Six tips for a successful social networking software implementation

Orlando – Ahead of the release of Lotus Connections 2.5 in the third quarter, global financial institution HSBC shared its best practices for a successful Connections implementation this week at IBM’s Lotusphere conference.

Lotus Connections, first launched at Lotusphere in 2007, is IBM’s social software application and is designed to bring the power of social networking to the enterprise by giving businesses tools to connect more quickly and efficiently with customers, partners and colleagues, enabling better business decisions. It includes features such as profiles, communities, blogs and activities, and integrates into other applications, such as Lotus Notes, Lotus Sametime, and Microsoft Outlook.

Jeff Schick, vice-president of social software for Lotus, said to be effective for business, social networking software needs to combine the capabilities with business controls such as security, extensibility, scalability and features that work right out of the box.

When Lotus Connections 2.5 ships in Q3, Schick said new features will include a customizable interface and new collaborative services within the communities functionality that will make it easier to extend the capabilities of Connections.

Schick added Lotus is also working closely with IBM Business Partners to enable them to integrate Connections directly into their solutions.

With 300,000 employees around the world, fiscal regulations that vary geography, the need to operate as one with consistent offerings and services worldwide, the desire to bring expert knowledge where its needed no matter where it’s located, and the constant business imperative to create efficiencies and drive synergies, social networking software has become a key piece of the puzzle for HSBC.

“My task at HSBC is to enable employees to work together as effectively as possible, and that means changing the way they work,” said Ian Haynes, head of staff collaboration infrastructure, HSBC.

Haynes said HSBC needed an integrated collaborative solution with e-mail, instant messaging, team spaces, unified communications and social networking.

“We determined Lotus Connections best met our needs,” said Haynes. “We liked the modular approach, and the ability to add widgets.”

HSBC began its Connections implementation small, and Haynes said they’re allowing early adopters to spread word of the software’s utility, which is now beginning to spread almost virally through the global organization.

While Haynes said it’s premature to tally up the returns they’ve realized from their social software investment, he said they’re already seeing some interesting results. For example, two groups working on similar projects in different locations found each other via Connections, and by merging their efforts brought the product to market faster.

Having managed their own successful social networking software implementation, Haynes shared a few tips that other companies going down the same road can leverage:

1. Encourage champions, and have a training program. Going green is a priority for HSBC, and a green champions program trains employees and sends them back to their branches to spread the work. Before they would feel isolated, but now they’re using Connections to stay connected and share best practices.

2. Forget about the technology; concentrate on what it is you want to achieve. While the technology is interesting, at HSBC people didn’t really start using it until it was linked to their business processes.

3. People will get comfortable with social networking tools at different paces. Don’t force it, let it evolve naturally.

4. If you want executives to be writing blogs have them start now so they can get familiar and comfortable with the medium, and wait for the audience to evolve as they get their feet wet.

5. If you want to speed-up Connections adoption, pre-load it with data from your corporate directory so its useful from the start.

6. And finally, welcome feedback. HSBC has engaged in a lively discussion with its users, and while their comments tend to be largely positive, even the less then positive feedback is helpful and provides a window into how the software is actually being used at the end-user level.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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