Social Business is a hot topic these days in the enterprise market. We are seeing innovative new products coming out regularly and we are also seeing some consolidation in this space, indicating strong currents in the Social Business marketplace. In this report we discuss how an enterprise is using Salesforce Chatter inside their organization. Even though the focus of the study is on Salesforce Chatter, there are many generic Social Business lessons we can learn from this research.
This study was conducted through interviews with Dan Petlon, CIO and Vala Afshar, Vice President,Technical Services & Operations of Enterasys Networks. I would classify them as a modern enterprise to distinguish them from organizations not ready to try new age tools.
First, a brief introduction about the Chatter customer and their IT
Enterasys Networks is a global provider of networking infrastructure and security systems. They provide wired and wireless infrastructure that enables organizations to drive down IT costs while improving business productivity and efficiency through a unique combination of automation, visibility and control capabilities. They are a fairly large organization with more than 1000 employees and 5000 enterprise customers from 70 countries. In October 2008, they combined with Siemens Enterprise Communications to become a larger entity and become part of a 3 Billion dollar company with 10K employees.
Their IT today comprises of a mixture of cloud based applications with legacy applications like SAP ERP system. They are using Salesforce from 2003-04 onwards and they are one of the first Salesforce customers to deploy the product company wide. All their employees have license to Salesforce and they use it to manage Sales, Services, Supply Chain, Professional Services and Education. In fact, for Enterasys Networks, Salesforce is the single pane of glass to anything that touches their customers. Salesforce is also deeply integrated with their backend systems that includes SAP ERP systems, other legacy systems and even some cloud based applications.
They are a fairly progressive organization with a modern outlook towards technology. They have been using cloud applications (SaaS, before the cloud moniker became wildly popular) for the past 8 years and are comfortable with them from both the cultural point of view and security point of view. They require SAS 70 Type 2 and ISO 27001 (in some cases) certifications. They feel that it is sufficient to satisfy the needs of their auditors and to have a comfort level with the cloud security. In fact, they have also made a tour of one of Salesforce’s datacenters to satisfy themselves of the security practices inside the DC (This is one of the best practices tip I offer to my clients when they consider moving their data to the clouds).
Enterasys Networks’ move to Social Business
Let us now take a brief tour of their thought process as they adopted Social Business in their organization. Before they started using social business tools, email was their primary tool for collaboration. They had some Sharepoint implementations for sharing documents among various groups but they didn’t have an organization wide strategy.
For them, the “Social Awakening” came immediately after the Dreamforce in which Chatter was announced. Their CIO was at Dreamforce but he didn’t really get the idea of Chatter in the first place. A week after the event, during one of their internal meetings, their sales enablement team suggested that they integrate social tools to better equip the sales team. Since Chatter was fresh out of the oven, they decided to try it out when it was in private beta. Around the same time, their CIO was reading an article that questioned the relevancy of CIOs if the CEOs are going to learn about the Facebook phenomena from their kids. These three events kickstarted the push for social tools inside their organization, eventually leading to an organization wide Salesforce Chatter implementation.
When they first fully rolled out Chatter inside their organization, Dan Petlon, their CIO, sent an email to all the employees announcing the rollout and with links to videos on Salesforce.com’s site about how they can use Chatter. The only advice they gave was to keep the “chatting” business related. In the initial days, there was some push by IT for more adoption but now it is happening on its own without any prodding. The adoption trend initially followed the Gartner Hype Cycle curve, with the adoption hitting a peak, then falling off rapidly and finally hitting a plateau. Later it broke off from the curve and they saw very rapid adoption with increasing usage all around the organization.
Even though I didn’t verify from the Yammer side, they told me that they also tried out Yammer but the traction was not up to their expectations. They told me that the adoption of Chatter was much better because it is part of the Salesforce dashboard which 60% of their employees were already using. The standalone nature of Yammer and the need to use another application seems to be the reason why many employees didn’t embrace it when they test drove it inside their organization. However, this may be unique to an organization reliant heavily on Salesforce and Yammer may be a better fit elsewhere.
Being a long time Salesforce customer, they have savvy developers who are familiar with Salesforce APIs. So they are doing more development around Chatter API to make other business applications Chatter enabled. Hence, they will bring social to be around all of their organizational data.
Lessons learned from the Chatter rollout
From my discussions with the Enterasys Networks IT management team, I squeezed out some interesting lessons. Even though these are drawn from the Chatter usage, some of them are universally true for any Social Business tool.
- Any modern enterprise will have little cultural difficulty in embracing social tools.
- There is an interesting trend that happens inside the organizations once they adopt the social and collaboration tools. Once the business leaders see the Facebook type of impact inside the organizations, like people following them to learn about how they navigate the business in a competitive environment, to learn about the best practices, etc., there seems to be a gravitational pull that motivates these business leaders to make sure that they are fully entrenched in the social process. This adds additional responsibility on the business leaders to share best practices, acknowledge wins, do post-mortem on losses, etc.. The same phenomena which we see in the social networks on the consumer side enters the enterprises.
- A flat organization in terms of communication is crucial in any Social Business adoption. When I say flat organization, I mean that everyone from CEO to the last employee should be able to participate in the conversation without the company hierarchy stopping anyone from the participation. This is extremely important because, for example, when the CEO posts about a win, the jubilant employee response motivates him/her to try harder and, on the other side, the employees who played an important role in the win understand that their hard work is making an impact on the organization which, in turn, motivates them to work harder. This kind of impact can only be achieved in the flat social environments. However, the organization can tap into groups structure offered by the social platforms to keep certain sensitive information from gaining public visibility.
- In any highly specialized company, the ability to chat with subject matter experts and follow them helps other employees (whether it is sales or technology) to learn more about the field by simply following them, without undergoing any formal training. This is powerful for any organization and this knowledge sharing makes the whole organization much smarter than they were ever before.
- After the Chatter implementation, Enterasys Networks are seeing certain information being shared that were not shared earlier. They are seeing increased sharing around sales opportunities, the sales approaches on the field, etc.. This is very critical for the company’s success and they are already reaping the benefit of using a social tool. This also helps them spot opportunities that were not visible earlier. For example, once their CIO was monitoring the sales related activity that was happening on Chatter and he found that the sales person was trying to push someone at a lower level on the prospective customer side. But Dan realized that he knew the CIO of that company. He, then, introduced the sales guy to the CIO directly and they closed the deal through him. These things were difficult to spot before the social tools came out to break the silos and such advantages are critical to any company of any size in the competitive marketplace.
- The pattern for reducing the noise inside the enterprise follows the same path of Facebook and Twitter in the consumer world. First, we follow many people, we then realize that there is more noise than any worthwhile signal, finally we hide/mute those who are responsible for the noise and get the optimum Signal to Noise ratio. The same thing is happening inside the enterprise organizations too.
- Similar to the social tools in the consumer world, the social tools in the enterprise allows users to build their personal brands which helps not only the organizations but also the individuals.
The advantages of using Social Business Tools inside any enterprise organizations are huge. Organizations should only ignore these developments if they are keen on losing their competitive edge. In this case study, we have clearly seen how an organization benefitted tremendously by using Salesforce Chatter. Some pundits dismiss Chatter (and other competing tools in the space) with the argument that having a social tool alone without a deeper integration into the business processes is meaningless. However, through my interaction with Enterasys Networks, I found out that they can easily chatter enable most of their applications including legacy applications so that conversations happens around the data in these applications, thereby leading to efficiency in their business processes.