Friday 21 December 2007

An interview with Barney Twinkletoes from Santa about Enterprise Web 2.0

There has been a lot of talk this year about Enterprise Web 2.0 and a number of interesting case studies have appeared. Well, this week I had the opportunity to interview Barney Twinkletoes, a senior associate with North Pole-based social welfare organisation, Santa, about how they are using Web 2.0.

Barney was excited to tell me that while the Santa organisation was one of the world's oldest social welfare organisations, they weren't afraid to try new things. Of course it wasn't all jolly to begin with.

"A first the big fella's IT manager wouldn't touch this stuff - he told me that with our mission critical systems we only had one chance to get it right on the night and he wouldn't let anything 'flaky' compromise our systems."

"However, during the year myelf and a few other senior associates got together and started a bit of a skunk works - all we had was an old PC that lived under my desk! I can tell you, it was pretty exciting but at the same time we felt it was a do or die situation where we had to come up with some really useful ideas that wouldn't risk our core operations. In other words we had to add value."

And this is exactly what Barney and his skunkworks team did during 2007, including:

  • A wiki that was initially used to manage information about the different products and suppliers that Santa uses, that then evolved into a tool to track and manage information about different toy laws in the 150+ jurisdictions around the world where Santa delivers care packages.
  • A mashup, using Elf! Maps and their CRM system, known as the N-or-N database.
  • Each skunkworks team member also started a blog and they implemented an Enterprise RSS system for the team.

Each of their Web 2.0 projects was an instant success and when the Elf! Map mashup actually saved the day during a dry run of their annual toy distribution in June ("Christmas in July"), the IT manager had no choice but to start looking seriously at Web 2.0 approaches. In fact, during the next 12 months we should expect the map mashup to evolve into a consumer service where parents can add comments and the N-or-N database itself will be moved to Elfazon's new EasyElfDB platform.

However, one thing they didn't expect or plan for was the role of social networking sites. In the beginning the IT department blocked social networking sites but it soon became clear that the policy was unworkable and was affecting staff moral. Barney explained:

"Well, you know the younger elves who are less than a 1,000 years old, they just live and breath this stuff - so in the end we had to unblock Earbook and Elfspace or risk losing them, and you know there is a war for elf talent right now."

"Of course we're not quite sure what to do with sites like Earbook, but we know we can't just ignore it just because we don't understand it."

I asked Barney if he had any advice for people in other organisations that wanted to introduce Web 2.0 ideas. He simply said,

"I just remember what guy in red says: If you believe it, it will come true."

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