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Even At Facebook, Business Intelligence Is Not Viral

Rather than relying on social collaboration, Facebook had to bombard impatient employees with specialized training so they would recognize and use the business intelligence tools available in their internal, Microstrategy-based portal.
She was charged with finding the fastest growing parts of Facebook and the ones with the greatest need for data--which turned out to be sales operations in international offices such as the one in Dublin. Together with the managers at Facebook, she established a goal of long-term adoption, which would start by "making Nexus known, successful, and loved."

"First, I had to learn how to catch their attention, which meant learning their culture," Rezanko-Prajs said. It's a culture of impatience, which she characterized by showing signs posted in the hallways with slogans such as "Go Fast and Break Things" and "Done Is Better Than Perfect."

"It's all about move fast, done is more relevant than perfect," she said. "An 8-hour training class will not work, not at Facebook."

"The Facebook culture, as well, is all about self-service," Rezanko-Prajs added, which meant employees were perfectly willing to create their own reports and fetch data themselves. However, if they couldn't figure out how to use a system like Nexus instantly, they were likely to shrug it off as useless. "They want to do it themselves, but they need guidance," she said.

Her answer was an around-the-world roadshow where she trained people in each office on the use of the tool in very short presentations, focused on the specific tasks employees in different roles needed to know how to do on Nexus.

When the roadshow came to Dublin, "that was the first time my people saw how easy and intuitive Nexus was," Pedersen said. "That's when they realized it was easier to use Nexus than it was to beg me for data or to use one of our more technical tools to get it."

In addition to the roadshow, the Microstrategy trainers developed a Nexus course for new employees, as part of the Facebook onboarding process. Nexus also was documented in a wiki, and Rezanko-Prajs used the Camtasia screen capture tool to produce a series of short videos on how to accomplish different tasks. For a few key tasks, the Nexus engineering team built links to the videos into the user interface of the BI portal. "They're about three minutes, designed for a very short attention span," she said. "When they're trying to accomplish something, they want to know how to do that immediately."

Although the videos proved extremely helpful, she found it was still important to pin down employees long enough to have them take the basic training. "People who hadn't attended that roadshow, often we couldn't get them over that hump until they had the training," Rezanko-Prajs said.

As adoption grew, Facebook's internal social network did help accelerate it. Facebook runs internal equivalents of the same applications available on facebook.com and established the Nexus Time! support forum using the Facebook groups app. Once employees had a place they could go to post questions about Nexus, those questions were often answered by other Nexus users rather than the official support staff. Although that's a phenomenon many companies report with their customer support on Facebook groups or pages, Pedersen said she was surprised by how well it worked internally.

As a result of all this activity, use of the Nexus platform has doubled in the last year, the presenters said.

As for why social networking within Facebook wasn't enough to make Nexus take off in the first place, Pedersen said, "When I post a status update, the first thing I think of to post probably isn't my Nexus reports. The Facebook group let us increase engagement because it let people know what is out there, but we did need a spark to get it going. The roadshow is what did that."

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

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