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Social Media in Large Enterprises – SMiLE London

Social Media in Large Enterprises – SMiLE London


I’m at Social Media inside the Large Enterprise in London, run by simply-communicate. A great many attendees tweeted with #SMiLELondon.

Silvia Cambié commented that the main concern six months ago was adoption, now the interest is shifting to how Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) can support business needs rather than just being a digital water cooler. Kim England at Pearson also echoed this, saying we need to focus on business use-cases, rather than just talk about adoption. This still sounds like adoption to me, just for the right reasons!

Gartner say 80% of platforms may not succeed due to over-emphasis on technology and a lack of support from leaders. It does seem to be that every wave of technology goes through this same painful learning curve. It was the same with intranets 10 years ago and knowledge management too.

Six months ago SMiLE participants overwhelmingly said they were using SharePoint and Yammer. Now there’s clear growth of Jive, Zimbra and ‘Other’. It looks like people are searching more broadly now, as user requirements become more clearly articulated, and mobile comes to the fore.


Barclays Bank

Dave Shepherd explained that Barclays have two strong consumer mobile products (mobile banking and Pingit), but they learnt that their own staff didn’t really know about them. So they launched MyZone as a staff-only mobile app to start to address this. SharePoint MySites on desktop was already strong, and moving to mobile allowed them to extend connections to frontline staff too. Around 10,000 staff use MyZone daily out of 43,000 with access.

Before MyZone branch staff didn’t even have email addresses.

Original whiteboard for the Barclays mobile intranet

Original whiteboard for the Barclays mobile intranet

One reason for Barclays to build in-house is that they were able to do really easy, secure authentication. Most third-party apps require awkward logins. Barclays already had a good system for their consumer apps, so they adopted that.

Bought 10,000 iPads and shipped them to branches, but they just didn’t get used. This triggered the creation of ‘digital eagles‘  – peer-to-peer training by staff, which has now grown to be a customer offer too.

What is the app used for? Started with news, but people soon grew bored. It was day-to-day work, such as videos of new staff uniforms, that really drove use. Employee-generated videos took off quite naturally. The first one was the Harlem Shake! Even so, they’ve had no inappropriate videos.

Notably all this has happened outside the Internal Comms department – led by IT. What’s happened to their intranet? The vanity sites have gone and it’s just been re-launched with only a search box, Google-style. But Comms continue to be Barclays’ control point.

Technically, Sitrion provides the link between MySites on SharePoint and MyZone. A lack of audit trail continues to be an issue for a regulated organisation. Security seems to be their biggest barrier, but Barclays still went from whiteboard to first launch in 5 months. Security also the biggest cost – over £1M – but vital because customer data has to be secured.

For the future, Barclays plan around 3 new features per month!

One is a maternity app (within the MyZone app), written by employees for employees. Other features include live webcasting and in-app calling over WiFi. They’ll also let users customise the buttons they see within the app (an interesting question – should corporate apps bundle it all into one or split into one-function per app?). Intriguingly employees asked for a ‘For sale and wanted’ feature. It was developed but never used. No big deal, says Dave – it cost little to develop and they could pull it quickly.

Do employees object to a BYOD approach? There was murmurings at the start that people would object to using MyZone in their own time on their own device. But it doesn’t seem to have been an issue.


Grant Thornton

Paul Thomas tries to avoid using his job title – if you go in labelled ‘Social Media’ people will have expectations. Much better to just talk about how you can help their business problems that happen to use communication as part of the solution.

Their intranet is called Jam, based on Jive. About 80% of employees have participated in some way, and about 15% are active contributors. Big improvement over previous intranet that only let you comment on the CEO’s blog. One person posted the question ‘Do you write the blog yourself?’ – the answer was ‘yes’ but the questioner had a tap on the shoulder from their boss! Now things have moved on in terms of internal team understanding and technology fitness for purpose.

Comms made a point of trying to have more open, visible conversations using Jam, e.g. ‘Will we need introverted or extraverted leaders in 2028?’ and ‘Why are there so few female partners?’.

Paul talked about how they worked with leaders to get them more engaged in social media. After they did a live jam around the annual partners’ conference, leaders were genuinely surprised that people were so interested in what they had to say. So they started asking for help in how to participate. Read more about the actual jam from Helen Deverell.

In retrospect Paul realises that they needed to think through use-cases, even though their natural inclination was to just put the platform out there and let people find their use for it. That said, one of the most popular groups has been for selfies.

Grant Thornton also uses Huddle for client spaces.



