“BEHIND THE FIREWALL” (INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS) – CASE STUDIES

WINNER:
Dell

COMMENDATIONS OF EXCELLENCE:
Division: Corporate
iContact Corporation
Monsanto Corporation
Sabre

Division: Corporate
Category: Internal Communications
Company: Dell

Dell (www.dell.com) has historically been a culture entirely based on e-mail communications. Everyone’s inboxes had gotten to a point that many important corporate messages were lost in the noise of multiple daily e-mail blasts. We set out to change our push (e-mail) culture to more of a pull model – where employees could easily find the information they needed, without having it clutter up their inboxes, saving that space for customer/business critical communications. And, we needed a place for transparent global employee conversations and feedback to take place that didn’t involve Microsoft Outlook.

How do we take a global ship as big as Dell Inc. and turn a communications culture so engrained in the push of e-mail around so that a pull model based in social media concepts would be accepted and utilized by the employees and management of Dell?

Our target audience was the 80,000 or so global employees of Dell.

To turn Dell’s push (e-mail only) culture into one that embraces and readily uses social media tools as the preferred and generally accepted form of broad communications. The objectives would be to greatly reduce the amount of daily corporate e-mail traffic and stimulate transparent global conversations among the Dell teams.

There were 2 parts to the plan:
1) Blogs: Modeled after Dell’s successful external corporate blog, Direct2Dell, we launched a global internal blog, One Dell Way. It is now established that this is the defacto primary source of corporate information. Following the launch of One Dell Way, as requested, several sub-blogs were launched specific to Dell’s geographic regions and different lines of business. One Dell Way would remain the global/corporate internal conduit, while the sub-blogs would be more target-audience focused in content. The blogs would be general enough so that the conversations, while maybe meant for a specific region or group, could be accessed and followed by anyone in the enterprise.
2) EmployeeStorm: Modeled after Dell’s successful pioneering of its IdeaStorm site, EmployeeStorm became an internal platform for employees to submit ideas for Dell, comment and collaborate, and prioritize those ideas via a Digg-like voting mechanism.

1) One Dell Way was launched in September 2006. By July 2007, we had five region- and business-specific blogs with postings in seven languages. Today we have eight major blogs on the One Dell Way backbone – each with its own moderator and editorial calendar.
2) EmployeeStorm was launched in June 2007. This was only four months following the launch of IdeaStorm.

Besides breaking 20+ years of an e-mail mindset, the biggest obstacle/challenge was getting management to meaningfully participate in the transparent conversations that resulted from posts. It took us a long time to convince content authors that writing the original content was only a third of the process, and those quick and unprompted responses to the questions and comments that came in were more important than the original post.

Our original roadmap called for us to launch a year later than we actually did. This took some great teamwork and a bit of executive support to execute our plan as quickly as we did.

Our internal blog framework is built on a Community Server/Telligent platform.

EmployeeStorm is powered by Salesforce.com.

Eight blog moderators manage the corporate/regional/business blog on the One Dell Way team. Each is responsible for an editorial calendar, generating and editing original content, publishing that content, moderating comments and cross-promoting the rest of the team’s blogs when applicable. Each is cross-trained and able to cover for one another, although the primary focus of each is on their respective blogs and content expertise. Each month, One Dell Way posts an average of 35 posts and about 6,000 unique visitors. While that is only 7 percent of the Dell’s global population, our business-critical posts average closer to 20,000 unique visitors, and we’ve seen as many as 54,000 unique views for some posts. In addition, our conversation index (CI) – the average number of comments per visitor to a post – has steadily climbed each month. And the biggest measure of our success is that the blog is now a “check box” for many communications plans throughout the company. In other words, we are now educating teams on when and how it is most effective to use the blog versus other, more traditional means.

EmployeeStorm has received over 4,100 ideas, 225,000 votes and 18,500 comments.

These results are in line with, and in many cases outperforming, our original objectives. Most importantly, the company culture has evolved. People now expect to find meaningful corporate information via the blogs and people are engaging in transparent conversations on the blogs and within EmployeeStorm.

