InformationWeek: Genentech Fights Social 'Noise' By Setting Goals

Last month at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in California, two people from Genentech talked about their approach to making collaboration work. Thomas captured some of the key ideas for InformationWeek:

– Key message: “social without a goal is just a whole lot of noise.”
– There’s no roadmap from some of the more consumer-oriented companies coming into the enterprise. You need to build relationships with the vendors to understand what’s coming up.
– Genentech embraced a “build it and they will come” approach to Jive. It did have a “change management” program for a year after implementation, but once the change management program ceased, usage tailed off.
– Users inside Genentech have drifted towards “collaboration services like Ning and Yammer” that were “more appealing.”

Thomas finished with:

IT can no longer just walk away from projects, Graff said, it has to engage with users to determine a comfortable rate of change. Remaining relevant, he suggested, “will require a more significant investment in change and adoption management.”

Graff offered an example of social with a purpose: Genentech is using social tools to reduce the cost of drug development. A few years ago, it took 10 years and $1 billion to bring a new drug to market. Today, the figure is more like 14 years and $1.5 billion, Graff said.

One of the biggest expenses, Graff said, is clinical trials. So Genentech’s product development group has turned to crowdsourcing and social tools to gather information and interact in a more cost-effective manner.

Wang offered another example of a purpose-guided social project: A custom iOS app–one of over 60 Genentech has created–that works with Skype’s technology, so doctors can consult with experts about prescriptions.

Wang concluded by noting that technology isn’t enough–users will continue to seek better tools no matter what. The role for IT organizations then is to engage with users, understand their needs, and provide the desired tools, inasmuch as policies permit.

My Comments
1. I first read this article in the final days of writing Collaboration Roadmap, and by then it was too late to include any of the ideas in the book. But the message from Wang and Graff (of Genentech) was in close alignment to the roadmap I advocate for organizations.

2. I like the emphasis on goals aligned with current organizational issues – such as using social tools to reduce the cost of drug development. In Collaboration Roadmap, once you’ve understood the technology (the “R” in the roadmap), the second step along the journey is the “O” – “Outline the Vision.”

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