Enterprise 2.0 finds its place in big business

28 Aug 2008


Enterprise 2.0 conference

being held here this week is a beehive of big ideas and heavy-duty pondering about the impact of Web 2.0 technologies. Amid the buzz about how



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social networks etc. are changing human culture (and yes eventually your company) came some practical advice from the banking world. Pete Fields senior vice president of the eCommerce division at Charlotte N.C.-based Wachovia Corp. explained how he made the business case for cool at the nation's fourth-largest bank.

For Fields and other like-minded colleagues in the e-commerce division the business benefits of building an employee network that would incorporate wikis blogs tagging videoconferencing and other social networking tools made 'intuitive' good sense. 'The real challenge ' he said 'was digging into that intuition and understanding why' these Web 2.0 technologies were relevant to the bank and its 120 000-some employees. He spent 18 months coming up with a business rationale for making a substantial investment in this space. Here are the four arguments that really stuck:

1. Work more efficiently across time and distance.

Wachovia for many years was North Carolina-centric tracing its beginnings in that state to the late 1800s. When the bank expanded nationally it was 'flummoxed' about how to work across a one-hour time zone let alone across the globe Fields said. He envisioned a comprehensive communications network that incorporated the full panoply of networking tools from wikis to instant messaging and videoconferencing. The idea started to take shape when business unit heads offered to take money from their travel budgets to fund the network -- and to push their employees to use collaboration tools.

2. Better connect and engage employees.

Wachovia has a rich tradition of intramural activities that build camaraderie from baseball to bowling leagues. Fields knew that employees who play together cover for each other in the workplace as well as on the field. But as Wachovia grew it was becoming impossible to form those relationships across the company.

Fields showed how tools like Facebook and LinkedIn can be gathering spaces for employees to form meaningful relationships. The touchy-feely benefits of networking eventually resonated but Fields said the argument was a bit of a hard sell at a workplace dominated by Myers-Briggs thinking style.

3. Mitigate the impact of a maturing workforce.

A biggie. Harvesting the 'knowledge capital' of aging baby boomers before they retire is in Fields' view perhaps the most important reason for putting communication tools in place. While the information can be gathered and posted on a company intranet site most employees are 'more likely to reach out to a colleague' when they need information about how to do their jobs.

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