Division: Corporate
Category: Internal Communications
Company: iContact

iContact (www.icontact.com) needed to find a way to communicate in a growing company with multiple departments while encouraging the “small company” culture that is a key selling point to new hires.

In the iContact Corporate Communications Department, we were looking for a way to accent the fun atmosphere of the company while also communicating vital information that needed to be disseminated across many departments.

At the inception of iContact’s iNews Video, the company had approximately 80 employees in nine diverse departments. This included everything from Marketing and Sales to IT and software development.

Goals:
* Highlight the iContact culture of fun and collaboration.

* Use new media formats to entertain while informing

* Include representatives from various departments in each edition of iContact’s iNews Video to encourage cross-departmental communications

* Use iNews Video to help introduce new team members to the company at large

* Develop videos that could potentially be used as recruiting tools in order to highlight iContact’s culture

* Develop a question and answer format that de-emphasized executive “talking heads” and allowed team members to be creative and have fun

The Plan:
Set up a schedule of once-a-month production of iContact’s iNews Video

Solicit participation of representative team members from each department every month

Limit video to 5 minutes or less in order to keep team members’ attention

Show finished video at monthly company lunch for maximum exposure to team members

On a monthly basis, the Corporate Communications Department would meet to discuss the month’s theme and subsequent question that the chosen team members would answer.

Managers were sent recommendations for participants from their departments, and once approved the shooting schedule was developed.

Special effects, including titles and music were added during the editing process.

* Introducing a brand new concept and medium to the iContact team was a challenge. We had never presented video to communicate internally.

* To encourage team members to be interesting and concise, we needed to keep the “segments” short. There are between seven and ten segments in each edition of iContact’s iNews Video, with each segment being no longer than 30 seconds each.

*The ability for the team members to convey their personality was an initial challenge. They were encouraged to not be “corporate” and let their true self shine through. Hand-held Sony DV camcorder Sony Vegas Pro 8 editing software

Team:
Christina Jaromin, Corporate Communications Associate – videographer and talent coordinator
James Wong, Community Manger and video editor
Chuck Hester, Corporate Communications Director, Executive Producer

Results:
There has been significant acceptance of iContact’s iNews Video by team members. There have been 7 editions so far in 2008.

Team members actually ask if the video will be shown during iContact’s company lunch.

iContact’s iNews Video has become so popular that team members are now asking when they will get a chance to participate.

The Valentines Day February iNews edition in particular which asked the question: “Why do you love iContact?” is now used as a recruitment video. Team members, from the CEO to customer support reps, have voluntarily added the link in their email signatures to that video.

The videos are the most downloaded files on the company server.

Team members are also sharing these videos with their family and friends, highlighting their pride in working at iContact.

iContact’s iNews Video is a reflection of the true culture – fun, family-oriented, encouraging and inclusive – of iContact.

The video is available through file share, Google Video and email – utilizing multiple channels of communication.

Across the company, department team members are asking to participate in iContact’s iNews Video.

The “Why I Love iContact” video is used as a reflection of the company when talking with potential candidates.

In the seven different editions of iNews Video, team members’ creativity has produced the antithesis of a corporate talking head. There have been cartoon characters, chalk drawings, break dancing and other forms of expression used to answer the monthly question.

Division: Corporate
Category: Internal Communications
Company: Monsanto

Monsanto Company (www.monsanto.com) is the leader in the agricultural biotechnology industry worldwide. Because it pioneered the use of biotechnology in agriculture, the company has often found itself at the center of news and controversy. In fact, the volume of news generated by and about the company is often equivalent to or exceeds companies of far greater size and sales. This news is varied, diverse and often complex – ranging from regulatory approval issues, financial reports, acquisitions, and patent litigation to new product launches and R&D initiatives. The flow of news is almost constant, and it tends heavily to the complex and technical. How do you effectively communicate with the internal worldwide audience of 20,000?

