Lockheed Martin Shows Off Internal Social Software Platform

The aerospace giant used SharePoint and has deployed it to a small test group. Lockheed plans to go enterprise wide once the social software tools mature more during the next year.

Looking to improve communication between 150,000 employees and capture the knowledge of a retiring generation, Lockheed Martin has begun implementing a customized version of Microsoft SharePoint. It has built and added social software tools on top of the collaboration platform including wikis, blogs and RSS feeds. The aerospace giant unveiled a glimpse of the tools at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston today.

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The Lockheed platform has been called "Unity," and two of its main leads, Shawn Dahlen and Christopher Keohane, showed off the tools. They started building it last year with the 2007 version of SharePoint, and have since gotten about 4,000 of Lockheed's employees to begin using it. By the third or fourth quarter of this year, they said an enterprise-wide implementation could be in the works.

According to Dahlen, around 50 percent of Lockheed's workforce hopes to retire in the next 5-10 years. "How do we take that knowledge and help pass that down? There's got to be a better way [than e-mail and documents]. We wanted to apply Web 2.0."

On the other side of the spectrum, Dahlen says that capturing the hearts and minds of younger workers who grew up using these tools makes them especially attractive and encourages better retention within the organization.

Dahlen and Keohane laid out three strategies for selling the tools to end-users and the organization as a whole, and we look at them here:

1. Show why it's useful for the user.

Social tools should be made helpful to the individual first, the group second. Dahlen likened this to the social bookmaking tool del.icio.us. While it is nice to share bookmarks with friends, it's also a good personal organizer that allows a user to keep bookmarks stored in a centrally located area. "It needs to be grounded in "what's in it for me?" Dahlen says. "I want [employees] to create content because it'll help them get their job done. The social part comes after."

2. Getting people out of documents.

Dahlen says that while people will never fully wean themselves from document sharing, it's important to use as many social tools as possible to make sure the data is discoverable. One way they have dealt with this is through an activity feed. For example, the feed might broadcast to users on the system, "John edited this project document." In addition, it's important to tag those documents and make them searchable. The Lockheed platform uses Google Enterprise Search.

3. The importance of serendipitous discovery.

While "Unity" has Google Enterprise Search, you need to put measures in place that encourage serendipitous discovery—that is, stumbling across relevant content the user might not have been originally looking for but that gets fed to them anyway. This can be done by using RSS (where a user subscribes to a content feed from another user), but teaching people to tag documents can really be key as well. A lot of this discovery, again, can be done over the activity feed, where users can see what their colleagues are reading.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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