Social software in business – use cases

Lee Bryant – Headshift
David Fitch – Simmons & Simmons
Olivier Creiche – six apart
Adam Tinworth – reed

Lee’s telling us about some of the cases and then looking real world perspectives of what is being done.

We’ve got mature well-developed products now and we have some good external services for getting people started without involving IT and then you can build your own mashups and services using things like Ning.

But it ain’t what you do…

So just putting in blogs isn’t enough, you need concrete business use cases, engagement and people support and (at least a degree of ) a connected infrastructure.

We’re just about to release a library of use-cases that might be useful for people to look at info & knowledge sharing, innovation & R&D, internal comms as well as Marketing & PR.

So here’s some cases.

OC: We just deliver bricks, the important stuff gets done by these guys who build interesting and useful houses. Last year we were still just explaining what blogs are and how we thought they might be used. Bob Lutz: “No better opportunity exists to engage”.

Web publishing is way ahead in this country (Adam’s going to talk about Reed’s experience) Most of the creative stuff starts with smaller businesses and that then gets picked up by bigger players EG Serious Eats, Huffington Post vs Washington Post.

Internal Communications eg Citrix were very fast growing and had new employees not staying very long so they wanted to hold on to a bit of that knowledge while they were there, across dozens of projects and going very fast. AEP is a much bigger company but with the same story – trying to stop e-mail becoming the central repository for knowledge. They start small, they experiment, nobody *knows* how it will work but one of the success factors is having a champion someone who has a better idea than anyone else which shows the way for others.

Marketing and Community types of blogs eg Arcelor and Mittal merger raises a lot of anxiety among various stakeholders. Launched a blog/2.0 site because they wanted to be very open about what they were doing and how they were going about it and they let people go out with cameras and interview people around the world about what they felt about it. still being evaluated, but they are very happy and the press coverage has been excellent.

David Fitch:

What’s key to us is providing an infrastructure for lawyers to share knowledge and expertise across practice areas but also offices, knowing what’s going on inside the firm and outside.
We’ve been experimenting for about 3 years pushing a group of conservative people towards using new ways of operating. Blogs RSS Wikis are words that frighten lawyers so we’ve been giving them new tools and our experience is that people are able to use the lighter tools very easily – especially like bringing the time to publish down.

Our business case – the investment was zero – we used open source and tested it internally, but once we started, other people followed very quickly. so we didn’t have to justify an investment decision but we now have good evidence for new investment.

AT: we got into social media entirely by accident. We set up a small team and started out blogging and suddenly got requests to provide it internally. Publishing firms tend to be quite balkanised but as we started moving into a new business of interacting with our readers, we had a lot to learn and this raised a hunger for people to share what they’re learning and keep conversations going.

We have a number of problems – education – we’re not dictating any solution and we bring people together who (aaaagh contact lens emergency…)

Q: Does it actually work?
A: LB: it devolves things down to the level of the basic unit of work which is the person. What has happened with enterprise knowledge sharing is that people get the pain without any payback, but the lightweight tools give you power to organise your stuff and your contacts with other people and work with it all better. What’s also interesting is putting it on top

Q: do you see this as the end of employee communications as we know it?
A: LB: I don’t think so – every generation sees itself as Luke Skywalker, but it’s silly really because it actually just gets layered over the next one so now that we’re at the human scale where things really do work – people can publish and develop some sort of collective intelligence.
AT: No as it’s a way of taking away the more mundane bits of internal comms work and lets people focus on face to face

Q: MB: Lots of companies have huge intranets – should we just wipe them away?
DF: very familiar with this – there’s a huge wealth of material that’s useful but just couldn’t be found – so we did some work about improving search and findability but also looking at using lighter infrastructure to start again, which will involve some pain, people will have to go back and look at relevance for example, but that change is going to deliver the benefit that we’re moving towards creating communities and connecting people rather than just producing static content.

Q: GC: How do you deal with info that becomes out of date?
A:LB: different approaches – the most interesting is that in a mature implementation anything acquires its own context, tags etc so out of date stuff falls down as sediment in these systems. So then you need some sort of review system, but it’s more about letting more timely stuff come to the fore.
DF: it’s also so much easier to keep your stuff up to date, even for lawyers :) so just using lighter tools helps a lot.

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