It is difficult to measure the return on investment from social media. But Mark Morrell, intranet manager of BT, is prepared to hazard a guess.
"We know anecdotally it has saved a lot of time, and where we have beat competitors to a particular bid because we have been able to get information together quickly," he says. "For every £1 we spend on the intranet we believe we get £20 back."
The company has invested heavily in social media tools. Everyone at the company has access to the internet, whether they are in a call centre, installing poles or travelling around the world, says Morrell.
BT began stepping up its use of social networking tools three years ago. But the move has its origins in the 1990s when BT underwent major restructuring, cut its numbers by half, and encouraged staff to work from home.
"We realised there was a need for BT to collaborate better so people from different time zones and locations could get ideas together, work together on innovation, and anything that speeds up development and time to market," he says.
"Anyone can post or make a comment on a wiki, but they cannot do it anonymously. That's the only thing we require."
The company encourages its staff to record podcasts. They use them to give advice to colleagues on relevant topics, using a service dubbed Podcast Central. Staff can rate each other's podcast for usefulness - which gives making the podcast a credibility factor.
BT also claims to have had success with an online suggestion scheme. Staff receive a reward if their idea takes off.
Trial and error
The company's approach is experimental. It tries things and if they don't work, it is prepared to scrap them.
"We started very small and beta test with free software. They can try them out to see how it works. If it doesn't, we close it down, no money spent and we try something else," he says.
One of the platforms that bit the dust was a programme that tried to emulate MySpace internally. BT scrapped it because it would not scale up across the organisation.
But where suitable systems are already available externally, such as Linked-in, Yammer and Facebook, BT says it makes sense to encourage employees to use those systems, rather than recreate them internally.
Blogs, wikis, and podcasts are linked to BT's internet, so if people post an update, the latest blog posts, wiki articles and podcasts appear on the corporate intranet portal.
BT runs its collaboration and social networking tools on Microsoft SharePoint 2007, and is testing SharePoint 2010 as a replacement.
The next stage is for BT to consolidate its publishing tools which have grown up on BT's intranet over 15 years. They include tools for management documents, web content and documents. It aims to cut down to a single publishing platform.
BT to roll out Facebook-style social networking
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The case study focuses on how BT is using Microsoft's Sharepoint 2010 to improve collaboration and communication between employees.
- BT's plans to roll out of Windows 7
- How Office 2010 will allow BT staff to collaborate more effectively
- Why BT has dropped bespoke IT systems in favour of standardising on Microsoft software
- Links to three free Forrester reports on the business case for SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010