In my last blog I talked about some of the IT challenges of rolling out Web 2.0 in the enterprise. Like many companies, Cisco needed to stem the tide of employees who were taking Web 2.0 matters into their own hands, and find ways to balance their growing demand with business and IT requirements. So about two years ago we started to address some of the challenges by making many of the desired Web 2.0 tools and applications IT sanctioned and accessible to employees, including wikis, discussion forums, blogs, RSS feeds, video sharing, social bookmarking, and more. These were the building blocks of what soon would be wrapped into a broader Cisco initiative called the “Integrated Workforce Experience,” or IWE (more on that in a minute).
Employee adoption of these Web 2.0 building blocks immediately skyrocketed and has continued to grow for the past two years. For example, within 12 months Cisco was handling:
- 20,892 internal blog entries
- 1.6 million wiki page edits
- 110,205 discussion threads and messages
- 525 million minutes in WebEx conferencing
- 58,306 users viewed internal videos more than 420,000 times
- 20,528 Expertise tags in the corporate directory
Most of this adoption was spread by employees virally, with no formal internal communications or corporate promotion. That’s powerful employee reinforcement! Meanwhile, however, these same new Web 2.0 tools were also exacerbating the problem of employee information overload. On top of managing our email inboxes, we now had to keep track of blogs and discussion threads, subscribe to RSS feeds, and the like. It wasn’t long before Cisco realized that we needed an integrated approach to managing Web 2.0. That’s when IWE entered the picture; an Integrated Workforce Experience.
A cornerstone of the IWE program is Cisco’s desire to make it easier for employees to share and learn from all of the content, knowledge, and expertise that traditionally is siloed within document repositories, people’s hard drives, and other places in the organization with restricted access, and in different applications for different types of information. Conceptually IWE is based on the social networking graph, which is the idea that people, information, and communities are fundamentally connected. People have a relationship with the things they care about (information) and at the same time there’s a connection among people with similar attributes such as roles, expertise, hobbies, geography, etc. (communities). The real benefits of this model surface when you tie together the social communities of people with the shared attributes of information, because information that is relevant to people in your community is likely relevant to you as well. Now, instead of individuals gathering information and expertise in silos throughout the organization, you are leveraging the community (which represents the program you work on, the location you work in, the role you have, the interest or expertise you have, etc.) to decipher the most relevant information for you (articles, blogs, discussions, videos, presentation, documents, and the like). Crowd wisdom! Doing so successfully can help solve the issue of information overload. Community content is all in one place, all connected, all searchable, all tagged, and all rated.
How did we do this? One of the first stops on Cisco’s IWE journey was the corporate global directory (the “people” component) of more than 150,000 employees and vendors, which contains typical contact details such as a photo, title, organization, phone, email, and address (our corporate directory gets 190,000 hits per day). What if Cisco could make it easier for employees to search through this content, to find the right person or subject matter expert to help with a project, give a customer presentation, or perhaps be the next captain of your Cisco campus volleyball team? This is exactly what we started to do in 2008 when Cisco added an “Expertise” section to the directory. Employees could now enter keywords or phrases (“tags”) that identify their technical knowledge, skillsets, hobbies, or any work- or personal-related attribute or interest they wish to provide.
This functionality not only enabled users to search through the directory to find, say, a local Web 2.0 expert fluent in a particular language, but was later enhanced to provide an even greater foundation for connecting people to information at Cisco. The information employees put in the Expertise section of their directory profile not only links to others in the directory who have provided similar input but is also linked to content tagged with the same keywords on Cisco’s intranet, which we call Ciscopedia. Ciscopedia aggregates information, forums, related blogs and documents around those tags. Like its role model Wikipedia, anyone at Cisco can edit or contribute to the content in Ciscopedia.
Enhancing the corporate directory was a big step in making the connection between people with shared attributes and the information they care about stronger. And this connection works both ways: people connecting to information and information connecting to experts.
In my next blog I’ll talk about how Cisco has completed the social graph of people, information, and communities by taking IWE to the next level, that is, by expanding our internal social network and improving employee collaboration through social communities.