Culture & Competency

WWPYCBW: Strategy and People (August 13, 2008)

Contents at a Glance
– Universal McCann links its Offices
– Challenges of Working Virtually
– Quick Links

Universal McCann links its Offices
Universal McCann, a global communications firm, has been exploring social networking tools to enhance communication between its 60 offices and 3000 people. Key technologies: Microsoft SharePoint 2007 and NewsGator Social Sites for SharePoint.

Because Universal McCann already had SharePoint, and NewsGator built Social Sites to integrate specifically with SharePoint, Harrison’s group was able to seamlessly add its new social network, which would essentially become the new starting off point for the corporate intranet.

For Harrison, the key was to make sure people started using it so it wouldn’t become another statistic amidst the wasteland of failed corporate social networks. To ensure adoption, Harrison did two things. First, he found allies, primarily managers of divisions and departments, to champion its use in the company. “We wanted to develop super users,” he says. “We chose people who understood the technology and who realized why it had value.”

Secondly, he set Limo — the Universal McCann corporate intranet containing Social Sites — as the default site on all employees’ browsers. “It sounds kind of like a hokey thing to do, but it does really work. When the browser pops open, there it is,” he says.

Interesting adoption strategy: (1) find user champions in the business, and (2) make it the default thing that people see each day. That’s a pretty simple approach … make people hear about it by enthused people, and make it the thing they see. Don’t dismiss the simple things …

Challenges of Working Virtually
Angelo outlines some of the challenges of working virtually, including technology (mainly around remote access to key information) and psychological challenges.

Psychological challenges also change the nature of a telecommuting job as opposed to a face-to-face job. Since your home becomes your office, you sometimes begin to feel that you are always at work. This can make your home become very unappealing or even depressing to be in. It also becomes hard to focus on the task at hand because there can be many distractions around you that do not appear in a regular office setting. Staying motivated is sometimes difficult because of this. I found it hard to not take constant breaks because I was unable to stay focused on my work or I became frustrated with what I was doing because of the logistical challenges. Not being able to interact with coworkers in person made the job a lonely one. The mental challenges of working virtually are often not considered by someone who wants to undertake a telecommuting position; however, they can make the job even more difficult than the organizational problems that one can face and are even harder to avoid.

Somewhere I’ve written about this … the need to find another group of people for in-person interaction when you are isolated from work colleagues … perhaps it’s even in Seamless Teamwork. Fascinating observations from Angelo.

Quick Links
– One way to encourage adoption of collaboration tools: take something else away.