Tibbr customers: Building a social enterprise

October 17th, 2011 | by Chan Chi-Loong
Tibbr customers: Building a social enterprise

In the past, I was never been very much sold on social media for the enterprise.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media is a big game changer in sharing and disseminating information quickly.

From the Arab Spring, to our recent Singapore General Elections, to the Occupy Wall Street protests — in its fourth week and showing no signs of slowing down, social media is a force to reckon with.

However, something implemented from a top-down directive within an enterprise — rather than organic from bottom-up — seems to go against the grain of social media.

Or at least the way I thought about it, as my day job is to counsel folks about its use from a communications perspective.

Social media embodifies freedom to post, and enterprises want control of flow of information. How would the two meet in an uneasy marriage? I was skeptical.

My thinking was tweaked at a TIBCO junket two weeks ago. I had a whole slew of interviews with customers who used TIBCO’s Tibbr enterprise social media software, and hearing from the end users was enlightening.

Perhaps the one person who summed up the whole social enterprise phenomenon best is cranky curmudgeon blogger for ZDNet Dennis Howlett, whom I met at the event.

He pooh-poohed the whole idea of the term “social media”, and to him the social enterprise is just knowledge management (KM) tools implemented through a good user interface.

And this is a concept I can handily agree with.

Not everything is “social media”

Whilst I would love IT vendors not to use the term social media for enterprises because it unnecessarily conflates the concept with things we know like Facebook and Twitter (or perhaps this is their point!), I think this is a lost cause.

When my media friends ask me about enterprise social media tools like Salesforce’s Chatter or TIBCO’s Tibbr, they often go: “But isn’t this like Facebook?”

No, it isn’t Facebook because the idea behind it is fundamentally different.

On Facebook, the concept is about sharing as much as you can — your mundane pictures of your cat, your pet peeves around certain brands, your wedding anniversary dates — for the sake of social connection.

For social enterprise tools, it’s about stealing Facebook’s interface, but the purpose is not social connection.

It is a productivity tool, like email, except that is a more organic process flow that is easier to read, track and use.

Social tools to track parcels

Steve Siu, the CEO of Cargo Smart, summed it up very well during a brief chat that we need to know what enterprise social media is used for.

He was very candid on how he was using Tibbr within his organization: “Tibbr is for good ideas. Email is for everything else.”

As head of a global logistics SaaS provider, Steve felt that something more organic than email would help to flag exceptions better when tracking deliveries. Many messages are generated when a parcel goes through the system.

Tibbr can integrate all these messages that are fired-off by different software systems as streams of information, which would help employees keep track off logistics issues better than tons of emails.

Cargo Smart was already using TIBCO’s messaging and bus architecture, so adding Tibbr was an easier upsell than implementing a standalone solution.

In fact, many of TIBCO’s tibbr customers started out that way — as users of TIBCO’s messaging and bus architecture.

Almost all those that I interviewed mentioned two major strengths of Tibbr:
— they had lots of out-of-the-box software adapters that could be fed into the Tibbr streams.
— Tibbr had an open architecture that allowed third parties to easily integrate with it.

Three critical cultural factors for social enterprises

Of course, the social enterprise is driven not only by tools. The culture of the organization is critically important, if not more so.

Rob Koplowitz, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research who has looked at a broad swath of social enterprise implementations, defined three critical cultural factors for success:
— There needs to be buy-in from the very top of the managment
— You need to show end users that they will find the solution useful to their work.
— There needs to be widespread adoption of the social enterprise tool.

How wide this adoption is depends on the organization. Typically, the smaller and more agile the organization, the easier it is.

“Hyper-connected professionals like sales people tend to embrace these kinds of tools better,” Rob said.

Case study 1: KPMG

The adoption of social enterprise tools at the KPMG office in Australia is one example that fits this profile.

Christopher Robinson, the CIO who is piloting a social media tool trial in the Australian office with about 700 folks said: “We have the support of the board level, and not just the knowledge management or technology groups,” he said.

Said Christopher: “The CEO himself posts on Tibbr regularly.”

He also mentioned that many of the consultants at the firm are young — in their twenties and thirties — and thus social media tools weren’t foreign to them.

Prior to the three-month Tibbr trial, KPMG in Australia was using Yammer, but it didn’t pass their security validation.

Tibbr also had integration out-of-the-box to KPMG’s Sharepoint portals, which was a big factor.

Case study 2: Apache Corporation

There are organizations, however, that don’t really fit Rob’s profile, like Apache corporation.

Randolph Wagner, a drilling advisor to this global oil and gas exploration company, is the key man who is driving social enterprise adoption there.

His job is to pull together disparate communities of knowledge workers, and get these people — who are spread out all over the globe — to share information more easily.

“Our users aren’t like your typical Facebook users. The average age of our folks are around 50 years old,” Randolph said of some of his challenges.

In rolling out the Tibbr solution to 200 folks, he had to literally fight his war “one trench at a time” to convince users that the tool was useful. Which means lots of travel for him as he shuttled around the globe convincing folks to use the solution.

But once more and more folks used Tibbr, and they found it useful, adoption spread.

However, Randolph doesn’t agree that a top down approach is best. He believes that a bottom-up “grassroots approach” is better for making the social media platform more “sticky” and embedded in the organization’s culture.

Culture > Tool

If I were to distill what I learnt talking to these customers, who are all visionaries and early adopters, is that the most important ingredient of a successful social enterprise is first and foremost an open culture. The tools are secondary.

Forrester’s Rob summed it up best: “I’ve seen great KM implementations using really old tools like Sharepoint 1.0.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.