bank pilots a variety of internal networking social networking technologies, emphasizes business-use-cases not shiny tools.

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Shortly after my post on the importance of setting internal social networking setting goals early, I got an email from Kelli Carlson-Jagersma, whose recently formed social strategy team at Wells Fargo, led by Nathan Bricklin, is developing and implementing the company's internal collaboration strategy.

She had just returned from Jive World when she read the post, which she said resonated with her because of the work she is doing at Wells Fargo. "I think you hit the nail on the head," wrote Carlson-Jagersma. "Companies ought not to be focused on the technology, but rather on identifying what business value social can bring by way of internal collaboration tools."

I reached out to Carlson-Jagersma, and we spoke by phone about Wells Fargo's internal social networking initiative and how it is working to put the social cart after the business-use-case horse.

Carlson-Jagersma said that, put simply, Wells Fargo is looking to create a valued and trusted social network for its 280,000 widely dispersed employees while "not introducing just yet another tool to do business."

[Are the bigwigs balking at your social media plans? Learn 11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits.]

Currently, there are instances of internal social networks within the company, but only because an employee either set one up on his or her own or turned on a social networking capability within an existing enterprise application, said Carlson-Jagersma. She added that her team's goal is to identify all of those instances and offer them a standard solution. "Our goal is to round up all of the social networks in the company that people have snuck in, brought in, turned on, and settle on an approach and the appropriate tool or tools to add business value."

Carlson-Jagersma said one of the challenges in evaluating products in this space is that the space itself is so dynamic. She said the company has piloted the likes of Chatter, Yammer, SocialText, Jive, and some small, homegrown solutions. It has also evaluated NewsGator as an add-on to Microsoft SharePoint, which has been in use at the company for some time.

More important than the tools, though, are the business applications for the tools, she said. The company is therefore expending the bulk of its efforts on identifying use-cases for internal social networking tools and running small pilots in the enterprise to test different solutions and learn what benefits social can bring to the enterprise.

"It's not so much focusing on the tools as the use-cases," said Carlson-Jagersma. "What I mean by that is, what is this problem we are trying to solve? Unless we make it a lot easier for people to do their jobs, or create so much efficiency in the work they're already doing, or somehow integrate communications, having a tool such as NewsGator or Chatter or Jive just adds more noise or something more for us to have to do. So, right away we've been taking a step back and looking at the use-case."

One use-case Wells Fargo is considering is in the area of support centers. "With our service and support operations located all over our geographic footprint, we need to be able to collaborate virtually. We are evaluating current business processes and how can we use social tools to enhance collaboration--not replace what we're doing, but make it more connected and even more efficient." she said.

Carlson-Jagersma added that once the business needs have been identified, only then will her team consult with the business and pilot a social networking tool--or tools, because a combination of solutions is being considered--to implement companywide.

"I think of using social as a way of work, not just as a shiny new tool and something fun."

Establishing this mentality across the company will require a cultural shift, acknowledges Carlson-Jagersma. "This is something that's going to require our culture as a whole organization to change," she said. "Here at Wells Fargo we're a very open, very knowledge-sharing environment, but doing that online is yet another space. I see a lot of gaps in understanding what that can really mean."

Still, there have been some early signs that internal social networking tools will add significant value to the company. "We're still in the first iterations--whether or not internal social networking tools will reduce service times or the email volume remains to be seen," Carlson-Jagersma said. "But what I do hear from everyone is, 'Oh, my gosh--it's so nice to put a face to a name.' We've made this huge company feel a little bit smaller. That has been the immediate benefit."

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.

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Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/13/2011 | 3:03:42 PM
re: Wells Fargo Weighs Internal Social Network Strategy
Is your company evaluating internal social media solutions? Have you already identified your business use cases? If you'd be willing to share your experience, please reply to this comment or email me at debra.donstonmiller@gmail.com.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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