Giving employees a voice
At San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, the social media tsunami known as Facebook got company executives very interested in how such a phenomenon would eventually affect enterprises, says Dave King, the company's director of product marketing. That's how the company developed its Chatter employee social networking application.
Unveiled to customers in June 2010, Chatter was first rolled out internally to Salesforce's 8,000 global employees in the months before the product launch. "We used it ourselves before we offered it to anybody else," King says.
Every Salesforce employee has a Chatter profile and can post questions or comments, share information and collaborate from around the world in real time. "People tell us that instead of hitting a bottleneck, they post an inquiry on Chatter and get an answer," he says. And the platform is searchable, so users can pull up past discussions, data and more.
The social network gives a voice to individual contributors, King says. "In the past it was people in the corner office who had power in a company. But with this, people anywhere in the company can give input that can be influential."
One young developer was fresh in the company and in his free time was building applications for Chatter, King says. Other users saw them, downloaded them and used them. That creativity and success bubbled up to Salesforce's chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff, who invited the young developer to a closed-door leadership session with company executives about innovation. "That 24-year-old junior employee makes this huge impact and now leads one of our Apple iOS development teams."
Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Plantronics launched a pilot of the Jive Social Business Platform in March for 150 beta testers, with plans to roll it out to all 3,500 employees later this year, says Barry Margerum, the company's chief strategy officer. Jive was brought in to modernize communications among employees, deliver a framework for integrated knowledge management and to encourage crowdsourcing the company's informational assets, he says.
"Crowdsourcing information benefits a company by opening up information to everyone," Margerum says. "You find out people are very smart who you didn't know about. That changes things for everybody."