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Implementing Enterprise 2.0 at Penn State University Part Three: Technology Adoption

Posted by on February 27, 2011

This is three in a multi-part series on how Pennsylvania State University is implementing Enterprise 2.0.  Part one covered the business drivers of Enterprise 2.0 for Penn State University and part two looked at change management issues around culture for Penn State University as well as where the push for E2.0 came from.  Today we are going to examine how Penn State overcame technology adoption issues with E2.0 as well as organizational structure changes.  Similar case studies in this E2.0 series have been done in a similar fashion on OceVistaprint, and Intuit.  This case study was conducted with information provided by Bevin Hernandez who was the project manager when this initiative was completed.  Bevin has since moved on to found a company called Firebrand where she is the Chief Organization Officer.

As far as organizational structure shifts go, Penn State didn’t really go through any aside from the solidification of their internal communications team which was necessary to help move the E2.0 initiative forward.  Once the new intranet was launched the communications team was formalized and much more dedicated to the project.  Bevin was hired to deploy and launch this intranet, which of course she did.  The evangelists (see part one) never actually formerly changed their job descriptions, they carried on with their usual day-to-day tasks but still contributed their time and content to the helping making the intranet a success.  In fact the big difference with the intranet wasn’t the types of jobs that people do but WHERE they do them.

Technology adoption started with the selection of the vendor (ThoughtFarmer)  which needed to be flexible enough for the power users yet simple enough to create a low barrier of entry.  A few opt-in training classes were offered but nothing was mandatory, Bevin referred to this as a “seeded organic approach,” which meant that Penn State made the tools and resources available but didn’t force anything onto the employees.  Some departments also did their own training around how they used their own “spaces’ online.  However, this was also a little bit of a hurdle because various departments kept coming to Bevin’s team and asking “how do you want us to use the collaboration tools?” with which Bevin had to respond, “it’s not how I want you to use it, it’s how you want to use it.”  Traditionally employees were used to technology being a limiter but now it was being positioned as an enabler.

Bevin and her team didn’t want to introduce too much change at once, however over time her team did try to standardize a method and approach by showing how other people were using the new intranet.  Standardization happened mainly through information curation and by moving around information which employees were contributing (with their permission).  This means that if an employee put information in a certain area and Bevin thought it could be better served somewhere else, that she would nudge or suggest to the employee to move the information by saying something like “let’s try doing it like this”(or would move it herself), it was always cooperative and not forceful.  Bevin and her team also kept an eye out for duplicate information by monitoring the activity streams.  Old information was also crawled and relevant links were added in the older content when relevant.

Best practices and standards were never created but some guidelines around appropriate content were.  Towards the beginning a good amount of communication time was required to help explain things to people that questions, but that eventually decreased as people started to pick up on things.  Sending out weekly news updates with links to the intranet (that people had to click on to read the news) greatly helped people get more familiar with the new platform.  All official news was directed onto the intranet with a “read more” link in the email.  A small training series on enterprise 2.0 also ran 12 weeks prior to the launch of the new intranet.  During the actual day of the launch everyone was asked to clear their calendars to play around with the system.  In order to help employees commit to this, videos and voicemail messages from the VP were passed around the organization (encouraging employees to spend the day playing with the new system).   A scavenger hunt was also set up so that employees could get used to finding and searching for information throughout the system.  As a part of the scavenger hunt employees also had to do things such as comment on something or edit a particular page of content.  Employees were also encouraged to put interesting things about themselves in their profiles.  These facts and profiles were then hung around the offices for people to see and read, thus helping them get to know their fellow co-workers.

Here are a few ways the intranet is being used:
  • To communicate and push information and collaborate on that info
  • Unit puts out forms or common things that they use and others will comment on things to be changed
  • Project teams to share files and meeting minutes.
Here are some of the features being used through ThoughtFarmer:
  • Rich profiles
  • Activity streams/status updates
  • Shared calendaring
  • Embed tools in media (youtube embedder)
  • Private groups and workspaces
  • Share and collaborate on documents
  • Not really using mobile

ThoughtFarmer handles all of the updates in a test environment before they deploy them live.  Typically these upgrades happen a few times a year.

Currently there is one person (Christina) part time that now manages the new intranet.  She is also a writer and helps out with other things in HR.  So far the adoption rate has been great but was slow to start (which was anticipated).  At least 75% of employees use the intranet at least once a week and more frequently when new projects are being worked on.  It was anticipated that the implementation and adoption of the intranet (ThoughtFarmer) would take between 3-5 years but it actually took around 1.5-2 years.

It’s important to note that there was never an in-depth strategy created for all of this, I recommend you read my post on CMSWire entitled: “Enterprise 2.0: Is No Strategy a Type of Strategy?” for more information.

Key Takeaways

  • Didn’t really undergo any organizational structure shifts
  • Change was introduced slowly
  • Best practices and standards were NOT created but guidelines for appropriate content were
  • In in-depth strategy was never created
  • A scavenger hunt was used to help employees get familiar with the system
  • A day was devoted to “play” with the system
  • hello.
    ive read all the parts and i know that it is not the last one but i liked this more than others. so i jus wanted to say thanks to the author. he or she did a great job preparing all that information and the it was given is very good in my opinion. so thanks)