Sharepoint 2010_logo_2010.jpgSometimes it's nice to take a break from the high level view of SharePoint and dig into a real case study to get the best perspective on the latest version of the platform. Today, we are looking at how SharePoint 2010 (newssite) helped Canadian telecommunications giant TELUS take a first step towards providing their 35,000 employees with an informal and social learning environment.

Along with a look at how SharePoint 2010 helps TELUS change its learning model, we also spoke with Jeff Dunmall, Principal and Co-Founder of imason, a Toronto, Canada-based consultancy firm that specializes in SharePoint and .NET solutions and services. imason was the Microsoft Gold certified Partner that worked with TELUS on the Social Pilot.

Let's Start With The Business Need

Any smart organization has some kind of learning initiative to keep its employees knowledgeable and up to date on the latest policies and practices in their field. TELUS, a Canadian telecommunications company is one of those organizations. In 2009, it spent $28.5 million on a learning budget of which 90% was some kind of formal classroom training. This training was primarily outsourced and TELUS was concerned they were limiting their team's development to the knowledge level of the trainers.

“Our learning methods were expensive, unscalable, and created the false impression among team members that they needed to attend an event to learn,” says Dan Pontefract, Senior Director of Learning for TELUS.

Wanting to provide better training and more informal and social learning, TELUS decided to adopt a new approach that used SharePoint 2010 as their base platform. They set a budget of $21 million for learning in 2010 and aimed for a 60/40 split between formal training and informal/social learning. A couple of reasons given for the change in learning approach:

  • They had a growing number of younger team members who were used to the newer social computing capabilities.
  • 40% of their workforce consisted of employees between the ages of 50 and 60 -- so retirements were on the horizon. 

The Decision To Use SharePoint 2010

TELUS has a number of different technologies in house, SharePoint 2007 was one. Others included Confluence, MediaWiki and Oracle WebLogic. The fact that SharePoint 2010 is a platform that provides integration capabilities was a selling point for the company. They also cited the new social networking capabilities, the rich end-user interface and the improved multilingual capabilities as other reasons.

The plan is to make SharePoint 2010 the single point of entry to the shared knowledge within the company. According to TELUS, the enterprise architecture team will use the platform as the "enabling nucleus" that will connect all their other systems.

The Approach

There is a pilot project in process to help TELUS understand how SharePoint 2010 and a more informal/social learning environment can work for the company. Jeff Dunmall, Principal and Co-founder of imason, the partner who worked with TELUS on their social pilot spoke with CMSWire about the project and SharePoint overall.

Dunmall said that many social initiatives are largely driven from IT, but with TELUS, it was driven out of the business (learning department). According to Dunmall, social software doesn't fit well into how enterprises typically think about software projects. He said social solutions evolve over a long period of time and a pilot is a great first step.

It's more productive to get something out and use it, refining and enhancing as you go. This is not an approach typically used by enterprises when they implement new software.

Social Pilot

The first pilot which launched in April was comprised of two primary features:

  1. Out of the box My Sites -- An internal social networking solution, enabling team members to show their expertise and special skills. This included blogs that allowed employees to discuss experiences and share advice and information.
  2. Team Sites solution called My Communities -- A place where project teams, departments or other groups can work together, share documents and gain access to each others' knowledge.

The pilot included 1000 users from across the company. This pilot is expected to launch to the enterprise sometime late this year. 

As defined within the company’s “Learning 2.0” initiative, informal learning would include webcasts, books, mentoring, coaching, and job rotations, while social learning would comprise videos, blogs, microblogs, and wikis. “We set the goal of making team member education more continuous, collaborative, and connected,” says Pontefract.

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