For years, we used a centralized knowledge management system. If a case study was created in the UK, for example, it needed to go through corporate communications at headquarters to be published.
But along came social networking, and it became clear that we needed a better way. In the social spectrum, you curate locally, pushing the controls to the people downstream. It's a radical shift in philosophy that has changed the way we do things throughout the company.
Our new system is a social, intranet-based portal that not only manages Ogilvy and Mather's content, but is also a vital and vibrant place for our employees around the world to quickly find each other and the information they need to do their jobs. Just by going to the portal, they get a snapshot of what's going on from a global, regional and local perspective, whether it's a major announcement from the CEO, a recent client win or a local blood drive.
The idea quickly resonated with business leaders, including the heads of marketing, creative, corporate communications, global planning and public relations, as well as the executive board and the CEO. They concluded that we couldn't afford not to do this.
After key contributions from our digital strategy group and validation by corporate communications, it took our creative team in Singapore and development teams in New York and India about a year to create the system, using open-source technology.
It's designed to serve three types of communities: One type shares content with anyone on the intranet, a second is more restricted, and a third requires a high degree of confidentiality. While content is centrally available, each group has its own local curator.
Two pillars of the system are the search engine and the employee "profiler." It's useless to build sophisticated social technology without knowing who your audience is and where they can be found. Recently, when we produced a video related to the Japanese tsunami, we used the system to find someone who spoke Japanese, and she turned out to be in the same building.
Our test bed was the global planning group. Today, instead of waiting for a response to a question, they can open a browser on any device in a variety of languages and search for content themselves. The improvement has been incredible--they've gone from sending 1,800 emails a day to almost none.
Another group is the global brand-management team, which plans to create a one-stop shop for checking on a client's status, including news headlines. If one of our people is in a cab on their way to a meeting, they'll be able to see a consolidated update without having to call people or do a search.
We're all inundated with so much information, and this brings relevancy to it all. We've seen a 600 percent to 700 percent increase in utilization over our previous KM platform. In his midyear update, our CEO stated that one of his personal goals had been achieved with the launch of this portal. It was a real validation of all the pressure we put on ourselves to hit our deadlines and make the system a reality. Today, we continue to improve this living asset with feedback from our user community.
Yuri Aguiar is CIO at Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide.
Read more about collaboration in CIO's Collaboration Drilldown.