An anecdote of social messaging as the killer app

An anecdote of social messaging as the killer app

Wicklin is one of the experts on statistical software development at SAS Institute. Prior to creating the Hub, SAS already had other collaboration systems in place, such as SharePoint, and implemented wikis and blogs on its intranet for knowledge sharing. But the Hub caught Wicklin’s attention in a way those other tools never had.

“I guess the difference between the Hub and all those others is that I use the Hub, and I didn’t really use the others,” Wicklin said. Internal blogs were a fine vehicle for “a select few” within the organization who committed to maintaining them, and wikis could be useful for finding specific information, but the Hub couldn’t be beat for browsing through short messages from people across the organization, in search of the “serendipitous moment” of finding something he hadn’t been looking for (but still found useful) from someone he never would have connected with otherwise, he said.

We first reported on SAS’s implementation of Socialcast in April, when it was fairly new. The company did an informal launch of the software in January 2011 and had more than 1,000 users within a month. By the end of the year, the Hub had nearly 8,000 users out of the company’s 12,000 employees. The adoption is even greater than it might sound from that, given that the total employee count includes people like landscapers and food service workers, who don’t use a computer to do their jobs. In divisions like research and development, use of the Hub is nearly universal.

SAS internal communication manager Becky Graebe said the Hub is delivering on the goal of providing new ways for employees to connect and collaborate. “People ask me, ‘Do you think this is cutting down on email?’ Well, I’m not measuring that right now. Our intent was to get people communicating more, not less. We’re a knowledge-based organization, so this is focused on knowledge sharing. We’re trying to get knowledge out of the minds of our employees, out onto the table where it can be talked about.”

– David F. Carr

As you might expect of a technology company, SAS already has plenty of Web-based collaboration in place, including internal wikis and about 600 intranet blogs. What it saw in Socialcast was the opportunity to spark conversations that link to all those other resources.

“Seeing the way communication was growing outside the company at a very rapid rate with social media, we asked, how do we bring some of that inside?” Lee said. “So we said, let’s bring a Facebook application inside the company—and that’s exactly what we did.”

David F. Carr


Something related I posted on Google yesterday is are social messaging and activity streams enough. We know they are the sweet spot in sense-making, ease of use and that primal social connection. But after the fact we need to curate this stuff before it falls into obscurity (ie. knowledge manage the knowledge flow). Wiki’s are a good tool for curation, as are blogs to describe what’s been happening…or you could move from social messaging to a blog or forum for extended discussion.

Yes social messaging can occur in group spaces, so this is a start of having this stuff in the right topic ballpark. But still tools like forums are really good after the fact if you want to browse by date or view a title index.

So blog, wikis, forums, are great content tools to share and do work; but for quick no frills one-click participation, you can’t go past social messaging in its appeal and effectiveness…and of course if that blog post or wiki edit ain’t appearing as a feed item in the activity stream, does it exist.

In the end social messaging and the activity stream is sustained as a killer app as it’s where we hang out, it’s where we already are. This is why email is so successful, and why blogs, forums, etc. did not replace this feeling. Now social messaging/activity streams are here as the real alternative to the inbox experience.

What are your thoughts on social messaging/activity stream apps like Yammer (now have wikis) and Socialcast. The both have group spaces. But are they getting by without blogs and forums. Not in the flow sense, but in consolidating this for easy re-use or findability.

Not blogs, not wikis, not Sharepoint(!) – but the allowing of serendipity!

The Content Economy: Winning with employee engagement

A paradox for employees today is that they really need to connect with and collaborate more with more people, and strengthen their personal networks if they are to deliver better results and strengthen our their positions. One problem they are facing when doing this is that most current incentive models do not reward employees helping their colleagues, unless there is a direct and measurable return on their contributions. Another problem is that many organizations fail at making the contributions that employees do outside of their own team visible, and thus if fails to recognize them. These problems put people in a kind of deadlock position. During uncertain times, most people will simply do what becomes visible and recognized by those who evaluate them, their managers. They will most likely also most be asked or commended by their managers to do so, because their managers are in a similar position as they will be judged by their managers on the visible contributions from the team they are managing (and so it goes on, all the way to the top).

Thanks to @johnt for the pointer to this.