Training Treasure Hunters

By David Strom Print this article Print

Wikis, hosted CRM tools, and Web-based discussion forums and messaging products enable better cross-pollination of ideas and boost sales with improved customer support.

Training Treasure Hunters

The fifth and final step is training. Just because these are Web-based applications doesn’t mean that everyone will understand all their features: Sometimes, figuring out less obvious commands can be like a treasure hunt. “As we rolled out Salesforce.com, we found that there were lots of intuitive features, but as you start to dig in, there are a lot more subtleties and less obvious things,” says Whitlock.

“We need to do more coherent training when we roll this product [PBWorks] out for our global tech support staff,” says Nobel Biocare’s Volken. “Training is absolutely essential in getting people to understand why they are being asked to contribute to the wiki and how it will improve quality and save time on phone calls.”

“Training was critical,” adds the Presbyterian Church’s Turgeon. “We did both one-on-one and small-group training and found that if we mixed the audience with both new and existing Yammer users, we had the opportunity for people to hear from their peers rather than just hearing the IT staff tell them how great Yammer is.”

Another strategy for training is to start with the best possible audience and let them demonstrate value to the rest of the corporation. Claudia Miro, the director of client services for management consultant Emergent Solutions in Palo Alto, Calif., set up a SocialText-based wiki for the company’s team of 50 coaches and consultants. The wiki tracks each step in the client-engagement process and is used as a central repository for status updates, Web links and other knowledge.

“Our vision was always to create a rich community that was able to leverage its collective intelligence,” Miro recalls. “We found that challenging to do through e-mail and SharePoint, particularly as we expanded globally. But we wanted people to feel more connected with each other.”

Miro started the company’s efforts by going after smaller account teams and showing them how to use the wiki to find and save resources for their projects. “It still took a good six months before people could get over using e-mail to send information,” she says.

“Understanding that this would take time, we approached it as a change-management effort with phases and realistic goals and targets. By leading people to the wiki with a link to a page or workspace versus e-mailing content, they slowly but surely got into the habit of going to the wiki and started to find value in doing so.”

Clearly, collaborating in the cloud is here to stay and will become an increasingly important part of your enterprise IT arsenal. “You aren’t going to hit your management objectives unless you collaborate, work together to bring a product to market and be accountable,” concludes Managed Technology Partners’ Whitlock.

This article was originally published on 2009-08-03
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