Web & communication software

Social Tool Rollouts: Three Tips for Businesses

IT services company Unisys is trying to give its workforce more social tools for blogging, microblogging, creating communities, and sharing and tagging content.

The thinking at Unisys and other large corporations such as Sony, Canadian telecom Telus and consulting giant Accenture is that social software is good for communication, which in turn, is good for business.

But what are the best ways to deploy social tools? Getting users excited is not usually a problem, according to IT managers, because most people are accustomed to using Facebook and Twitter. But just getting a plan organized is the hard part, and it certainly helps to have the CEO be a cheerleader for social media.

Unisys migrated to SharePoint 2010 this summer with social tools in mind. (See CIO.com's profile of the effort: headline and URL here) Its goal was to use MySites profile pages within SharePoint to create a "Facebook for the enterprise." After all, Microsoft had beefed up the social features in the 2010 version of SharePoint.

But Unisys found the MySites activity stream page and microblogging capabilities to be stagnant, and added Social Sites from Denver-based social software company NewsGator to pump life into the SharePoint MySites.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software -- including enterprise and cloud adoption trends and reviews of SharePoint 2010 -- see CIO.com's SharePoint Bible. ]

But before employees could tap away at 140-character microblogs about the latest sales proposal, there was planning involved. Here are three tips for a successful social networking roll out from members of the Unisys' IT group.

Get the CEO on board

Whether you're using Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Google or one of the Enterprise 2.0 upstarts for social networking, a good roll out benefits from a top down approach.

In this way, Unisys lucked out.

"Our CEO [Ed Coleman] came in two years ago and was very tuned in to social media," says John Knab, Unisys director of IT applications. "He really got a lot of it going."

One of the first things the CEO did was to identify Unisys' areas of strength, and create community sites for people across business units to build on those strengths. That philosophy is being extended as the technology improves with SharePoint 2010 and Social Sites.

"The CEO and other presidents are now blogging and using Social Sites," says Gary Liu, Unisys Community Manager. "This gives employees examples they can follow. They're not just being told, 'Hey, go do it.'"

Surveys and Workshops

On the due diligence front, Unisys has been doing user research for a year, through surveys about social networking and interviews with both senior executives and rank-and-file employees. The IT group compiled all the information and helped form a task force made up of members of different divisions.

This led to a two-day training workshop on how to use Social Sites within SharePoint and to make sure the vision from the top was in sync with all employees.

Use Multimedia to Make it Fun

Last month, Unisys organized a picture day for offices around the world. All Unisys employees could sign up and have a professional photo taken that was then uploaded to their MySites profile page.

More activities like picture day are in the works, says Knab.

"We plan to use more video too to improve communication and education," he says. "We have an older employee base used to things a certain way, so using multimedia can help get them excited."

Shane O'Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at soneill@cxo.com.

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