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When social tools go viral

Brad Howarth | April 4, 2013
It says something when powerful and popular social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter become the template for an entirely new form of workplace collaboration.

"Because they are so flexible and can be used in so many different ways they have to be adopted from the ground up and be made sense of by the people on the ground."

These tools will not work everywhere, however. Riemer says if an organisation has a culture that is highly competitive internally, it is unlikely that workers will ever share information and collaborate.

For the outsource salary package management company Smartsalary, use of's Chatter collaboration tool has followed a similarly viral and serendipitous path. Smartsalary's chief commercial officer Dave Adler says use of Chatter started when Sales Cloud was implemented for 30 staff in the company's leasing business in 2010.

The company immediately noticed an improvement in the team's efficiency.

"The leasing team started using Chatter within their own group to update each other on new cars that were coming to market, or changes to employee policies or processes," Adler says.

Later that year's Service Cloud was deployed in the company's call centre, extending the footprint of Chatter, and today it is available across the business.

Adler says there was never any formal rollout program, nor any formal training.

"We said, 'Let's see what happens and how people interact with it'. And it is effectively becoming the main way people communicate within the business, replacing a lot of our internal email.

"People are used to Facebook and are used to social tools, and Chatter is really a corporate type of Facebook."

While the company is yet to conduct any formal analysis of the benefits that Chatter has delivered, Adler is satisfied that it is meeting goals of improving information flow and breaking down silos within the organisation.

"And you can start seeing who is generating ideas, and generating followers and influencing stuff," Adler says. "And it is not intimidating. We are seeing more people doing things they would normally not."

But it is not just the enterprise social tools that can benefit from a viral deployment strategy. At Medibank the deployment of Citrix's enterprise collaboration suite to assist in the remote training of nurses in its Health Solutions business back in 2008 has now spread across the organisation to cover more than 400 users.

"I had already started looking at collaboration tools, but in this instance we were looking at flying some nurses from Christchurch up to Wellington for a couple of weeks for training," says technology services manager Dave Buckmaster.

"I identified that the cost savings in implementing a collaboration tool to enable some of the training to take place remotely would provide the return on investment that we needed to bring a new product in.


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