Users who shared their social networking implementation stories at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston on Wednesday emphasized that success requires careful consideration of corporate culture and goals, as well as effective technology.
"My biggest piece of advice is to make sure social media is grounded in the challenges of your business. It's different for each business," said Shawn Dahlen Jr., social media program manager at Lockheed Martin, during a presentation.
[ As sites like Facebook pick up steam, the enterprise has become the battleground for social networking. ]
Lockheed has created a platform called Unity, which is based on Microsoft SharePoint. But the choice of technology was more pragmatic than anything else, since SharePoint was already a mainstay in Lockheed's IT environment. The platform "provided an evolutionary path" from a document-centric culture to one that embraces wikis and blogs, Dahlen said.
A grassroots approach worked for Lockheed when it came time to roll out Unity.
Initially, the company did little more "than put up some posters" to attract the attention of workers in the company's information systems and global services division, Dahlen said. A subsequent step was a series of presentations to various Lockheed executives, which "got them excited about what we were doing."
Today, 20,000 of the 55,000 workers in the IS & GS division are contributing content to Unity, Dahlen said in an interview after the presentation. But the real rate of adoption is more like 60 percent, since only 35,000 of those employees are "addressable" -- the others work in top-secret or nation-building activities, for example, and therefore cannot participate, he said.
Strong support from Lockheed's high-ranking corporate managers has been key to the success of Unity, which is now being rolled out across the company. But an all-out order to use it would have been counterproductive, said Christopher Keohane, social media product manager, in an interview. "If you set the right cultural tone, you'll find the adoption," he said. "The more you mandate it, you get people just 'checking the box' to say they did it."
The most effective way executives can drive a social platform's adoption is simply by participating themselves, as well as being receptive to communications and ideas that stream in from the rank-and-file, Keohane said during Lockheed's presentation. "Not everyone's idea has to be accepted, but you have to show they are listening and taking action on stuff," he said.
A much smaller company than Lockheed Martin that nonetheless faces the organizational challenges of widely distributed teams also presented at the conference Wednesday.
Design company IDEO, which has about 500 employees and offices in North America, Europe and Asia, has focused its efforts around a corporate intranet called The Tube, said Gentry Underwood, head of knowledge sharing. Over time, IDEO has developed a number of design principles for social-networking software, Underwood said.