Monday, November 24, 2008

Learning Experiences: A Successful Social Software PoC

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The following is a summary of a successful social software PoC that I participated on for a customer in Texas. I'm sharing it here so that you can compare how this company did things right, as opposed to that other PoC that went downhill.

Customer Y is an account I have been working closely with around Quickr and Connections. We've successfully setup a PoC for both products - the IT Manager signed off on a formal PoC Closure to ensure that it met his criteria. Technically it is successful, but it wasn't sold in our eyes - some understood the value immediately while it didn't seem of much value to others. Connections, just like any other social software, is really a product which should have content to understand its potential and value. Think of the early days of Facebook when none of your friends were there... how useful was that?

Last Friday we held a "user-adoption" or "getting started" workshop around Connections and Quickr (promoted internally by the customer and content/material/prizes provided by IBM).

The Goal

  • Pump their environment with relative and pertinent content
  • Have attendees "invite colleagues", share Dogear'd bookmarks, added to a Community, Team place or Activity so even those that do not come are notified about the products
  • Have users understand that they don't have to be content authors to benefit from the value - you can take advantage of the info in Connections to gain business value
  • Walk away with a simple understanding of what it is and have them access it from their desk the next time they work.

The Challenge

  • We had 1 room with 10 workstations, for 4 hours - only have web browser to interface the products (do not have the chance to expose connectors and integration capabilities).
  • Users will be coming in and out at their convenience, so no formal presentation that can reach everyone at once.
  • Expose as much of Connections and Quickr as possible in 15 minutes max.
  • Have them use the pilot environment again from their desk after they walk away from the workshop.

What Did We Do To Make This A Success?

We secured funding for prizes to attract attendees. I worked with the customer's resource to create a promo flyer which he posted on their digital bulletin board and printed flyers for distribution/posting within the customer site.

Laurisa Rodriguez created content titled "Getting Started with Lotus Connections". However, it covers each service in great detail - to complete all labs it would take a user at least an hour. I revised the material to the idea of "jump start" users. I took the easiest pieces they would find immediate value for in each Lotus Connections Service, and if they really like it, they can always come back and explore further from at their own convenience. In addition, knowing that we cannot reach the masses by attendance, I geared the material so they share and connect with folks that were not present. The authentication was against their real LDAP server and both products were configured to their production SMTP servers.

Even with the material reduced in content, we faced an issue of reaching the time limit, so we improvised and made 4 labs mandatory and 2 optional - it would change for users based on a discussion of what they wanted to walk away with.

Last, knowing that anyone who walks away with a 10-15 page packet will probably place it on a shelf and never look at it again - had to come up with an idea of how they would remember this even and hopefully access it again. I took existing slideware and created double-sided postcards (4 prints per sheet on stock card that was cut afterwards); it had the key message of "what is?" with links to their internal PoC environment and the other side had details to each of the services of Connections and Quickr so they know what might fit their use case if they forget.

Results Of This Effort

We had a turn out of 66 users (after only promoting the event for 2 days) from different lines of businesses (IT [including Directors], Marketing, R&D, Service Desk, Business Analysts, Sales, Customer Operations, and a few more). Within the first 20 minutes of the start, all workstations were occupied with folks waiting in the back to participate (3 more workstations were added to handle the additional users). Each person sent an invite from Profiles to at least 5 others to be their "colleague", expanding the network to 330 users from this event! More users were exposed from the other services as well. And folks were asking to take more than one postcard to distribute and share with their peers as they think it is very powerful or very cool. The feedback was great and the product sells itself when it's exposed in the right manner.

We met with the admin Monday ~1 PM after event, and he said 2 comments that really stuck:

  • "My inbox is getting full with messages of attendees sending emails to their teams saying they didn't realized this was setup with real email integration and now telling their teammate about it."
  • "It's growing virally since the introduction on Friday afternoon and I think we're going to have to give the VM's more resource as it gains popularity"
  • "I'm surprised how the PoC environment was stable to handle this surge of data and run smoothly"

The best part is so many folks were exposed to it and if it gains popularity by different lines of businesses, it makes it that much more easier for the product to stick. And even if people do not contribute content, they will consume just from the Profiles service as it was pre-populated with real data. I think it was a real success and please feel free to re-use the material to help push the value further.

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