It once bet its collaboration strategy on Microsoft tools. It’s expanded to consider more Web 2.0 tools, but getting them implemented and used is far from easy.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

June 22, 2007

6 Min Read

Ever since A.G. Lafley be-came CEO of Procter & Gamble in 2000, he has pushed employees to improve how they collaborate with one another and with partners in order to develop new products faster. With a supportive CEO and today's myriad Web 2.0 options, what possible problems could face Joe Schueller, who's driving P&G's adoption of new collaboration tools?

How about e-mail, which Schueller describes as the biggest barrier to employee use of more interactive and effective tools. "As a sender of an e-mail, I control the agenda of everyone around me," Schueller says. E-mailers decide who has permission to read a message, and the Reply To All button ensures that peripheral participants will be prompted long after they have lost all interest. Blogs, in contrast, beg for comments from those most interested. Schueller also faces the harrumphing of employees who see anything other than e-mail as an addition to their workloads. "We consistently hear that information posted to the intranet is incremental work," he says.

Schueller's got an e-mail problem -- Photo by Alex Dunne

Schueller's got an e-mail problem

Photo by Alex Dunne

Business technology execs at last week's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston are past the new concept stage; they're looking to put practical technology in place. "A year ago, I met with a group of Fortune 25 CEOs who didn't know anything about wikis. Now they ask me how these tools can integrate with their existing content management systems," says Kim Polese, CEO of open source systems integrator SpikeSource, which is selling a suite of Web 2.0 tools that includes Movable Type blogs and Socialtext wikis.

P&G provides a study of how Enterprise 2.0 will take shape given the scope of its project and the way it draws on tools from startups as well as big-name vendors. In 2005, P&G laid plans for a Microsoft-centric collaboration initiative, with instant messaging, unified communications, and presence using Live Communications Server; Web conferencing with Live Meeting; and content management and collaboration via SharePoint. About 80,000 employees use Microsoft IM, and 20,000 have moved to Outlook. P&G has a few SharePoint sites running, and the major rollout begins in August.

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For the past year, Schueller has been leading an Enterprise 2.0 effort with the backing of CIO Filippo Passerini that aims to bring employees a more diverse toolset. The company has brought on Movable Type blogging software, which employees have used to create hundreds of blogs, including ones by the VP of design (inspired by a blog by General Motors design guru Bob Lutz); by the public relations department on how to discuss company issues externally; and by Schueller, read mostly by IT folks. In the next few months, P&G will launch social networking intended to make it easier to find people with needed expertise.

Even as Microsoft and IBM keep expanding their Web 2.0-style collaboration capabilities--with social networking tools like Lotus' Connections and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007's support for blogs, wikis, and calendar sharing--many companies are concluding that one platform won't be enough.

"If I do everything in Microsoft, what does that do to your modularity, to flexibility?" says Schueller, whose title is innovation manager in P&G's Global Business Services. "I wouldn't generalize that just to Microsoft. It's all the big vendors." IT also needs to learn how to incorporate tools employees bring in themselves, he says.

Beyond Google And Microsoft
In enterprise search, P&G is looking beyond its main vendor, too. It uses Google's search appliance, but Schueller has found that the concept behind page rank--relevance based on links--doesn't always work in business, because information inside the company isn't always linked. Plus, he's concerned that Google's reliance on keywords doesn't leave enough room for fuzzy ideas that aren't captured well in one or two words.

So the company's testing a product from Connectbeam that works with Google. Connectbeam lets employees share bookmarks and tag articles, pages, and documents with descriptive words. When an employee searches for something using the Google appliance, Connectbeam results--related tags and bookmarks--are returned alongside the Google results.

P&G also is revamping its BEA Systems-based Web portal, adding RSS feeds of news and business information to let people personalize the portal. Over time, the company expects to suggest feeds for employees based on their roles and the Web sites they frequent.

But how does Schueller get anyone to use these tools, if they're seen as extra work?

One way is to look at how people do something today and offer a tool that fits the same process in a slightly simpler way. He offers an example of a P&G executive who, every time he traveled to meet with one regional manager, would put the takeaways into PowerPoint and e-mail them to the others. Instead, IT created a page in Microsoft SharePoint where the exec could post his presentations, and where they could be saved in a more efficient data store than every person's in-box.

CIO Passerini's strategy for assessing whether Web 2.0 tools make sense for P&G has been to "do this to us first," says Schueller--to let IT teams experiment with technologies and assign a different IT manager to each Web 2.0 product area. The IT team sees this as an opportunity to make a difference in a company where brand managers, not technologists, are the rock stars. "IT, particularly in a soap company, is in the back room pedaling," says Schueller. "This is our chance to champion something."

IT departments at other companies also see this Enterprise 2.0 moment as a chance to shine. Among hundreds of organizations represented at last week's conference were Bank of America, Boeing, the Central Intelligence Agency, FedEx, Morgan Stanley, and Pfizer.

Motorola is one of the biggest adopters of Web collaboration tools, with 4,400 blogs, 4,200 wiki pages, and 2,600 people actively doing content tagging and social bookmarking using Scuttle software, with more accessing the system. Under an initiative called Intranet 2.0, the tools are used mostly for research and information sharing--so instead of salespeople developing a whole new pitch for every client, they can reuse pieces of pitches posted on a wiki. Motorola employees also can more easily find people with experience in specific areas using social networking software from Visible Path or checking author pages on wikis. "It actually lets people see new relationships--to see maps of what smart people and like people have done," says Toby Redshaw, Motorola's VP in charge of Enterprise 2.0 technologies. The result is that the company is building knowledge centers around particular problems and products.

That's the end goal for Schueller--that employees and partners searching for information on the intranet, creating profiles, tagging documents, and sharing bookmarks make the content more valuable. Call it social software or user-generated content, the risk is that if people don't find the tool useful out of the gate, they won't contribute the content that builds this virtuous cycle. IT teams have a critical opportunity to make it worth people's while. As one IT exec at the conference put it, "If they come, they will build it."

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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