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Andy Mulholland, CTO, Capgemini

Today, yet another email arrived trying to tell Paul Hermelin, our CEO, (with a copy to myself) that this company had made a breakthrough in social collaboration tools. These mails, more often than not at a CEO level, are getting to be a depressingly familiar item in my mail box, at least three a week I would guess. There are two things that amaze me; first that the senders do so little homework because if they did they would see a number of articles about exactly what Capgemini currently uses for social tools; and second how little they seem to know about the way a large global enterprise works and how it would use such tools.

If you want to catch up on what Capgemini is doing with various tools in this area then try any of the following comments (and, of course, there are various in-house comments on our experiences on the CTO blog and Capping IT Off, as well):

  1. an article on how Capgemini is using Yammer as a social tool

  2. a description of how Sogeti has built a comprehensive approach to managed collaboration

  3. a video on how Capgemini Consulting is using its Connect tool.

Okay, so right now I guess you are thinking, why are there three different tools and approaches in the same group? and why isn't there a homepage for the Capgemini Yammer network? The answer is that there are different requirements; in fact, using these tools has shown just how different the needs are in the different areas of the group. Sogeti is driven by its local geographic presence and its ability to provide high grade technology professional services, in short it's all about organizational collaboration. Capgemini Consulting needs to be able to manage the global deployment and experiences of a relatively limited number of highly qualified consultants to focus on delivering value to its high-end consulting engagements.

In the Capgemini technology operations there is a need for a pure and simple unstructured ability to find answers to technical questions or to provide rapid updates on new technology to the 23,000 people currently enrolled in our Yammer-based social network. It has become clear that its prime benefit, unlike Sogeti and Capgemini Consulting, is its completely unstructured nature, but that doesn't mean unmanaged. I have commented on the difference between structured collaboration from the centre of an enterprise outwards to organize for specific goals, and unstructured collaboration inwards as people need to find answers to events and situations as they occur.

Sounds simple, but it isn't. There has to be a working discipline that those in the social network see as 'the way we behave towards each other', as well as some rules on what is acceptable and what is not i.e. no confidential data, identities, etc. are ever posted. The crucial point is that just as enterprises understand the very real need for a corporate culture to guide behaviour, the same is required for an effective enterprise social network, even if it is of the unstructured type allowing its participants to behave with great freedom. This point came out in a big way when a university studied the use of Yammer in Capgemini, and they were very surprised to see the way people were supporting each other and treating topics.

Now compare this with the more gung ho approach that the New York Times seems to feel accompanies social networking into the enterprise as they see employees bringing their experience of Facebook etc. into the workplace (the website requires you to log in).

My point is that a managed start, probably with a selected group of employees, to set the enterprise culture for using social tools is essential to get success. It's not enough to just allow it to happen, but it certainly will by the way. If it hasn't already happened in your enterprise, the capabilities that it can deliver are just too valuable to waste. So find out what is there already, who uses it and why to see if you have something to build on, and if you are not convinced of the need to do this then take a look at the current statistics!

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