Unisys Lets Employees Drive Face Of Social Business

This BrainYard Social Business Leader listens to employees about how they can use social business tools in their jobs.

David F Carr, Editor, InformationWeek Government/Healthcare

November 5, 2012

5 Min Read

Enterprise Social Networks: Must-Have Features Guide

Enterprise Social Networks: Must-Have Features Guide

Enterprise Social Networks: Must-Have Features Guide(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Want to find the role of social business in your company? Let your employees discover where social tools can help them do their jobs.

That's one of the suggestions of Gloria Burke, director of knowledge and collaboration strategy and governance at Unisys. I spoke with her and some of her colleagues at Unisys as part of our research for a feature on The BrainYard's Social Business Leaders that will appear in the Nov. 12 issue of InformationWeek.

[ Red Robin CIO Chris Laping, our social business technology leader of the year, will join an onstage discussion of The BrainYard's Social Business Leaders at E2 Innovate, Nov. 12-15, Santa Clara Convention Center]

"We've put a lot of emphasis on helping employees learn how social tools can add value in their particular role," Burke said. Once they have it figured out, she encourages them to share. "Nothing drives the adoption of something new more than a colleague telling you it works for them," she said. One internal communications campaign used a poster with the slogan, "It's true. You know it all. (How about sharing it?)"

The social business initiative has succeeded partly because of a top-down push from management, which recognized its importance, Burke said, and because of the groundwork laid by prior knowledge management initiatives. "When Unisys looks at the emergence of social for the business, we do see it as an IT disruptive trend," she said.

"We do have a tradition that goes back 10 years where our employee base has been exposed to the technologies for knowledge management and now social media, but what we understood when we started this three years ago is it's not just about the technology but getting people to understand and interact and change," said Rajiv Prasad, director of knowledge management and CTO operations. "The technology is needed infrastructure to make it easy to do what you need to do, but if either the capabilities or the content are not up to expectations, they will get turned off."

Instead, 91% of the employees in the targeted global audience for the new social platform adopted it within 18 months.

The external and internal uses of social media "started out as separate initiatives, where marketing was trying to tap into the social biosphere out there, while at the same time we started internally down this road with NewsGator and social," said John Knab, director of IT applications. "Over the past year or so, we're starting to converge those, where we've fairly closely tied what we do externally with what we're trying to do internally."

Gloria Burke

Those departments that interact with customers increasingly turn to the internal social network to find answers to questions they've gotten from customers through social channels. Unisys has also implemented Salesforce.com, including Chatter as a social collaboration tool for sales teams. Knab doesn't see that as a conflict, although he is investigating ways of making Chatter and NewsGator work together. "Everybody's going to have some social component to their platform," Knab said. Often, it's appropriate for distinct communities such as sales teams to be able to have their own separate social network for conversations that don't concern the rest of the company. On the other hand, sales people also have access to NewsGator when they want to have a conversation with the broader organization.

One of the things that really matters to the sales team is "market agility," Burke said. The kind of ready access to experts provided by the social communities is paying off now that sales can use a mobile device such as a tablet to get answers to customer questions. In the old days, they'd have to go back to the office, figure out who to ask, and then wait for an answer, she said. "Now they can often find out who the subject matter expert is, pose the question, and get the answer before they even leave the [client's] office. That's impressive to the client."

Knab said the experience also points up the value of learning from experience, which is something the NewsGator team stressed "but maybe we didn't quite believe it." In other words, "don't engineer it or try to treat it like a typical program -- jump in and do it, let it get started, and then mature it."

"We spent time on a pilot when in retrospect we should have just deployed," Burke agreed. In retrospect, she also wishes she had introduced role-based workshops on the value of social networking earlier. "A focused audience approach was much more effective and really drove the usage," she said.

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

The business world is changing. Is your company ready? E2 Innovate, formerly Enterprise 2.0, is the only event of its kind, bringing strategic business professionals together with industry influencers and next-gen enterprise technologies. Register for E2 Innovate Conference & Expo today and save $200 on current pricing or get a free expo pass. Nov. 12-15, 2012, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Silicon Valley.

About the Author(s)

David F Carr

Editor, InformationWeek Government/Healthcare

David F. Carr oversees InformationWeek's coverage of government and healthcare IT. He previously led coverage of social business and education technologies and continues to contribute in those areas. He is the editor of Social Collaboration for Dummies (Wiley, Oct. 2013) and was the social business track chair for UBM's E2 conference in 2012 and 2013. He is a frequent speaker and panel moderator at industry events. David is a former Technology Editor of Baseline Magazine and Internet World magazine and has freelanced for publications including CIO Magazine, CIO Insight, and Defense Systems. He has also worked as a web consultant and is the author of several WordPress plugins, including Facebook Tab Manager and RSVPMaker. David works from a home office in Coral Springs, Florida. Contact him at [email protected]and follow him at @davidfcarr.

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