5 Tips for Social Business Adoption: How SAS Succeeded

SAS needed a way to consolidate information repositories and wrangle millennials from using Facebook for work purposes. Here's how the business analytics company decided on and rolled out their enterprise collaboration platform, plus tips for success.

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Mon, May 21, 2012

CIO — Business analytics company SAS was at a crossroads common to many companies pondering a social business platform: Its intranet housed various repositories of information that were cumbersome to navigate. The business, too, understood that millennials were seeking more social business tools.

"We have 12,000 employees and the knowledge is so widespread," says Karen Lee, senior director of internal communications. Lee was the point-person for implementing a solution for SAS. "We needed something that brought communication channels together—one place that would reference a lot of our communications."

Lee says discussions about what was next in communications prompted their interest in an enterprise collaboration platform. SAS was using Chatter, an organically created microblog, but the tool was mostly used mostly by employees who belonged to the research and development team. So, acknowledging their increasing population of millennials in the workplace, Lee says they investigated the services and tools this group of employees was currently using.

"They all were using sites like Facebook and Linkedin, and they were all very comfortable with smartphones," she says. "Looking at how they were communicating, I said, 'You know what? I want something like Facebook.'"

Objective: Be as Compelling as Facebook

Becky Graebe, manager of internal communications, who worked closely with Lee during their search and implementation of an enterprise collaboration tool, says that when they discovered that millennials were turning to social networks like Facebook to communicate, they realized the need for a platform was more urgent than they first thought.

"There were a lot of people on Facebook talking about what was happening at the company, but we had absolutely no control over what would happen or what was said there," Graebe says. "We knew we had to build a platform that was so compelling they'd have to use it."

From an IT perspective, Tom Sherrod, senior director of IT for SAS's information systems division, says that their main requirement was that the solution was fast to roll out. "Different business units had different requirements," he says. "We narrowed down the requirements to only the common ones." In total, they gathered more than 100 requirements from every division in the company.

[CIOs Must Embrace Social Networks to Drive Social Business]

Still unsure whether or not they would build the system themselves, they looked at several vendors. One in particular—Socialcast—met many of their requirements. "Socialcast had the right balance between feature set and cost for what we were looking for," Sherrod says. They signed with Socialcast, and after six weeks, SAS launched a pilot of their platform, which they later would call "The Hub."

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