JetBlue Airways will roll out a social software portal in January to 200 employees who work as faculty members at JetBlue University, the airlines main training arm that has locations in three different U.S. cities. The portal will allow them to use technologies such as wikis and blogs to share best practices on how to train JetBlue employees.
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All 200 faculty members are spread across the University’s three main campuses in Orlando, Fla. (where they train flight crews), Queens N.Y. (operations and technical crews) and Salt Lake City (reservations training). If their use of the portal is successful, JetBlue leaders hope it can be implemented enterprise-wide so the airline’s 12,500 employees can have another method to collaborate on key projects and improve operations.
“It’ll only be this group of faculty to start,” says Murry Christensen, Director of Learning Technologies at JetBlue University. “But we’re not assuming it will remain just within that group. Potentially, we’re talking 12,500 people.”
Christensen says the desire to adopt these technologies stems from communication breakdowns caused by e-mail, where employees left out of the “to” or “cc” field miss out on critical information. “E-mail is unstructured and ephemeral,” Christensen says. “With blogs and wikis, you can capture process improvements more visibly.”
For example, if the flight crew faculty in Orlando use a training technique and it doesn’t work effectively, the reservations faculty in Salt Lake City won’t know it went awry unless they were copied in an e-mail message. “We need to turn that implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge,” Christensen says.
Christensen adds that the faculty make a perfect test group: due to the nature of their work, they’re predisposed to learning new technologies so they can keep their training techniques current.
One Project Goal: Convert Early Users into Tech Advocates
JetBlue’s decision to find a good test group will help its efforts to incorporate wikis and blogs enterprise wide because the training faculty can become advocates for the technology, says Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester analyst who studies Web 2.0 in the workplace and collaborative technologies. “You want to get a sense of how well it work, but you also want to do it to a relatively receptive audience,” he says.
JetBlue’s social platform, set to go live in the test group shortly after the new year, will be provided by Awareness, a social software company (formerly known as iUpload) that has focused primarily on delivering an integrated suite of enterprise-grade technologies like wikis and blogs. The annual subscription fee for Awareness’s platform starts around $50,000 and increases from there based on the features a customer implements.
Christensen says that he got IT into the conversation from the beginning when he decided to adopt a social software portal, and he hopes that will help ensure its success. “We had them look at it and they’re perfectly comfortable with the security,” he says.
Forrester’s Koplowitz says bringing IT into the fold will quell worries they might have about security or compliance. “One of IT’s main jobs is to maintain security and privacy,” he says. “When they can be on the same page as the business [that wants these technologies], they can become a facilitator.”