At IBM Connect, IT execs talk about betting on enterprise social

Executives from 3M, Taco Bell, Fluor and other companies have launched projects to improve collaboration and communication

By , IDG News Service |  Unified Communications, Social Networking

"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.

"It wasn't a single platform, and everyone did their own thing locally using different tools to create different websites," said Say Lim, vice president of IT at Fluor, in an interview.

"From a corporate communications standpoint, it was very difficult to present a cohesive communications channel to our 40,000-plus employees," he said.

The company also realized that its over-reliance on email for collaboration was not only counterproductive but also a turnoff for younger employees who are social media-savvy.

It decided that offering enterprise social networking is important not only to improve staff interaction but also to attract and retain this type of employee, he said.

Fluor also realized that in the absence of an enterprise social networking system, employee groups were taking matters into their own hands and setting up systems in an ad-hoc manner from various vendors.

"We decided we had to offer a well-governed, controlled, corporatewide social business platform," Lim said.

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