Virgin Media turns to social tools for its enterprise

Telecom company looks to cut back on travel time, email with Cisco collaboration tools

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Miles said it was key that workers be able to easily use the social tools regardless of whether they're using their laptops, tablets or smartphones. The ability for people to have the same experience with the software, no matter what device they're using, is one of the main reasons Virgin Media chose Cisco. He wouldn't go into the costs to deploy the Cisco tools.

Miles noted that Virgin Media considered using enterprise collaboration tools from other vendors in that sector, including Jive and Microsoft. The company picked Cisco because the networking company provided a consistent experience regardless of what device was used. The company also liked the fact that Cisco's products enabled it to access various tools, such as voice and video calls, from the same place, instead of needing to install different tools to get the same feature set.

"A social business tool like Quad gives you more flexibility in terms of business flow," Miles said. "People can get information that is pertinent to them. They can get in in the morning, open Quad and then go see exactly what is pertinent to them."

And that, he added, should help them decrease employees' use of email, which floods users' inboxes and is prone to seemingly endless strings that quickly lose their benefit in their sheer volume.

"We definitely need to do something to break the email growth cycle," Miles said. "Email is an equal measure productivity hindrance and productivity enabler. We are at a cusp ... A social business tool is a game changer in how people receive information."

Rather than trying to stay updated on projects via email, Miles explained that Quad users can join various communities that are devoted to specific jobs, projects and company needs. They can check into their communities and see what's been posted and what documents are being worked on -- all in one place.

However, while there have been many benefits, it hasn't always been easy to convince everyone that using a social tool is a good idea.

"We found that people were naturally wanting to get all over [the new tool] because it's got the word 'social' within it," Miles said. "They wanted to start communities and start collaborating ... Others were turned off by the word 'social'. We concentrated on making people understand the value of these tools. One size doesn't fit all. We had to create and design a different set of training tools."

To make new users comfortable, Virgin Media used training videos and set up self-help communities within the new tools so users could pose and answer each other's questions. It also scoped out which employees were the bigger social networking users -- with memberships in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn -- and asked some of them to be evangelists for the enterprise social tools.

"With the use of evangelists and trainers, we found a groundswell of engagement," Miles said. "We're starting to see a higher level of agility in the organization ... People are able to make decisions quicker ... They're more apt to look to work together."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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