Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Using Chatter to transform your business

Well I was supposed to present at Dreamforce 11 but Irene managed to ruin my travel plans and I couldn't get there in time. I'm really bummed since we (Dave McDermott, Andrea Lazaru and I) had all spent a lot of time on the presentation and making last minute changes, namely having to have them cover my slides, is rough.

They did a great job but I still wish I was there in person.

I did follow along as best I could using the dreamforce mobile app. One of the questions was around chatter adoption in smaller companies versus larger ones.

We (Enterasys) are probably more mid-sized than small with slightly over 1000 employees globally. Kelly (where Dave is from) is around 6500. So compared to them we are smaller. I suspect the question was really around 1-200 employees.

I think for me though the size of the company is less important than the culture of the company. Any time we implement new systems or processes that really transform the way we work we focus on 3 main areas, Culture, Process and Tools.

Culture is the first. If your culture isn't one that is open, honest, transparent, flexible and respectful, chatter isn't going to save you. People need to be willing to share successes and failures and learn from each other, and that doesn't happen if everyone is worried about getting "thrown under the bus". So if culture is broken, it will need to be fixed first.

Now chatter can be a great way to help re-enforce this culture, but the executives need to want to change the company culture too, Chatter is just a tool, a kick ass tool, but still just a tool.

Process is the second area to look at. If the process doesn't enforce the use of the tool, it won't get adopted well. We have a saying "The easy way needs to be the right way". For us we did sort of force encourage people to start using chatter as part of their process. We would purposely communicate certain things only through chatter. The two biggest were sales wins that our CEO posts almost daily. Everyone likes to hear how we are doing. The other is "free cookies or food". Usually if we have a meeting and there is any food or snacks left, we will chat the location. You don't follow me on chatter, you miss out.

Then the last piece is making sure the tools fits the environment. If you never had salesforce.com, chatter might not be the right tool and something like yammer could be a better fit. Chatter for us is exactly the right tool because we use salesforce for sales, service, IT governance and other things, so it's a great fit.

I think the size of the company does come into play a little bit, but really more around scale than anything. It obviously takes more time to deploy chatter desktop to 10k employees and train them, but scale is a good problem to have with pretty clear resolutions.


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