Publishing company Macmillan Science and Education has turned to social media to help it merge businesses in 50 countries into a single operating division.
The company, which carried out a major restructure last year, is using an internal equivalent to Facebook to help its 5,000 employees share information and find people with the skills they need in the organisation.
The project has paid for itself by reducing the time employees have to spend searching for documents or people with subject expertise in the organisation, says Steve Devlin, CTO at Macmillan Science and Education.
The business case was simple, he says: “We focused on one basic thing, which was finding documents quicker. How much time we would need to save to justify the licence fee – that came out to 2 or 3 hours a year, and we thought that was easily achieved."
Cloud versus SharePoint
Although SharePoint has social media capabilities, it can be difficult to use, and cannot be easily used out of the box without additional development work, says Devlin.
“And you need a PhD to understand the pricing model for SharePoint. It's based on the number of users, the number of services, the amount of data, and if you expose it to the internet, there are other charges,” he says.
He checked with his personal network of contacts, and discovered that delivery company UPS, and a large financial services company, had also chosen Jive in preference to SharePoint in similar projects.
Devlin decided to opt for Jive again, freeing up time that would otherwise be used to run a procurement exercise to focus on negotiating a good price with the cloud supplier.
The ability to run the platform in the cloud was an important consideration in choosing Jive, he says: “We have a lot of people travelling, so the ability to log in from anywhere was really attractive.”
Re-engineering the intranet
It took 12 months for the group to re-engineer the company intranet and email to prepare for the social media platform.
“We were so federated we had a lot of different directories and mail systems. We had to move 20 different businesses on to a single active directory and a single mail box,” says Devlin.
One of the biggest challenges was decommissioning Macmillan’s outdated company intranet and replicating any functions that were business critical in Jive.
In some cases it was necessary to keep SharePoint, when, for example, Macmillan needed more sophisticated document tracking capabilities than Jive allowed.
Jive went live in March 2013 and, in Devlin's view, has already paid for itself. “It's very easy to find people, and connecting by social media seems much less intrusive than by email,” he says.
The platform allows staff to create profile pages, list their areas of expertise, write blogs, comment on other employees blogs, and acts as a central repository for key company documents.
Merging IT departments
Jive has played a key role in helping Devlin merge IT departments across the group to create a single IT operation for education and science.
The company merged its smaller IT departments into a global infrastructure group some 18 months ago, before creating a single technology group of 450 IT professionals in May 2013.
I am confident we are justifying the licence fee. It would not surprise me if I was getting 50% to 100% return
Steve Devlin, Macmillan Science and Education
Jive has helped the IT teams, which are dispersed in London, New York, Mexico and Japan, work together effectively, he says.
“Very quickly we felt like a [single] team. Previously, a lot of the teams were sub-scale – 10 here, 10 there – and the career progression was not obvious. Now we are part of much bigger team,” he says.
The move has created new career opportunities in the IT department, and made Macmillan a more attractive employer for IT professionals, says Devlin.
The platform has also helped the company centralise its management of IT suppliers, allowing the company to secure better prices on IT equipment, he says.
“I cannot imagine us doing this as well or nearly as well with email and intranet. With the sheer amount of discussion that goes on in a big corporate change, a social media platform makes it feel like a much more inclusive process,” says Devlin.
Other parts of the business have used Jive to co-ordinate cross-company projects.
Macmillan’s science magazine, Scientific American, for example, used Jive to create a network of experts in Macmillan Education to develop a feature on the impact of technology in education.
Macmillan is now planning a before and after review among staff using Jive to assess its benefits in a more formal way.
“I am confident we are justifying the licence fee. It would not surprise me if I was getting 50% to 100% return,” says Devlin.