Ark Group: social software masterclass

Spending too long inside one organisation can distort your view of reality. I like to keep my feet on the ground by meeting people from other organisations and listening to them talk about their intranets and attitudes to social media. If nothing else, listening to people talk about their KM experiences at events like Gurteen Knowledge Cafés gives you the sense you’re not entirely alone.

Yesterday’s Ark Group social software masterclass was a great opportunity to hear about other organisations intranets then sit down to discuss the challenges faced by some of the attendees. For me it was also a chance to catch up with David Ferrabee and Neville Hobson who presented at Melcrum’s social media conference two years ago. Neville’s presentation that day marked my first sight of Twitter and convinced me that I needed to be active in external social media as well as internal, so I was looking forward to seeing what’s on his radar at the moment.

Neville sets the scene with a presentation about the progress of social media in 2009, before we’re briefly interrupted by a fire alarm and have to file out into the blazing sunshine in Holborn. While we’re standing outside it dawns on me that I’ve seen Denise Maskew before. In fact I missed her presentation when I had to leave KCUK 2008 early, so I finally get the opportunity I’d been hoping for to catch up with her work.

United Utilities

Denise talks about the challenges involved in introducing social media tools at United Utilities and the drivers behind the strategy. They’re experimenting with a wider range of tools than we are, so it’s interesting to hear about podcasts and wikis along with more familiar applications like commented news and blogs. I note they’re using Red Dot for content management,

Pfizer

Pfizers’ Ben Gardner is next, talking about their Project Collaborate aimed at increasing team interactivity. They’re also using technology I’d like to be experimenting with internally, including wikis and RSS. I suggested at a brainstorming meeting earlier this year that we might consider replacing the intranet with a wiki in the long term. I still think this is an excellent way forward and the views I heard expressed at July’s Corporate Social Networking Forum have reinforced this.

The technology I’m not familiar with today is Microsoft OneNote, a tool for unstructured note taking which Pfizer are using as a front end to Sharepoint. (Indeed, I’m so unfamiliar with it, I later refer to it as iNote.) Ben also shows us some of the cultural and communication efforts used to engage users, including Meet Jessica, Pfizer’s own variation of Meet Charlie – what is enterprise 2.0?.

(I had to make a note during Ben’s presentation as I didn’t know Google Chrome can be installed on locked desktops. It installs without updating the registry, which is great… as long as I don’t want to use any sites with Flash. It also highlights some problems with the CSS on the intranet.)

British American Tobacco

My presentation on the cultural impact of social computing tools (slides available here) looked less at the technology, more at the internal landscape, design and cultural impact of the tools.

We’ve focused on communities, blogs and social networking, all of which are still gaining acceptance. Our efforts to encourage knowledge sharing in online communities foundered for seven years with five different technologies, until we started looking at more creative ways to build social networks between the participants.

The blogging experiment has run for five years now and we’ve just had two directors begin blogging in the past twelve months. (Neville laughs at one point, saying out that ours is the twelfth instance of “BlogCentral” he’s heard of!)

Looking at other organisations’ work always gives me ideas for where we can go next. I’ve felt for some time that we need to move social computing further on and seeing what other companies are achieving always reignites that passion. I’m looking forward to the meeting of the Intranetters group next Wednesday, 26th August.