Thursday, October 9, 2008

How a Corporate Community Platform Can Omnify Your Intranet

Dovetailing nicely with this week’s presentation on Enterprise 2.0 by Niall Cook, is a discussion I had with Majid Abai. Majid is the CEO of Pringo, a Los Angeles based community platform solution. I thought it would be interesting to get an update on the company since I last reviewed it in January.

Majid explained that the company has gone through some interesting transitions in its focus. In its early days, Pringo was positioned as a social networking solution that was directed primarily towards the C2C sector. Today, the system is being implemented for B2B and B2C and internal corporate purposes. Majid believes that one of the biggest areas of opportunity lies in the corporate adoption as an enhancement to existing intranets.

“Intranets tend to be mono-directional…”, explained Majid, “HR departments communicate benefits or policies, but solutions such as Pringo’s allows businesses to conduct omni-directional discussions”. These omni-directional discussions generate real feedback, engagement and collaboration. Referring back to Niall’s discussion on Tuesday, CEOs are interested in real feedback and managers are in need of real collaboration. Pringo is clearly right in the sweet spot of the Enterprise 2.0 trend.

Providing a community platform to create an official communications channel that is flexible and that incorporates all the bells and whistles employees know exist today, is definitely coming into vogue. Employers are starting to warm up to the idea of opening the channels of communication and providing a platform to be heard. There was an example cited on Tuesday from a large financial institution that made the decision to move to internal platforms after management realized that insider rage was leaking onto the From a security standpoint, I’d say that it was a smart move.

Pringo’s solution provides all the goodies discussed at the Enterprise 2.0 meeting including video sharing, call to podcast and other basic tools corporations would want for a rich community platform.

Abai feels that Pringo is slightly ahead of the curve. Considering most of the tools have only been available for the past 2 years, it's encouraging to see that companies appear to be catching on to to Enterprise 2.0 solutions at all. Pringo appears to be poised well for the timing as it has established a number of valuable partnerships and offers clients over 400 features to enhance their communities.

Another area of growth for the company over the past year has been its transition to consultative services. Customizing systems, training and providing roll-out/adoption strategies have become a major area of focus for the company. With some critical mass under the belt, they’ve started to get a deeper understanding of what is working and what is not.

When I asked what was stopping companies from implementing the platforms, Abai listed the following barriers to adoption:
  • Economy – Budgetary constraints
  • Organizational Maturity – Ability for companies to “let go” and “listen”
  • Plan to Roll Out & Perceived Complexity of Systems – The resources that are required to implement the systems and get them adopted.
With all the internal talk, I still find the application for external communications and media an enormous opportunity for large multi-divisional media companies like newspaper publishers, cable and radio stations. Referring back to the radio example, Abai explained that companies like CBS, can (and have) adopted the strategy to create multiple platforms that are streamlined and controlled centrally but have content controlled at a local level.

I asked Majid about the tracking features on the platforms and, as his background is in analytics and data base management, he was quite enthusiastic about the level of sophistication that was going to be made available to clients with the next version. All user activity is currently tracked and reported on but Pringo will soon be offering dynamic reporting as well as analytical reporting with the next version. This means that centralized clients will be able to get roll up reports on the localized platforms and be able to drill down to very specific details.

I thought I’d ask about the way to establish an ROI equation for the implementation of the system, which led to an interesting discussion about objectives and the clients' ability to focus on areas that require solutions. Once the problems or opportunities are identified in their business cases, the value can be measured more readily. Abia said that if the company’s objectives were to turn the intranet up a notch, it would obviously be difficult to get an accurate measure of a return on investment.

In a time when employees are thirsting for the tools that are available online everywhere, it makes a lot of sense for companies to incorporate those tools into their daily business. I think Majid is right about the opportunity that lies in corporate communications. I also think that this reflects greatly on the impact social networking has made on a global level. When I reflect on how long it took companies to adopt email, the internet, devices like blackberrys – the list goes on… In comparison, Social Networking seems to be moving at lightning speed.

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