Early this year, executives at Philips, a global healthcare, lighting and consumer lifestyle business, initiated talks on selecting and deploying an enterprise 2.0 suite for its 100,000 employees worldwide.
The need for the solution, says CIO Maarten de Vries, was multifaceted. "We had a very dispersed landscape in IT and wanted to create an environment where people could connect better, find each other better and share information better," he says.
These needs aligned with two of the business's key performance indicators: driving enterprise collaboration and productivity. "We work a lot in virtual teams, so we needed to connect better. There is a lot of knowledge in the company, but we needed a better way of unlocking it."
Another need for an enterprise 2.0 solution: Employees, specifically in North America, were already using external sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Yammer to communicate with each other, de Vries says. "They were using all kinds of solutions, so we wanted to create one Philips solution under the Philips brand where groups could link up," he says.
After exploring several solutions, de Vries and his team selected Socialcast as its provider for the enterprise collaboration component, primarily for its ease of integration with SharePoint 2010. The suite, which they internally named "Connect Suite," integrated e-mail, SharePoint solutions, chatting, VoIP, Web meeting solutions, Web casting, telepresence and Socialcast's microblogging tool. IT launched a month-long pilot program of Connect Suite with 1,000 users, which de Vries says was hugely successful.
[For more on microblogging, check out " 15 Free Enterprise Collaboration Tools."]
In early May, shortly after the pilot concluded, his staff rolled out Connect Suite to the rest of the company. In only eight weeks, the user base grew to 11,000-far exceeding de Vries' expectations. "Originally, our hope was to have 10,000 users by the end of this year," he says. "We've really been taken by surprise; we've been really successful," he says.
De Vries attributes Philips' success to four guiding factors, which he recommends to others considering a deployment of an enterprise 2.0 suite.
1. Begin with a clear strategy. Don't explore an enterprise collaboration solution blindly; have a clear understanding of which issues it will solve and how the company will benefit. Philips wanted to dissuade employees from flocking to external sites-as well as encourage collaboration and communication-so including Socialcast's microblogging component in its suite made sense.
2. Partner with the business. "You have to realize that these are not IT initiatives, these are IT and business initiatives," de Vries says. The deployment was as successful as it was, de Vries says, in part because it aligned directly with the organization's key performance indicators, making the intended ROI transparent from the beginning.
3. Lead by example and learn from others. Members of the Philips executive team were cheerleaders for the collaboration suite, using it frequently. Having top-down support-and engagement-helped its adoption really take off, de Vries says. "When you see active involvement in the leadership, we saw it take off virally," he says. "Not only is it top down, it's also bottom up because you see the young generation of employees take up these kinds of tools very quickly. They're not at all shy to use it."
4. Loosen the reins. Philips hasn't yet instituted a formal policy for how employees should or shouldn't interact with the collaboration suite. De Vries says that as his company does with e-mail, they trust that employees can make proper judgments about what to and not to discuss, and whether something may be inappropriate or sensitive.
"We wanted to give them the ability to communicate with each other and we want to be as free with guidelines as possible. We haven't had any missteps so far, but if we do, we'll learn from it," he says.
Staff Writer Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.
Read more about web productivity in CIO's Web Productivity Drilldown.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.