While there are a variety of electronic media for news and announcements, only Monsanto Today, a weekly e-mail newsletter started in 1993, had attempted to provide some understanding of and context for this constant flow of news. When Monsanto IT decided to replace the old Intranet that had become obsolete and unmanageable, Employee Communications seized the opportunity to design and implement an Intranet-based news site that had the potential of changing the internal culture of Monsanto.

The IT Usability Team conducted extensive interviews and focus groups for the new Intranet. Overwhelmingly, employees worldwide identified the ability to access news about the company and understand the context of the news as the top reasons for visiting the Intranet. More than 90 percent of the responses named news as the #1 most wanted and valued feature for a new Intranet.

The Employee Communications Team envisioned a news portal that would allow for real-time news, total transparency on company and industry news for employees and timely and accurate information. This in turn would empower employees to become voices for Monsanto in their spheres of influence, and start an internal dialogue that would help interconnect the knowledge base spread throughout about 20,000 employees worldwide.

The audience is Monsanto employees. Approximately three-fourths of employees live in North America, with the rest in Central and South America, especially Argentina and Brazil; Europe/Africa; and Asia-Pacific, especially India and Australia. More than 95 percent of employees speak English as a first or second language. Because of the company’s rapid growth, more than a third of employees did not work at Monsanto five years ago. Employees tend to be younger–very early 30s on average–than the industry norm, and a significant portion have advanced degrees in specialized fields–for example, there are 3,300 employees in Monsanto’s R-and-D division, and 1,100 in Information Technology. In general, Monsanto’s employees are comfortable with an electronic communications environment, and turning online for news and information. In a recent survey of employees, 44 percent were already receiving news via the Internet, 30 percent from television, 13 percent from radio broadcast, 10 percent from newspapers and four percent from friends and family.

The short-to-medium term objectives were:
• Create an employee news portal that would be trusted and valued.
• Draw employees to the site by improving the quality and breadth of the news, its user-friendliness, and use of visual communications to draw attention.
• Create a site that was expandable and upgradable, to benefit from ongoing changes and enhancements in electronic communication technologies and changes in sources of information internally and externally.

The long-term objective was:
• Change the internal culture of Monsanto and to bring into being an open, information sharing and collaborative environment. Throughout Monsanto there is a drive to increase collaboration, increase the speed of information sharing and connect group and individual knowledge company wide–to support business goals and objectives.

What the Employee Communications team envisioned was an online news publication that was always up-to-date. News would be posted as it happened. Internally written stories would be posted as soon as they were completed. Stories would make use of graphics and photographs to the fullest extent possible, and an employee photography project–whereby employees would submit photos on monthly theme–was designed and launched to support the publication. The news publication would also become a medium for employees to express opinions and make comments about the news, and do so immediately, in a blog-like fashion.

To accomplish the short-term goals and objectives and support the long-term objective, it was decided to have a news portal that was updated daily, or even multiple times a day if breaking news dictated the need. It was also decided to provide external news to every employee within Monsanto, along with immediate access to all company news releases, public statements and comments, and positions statements and Q-and-A documents. Various kinds of social media were evaluated and scheduled for implementation, either in the initial launch or in future upgrades.

Most importantly, the team dramatically expanded the definition of news. Historically, news constituted either news releases issued publicly by the company and stories written by Employee Communications staff. The team elected to add externally produced news stories–i.e., New York Times, trade publications, business and financial media, etc.–and after investigating several outside vendors, chose Lexis Nexis Publisher as the vendor and platform.

The news portal was designed in an online newspaper/magazine format, as usability studies showed this was the format people were already used to with their daily news consumption outside of work. An important design goal was to decrease time spent finding information and to include news articles in the overall search capacity of the Intranet site. It was also decided that various social media elements would be phased into the new design over time, with RSS being part of the 2007 plan.

It was decided early on that external news needed to be provided, unfiltered, to employees to emphasize a culture of transparency. Using RSS feeds and LexisNexis Publisher, employees can view external news about Monsanto, competitors and the industry. This news is provided unedited, regardless of whether it is considered good or bad for Monsanto.