Marc Jadoul aknowledged that Alcatel-Lucent has been through some tough times and employee cuts. The original impetus for their platform was that they had a strong need to collaborate and share knowledge across a distributed workforcel; 80% are engineers and spread over 5 continents. Also moving from a product to a service model.

Internal response has gone through a hype cycle

Internal response has gone through a hype cycle

Marc describes their journey as like a hype cycle. Staff reductions put them into the trough of disillusion.

Marc says that SharePoint can be a  ‘digital graveyard’. It’s mostly for document storage. The big difference with the revamped ‘Engage’ intranet / ESN is that it is organic – it’s by the people for the people. Do people get it? Yes, they seem to – they tend to post the right documents in the right place. They don’t put project proposals on Jive, they are on SharePoint. On Jive they share things like ‘I found this article externally that’s of interest’.

“It’s a waste of time to shoot for a single platform that does everything you need.” ~ Marc Jadoul


The future of work – Round-table sessions

The day broke out into two rounds of facilitated table discussions. There were so many interesting topics that I wished I could have joined several, but had volunteered to chair one of my own on the Future of Work and the role of the manager.

With the first group we focussed on the dilemma that managers, often middle-managers, feel anxious about changing to more open communication and managing people remotely because they learnt their management skills in a time when their team generally sat in front of them. Yet at the same tome for social media to take off we need them to champion it. Right now what they often do instead is suppress nascent social use.

We discussed the role of informal content – cat pictures and jokes on ESNs. On the one hand this often alarms companies as not business-appropriate, and yet the fun things like ice bucket challenge pictures are often what raises ESN awareness.

In the second group we explored the changing nature of work. The ‘hand grenade’ position was that we are moving to a time when everyone will be a self-employed knowledge worker. Some felt that this autonomy will make us more engaged and responsible for our work. There is definitely a shift in that HR and IT services are being commoditised and outsourced, leaving a smaller, more strategic team in-house. However, my own feeling is that some roles still require deep insight a company’s goals and social structures so this is best served by permanent roles rather than freelance projects.

Much more to discuss on this one, but sadly time was up!


Société Générale

Jean-Paul Chapon of Société Générale (148,000 employees) asked colleagues and employees ‘where do you get information about SG?’. Some said mails, others said Bloomberg. Nobody said internal comms or intranet.

SG now focus on pull-comms; they were overwhelming employees with the amount they pushed. The right moment to communicate might be on a mobile device when somebody is queuing to buy a tablet.
SG will provide 90,000 tablets, not just in branches but everywhere.

SG uses Communities for teams, projects, events, and knowledge sharing. They have French and English versions. Just launched some Russian ones. Looking at automated translation next.


Dentsu Aegis Network

Claire Goring and Laura Jennings of Dentsu, one of the world’s largest advertising groups. As you can imagine, brand is very important to them, but people feel affinity not to the parent company but to one of eight network companies. So they designed an intranet that adopts the local language and brand. However, international content is always in English, and where really important, translated in up to 24 languages.

Intranet requirements-gathering involved 500 people across the business.. The average employee age is 26.NEON - Dentsu Aegis

They always refer to their intranet as ‘Neon’, not SharePoint. Its strapline is Connect-Create-Collaborate and Neon aims to be a single interface to what is actually a number of systems underneath, including Microsoft Dynamics (CRM). The vision is a one-stop shop, and it’s an evolving journey.

Neon even helped them win one of the biggest pitches with a client this year because it showcased their ability to integrate technology and it could be extended as an extranet to work with clients.

Roll-out has been a drawn-out process, with each city and market having its own launch process where the business case and rationale is explained. This is needed because users are very sensitive to anything that distracts from time with clients.

Eighteen months ago, when the project started, they had just one internal communicator. As the markets saw the value Neon brings, especially in times of change, they have added their own resources, so now there are 14 people with IC roles.


That’s all folks!

Phew, both my iPad’s batteries and mine are all blogged out, so I’ll wrap up there. Thanks to Marc, Silvia, and Gloria of simply for putting on an excellent event with a highly engaged audience. Look forward to the next one.

…one last thing, I’m running a one-day workshop on SharePoint for social and internal comms on November 4th – see simply sharepoint.

 Photos from Flickr used with express permission 🙂

Sam Marshall

I'm the director of ClearBox Consulting, advising on intranet and digital workplace strategy, SharePoint and online collaboration. I've specialised in intranets and knowledge Management for over 19 years, working with organisations such as Unilever, Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Sony, Rio Tinto and Diageo. I was responsible for Unilever’s Global Portal Implementation, overseeing the roll-out of over 700 online communities to 90,000 people and consolidating several thousand intranets into a single system.

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