Collaboration 2.0 – A Game-Changing 'Social Strategy' That Radically Evolved Our Employee-Client Ecosystem
By Chris Crawford, Accenture’s director of Social Computing and Collaboration
To put it simply, Collaboration 2.0 is Accenture’s Industrial Revolution: it has changed the way we work, learn, communicate and collaborate. As director of social computing and collaboration, I’m amazed at how viral our social computing platform has become, creating one of the largest suites of enterprise social computing tools on the planet. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we put our people’s needs front and center in our approach to social media.
We first determined why we should add the capabilities (by examining which existing public tools were generating groundswell in our organization) and then determined how we should get there. And for us, the “we” encompasses a magnitude of 190,000 people across 120 countries.
It’s a strategy that is in stark contrast to what we see many companies doing: selecting the latest flash-in-the-pan social computing tools, and doing so before understanding their users’ needs.
With Collaboration 2.0, tasks now take minutes, not days. Projects are no longer stuck in e-mail or red tape. Employees easily convene with experts who illuminate answers. They manage projects by sharing desktops and creating groups. And they connect and share key information with clients via these same tools. (See BusinessWeek's article Company ‘Federations’ to Share Data.)
We hope you enjoy learning about our game-changing groundswell story and how we’ve revolutionized our entire corporate workflow.
Two questions, focused objectives
Collaboration 2.0 is a shining example of a business-driven innovation. In our focus groups and end-user studies we did not ask, “How do people work?”
We did ask: “How do our people want to work?” And, “What, exactly, do they need?”
Our employees, increasingly ardent users of public social media sites, were demanding the same level of productivity-enhancing collaboration across our vast, globally dispersed workforce.
They wanted agile and responsive ways of interacting across our worldwide business operations. Our workforce asked for tools to do their jobs better and strengthen client relationships. Their imperative: faster access to each other, quicker answers and better ways to connect with clients across 120 countries.
Our vision for Collaboration 2.0 was to create a suite of tools that would be so easily adopted that it would answer all these demands. Collaboration 2.0 outperformed our expectations. The trickle-down effects are improved team productivity, reduced travel and phone charges via a new world of virtual collaboration and strengthened client relationships.
“We envisioned social media capabilities that encapsulated exactly how our employees could, optimally, go about performing daily, recurring tasks and then we delivered those technologies to our workplace.”
— Frank Modruson, CIO Accenture
Empowering our people
With objectives established, we built support for Collaboration 2.0. Presenting our business case to Accenture’s IT Steering Committee, we demonstrated the project’s business benefits from the outset, a key plank in starting any new IT project within our organization (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Collaboration benefits outlined in Accenture's business case. Copyright 2010 Accenture
Our stakeholders supported our plan to open secure channels of communication among our workforce and energize our people with improved communication flow. It’s a foregone conclusion at Accenture that there’s incalculable strength in numbers — and we embraced the opportunity to energize our highly specialized global experts to convene with problem solving in mind.
Could anything expose previously untapped pockets of expertise — in a group of 190,000 professionals spread around the globe — better than social computing?
Because the tools are internal, voluntary and provide no anonymity, our business sponsors were confident that Collaboration 2.0 wouldn’t introduce risks to the business. Each employee has an established, proven identity. I microblog as Chris Crawford. That lack of anonymity is critical in making sure people think about Accenture’s code of conduct, as well as how their actions represent them within the business. Thus, Collaboration 2.0 strengthened how people share information, reinforcing and building on our client relationships and our ability to deliver promised benefits to clients on schedule. (See the six-minute Newsgator video case study: Social Computing at Accenture.)
Collaboration 2.0's social computing tools
With Accenture People (our internal Facebook-like tool) as a foundation, we quickly ramped up adoption of our new tools by linking them to employees’ profiles. We invited employees to share pictures, bios, expertise and work-related interests. Then we enabled them to create topic-specific groups that integrate blogging, microblogging, wikis, messaging, activity feeds and social bookmarking. Crowdsourcing and visual conferencing further enhance communication. (See the Forbes article: CIO Priority: Virtual Collaboration.)
Connections made, employees immediately seized the possibilities and started sharing experiences in meaningful ways within a community to get work done faster. We have opened the door to nimble new methods of working with each other and with our clients. Our client teams can now identify and connect with experts around the world, bringing deep and diverse skills together more quickly than ever. We’ve even made many of the tools available to our FORTUNE 500 clients, bringing them into our collaborative culture. Links between Accenture and client companies that also use the same tools are rapidly growing, with obvious benefits for all. Telepresence, desktop audio and video, secure IM, desktop-sharing and unified messaging dramatically improve our dialogue with clients and how we get answers to them, giving us a distinct competitive advantage. Secure communication across corporate firewalls is enhanced, as is the ability to see who is available for a quick instant-messaging chat at any given point in the day.
The illustrative screens below convey how Collaboration 2.0 makes knowledge and resource sharing second nature.
Accenture People: Our Facebook-like tool is the shortest distance between each employee and an expert in our workforce — in every conceivable discipline. Employees can search our global staff, quickly find a subject matter expert, immediately determine his or her availability and use click-to-connect and persistent virtual whiteboard capabilities for real-time collaboration.
Accenture Groups: More than 1,500 Accenture Groups, communities created and run by Accenture colleagues, enable people to share knowledge beyond their job responsibilities. Group topics span from Java programming to Lean Six Sigma to digital photography.
Accenture Blogs: Informal communications are catching on across Accenture as our people recognize the value, versatility and power of blogs that can be easily aggregated and tagged. Experts can use this space to post comments on strategies under development, answers to frequently asked questions, etc.