With the variety of ages, habits, educations and backgrounds at Monsanto, it was decided the internal news team would operate in a neutral fashion, asking the hard questions, tackling the difficult issues and presenting news in a way that was entertaining, informative, thought provoking, empowering and, most of all, trustworthy. As in all corporations, employees see easily through company-speak; this news portal had to overcome any employee skepticism and distrust of information they received internally. Because the e-mail newsletter had been posted in the old Intranet, the new online publication was grandfathered into the new Intranet, and IT absorbed all development costs directly. IT also recognized that the new news publication would be the single greatest draw to the new Intranet. The only significant out-of-pocket cost was the contract for the Lexis Nexis Publisher platform and news database, which was initially $70,000 per year, or about $3.50 per employee annually. The cost will ultimately depend on actual use but should remain approximately the same.

The team worked very closely with IT to ensure communication needs and plans fit within their budget limitations. Decisions on which social media elements were in the initial launch were influenced by budget constraints for the 2007 fiscal year. Some key parts of the communication strategy, such as discussion boards, were pushed to fiscal year 2008. RSS feeds, news rotators and visually driven news were included in the initial design.

After a five-month contextual inquiry process, initial designs and layouts were developed in March 2007. These designs were run through usability studies with a cross section of internal and external people. The first production-ready release was finished in May, and an IT and communications pilot site was rolled out in June. From late July onward, the team began publishing the new online publication and the existing e-mail newsletter simultaneously. The original plan had been an early September release, but IT technical glitches postponed the launch of the new Intranet until November. The team used the time delay to conduct more usability labs in August, September and October to fine tune the layout and design. At the beginning of November a global opt-in period began followed by a hard switch over in December.

Prior to the global opt-in period, the Employee Communications team used the existing weekly e-mail to begin raising awareness of the coming changes. Through the use of articles, the team began to inform employees about the advantages of the new design and the possible changes this could have on how they got, and used, information.

Once the global optt-in period began the weekly e-mail was changed to link to the posted articles instead of containing the full articles, while also letting readers know that the news in the weekly e-mails contained stories that had been published over the previous week, and that they could visit the new news portal for daily news.

Articles began to be designed as feature pieces, with sidebar content, headlines designed to draw interest and visual treatments that would cause a viewer to stop and read the story. The team began to work with information generators throughout the company to develop their information into this format. While some groups preferred to keep their materials as they had always done it, as they began to see other groups adapting these changes and gaining prominent placement and visibility, these groups began to rely on the new model more.

It had been decided that old style, internal news releases would be limited to the corporate announcement section at the bottom of the news page. Any articles that met our standards, either as submitted or after editing, were given placement on the main page news rotator. These standards required news to be news that mattered, in a news or magazine style, meeting our internal style guides and AP style. It also required genuine transparency, with both the good and the bad elements of a topic being covered.

External news is fed automatically into the news page via an RSS feed from LexisNexis based on keywords and human research. Individual news stories can also be manually added to the feed. External news is also included in the main news rotator if deemed big enough or developed into a feature article with relevant additional information incorporated for our internal audience. See above.

Tools:
Microsoft Sharepoint, LexisNexis Publisher

Team:
Internal News Manager – Mark Sutherland
External News Manager – Scott Stevener
Writer – Raegan Johnson
Writer – Katie Sauer
Social Media Specialist – Chris Paton
Multimedia Specialist – Nanette Merkel

Results:
Measurement is ongoing. During the initial opt-in period, buy-in was measured by monitoring usage, home page settings in Internet browsers, and feedback from users and information producers. Ongoing measures include the number of people who read the articles and, through a rate-this-article feature, how many people find the article useful.

Feedback from employees and information producers has been extremely positive. The news portal has quickly become the most visited section of the Intranet. By the end of 2007, the rate-this-article feature had positive feedback at more than 94 percent.

Random employees worldwide have e-mailed or called just to inform the team they loved an article and to keep the information coming. Also, comments along the lines of “I saw the photo and had to stop and read the article” are commonplace. Requests for the Employee Communications team to consult with other teams and show how to implement communications strategy and principles are steadily increasing.

