In his post, Ted says that “they have their own corporate intranet, called Beehive.” Actually, Beehive is not IBM’s intranet. W3, or the “On Demand Workplace” is, which is built on IBM WebSphere Portal, IBM Lotus Domino, and lots of other IBM and non-IBM software. Beehive is a research project out of the Lotus software division.
I loved using Beehive at IBM
As an IBMer, I used Beehive extensively. It really reminded me of Facebook (except it was yellow), and was a great way to share more about yourself beyond IBM BlogCentral. I had a blast using it. I actually felt close to a stratosphere-senior VP because he posted a pic of his days as a college athlete in the ’70s. I was able to poke fun at his hairdo without risking my career. 😉
Joan, Werner, Casey, and the rest of the research team did a wonderful job conducting their research, and discovering why we all used Beehive. I was one of the early adopters, and if I remember correctly, was a responder to their interviews.
Here’s what they found about why we used Beehive:
By summarizing interview transcripts and considering users’ value and benefit statements, three main themes of user motivations emerged. Beyond the desire to share with colleagues on a personal level, which we anticipated would be a primary value for most Beehive users, we identified two additional motivations: career advancement and the ability to convince others to support ideas and projects.
I used it to be silly most of the time – “Top 5 anti-social Sametime status messages,” for example – but definitely saw evidence of networking to advance and crusading for ideas.
Why I think Beehive worked
I think one of the most compelling attractions about Beehive inside IBM was that it felt like a complete social networking solution. It wasn’t scattered all over the place, wasn’t componentized, didn’t require you to visit some wiki or other collaborative or social app to get what you were looking for. I could find people and learn just about everything I wanted to about them in one application, one URL. Well, the people who chose to participate in the site, that is. The majority of Greater IBM probably had no idea Beehive existed.
Another reason I think it was a success is that its purpose was crystal clear: A place to network, find the people with whom you might want to collaborate or just learn from, share your passions, ideas, etc. It was not a place to actually get work done, in the traditional sense, but much good work resulted from Beehive interaction.
The takeaway for you: Don’t confuse your users.
Give people a single destination, not 10 of them. Yes, weave the tendrils of that destination into wherever your users’ eyeballs are (shout-out to Chris Crummey for that phrase), but the purpose should be to draw them to the destination. Go to the piazza in the center of town to discover, learn, and collaborate: don’t just rot in the disconnected suburbs.
Be crystal clear about how to use that destination. When you position your internal social networking and collaboration solution to your colleagues, you must be crystal clear about how to use it. If you have a single solution that can serve both social networking and collaboration needs (one guess which solution I’m talking about here ;), then you need to educate your people about typical use cases. “Is this where we share our files now?”… “Can I talk in here about these fantastic shoes I just bought?”… “Is this where I can crusade for more flexible work options?” Not communicating about how to use the solution is a great way to plateau early, and fail later.