How Random House Overcame 3 Common Enterprise Collaboration Obstacles

Enterprise collaboration tools can foster better communication and elicit transparency from business units. Here's how Random House implemented an enterprise collaboration suite, encouraged adoption and is measuring its success.

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Wed, June 29, 2011

CIO — With more than 10,000 new book titles and products launching every year, publishing company Random House needed a real-time solution to help manage and share information, and improve employee communication. Email, says VP of IT Chris Hyams Hart, just wasn't cutting it.

"If you have a really important message you need to get to people, email is where it goes to die," he says. "What if marketing needed to know what sales was doing, but not everyone in that email list needed to know? People needed a sense of ambient awareness—they needed to know what was going around them."

Hart and his team looked at a number of enterprise collaboration suites over a few months. They weren't so much interested in building an internal Facebook; rather they were more interested in the communications from systems. Their main criteria in the new platform: integration with Twitter's API so they could migrate from toolset to toolset, an open standard, and easy integration with other tools they may later need .

Ultimately they decided on Socialcast, citing how easy the enterprise collaboration software is to use and trouble shoot.

The suite, Hart says, puts users in control of the information they want to consume. For example, employees can "follow" the status of a person, system alert or project. When a status changes, only those who are subscribing to it receive an alert, then they can take action if necessary. If an employee is involved in a project with another department, she can choose to follow their alerts—and unsubscribe to them when she no longer needs to be in the loop, Hart says.

[Enterprise Collaboration Tools: 4 Ways to Achieve More Value]

While Random House is in the early stages of its internal social deployment, Hart says the company has learned a lot about some of the common challenges and obstacles that businesses deploying social platforms face. Here's what Random House learned about changing employee preconceptions, shifting behaviors and generating best practices.

Reforming Employee Mindsets

Hart says that when the IT department introduced the new social platform to small groups of employees, some people were nervous that it would be used for "wasteful things," such as inane posts and as a procrastination tool. They likened it to a "Facebook at work."

To thwart this mindset and encourage adoption, Hart says IT purposely rolled it out to groups where improved communication around critical projects was a business priority.

"Tools in the enterprise are only well-adopted if the person using them gets value out of them," he says. "It may add value to the company to act as a data entry point, but real usage will be low if there is no personal value gained."

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