New Ways to Work


Speaking at the Intranet Global Forum this week at USC made me reflect on new ways to work.

At Toby Ward‘s invitation, I joined a variety of speakers including digital luminaries Shel Holtz, Dion Hinchcliffe and Aadam Zaidi.

The focus? The future of corporate intranets, spotlighting the design, governance and management of enterprise and social intranets.

My talk was a DIRECTV case study, looking at how we’re changing the way work gets done in our connected enterprise.

Today it’s more collaborative, productive and innovative. And tomorrow it should become even more so, as technologies and cultures evolve.

It started four years ago when my Communications team began working with the I.T. team to explore technologies for social collaboration.

We began with a vision – to make it easy for employees to connect, collaborate, access and share information with each other and partners, leading to greater engagement and productivity, along with better decision-making and increased innovation.

Our work was informed in part by the McKinsey & Company study, The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.

Across four sectors studied, it reported that social technologies improving productivity could potentially contribute up to $1.3 trillion in value. And two-thirds of this amount lay in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises.

Those are hefty numbers. And big potential to achieve.

We embarked on our journey with a group headed by Michael Ambrozewicz on my team, and later joined by Thyda Nhek and Mani Escobar.

We have a great technical partnership with I.T. strategy leader Frank Palase and his team, along with insight from various consulting partners.

Together we could put a social collaboration platform in place, but how could we encourage people to use it? How could we achieve its full value?

We had to make it part of how people did their daily work. Not a separate site that people would visit and engage with when they had time.

It had to be a way to get important work done every day. It had to foster new ways of working, with employees creating content to share in places where teams collaborate in real time.

Senior leader involvement is a key way of doing that. If leaders are active in a social intranet, then employees will join the dialogue and the action.

In our beta phase, I launched a communications leadership blog. My purpose was to encourage the beta participants to experiment and learn. And I’d learn enough about blogging from first-hand experience so I could advise our C-suite leaders on launching and growing their own blogs.

In the next year’s annual leadership meeting, we wove social collaboration into the program.

  • Our CEO talked about its importance in the context of our overall business strategy.
  • Michael and Thyda manned kiosks and helped leaders set up their profile pages and get started with initial actions, like following colleagues and bookmarking key content.
  • Each day I blogged for all employees about what was happening at the meeting. Our CIO jumped in with blog posts and perspectives of his own.

Blogging for me created a “flow state” experience, where time drifts away and I’m completely engaged in the art and craft of thinking and writing. It’s one of the things I wrote about in my very first post.

And it’s one of the reasons I launched this second blog, Leading Communications, earlier this year. I wanted to continue learning, sharing knowledge and engaging in dialogue.

What are we doing with our social intranet today?

First, we’re providing company news and information in real time, that employees can like, share, comment on and add their own perspectives.

Second, key teams are regularly collaborating on projects and keeping their colleagues up to date on emerging industry trends, new technologies and consumer insights.

Third, major work locations and teams use spaces to engage colleagues with relevant information and project-based resources.

And where are we going tomorrow?

First, our social intranet will sustain and build on organizational knowledge. Information is increasingly less likely to be buried in individuals’ email accounts, and more likely to be available for colleagues to access and build upon.

Second, our word-based content is becoming more visual, with photos and videos increasing in importance compared with text. People can process visual information much faster, not to mention that it’s more engaging.

And in our rapidly changing world, that provides tremendous upside. Step by step, we can all make that trillion-dollar value creation a reality.


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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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