Accenture Microblogging: Our teams can securely and quickly connect, Twitter-style, to trade ideas and get the best thinking from our global colleagues.
Accenture Media Exchange
Accenture Media Exchange: Items posted in this YouTube-type tool keep training, marketing, knowledge transition and community-building videos circulating among employees.
Accenture Knowledge Exchange
Accenture Knowledge Exchange: This library of assets, deliverables and ideas represents the best thinking, Accenture-wide. Our “vault” includes discussion forums, blogs, wikis and even ratings, comments, cross-search downloads and recommendation functionality such as, "other people who downloaded this also downloaded...," making it easier to find information based on social actions.
Accenture Knowledge Exchange Activity Feeds
Accenture Knowledge Exchange Activity Feeds: We've included RSS-like activity feeds to notify employees when articles are published, capture project status updates, display tasks and suggest related documents.
Achieving a return on investment
"Collaboration 2.0 is the single biggest game changer I’ve ever seen for productivity.”
Measuring the success of social media tools is not an enigma. We focused our measurement strategy on understanding what tools our people were using, and how and why they were using them. Our monthly Collaboration 2.0 scorecard and other reports help us continuously track usage, cost savings, employee satisfaction and, of course, the impact on the primary beneficiaries of Collaboration 2.0: our clients.
Watch the two-minute video.
Here is an overview of our results as reported from internal employee surveys and our scorecard:
Increasing usage and adoption
- 100,000-plus people use profile pages an average of three times a month to find experts and connect with colleagues.
- About 100,000 Accenture employees have customized their profiles (options include pictures, bios, hobbies, etc.).
- 4,634 updates per month made to employee profiles.
- 10,706 blogs created annually, increasing at a rate of more than 200 percent annually.
- 3,336 microblog posts made per month. 1,579 specialized groups created to date.
- 7,886 items added to Accenture Media Exchange.
- 110,850 desktop audio calls made per month.
- 764 entries posted to our internal encyclopedia.
- 14.9 million IM sessions/conversations occur per month.
- 139,269 desktop sharing sessions occur per month.
- 3,900 telepresence hours used per month.
- 15.17 million audio/video/desktop conferencing minutes per month.
Reaping cost savings
- More than 20 million minutes of company-standard monthly VoIP audio/video usage, resulting in avoided mobile and landline long distance/international voice costs.
- More than 5,000 annual video conferencing meetings resulting in avoided travel costs.
- Telepresence usage has slashed travel costs and the savings are exceeding our annual targets, thus far returning more than two times our monthly operating cost.
Improving employee satisfaction
- We have achieved our highest scores to date on employee surveys for: “I can easily find information I need to do my job” and “I can easily find people with expertise/skills I need to do my job.”
- Our employees tell us Collaboration 2.0 plays a crucial part in the timely completion of projects for clients, while improving client satisfaction:
“I found the expert in 15 minutes versus two days.”
“Collaboration 2.0 served as the lifeline when communicating with our global teammates, and helped us establish less of an offshore versus onshore perspective and allowed for more of a fluid team feel.”
“We harnessed the power of social networking to create a virtual community of new recruits—a place where people in similar situations can support each other and access the resources they need. It’s very exciting when we can leverage technology to establish that connection.”
“I’ve been generating anywhere from $500 to $1,000 of savings per week over international dialing rates.”
“Microblogging helps me connect to the experts. It doesn’t limit me ... I’m able to post a question or make a comment and it doesn’t matter whether I’m an analyst or a senior executive. Everybody’s opinion counts.”
Enhancing client relations
- Enhanced ability to staff global teams with the right skills at the right time during critical junctures in client projects.
- Helped maintain long-standing, trusted relationships with clients: 99 percent of our top 100 clients have been with us for 5 years and 87 percent for 10 years.
- Improved reaction time to client requests.
- Employees on client teams comment on how Collaboration 2.0 strengthens client relations:
“Collaboration 2.0 tools helped us reduce our travel expenses by about 25 percent and improve work/life balance. The audio, video and especially application sharing make teaming much more interactive when we are all offsite.”
“It is common for us to be in IM sessions and then quickly decide to pull in two or three other people into the session, add audio/video and share someone’s screen so we can review a document together.”
“Accenture People has been a great help defining a similar system with our client.”
Sealing the deal
Collaboration 2.0 brings together our highly matrixed, ad hoc, virtual teams. I now interact with people I didn’t know before we built Collaboration 2.0.
When we piloted Accenture Groups, one of our US-based employees noted: "I had no idea we had Java developers in Tokyo" after he saw several Tokyo employees join the Java developers group. Forming groups raises awareness of our global resources and enables networking among colleagues at a faster pace, which matches our rate of growth.
Most importantly, our tools work in concert with a myriad of workflows and processes — and this ease-of-use, we believe, is the coup de grâce of our groundswelling success.
Watch the five minute video.
"Every CIO I talk to wants to know what we are doing with collaboration."
— Frank Modruson, CIO, Accenture
Accenture advises the world’s leading enterprises in the very best IT solutions. Collaboration 2.0 serves as a showcase to our clients of our own innovative, results-driving approach to social computing. In fact, Collaboration 2.0 is precisely what our clients describe when we ask them: “What is your social computing nirvana?” We’re proud to boast a social computing culture that makes collaboration as natural as breathing for our employees and our clients. It’s spot-on with our mission of providing anytime, anywhere access across our global workforce, making Accenture feel less far-flung and more as if we are all working under one roof.
Read the Computerworld interview with our CIO Frank Modruson, Keeping Pace with Evolving Technologies.