From November to December usage steadily grew, reaching an average of more than 6,000 page views a day to the news section by the end of 2007. Usage in 2008 has continued to grow, reaching an average of more than 16,000 page views a day to the news section by the end of January. The average visit to the new Intranet in December was slightly more than 23 minutes.

The ultimate challenge was to get employees to read the material produced. If they don’t read it then you are wasting your time. Due the dynamic system designed and the transparent philosophy driving the writing, employees are reading and using the information extensively.

Division: Corporate
Category: Internal Communications
Company: Sabre

Sabre (www.sabre.com) was rapidly globalizing.
— 85 percent of its employees were in the United States in 2003.
— By 2006, 55 percent of employees were outside the United States.

Along the way, the company had lost its “people connections.”
— Employees used to work down the hallway from each other.
— Now teams were spread out around the world.
— A growing number of staffers were working remotely.

Sabre had a real business need to connect employees.
— In addition to the challenges noted in #3 above, the 2006 company survey of employees highlighted their interest in being more connected to each other.
— They wanted a way to quickly and easily find the people and resources they required.

This realization truly crystallized when the senior vice president of corporate communications (SVP) visited the Bangalore office.
— He learned that project teams spread out around the world were creating their own makeshift employee profile sheets for each team member, so they could know the basics such as: Is Pat a man or woman?, as well as team members’ interests.
— The SVP saw that they needed to find a way on the intranet for more interaction like this.

The target audience is the employees of Sabre (the world’s largest travel distribution provider, which includes brands such as Travelocity (www.sabre-holdings.com).
— Sabre’s approximately 9,000 employees live and work throughout the world in 59 countries. The company’s major locations include: Southlake, Texas (headquarters); London; Bangalore; Buenos Aires; Krakow and Montevideo, Uruguay.
— Employees range in age from 21 to 65.
— Many employees take advantage of non-traditional officing perks, with a growing number flex-spacing, telecommuting and even setting up home offices when family situations led them to new cities.

Sabre’s business goals for cubeless included:
1) Create broad adoption and frequent use of cubeless.
2) Generate positive, documented business outcomes.

The Plan:
Connecting with IT.
— The SVP worked with the IT department to make it possible for employees to add basic personal information to the intranet.
— Items included photos, job responsibilities, skill set and even personal information like their favorite travel destination.

Change of plans.
— The intranet enhancement was 80 percent completed when the SVP mentioned in the CEO’s staff meeting that it would be important for the company’s senior leadership to post their information on the new intranet once it’s ready.
— One of the executives at the meeting suggested they combine the intranet project with a special social networking tool being developed in the Sabre Studios innovation lab.

The Aha occurs.
— It was like a “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter” moment, really, because they realized that by bringing the projects together, they could do so much more than simply provide static information about employees – they could create a whole community.
— The SVP was originally the last person interested in online social networking; yet he became such a big believer in the power of social media in the workplace once seeing how it could connect Sabre people around the world.

The outcome: cubeless.
— cubeless www.cubeless.com is an enterprise community.
— They think of it as the hallway, or the water cooler effect, they lost when geographically spreading out as a company.

The Plan:
cubeless:
— Is an enterprise Web 2.0 community environment that is easy to understand and use.
— Is built from the ground up specifically for secure corporate use.
— Uses familiar human interaction models, such as Q&A and sticky notes.
*** The community helps itself, with members answering each others’ questions.
*** Members tap into a collective brainpower they can’t get from systems alone.
— Works for 20-somethings, as well as 60-somethings.
— Leverages a proprietary relevance engine to make information actionable.
*** Developed out of Sabre’s heritage in predictive modeling and customer relationship management.
*** The relevance engine constantly grows as members update their profiles, ask and answer questions, and blog about topics.
*** The engine helps members find the right people with the right answers.

cubeless allows users to:
— Share best practices
— Answer important business questions
— Find colleagues with specific skills and knowledge
— Discover hidden expertise
— Solve business challenges
— Support each other
— And, yes, even socialize

cubeless now offered externally:
— As the SVP talked about cubeless at communications industry events, so many fellow communicators sought him out to say they want to see the tool and determine how it might work at their company.
— This really told Sabre that cubeless could serve a need at many companies in addition to theirs, and they decided to offer it externally to other businesses.
— What began as a tool to address Sabre’s own needs has morphed into a new social network software for all corporations and a new revenue stream for Sabre.

