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I was reading the article yesterday about the launch of Motorola’s new intranet, iMoto. One of the highlights of this launch is reported as being the new employee directory:
“I can pull up a person’s directory listing and not only do I see information about the part of the organization in which they sit, who they report to, but I also see the communities they belong to” – Mary Owens, Director of Internal Communications at Motorola
The features described in the article aren’t rocket science, but it demonstrates the impact of a good employee directory as well as it’s potential for richer, more collaborative features. These features take their inspiration from the popular social networking sites beyond the firewall, enriching the more formal aspects of the Employee Directory. It’s something that’s been the topic of lively debate at recent DWG member meetings!
We’ve seen the evolution of the directory from it’s earliest and dustiest paper-based copies, that were then uploaded to the intranet, through to a robust database driven application that has rightfully earned the nickname of “the killer application” on the intranet. So what’s next?
As I mentioned the newer wave of employee directories incorporate elements of the popular social networking sites, and as with all things 2.0 they’re lighter and nimbler than knowledge management type expertise systems that tried to do a similar thing. Building on the basic directory…
- Static and formal employee information expands into a profile page that includes more personal and diverse information and multimedia.
- This interactive “hub” becomes a key social and business tool, enabling employees to build an internal network.
- Multi-faceted search means that people can be found by a variety of criteria (e.g. – skill, location)
- Linkages are built with collaborative tools such as communities and blogs
Ok, so a social network behind the firewall is never likely to generate the same excitement as on the web, but it is certainly creating excitement both in organisations that are doing it (or thinking of doing it) and vendors both big and small racing to provide solutions (for example, Lotus Connections, ConnectBeam, Nakisa, to mention but a few).
At Oracle, a few developers decided to explore this and built their own internal social network late last year, which they marketed virally inside the organisation with great success. It certainly seems to have hit the right note at Oracle. You can hear them talk about it online.
With so much exciting potential, it’s important to bear in mind the challenges that many organisations still face in getting “the basics” right:
- Ensuring that the information in the employee directory is accurate and up-to-date (both via central and self-services updates)
- Employee profiles often only provide quite basic details about staff, which limits the usefulness of the directory.
- Frequently, organisation charts are neither dynamically generated (meaning they go out-of-date quickly) nor are they properly integrated into the employee directory.
- Another challenge, is the integration of all the relevant information sources into the directory. It can even be the case that a well-intentioned effort such as an expertise directory gets developed in isolation from the main employee directory, compounding this issue. (I’ve seen this recently in a Professional Services firm, and it has caused no end of confusion!)
- Lack of promotion of the directory, and any self-service functionality.
Getting these basics right is a huge win in itself for this “killer application”, and then provides the perfect springboard for some creative and useful advanced features that can help connect people together in a more fluid and dynamic manner.