Social enterprise software is not a silver bullet, but natural use cases emerge over time, according to chief architect Andre Boisvert of Yellow Pages Canada.
As a print-based business that is moving steadily to digital, Yellow Pages Canada is making some far-reaching changes to its business model and also to the architecture of IT that supports it. However, Boisvert told Computing, it is vital that he takes the organisation's 2,600 employees with him.
Since print directories still bring in 60 per cent of the firm's revenues, Yellow Pages cannot afford to kill this particular goose just yet. But a print-based advertising company has a different culture and mindset to an online one, and while Boisvert believes that the familiar doorstops have only a few years left, the transformation to digital needs to be managed very carefully.
So, while there are radical changes going on under the bonnet, with the introduction of master data management (MDM), business process management (BPM), service oriented architecture (SOA) and analytics through partnership with Tibco, the firm also introduced a next-generation intranet featuring technologies such as cloud service Box for document sharing and collaboration, the Taleo self-service learning portal, and the tibbr enterprise social platform.
"There is a cultural transformation that is required. We viewed the new intranet as a way to support the transformation, as a mechanism to allow people to share and collaborate and transfer knowledge," said Boisvert.
However, Boisvert said that the real value of the social platform can take time to emerge.
"There is a curve of adoption. Before deployment people say ‘this is the silver bullet that will solve all our problems', then when it's deployed everyone goes on it out of curiosity and you get way too many posts. Then you get a disappointment and desertion phase. But in the last few months I've seen some natural use cases emerge."
Two of the main ones he has seen so far are in IT and in sales and marketing.
"Part of my job is to do IT surveillance, to watch the trends. I will say ‘This is a technology that might be good for this project - what do you guys think?' To make this post takes only a minute but sometimes unexpectedly, because I am reaching out to the whole organisation, I will get someone saying ‘yes I've used it, it's good but it wasn't scalable'. Now not only do I know more about it but also that there's someone in the company who can help me if I decide to go with that technology."
Yellow Pages has 1,000 dispersed sales people visiting businesses all across Canada. Having them able to comment on materials produced by the marketing department without having to meet in some central location is the second natural use case.
"Before marketing produces sales collateral they can check if it is useful by means of a poll. Before they would produce it and send it out with no idea whether it would really work."
Now, said Boisvert, as well as input into the creation of new materials, sales people all across the country can actively help to modify collateral, such as a PowerPoint slideshow, by feeding back comments and suggestions via the social platform.