Alcatel-Lucent gets social with company communication

Telecommunications giant uses Yammer, Jive to create a more social business

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Those kinds of services were what Alcatel-Lucent was looking for, Lowe said. It also helped that with one service, Jive allowed the company to have external and internal options. With the external part of the service, Alcatel-Lucent could connect with customers, partners and suppliers. And with the internal service, employees could communicate and collaborate with one another.

"Corporations are increasingly aware of the trends in the consumer market and are constantly looking there to see what can be adapted to fit corporate purposes," Olds said. "Their employees, friends and family are using social networks as a way to have a richer and broader social life. And how they interact in these networks isn't all that much different than the kinds of communication and collaboration that need to take place in the business world. To an extent, social networks are tailor-made tools for employees who are knowledge workers."

Lowe said he began working on the Jive project in March 2009 and spent the next 13 months gathering requirements, analyzing competing offerings and getting the IT department to sign off on the project. Those 13 months also gave him time to go to each of the company's business units to gather funding. "It was an exciting entrepreneurial way of getting things done," Lowe said.

The Jive platform was rolled out April 6. Lowe initially sent an e-mail about the service to just 125 people in the company, giving them each a log-in and inviting them to join. Membership spread from there, and Alcatel-Lucent now has nearly 20,000 registered Jive users. According to Lowe, about 200 to 400 people join every day. On any given day, about 1,000 people use the system in one way or another, he added.

The company has more than 800 groups on the Jive system, many of them business-related but some of them social in nature. To illustrate the range of uses, he noted that regional sales and marketing teams have formed groups to share best practices, while employees who like photography have set up a more informal community for colleagues who share that interest.

"I think they're in line with most of the companies that are deploying this kind of software," Shimmin said. "[Enterprise 2.0 tools] certainly are not widely adopted, like, say, e-mail. Even companies that are deploying it are working with different facets of it. Some start with microblogging to get internal chatter going. Other companies are starting with profile-centric social networking so employees understand who is working in the company.... There are different ways of getting involved."

It hasn't all been easy, said Lowe, who noted that it's often difficult to keep up with all of the information that comes his way through personal and group updates. Sometimes getting people to think collaboratively can be its own challenge. he said.

"As for success, I think what I am realizing is that deploying and getting people on a 2.0 tool is the easy part. Influencing behaviors and driving change in an organization is much more difficult, but also far more rewarding," Lowe said. "What I mean is that we are not all collaborators by nature. There are some who believe that just because we deployed this platform that everyone instantly will get it."

Despite those challenges, it's the people inside Alcatel-Lucent who are making the collaboration tool work.

"The people have made this successful," Lowe said. "The tool has just helped, but it's the people who surprise me on a daily basis."

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

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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