A collaboration platform for T-Mobile

Dave Smiton
Dave Smiton T-Mobile
Guy worked for me on a number of high profile projects at T-Mobile from implementing a multi-national collaboration platform to developing an innovation portal and supporting process which was used to run an Optimisation Idea Jam. During this time not only did he show a strong focus on ensuring he delivered a high quality product on time, but he also demonstrated he is a natural and enthusiastic innovator.

Overview

We worked with the IT Directorate of T-Mobile UK to develop a series of collaboration-focused solutions to help drive employee performance.
Key activities:
Strategy
Programme delivery
Tech implementation
Evangelism
Exec coaching

An ‘organisational memory’ problem

Costly mistakes were being repeated – there didn’t seem to be useful lessons learned anywhere – people not involved/had visibility at the decision stage, and were unable to contribute ideas/point out existing solutions etc.

Projects by email meant closed communications

Many project seemed to be operated on a ‘need to know’ basis – probably not deliberately, but because of the de facto of email
delivered communication left many people ‘out of the loop’

‘Brain Drain’ from Contractors leaving

Contractors are developing a massive, important amount of skill and knowledge – some of them have documented that on the wiki, so there’s a lasting memory of that information

Rise of the Matrix Organisation

People are working in increasingly ad-hoc teams, that often mix different companies, supplier, partners and individuals – so exchange and the it dept. dominance of internal contact lists has no relevance in that shared space.

What we did

After my analysis, and detailed interviews with employees, I designed prototypes of open information systems, ranging from blogs, podcasts checklist apps, and a very basic wiki – I’d convinced the IT Directors that we should experiment and observe what worked. It’s here that I learnt the value of prototypes with a ‘lower-case p’– early stage, low-key tools that don’t over-promise, and are essentially modest experiments, without the angst and scrutiny of large-scale rollouts.

I ’embedded’ with teams and evangelised the various prototypes, paying close attention to which ones seemed to work for people, and how they were used.
Use of the wiki exploded – in part because of a deliberate (and contentious) decision to have open editing a al Wikipedia, which meant Teams could easily create and share ideas.

From this prototype’s success, I was then able to build a ‘proper’ collaboration platform, through heavy customisation of Confluence, a leading wiki platform.

My role developed in a chief evangeliser, and using the platform to promote several collaboration-focused ideas and technologies that Participo built from scratch.
The wiki grew to be an EU-wide platform, where multinational teams would, with support from myself, collaborate using the system.

The wiki, with some extra tools we built, really did deliver the promise of a collaboration ‘operating system’ for T-Mobile; I’m proud of the changes in people’s working practices and attitude to open information sharing we helped facilitate.

Outcomes

Organisational memory

A personal watershed moment was when I saw a senior manager in a meeting – answering a peer’s question about one of his projects – searching the system from his Blackberry. There was now an expectation and trust that the system we’d built, held ‘memory’ from team’s activities.

Projects were documented, discussions curated, and all searchable – this created, over time, a deep organisational memory, storing project history, individual expertise and conversations.

Personal processes

An unanticipated output from the project was the pent-up demand to publish ‘personal processes’ – team-level data collections, publishing, project workflows and other activities that weren’t at enough scale to get ‘baked in’ to formal systems. We worked hard to support these activities – sometimes building custom apps for others to share, or simply coaching, observing and sharing knowledge where required.

I learn a lot from this – in many ways it predated the workflow features I now implement in ‘social business’ software.

Freedom of Information

Initially a design choice to remove any ‘friction’ around usage, the open nature of the platform generated really interesting behaviours and insight. It’s the feature that taught me the most about people’s reaction, trust cultures, and ultimately prevailing on initially contentious features. I’ve softened my approach since, and now advocate a ‘Freedom of Information Act’ approach to information in my customers (where information can be locked, but is ‘set free’ after 6 months, by default).

Brains, Drained

I pioneered the use of video exit interviews of Contractors – teams, faced with the loss of key experts, with my initial guidance a team would collaborate and build a set of questions. They then video’d their contractor, and the responses were ‘placed on the team’s wiki.

Given the usual gap in Contractors working on teams, this created a great benefit to incoming Contractors “it was like being able to interview my predecessor”.

It’s a great example of a ‘lo-fi’ intervention that has great organisational RoI – no vendors involved (er, apart from me), and no project plans etc – just a team (and soon lots of teams) fixing an information problem with available technologies.

Experts, located

The flow of information and attention through the system proved to be a great way to surface and connect expertise across the Org Chart. By building in custom newsfeeds that exposed other people’s activities, creating auto-linking across content, and finally, launching a ‘ask a question’ function, we pioneered social interactions across the business, in the context of their work.

Direct connections were made between employees, who had otherwise no Org Chart connections – a really positive example of the Organisational ROI that can be achieved from open collaboration.

Related Research

Research notes and briefings related to this case study:

How do we design working environments to be collaborative?

Wikis vs. SharePoint – is it an either/or problem?

Why do wikis and open collaboration work for companies?

What are some of the objections employees have/had against open collaboration?

 

More examples of consulting work:

 

Collaboration strategy and prototypes for a global advertiser

The head of one of one of the global departments of a large advertising organisation bought me in to develop a collaboration strategy.

Key activities: Programme Strategy and Analysis, Prototyping using Jive social business software, Internal briefings and analysis papers, Executive and team coaching,

Full case study

 

Built a Social reporting platform for Telstra

We flew to Melbourne for an intensive week of installing a collaboration platform, building a ‘rapid prototype’ of ‘social reporting’ application, and coaching the IT executive team.

Key activities: Agile project development, Software implementation, Executive coaching

Full case study

 

Ran a Certification Campaign for global telecoms firm

Our customer asked us to support their UK-wide certification programme for their 3rd party B2B party sales network.

Key activities: Programme Strategy and Analysis, Coaching, Training needs analysis

Full case study