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Creating a social enterprise shines a glaring spotlight on broken business processes

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez October 22, 2014
Schneider Electric's director of social enterprise warns that a social platform with strong engagement from customers and partners can mean having to create new ways of working.

Energy management giant Schneider Electric is currently in the process of building a unified social business platform that will see it consolidate a whole

Businessman co-ordinating teamwork icons
(© Arpad Nagy-Bagoly - Adobe Stock)
host of legacy systems that have been strung together over the years, with the aim of becoming a company that makes it easy for its customers and partners to engage with it.

However, given that Schneider operates on a global scale across 100 countries and has an employee base of over 160,000 people, connecting silos and getting transparency across different teams and departments has meant that it needs to be prepared to admit that processes that have been suitable in the past, may no longer be fit for purpose.

I got the chance to speak to Schneider's director of social enterprise, Todd Moran, at Jive's annual user conference in Las Vegas this week, where he explained how the company got its customers and partners to engage in a new Jive community platform following a rollout in August last year. Moran said:

We had a slew of problems, which stemmed from a real inability to connect and engage customers in an informative way. We were sending them to 18 different digital web assets to log customer support cases, making them use separate forums to engage with each other, and asking our partners to go to separate spots to get collateral.

We had so many pain points and so much frustration from the customer base because we were sending them to all these disparate areas. It was a very fractured experience for them.

Our goal is to bring all of these together in one unified community network, expand them, and then drop them in the middle of the web so that it becomes one holistic experience.

Schneider began rolling out Jive across two of its five global business units – global solutions and energy. The whole process, from plan, build to launch, took Moran and his team a total of five months, during which time they focused on migration, scrubbing of content and introducing an early adopter programme.

Now live, the Jive community network has six primary use cases for customers and partners, which are as follows:

  • Customer support: This has two elements. The first focuses on the crowd source peer-to-peer model, whilst the second addressed integration to back end case ticketing. The latter allows Schneider support engineers to work in their systems of record (largely based on, whilst customers have a new unified front end to log, view and manage cases through to fruition.
  • Product innovation: Anybody accessing Schneider's community network can submit ideas, which are then voted on and ranked. This then provides useful “fodder”, as Moran put it, for Schneider product managers to build new solutions. This section also includes private advisory groups, which allows customers to come in via invitation only and get a sneak preview at new ideas. These customers then provide feedback, which also guides product development.
  • Partner enablement: This allows partners to collaborate and to understand how to sell more effectively, how best to implement solutions and to share industry best practice.
  • Online education: This allows customers and partners to source advice, product information and details on upcoming events.
  • Developer engagement: This provides partners with rich access to documentation on APIs and code samples, as well as allows them to share their own code.

todd moran
Schneider Social Enterprise Director, Todd Moran

Moran explained that there were a number of benefits to be gained from scrapping the array of existing systems and introduce Jive as the primary platform for external engagement. He said:

There was absolutely a hard dollar cost saving in getting to shut down all these other systems, that was great. We had a hodge podge of systems – some were free, but we also had paid for systems. They were all being handled by separate P&Ls, so when you looked at them individually you would think it's no big deal, but when you brought them all together and brought visibility to that, there was definitely a cost savings piece.

But the other benefit was the unification component, not only across all the disparate systems, but across all of our internal teams. For example, previously we would have customer support dealing with the customer in one respect, whilst that team was totally oblivious to how product managers were dealing with the customer, which was separate from the account manager dealings.

So there were cost savings, but getting a greater holistic view of the customer was the selfish reason for rolling out Jive.

A glaring spotlight

However, having this holistic view of the customer, whereby departments and teams are able to easily see where and how they are each engaging with external parties, means that for the first time Schneider has gained clear access and visibility into how its core business processes interact and work together.

This is something that Moran and his team weren't prepared for, as it meant that people have to be willing to accept that the old way of doing things perhaps wasn't the best way. But, he added, that this provided Schneider with a great opportunity to drive change across the organisation. He said:

The way that we were approaching it was to touch every aspect of the business, every different team, making it a radical transformation of how we engage with customers and partners. What that meant was that as you begin to peel back the layers, which shines a glaring spotlight on the brokenness of business process. We quickly found where there were massive gaps, where there were breakdowns in communication.

We didn't start this as a business process reengineering project, that's not what the intent was, but we definitely had to tackle that as part of launching this transformative technology. Now that we have got this tool to expose the problems in this easy, simple way, we have got to fix the back office.

We prepped people that we are going to shine a glaring light on all those dark places. People underestimate the organisational change management aspect of it, which is easy to do. It's beautiful technology, it's simple to spin up, it's easy to use, but if you do it right you're asking people to change their behaviour.

One of the other big challenges in creating a social enterprise, which I hear time and time again, is that you can create the greatest platform out there, but getting people to engage with it can still be hard work. One of Jive's core themes this week is the idea that 'if you build it they will come' is a complete myth – companies need to think carefully about how they are going to get their employees, customers, partners to engage and actively contribute.

Moran was prepared for this and he explained that Schneider introduced a number of mechanisms to ensure that the platform was not going to go unused. He said:

Engagement is always the biggest challenge, but we did a couple of things to help with this. Firstly, we did a big bang, where we literally

Schneider Electric The Hive 2011 07 18
turned off all those old systems, so customers and partners didn't have the old way of doing things available to them anymore. That helped a lot.

The second thing that we did was create an early adopter group, where we had named customers and partners helping to vet out the mechanics and navigation, but to also seed some content so that when people came in on day one it wasn't all Schneider content, it was a community of peers. Those folks caught on like wildfire, because in a way it was easier to look 'shiny' when we had such a horrific, awful experience before.

The third big focus was UI. We spent a lot of time swapping out icons, shifting layouts, creating a minimalistic look - we made it a real concerted focus. You can just turn Jive on, but we wanted it to be beautiful, enjoyable and closer to the consumer side.

Finally, I think another big thing for us adoption wise was that we turned everything on straight away, we made use of every content type. This meant that if you wanted to share a video, you could do that, if you wanted to write a blog, you could do that. Any way, any form, do it.

Moran said that these initiatives meant that within the first business week Schneider managed to get over 80% of its registered customers and partners engaging with the platform, which has since averaged out to over 50% heavily contributing (i.e. engaging with Jive on a daily basis).

My Take

When companies and people talk about a social business, despite the very nature of the subject, I often find that they focus on the technology itself, rather

than the people involved. Hearing Schneider say that implementing a social platform has meant undergoing an organisational change agenda, suggests to me that it is on the right track.

You can't put in a social platform, which exposes how a business actually engages, and expect old business processes to stay the same. However, as Moran states, if you're up to the challenge, it provides an excellent opportunity to unearth the hidden problems and drive change that gets people and companies working with you in a far more meaningful way.

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