5 case studies — Social technology impacting management

We’ve tossed around a lot of ideas on {grow} about how technology is impacting our lives, but I’m also really interested in how it is impacting the culture of our companies.

For example, what is it going to be like leading a new workforce that is conditioned to manage relationships through text messages and accustomed to the continual stimulation and reward of video games?   As they enter the workforce, are they going to change our companies?  Or, are our companies going to change them?  Maybe a little of both?

The intersection of technology, Generation Text, and corporate culture will have vast implications for recruiting and retention, training, compensation, HR policies … nearly every company-employee touch-point in fact!

With this backdrop, you can imagine how interested I was to read a report from McKinsey on a competition they held to identify how Web 2.0 tools and technologies are changing management.  From 143 entries, here are five big ideas:

1. Sharing common resources more efficiently

Employees of the Dutch government are using web-based tools to share offices, conference spaces, and other resources. The employees were facing too many bureaucratic hurdles, and even had to reserve meeting space in their own buildings through an outside agency!  One particularly frustrated employee tweeted her exasperation to colleagues, and they decided to form a group to build their own reservation system with open-source software.  They rolled it ou,t building by building, and now the system includes more than 53 offices and 554 work spaces across the country. The employees say the net result is a “shift from the focus of individual ‘ownership’ as defined by specific government buildings and offices to a sense of ‘stewardship’ shared across the spectrum of government.”

2. Global training with local experts

Essilor International, a global maker of ophthalmic lenses, created an internal training program that mixes in-person and Web 2.0 formats to transmit best practices among 102 sites in 40 countries. The company says that a mastery level that once took three years to achieve can now be reached in about one.  A lens-processing center in Thailand, for example, developed a game to teach new workers how to understand the shape of a given kind of lens; now it’s used in Brazil too. A social-network feature enables coaching across multinational locations. The system is called “Entangled Talents” because the company said “the talents of individual employees across the globe have become entangled, creating a web that supports the company’s daily operations.”

3. Powering continuous improvement 

Best Buy has more than 1,500 locations and more than 100,000 employees on the frontlines of customer service.  In an effort to make sure that senior managers learn what those employees are hearing from customers, the company created an online platform that rewarded employee feedback on what they are hearing from customers.  The platform allows everyone to see collated information from all stores in a useful and searchable format. This information is powering a movement of continuous improvement that has affected things as simple as the signs in one store and as complicated as decisions about how to implement a national promotion.

4. Social networking for new product development 

Rite-Solutions, a software company, built an internal idea marketplace that has so far generated 15 new commercial products that account for 20 percent of the company’s total revenue. This system goes far beyond a typical brain-storming platform. The internal website connects potential new products with the resources, experience, and expertise that can bring ideas to life. The internal social networking site enables communities to organically develop to further improve, develop, and commercialize new product ideas.

5. Using internal communities to reduce time-to-market

The Mexico-based cement giant Cemex introduced an internal-collaboration platform called Shift, which has helped the company reduce the time needed to introduce new products and make internal process improvements. Shift uses a mix of wikis, blogs, discussion boards, and Web-conferencing tools to speed problem-solving.  When employees use Shift, ideas, suggestions, and  recommendations bubble up across the network. Communities of interest are form to tackle challenges common to their locations, markets, and skill sets.  Projects can move forward without the barriers posed by traditional hurdles, such as over-reliance on e-mail and live meetings. The payoff is lower cycle  times, faster time to market, and real-time process improvement.  The company has 500 active internal problem-solving communities.  An example: Cemex invited 400 employees involved with its ready-mix products to help figure out which worked best and which were redundant. The result is a slimmed-down product line offered in a constantly updated catalog available globally.

How is your company using social technologies and Web 2.0 tools to manage smarter?  Any case studies and successes you’d like to share?

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  • Being a custom development shop we are helping many companies move in new directions.  Many people might think of us simply as a “website developer” but there are so many web based options and tablet  options we create that are making management, sales and everyday operations easier for our clients.

