Fresh from the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, my overview of a great session looking at how one multi-national company created a vibrant knowledge sharing culture using SharePoint.

I think that along with the analyst sessions, the customer showcase sessions at SharePoint conferences are the most valuable. I was particularly looking forward to this session as Unisys has long been at the forefront of collaboration and social computing with SharePoint.

I covered a session on Communities at Unisys at last year's SharePoint conference here on CMSWire. In this session, Gloria Burke, Director of Knowledge and Collaboration Strategy and Governance, took us through the three year journey to develop a global social intranet at Unisys.

To add a little extra spice, Gloria had this week been named as one of the top 7 Social Business Leaders of 2012. The stage was set.

Challenges

Speaking to an audience of over 300 people, Gloria opened the session by setting the scene at Unisys, a worldwide IT Services company with over 22,500 employees in 100 countries, dealing with both commercial and government clients.

The challenges that the business faced in 2010 would probably be very familiar, Gloria told us. They included knowledge silos, employees struggling to locate subject matter experts, an inefficient on-boarding system, a disconnect between ideas and innovation, and an inconsistent approach to the capture and re-use of knowledge. Everyone seemed to agree that this sounded all too familiar.

Vision

Gloria described her approach to dealing with these challenges. She had begun with a series of leadership interviews to assess internal views. For the external view, she had engaged analyst organizations such as Forrester Research and Gartner who provided external benchmarking. She used these inputs to define an end state vision for both tools and culture over a three year period.

The key elements of that vision included the development of a knowledge sharing culture, enabling employees to build a professional online persona, leveraging social tools to streamline access to information, integrating social tools into core business processes and empowering employees.  To realize the vision, the program would have to have five key work streams:

  1. connection and collaboration
  2. intellectual capital capture, repurpose and reuse
  3. knowledge access, management and governance
  4. infrastructure and application
  5. culture and transformation.

Tools

We were shown a timeline which illustrated the Unisys journey over the past three years. The journey began in June 2010 with the deployment of SharePoint MySites, which included integration to import skills from employees from PeopleSoft into MySite Profiles.

This was followed by the launch of a center for Communities of practice. The center provided information and features to help users find, join and organize communities, and included a community manager tool. Gloria emphasized that there had been a focus on both strategic -- or top-down communities, and organic -- or bottom-up communities.

Communities at Unisys are categorized as know what, know how, know who, and know more. Variations on classic knowledge management definitions I noted. Employees are hard aligned to communities relating to their business unit, but also have the option to self-subscribe to communities in which they are interested.