Departments and units across the company use products like Microsoft's SharePoint, custom applications, Yammer, Salesforce.com's Chatter, SAP's Jam and VMware's SocialCast.
However, they aren't integrated companywide, so often employees resort to the Notes email system, which isn't designed for collaboration in the way these other tools are.
"Instead of trying to stop that proliferation of collaboration tools, what we want to do is gather the information and funnel it into a unified repository," Jeffrey R. Berg, IT eBusiness manager of architecture and development at 3M, said during a presentation.
The plan is to hook up these tools with IBM Connections, so that its activity stream becomes a common container for event notifications generated by the other applications, Berg said.
The goal? To get the right information at the right time to the right person and let the recipient act on it. 3M is clear that it won't ever achieve a perfect solution, but it trusts that its effort will make the process much better than it is today, he said.
Meanwhile, at Taco Bell the IT department is engaged in a project to revitalize the company's intranet for its restaurant employees by making it easier to use and more effective.
First rolled out about five years ago, the intranet had two portals -- one for restaurant personnel and another one for franchisees, and they weren't integrated, leading to much duplication of efforts and lack of content consistency.
In addition, the system was architected in such a way that the IT department had to be involved in the posting and changing of content, due to technical complexities. As a result, it could take three days to publish something new.
"It was very difficult to maintain, and it was very cumbersome to roll out content," said Christian Klein, a Taco Bell senior manager, in a presentation.
Coupled with limited personalization capabilities, engagement with the intranet was very low -- most restaurant employees limited themselves to glancing at whatever was new on the home page.
"They had a big challenge: They had a portal that wasn't much of a portal. It was a website," said Rafael Trujillo from consultancy Base22, which Taco Bell hired to help with the revamping of the intranet.
The user interface and the navigation scheme have been simplified and made more intuitive, and a content classification, taxonomy and metadata architecture was put in place, improving the search experience.
The back-end system has been reworked with IBM WebSphere Portal 8 and Base 22 widget applications to allow non-IT users to modify content with minimal IT intervention. The new intranet will go live soon, Klein said.
For the restaurant employees, it was decided that at this point they wouldn't be given a full enterprise social toolset, since the nature of their work is in making food and serving patrons.
"When we rebuilt the portal site, a question was: Can we introduce social to the company, and what does this mean in the restaurants?" Klein said.
The decision was to give them access to a commenting system, so that they can provide input, suggest ideas and express opinions about the content on the intranet, such as articles about new products or procedures.
Employees can post their comments, and remove them if they want, as well as rate and flag content and other comments. Later on, Taco Bell may consider rolling out more enterprise social capabilities to these employees via a tool like IBM Connections, he said.
Fluor, an engineering, construction and project management company, decided in mid-2011 that it had to revamp its aging intranet, which over the course of about 10 years had become fragmented and ineffective.