    We have a company whose sales staff uses iPads for viewing products/inventory as well as placing orders.  Marketing departments are doing presentations on iPads.  Firms are utilizing intranets far more to communicate with satellite offices as well as telecommuters.  Inventory systems are being linked to quick books, and much more.

    Many things that you can think of to do paperless or remotely can be done via a web based application, no need to leave something behind on your “office computer” or desk.

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  • I left corporate life right as a lot of this stuff was taking off.  It would be fun to have the sponsorship and resources at a big company to really blow some of this stuff out and make things happen.  I miss having that big ‘ol IT department! : )   Thanks Jennifer!

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  • Thanks for sharing this. I work in social media marketing and communications, but for the last few months I have been thinking about how social media is so much deeper than just MARCOM. It really starts with creating a social business culture that embraces the insights and efficiencies that social media provides. The cases above are perfect examples. That doesn’t start with the CMO; it starts with the CEO. I think there is a lot of opportunity for not simply a social media marketing agency, but, instead, a social business consultancy. Whether it’s a McKinsey or an independent shop, social business consulting is a big opportunity.

  • This is a superb observation David and I believe you are correct. Social media success starts with company culture. So overlooked … hmmm … sounds like a blog post! 

    About two years ago I predicted that the next big thing in social media would be the internal use of these tools, so it looks like I got that one right!  : ) 

    Thanks for the excellent observations.

  • “For example, what is it going to be like leading a new workforce that is conditioned to manage relationships through text messages and accustomed to the continual stimulation and reward of video games?   As they enter the workforce, are they going to change our companies?  Or, are our companies going to change them?  Maybe a little of both?”

    Down the road the quality of work that gets shared for the benefit of the company, gets changed into how to destroy it!

    I think the movies always point the way on this stuff. Phillip K. Dick and his ideas seem to create the very stuff you discuss here. Only from his individual viewpoints he shows what goes wrong with the people who have to use it.Paycheck, Minority report, etc…

    Thus a company digital police force is never going to be far from the surface.
    I know I sound weird here but this is coming too along with the people who must live within it and use it to work and get paid…

  • Mark, thanks for sharing these examples. It is great to see all of the ways companies are using technology to collaborate and innovate. Based on these examples, it seems many of us may be too focused on the external applications. Maybe it is time to turn our attention inward, and use today’s technology and communication solutions to address our internal barriers.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Wow, great examples!  Next time someone asks about Social Media ROI, send them to this blog! Once the bigger picture is understood, the value becomes very clear from so many different perspectives. This is where “The Rubber Meets the Road”!

    What was most interesting to me is the lack of mention of (ahem) Twitter and Facebook. 

  • What’s even more interesting is that, even with the
    hunger in the market for good real life case stories, there are not more
    comments here. Is that because the fundamental driving force is still only
    Marcom and, as has been discussed widely, that discipline is still fighting for

  • Glad you liked the examples. Can’t explain lack of comments. Who can predict these things? : ) 

    The social web is a fickle partner indeed. Thanks for stopping by Steve! 

  • I have been saying this for some time. For many companies, this is where the real value may be! 

  • Yes, you do sound weird here, which is what I absolutely love about you Billy. Bring it!

  • Our company is very small, and we operate virtually. So we use tools like VOIP, Skype, GoToMeeting, and Google Docs constantly for collaboration and company meetings. We’ve discussed the idea of creating an internal wiki that allows us to store project information  and best practices for sharing with each other and for educating new team members. So far, our attempts to implement something have been pretty klunky, but we keep trying. Has anyone had success with open source products that do this and still keep the content secure?

  • Why thank you Mark. I will take that as a very well intended compliment and bring it I shall. 🙂

  • You might look into Yammer. 

  • Thanks. I’ll check it out.

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  • julia

    Hello, i want to say when we talk about technology or other products it is all around business and management. And today every new product needs social promotion as you mentioned. I’ve published a post about management case study and want to share: http://rapidessay.com/blog/the-trouble-with-bangles-management-case-study-our-sample-paper

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