Wells Fargo's Frustrating Taste Of Enterprise Social Success

Experience accelerating sales processes shows the promise of enterprise social networking, but doesn't prove today's technologies deliver on it.
Getting management participation in the system was important because when employees post on an enterprise social network, they want to know that their manager will see what they've posted, Carlson-Jagersma said. One pattern she recommends to them is to post in the format @mention (manager's username), hashtag (customer name).

When senior executives noticed the positive effect on sales, they were more interested in participating in Chatter conversations and communities. However, when she displayed a sample of executive communication through Chatter on screen, she had a critique: "Where are the @mentions, where are the hashtags -- they don't know what that is." Once these executive users come to understand the significance of those techniques -- for example, using @mention references to specific users as a way of prodding them to pay attention -- they can be more effective, she said. "But that takes time."

Wells Fargo is making progress establishing the patterns in which social communication makes sense at work even as it struggles to define the technical environment for enterprise social networking.

Even though Chatter made sense for the sales pilot, the bank also chose Jive Software's enterprise social network as a platform with broader potential. However, Wells Fargo is running into enough frustrations with simple things like upgrading from one version of Jive to another that it sounds like Jive shouldn't get too comfortable claiming the bank as one of its big customers.

"Right now, Jive is not looked at as being the strategic, long-term solution for anything," Carlson-Jagersma said.

While Chatter is helping prove the business value of social collaboration, it has plenty of its own flaws. For example, Chatter makes it easy for users to establish discussion groups, but the tools it provides for administrators and community managers to control the proliferation of those groups and the content posted within them are sorely lacking, Carlson-Jagersma said. "Also, if I post something, I can't find it again to save my life -- the search is awful."

Also, Chatter may work well with, but there are other sales teams on Dynamics CRM who would be left out in the cold by that choice, she said.

Because Wells Fargo's commitment to these platforms is so tentative, employees are encouraged to use them for discussion but avoid using them as document repositories. Instead, they're advised to link to other files in existing document management systems.

Meanwhile, the bank is taking a second look at Yammer following its acquisition by Microsoft, partly because Wells Fargo has such a big commitment to Microsoft technologies overall. Yammer suddenly looks attractive, where a few months ago it didn't, Carlson-Jagersma said.

Wells Fargo will continue down its current path with Jive for the time being, while continuing to look at its options, she said.

Editor's Note: Shortly after this was published, Carlson-Jagersma contacted to me to say she felt my article was too negative, particularly toward the software vendors mentioned in the article. Wells Fargo is working cooperatively with the vendors to define a software architecture that will meet its business requirements and believes the industry is making rapid progress toward that goal, she said.

The original story also overstated the scope of Wells Fargo's Jive implementation.

Correction: The original version of this story also referenced Wells Fargo doing trials with Socialtext, where it should have been Socialcast.

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

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