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.

David F Carr, Editor, InformationWeek Government/Healthcare

November 16, 2012

7 Min Read

The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012

The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012

The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012 (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Wells Fargo has tasted just enough social business success to know how much farther it has to go.

After seeing encouraging results in a pilot project focused on using social collaboration to boost sales, Wells Fargo is moving ahead with plans to implement a true enterprise social network, explained Kelli Carlson-Jagersma, VP and collaboration strategist at the bank, in a presentation at UBM's E2 Innovate conference this week. However, that doesn't mean Wells Fargo has worked out the best way to achieve the "social everywhere" potential it sees for pervasive social collaboration, integrated with the flow of its employees' everyday work -- and ideally stretching out to reach customers as well, she said.

"We're not married to, or happy with, any vendor right now," Carlson-Jagersma said.

She came to E2 with a success story -- at least, an early, tentative success story -- about the use of Salesforce.com's Chatter to support global sales efforts in its wholesale bank. At the same time, the bank is moving forward with plans for a proof-of-concept implementation of Jive Software's enterprise social network. However, neither those products nor the others Wells Fargo has piloted -- Yammer, NewsGator and Socialcast -- fully deliver on the promise of "social everywhere," integrated with the applications employees use to get their work done, she said.

Like a lot of businesses chasing the social business vision, Wells Fargo believes the greatest potential for social collaboration will be realized when it is embedded in the tools employees use to do their work every day -- for example, directly into the tools for reviewing credit applications. This was the same potential many other E2 speakers outlined for a next-generation enterprise architecture. So far, however, the vision seems to be way ahead of the integration technology vendors are delivering for achieving it. For example, Jive provides a connector for integration with SharePoint, but it's not really adequate for achieving meaningful integration with the vast array of SharePoint servers the bank has deployed, Carlson-Jagersma said.

Despite these frustrations, Wells Fargo is making progress at exposing executives and employees to the concepts and techniques that will allow them to productively use social. Wells Fargo has been trying to focus its social collaboration efforts on specific business goals, and driving sales was at the top of the list.

[ Sales and marketing aren't the only divisions that gain from social. See Social Analytics Isn't Just For Social Networks. ]

The pilot project to accelerate sales started with Salesforce.com CRM users, so Chatter was the natural social collaboration choice. "We saw a great opportunity to use social instead of email and text messages," Carlson-Jagersma said. Often, salespeople were conversing in instant messaging threads, shared only with one other person, when they would have benefitted from sharing with a broader team. The sales pilot project focused on reducing the time required to process loan documents, and it achieved modest progress toward that goal. The business loan process takes about six weeks, and pilot project participants shaved off a couple of days, she said. The more interesting result was the cross-sales opportunities that opened up when four other business groups were allowed to monitor the loan team's activities. One of those teams wound up shrinking its processing time by a week and a half, she said.

One of the most effective techniques for getting employees to use social communication effectively was to conduct "day in the life" training sessions, walking them through a handful of scenarios relevant to their daily use, Carlson-Jagersma said. Purposeful introduction of social technology produces better results, she said. "If it just goes viral, you're doing something wrong because those people who get started that way, they don't have a purpose. That will go viral and quickly die." 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 Salesforce.com, 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 facebook.com/thebyard

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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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