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November 1, 2012

How Trek is Shifting from Silo to Social

James Giese UWEBC Communications Director

Brent Leland, CIO Trek Bicycle Corporation, was a featured speaker at UWEBC Business Best Practices & Emerging Technologies Conference on October 4, 2012.

Leland, BrentTrek Bicycle Corporation is finding that shifting their enterprise from one dependent on email and other person-to-person communications to more of a social network communications model is increasing their employees overall enterprise awareness, making them more willing to support each other, and allowing each individual to be more efficient with the use of time-shifted and open discussions.

 Brent Leland, CIO at Trek, discussed the process in his presentation, “Shifting Gears: From Silo to Social Enterprise,” during the UWEBC Business Best Practices & Emerging Technologies Conference held Oct. 4 in Madison Wis.

 “The world is changing around us very quickly,” says Leland. The use of social media is growing very rapidly and unlike most other similar technologies the enterprise adoption of the various social media technologies is lagging consumer adoption. The other trend that is coming, says Leland, is that the use of social media is very high among the age group which is just now entering the workforce. And this age group is very comfortable with a social media model for communications.

Leland defines Enterprise Social Network or ESN as adopting social networking behaviors and technologies in the enterprise. These include using applications with a “Facebook-like” interface and doing activities like posting, following, creating groups, and tagging. Trek starting using Yammer as an ESN in 2008 and in 2011 the application came into play when a system failure created a tipping point, when employees were using Yammer to communicate because other communication methods were unavailable. Seeing the value of the application, in January 2012, Trek worked with Yammer to set up an enterprise version of the ESN throughout the company along with multiple mobile applications. Yammer is used by more than 200,000 companies for a variety of communication approaches.

At Trek, the application is used among employees for information sharing, various question and answer discussions, group discussions about projects and brainstorming, event announcements, and for group feedback and acknowledgement of individual efforts/praise.

Yammer has wide usage in the company’s IT group: the Ascend and Business Intelligence departments are fully run on Yammer and it fits well with group’s Agile development efforts providing speed and transparency to discussions. Another excellent application of the ESN is the ability of the tool to provide after-hours support and communication about IT outrages, which allows multiple people the opportunity to be aware of, understand, and respond to one event.

At Trek, the Yammer application has been integrated into other systems, including embedded feeds in SharePoint and hallway displays of feeds. Leland made the following observation about the ESN: Because of its transparent nature, the application has increased overall ambient awareness and engagement among employees. Another benefit is that remote sites feel more included and can observe or join into group discussions. Within the last year, about 825 users have adopted the application in the company generating more than 48,000 messages.

Leland outlined various hurdles to the adoption of the application in the enterprise, including lack of familiarity with social networking; Individual discomfort with transparency; privacy and security concerns; and, the biggest resistance, viewing the application as a replacement for email. Yammer is much more efficient than email because the use of email creates numerous public and private email threads.

Leland is looking to take the application to the next stage by providing the application to external networks such as dealers and vendors; increasing integration with MS Dynamics CRM; engaging more senior leadership; and posting external feeds within the enterprise social network.

“This is a huge cultural change and is really a person-to-person evolution” for adoption says Leland. For it to be successful, Leland stressed that companies should focus on how and where an ESN can add value.  

UWEBC Members can view the Mediasite recording>

Brent Leland, CIO, Trek


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