Obstacles/Challenges:
Although they’ve been asked by many companies if employees are less productive and act inappropriately in this open forum, their experience says “no” on both counts.

— In fact, they’ve discovered that employees appear to be more productive because they find needed information faster than trying to solve everything on their own.
— Also, they’ve learned that employees act professionally because postings include their name, and peers are watching.
— It’s become like any other community, with its own social mores, and people passionate about the community don’t let it get out of hand.

Tools:
The cubeless platform was developed in the Ruby on Rails open source environment by the Sabre Studios innovation lab team.

The Team:
A number of team members came together to develop, launch and roll out cubeless:
— Sabre Studios innovation lab: created the technology.
— Corporate Communications: identified the company communications need and collaborated with Sabre Studios to develop the community and market it internally and externally.
— cubeless sales team: educated potential customers about social media in the workplace and sold cubeless as an indispensable, innovative enterprise community environment.
— cubeless Council: engaged members most passionate about the community by asking for their feedback on what else they need from the tool and sharing this with developers.

Results:
Quantitative measures of success are described in the response to the next question.

On the qualitative front, cubeless is breaking down barriers between its people around the world.
— It’s become a real community, with activists passionate about building a stronger community and an attitude that’s re-shaping our culture.

Connectedness has bred helpfulness.
— People are getting to know one another, and helping each other.
— By sharing their knowledge with one another, they are voluntarily saving money, breaking down barriers and igniting innovation…all while having fun.

Additional qualitative measures of success are best exemplified through several examples of cubeless’ use:

“FINDING FABIO”
Sales team in Dallas office planned to hire a translator.
— Needed Italian speaker for a meeting with Italian clients.

Posted a question on cubeless.
— Does anyone speak Italian in the Dallas office?

Found six volunteers.
— Including a co-worker in a flex cube nearby named Fabio.

Saved USD3,000.
— Plus Fabio knew the industry much better than an outside translator.

“ACRONYMS APLENTY”
New employee is drowning in company and industry acronyms.
— Spent hours initially trying to find the meaning.
— Constantly interrupted colleagues.

Asks cubeless if anyone has a list of acronyms and their meaning.
— Within three hours, another member sends her a glossary of 1,500 terms and acronyms.
— Everyone has a hobby…including compiling acronyms.

Saved USD3,125.
— If she documented the terms herself, it would have taken approximately 125 hours (5 minutes per acronym and at rate of $25 per hour).
— Now she could devote these hours to pressing business matters.

“SUPPORT FOR NATURALLY SLIM”
Los Angeles colleague’s weight loss story.
— She works from home.
— She was taking part in an aggressive weight loss and health program sponsored by the company.

There’s power in numbers.
— She swears she couldn’t have lost many of these pounds if it weren’t for the support of other employees who also were participating.

Sabre realized the following results from cubeless:

Business Goal #1: Create broad adoption and frequent use of cubeless.

Generates broad use.
— 60-70 percent of Sabre employees actively use the system each month.

Provides positive business outcomes.
— Organizational: Groups focusing on shared interests have formed. Remote workers especially feel tied into company and each other.
— Cultural: Employees who are community activists now belong to the community council, taking on leadership roles and providing guidance to new iterations of cubeless.
— Personal: Authentic caring for one another occurs each day.

Business Goal #2: Generate positive, documented business outcomes.

Yields frequent use.
— 60 percent of questions asked are answered within one hour of posting (90 percent in 24 hours).
— Average of 30 page views per employee visit.
— Each question posted to the community receives an average of nine answers.

Provides positive business outcomes.
— Financial (time, money saved).
*** Reduced time required to find information / answers.
*** Decreased support costs.
*** Eliminated duplicative or unnecessary activities.