Here is what I think is an important cross post from the Fast Forward blog. A few weeks ago I wrote a post, It is Time for Facebook Fridays: A Idea that Should Spread, that briefly mentioned Serena Software’s policy of allowing employees one hour of personal time during the workweek to spend on their Facebook profiles and connect with co-workers, customers, family and friends. Last week I spoke with René Bonvanie, the SVP of worldwide marketing, partner programs and online services at Serana, to learn more about the program and I discovered there is much more to learn.
In my first post I referred to an article on their policy which I felt was somewhat mis-titled, Serena Software Adopts Facebook as Corporate Intranet, and said that they are not really going that far. Well, I was wrong. Serena is really replacing its existing intranet with Facebook as a front end linked to a low-cost content management system behind the firewall. Here are the reasons why and what they have seen so far. When I heard the story, it makes sense to me, and falls under the categories of “why not?” and walking the web 2.0 talk.
René explained that the firm is just over 800 employees but is still globally based (operations in 18 countries) with 35% of their employees working virtually. They are going through a major transition as they move from more traditional enterprise applications to web 2.0 mashups. The leadership wanted all employees to be better connected so they could be on the same level of understanding, excitement, and commitment to this transition. They also thought that using a web 2.0 tool, like Facebook, represented the best way to take the whole company into this new space.
Like many companies their existing intranet was a poor platform for document finding, much less sharing. As an aside when I speak on web 2.0, I often ask anyone in the audience who can more easily find stuff on their company intranet than the web to raise their hand. This is a question I learned from Andrew McAfee. He reported that no one has raised their hand to this question and I have found the same results. I have also seen many unsuccessful intranets that cost large sums so I could certainly understand what René was talking about. One of major flaws of existing intranets, even when they work to find stuff, is the lack of social context. It is difficult to find anything about people.
Serena wanted to promote a greater connection between people. Facebook, which is both free and a great example of web 2.0, seemed to be the right answer. They established a private Facebook group for Serena employees and they built a few simple custom Facebook apps to better enable intranet functions. Now they provide links through Facebook to documents stored securely behind the firewall. Access is just as secure as any other method. Serena employees go to specific people to get relevant information. For example, René and his staff provide press clippings and the HR people provide links to benefits information. In each case you learn about the people providing the information through their Facebook profiles, and not simply the content, itself.
Serena also has public Facebook groups to connect with customers and the broader marketplace. René said that some of his customer conversations have now moved away from email. Clients such as Stewart Cohen at Arbitron and Rajiv Amar at Intuit connect with René and his colleagues through Facebook. René is also one of my Facebook friends and I have noticed that he is usually at the top of the recently updated profile list so I can easily see what he is currently doing.
Serena also has a Serena Business Mashups Blog where they cover industry issues and what they are doing, including updates on their Facebook experience.
Serena has found that Facebook has also helped them with recruiting. People send their resumes through Facebook and prospective employees relate their use of the same networking tool that they use in their personal lives. Employee morale has also increased, as well as employee retention, as the whole firm is better connected. A few years ago, many people thought that blogs and business did not go together. We have seen that perception change dramatically. I wonder if the same will be soon said for Facebook and other social networking tools. Thanks to Serena for proving us with an example.
Abbie Lundberg at CIO wrote a nice commentary of the original Fast post, Businesspeople Asleep at the Wheel on the Value of Social Networking. In which she writes, "But the fact is, Facebook provides an engaging experience, it’s free, it’s easy to write custom apps on top of it, and you can set up both private and public groups. Why not?" - Then discusses some of the current hesitations of IT and references Andrew McAfee's article titled “Enterprise 2.0 May Be Fine for the Business, but What About the IT Department?" Andrew McAfee also wrote a great commentary on this post in big blog, Facebook on the Intranet? No -- Facebook AS the Intranet.