Enterprise 2.0 Conference, Boston, June 9-12 2008
One of the biggest hits of the conference was a presentation of Unity; a social computing platform developed by Lockheed-Martin (LM).
“Enterprise 2.0 at Lockheed Martin is sparking a knowledge management revolution enabling the business to more effectively compete, win, and perform. At its core, a social computing platform empowers knowledge workers by lowering the barriers to create, share, and find information. The platform evolved from collaborative tools and now includes Web 2.0 tools such as social bookmarking, blogs, wikis, discussion groups, weekly activity reporting, and personal/team spaces. This session will communicate what the platform is, demonstrate the components, and share some case studies and lessons learned from the E2.0 implementation at Lockheed Martin.”
Before Unity was developed, the state of collaboration within Lockheed-Martin consisted of the usual set of office productivity tools: email, meetings, basic messaging and office documents mailed as attachments.
The goal of Unity was to bring social collaboration to the enterprise to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their business processes. The key points of the product strategy were:
1) Provide a user experience employees would love, address “what was in it for me”, and balance security concerns (need to know vs. the need to share information).
2) Develop a social computing framework around a standardized platform: integrating wikis, RSS, blogs, social bookmarking, and document sharing.
3) Provide support for discussion forums, status and activity reporting, and suggestion tools.
4) Capture patterns of usage and gain insight into the adoption of the framework within the enterprise.
5) Maintain a consistent user experience.
6) Ensure that all information could be feed-enabled, and integrated into the framework.
Unity was built using Google [enterprise] Search Appliance (GSA), Microsoft’s Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS) and Newsgator’s Enterprise Server.
Unity has a backend database that collects all relationships, feeds into “spaces.” There are two types of spaces: personal spaces and team spaces. Each space can have wikis, blogs, discussion forums, shared documents, and social bookmarks. Both types of spaces can be networked, and can relate to each other.
Activity streams let people record and tag their activities. An employee can easily view relevant activity streams and be plugged into what other employees are doing. An employee can subscribe to activities streams so that they can follow tasks, activities and people of interest to them. Each activity generates an RSS feed that can be consumed by Newsgator or a portal.
Activity reports show the tasks, activities, and people that have been met with over the last six months. You can look at the activity report of an individual to see what they are doing. This can make it easier to find and engage the right people. The activity report is a good vehicle for transferring knowledge and information. The activity reports can be integrated into a branded “UReport” tool (UReport is a custom .net application).
How did the Unity team quantify the return on investment (ROI) for the dedication of resources and purchase of software? Some of the points of the ROI justification were:
– Productivity savings of users rapidly finding/locating appropriate information and resources.
– Customer’s interest in using Unity to collaborate with ML.
– Project bidding process, especially those proposals that involved knowledge management.
The Unity development team put together a “collaboration playbook” that demonstrates how use of wikis, blogs, and other collaboration components. They also developed a set of best practices. For example, as a team member, you should ask questions on a group page not just call and ask someone or send an email; this helps to capture information for everyone to see and use. The playbook described which communication type made sense for different collaboration activities: blog posts, wikis, email, virtual conferences or in-person meetings.
Lockheed-Martin built the basic Unity platform in 2007, and then ran a beta pilot of it over the course of the year. After the initial release, it took just six months for a second version to address the information security and legal issues. Unity was rolled out in to a number of divisions in early 2008. Currently, there are 4,000 personal spaces; the number is growing 10% every three weeks.
The most successful approach to ‘selling’ unity within the company was to emphasize the value of the team spaces. Project/program Managers that blogged in the team space really helped the engineers see the value of Unity and get them engaged. People who already have to collaborate between groups were good champions. The Unity team used a project management blog to keep colleagues up to date about what the development team was doing.
Lockheed-Martin wants to roll out Unity across the entire company in the third and fourth quarters [of 2008].
Value to the enterprise:
– At any time an employee can see what others are working on. They can access shared documents and ask questions on shared workspaces or directly to the relevant decision maker or stakeholders.
– There is significant value to the enterprise in tracking and reporting on activity streams.
– Team spaces for process compliance very effective. They got a significant amount of participation and input from a geographically diverse set of users.
– Ease of generating and sharing activity and status reports.
– Being able to search for information and ask relevant questions raises productivity. This leads to improved collaboration and knowledge exchange.