How Scottrade Got Workers to Love Social Networking

An intranet revamp was the catalyst for enterprise deployment of social networking tools such as Facebook-style home pages, blogs and wikis.

The Project: Deploy enterprise social networking tools as part of an intranet redesign, including Facebook-style department pages, expert-authored blogs and wiki-based research tools to improve collaboration among a growing nationwide staff. Scottrade, which currently boasts over 430 branches, is adding two every week and needed a better way to keep its employees connected, says CIO Ian Patterson.

The Business Case: Scottrade's aging, homegrown intranet expanded from housing just 150 files and a handful of applications to over 31,000 files and 310 applications in just five years. The site was unable to keep up with that growth, and navigating it became clunky—sometimes content was "five clicks deep," says Tracie Gildehaus, director of business architecture. Updating files was process-heavy, too. Users sent changes, such as amendments to regulations from the Securities and Exchange Commission, to Gildehaus and her team of four. Pushing these live typically took three days to complete. Meanwhile, there was strong demand from employees to build closer relationships among the branch employees. Including blogs, wikis and a Facebook-style page for Scottrade's various departments would alleviate each of these problems.


To read more on this topic see: Success Factors for Corporate Intranets and Report: Enterprises Struggle to Adopt Social Networking Internally.


First Steps: User control is a hallmark of social networking, so Gildehaus wanted employees to collaborate on the intranet redesign. She invited 30 people of varying ages, departments and work functions to a meeting, broke them into groups of three and handed each team 150 note cards naming a popular application or piece of information on the old intranet. The teams had 20 minutes to group the note cards into piles; then they presented their ideas for how information should be organized and displayed. The teams determined the intranet's final design by consensus. To choose the vendor (Oracle), Gildehaus designed scorecards, invited vendors to present their products and asked the teams to vote on which one best suited their needs.

The intranet, deployed in January 2008, includes a variety of social networking tools. User-authored blogs eliminate the need for Gildehaus and her team to update and push content live. A wiki, Purplepedia, provides an encyclopedia of acronyms and terms to help new employees learn company lingo. Facebook-style department pages help branch workers form relationships with each other and colleagues at headquarters as well as stay up to date on corporate policies, procedures and training materials. The department pages include a group photo, a bio of what the department is responsible for and an announcement platform—similar to Facebook's status update—where workers can publish what their group is working on.

What to Watch Out For: Communicate early and often. From design to rollout, the project took nine months, and on the day the site went live, 90 percent of Scottrade employees signed on. Gildehaus attributes this to an aggressive communications strategy. An interactive, female avatar named "Scottina," movie trailers and virtual tours all were hosted on the old intranet and were used to educate users about what they could expect from the new site.

Associate Editor Kristin Burnham can be reached at kburnham@cio.com.

Do you Tweet? Follow me on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO Magazine @CIOMagazine.

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