The mark of a successful conference isn't how much schwag you walk away with or how many drinks you knock back during the open bar. It's peeling back the layers of hype and marketing-speak to gain a better understanding of how a company's products or services can impact people's day to day lives. 

By that measure, JiveWorld, held in Las Vegas March 14-16 was a success. I came away with true stories of how real companies use software to not only change the way they work, but to make their work better, their contributions bigger, and to impact the lives of those around them in some really significant ways.

Jive’s trademarked slogan, “work better together” was jargon before I attended the conference — now it’s something I’ve seen. 

Collaboration Can Help Cure Cancer?

Don’t try to tell Melanie Wong, vice president, strategy and business development, Physicians Network, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center that her “little social network” isn’t key to curing cancer because she’ll tell you that collaboration is just as important as the research.

“In the business of fighting cancer, we need tools that are up to the task as much as we need scientific discovery,” she told the Jive World audience.

MD Anderson Cancer Center Connect is a secure location which brings together the 34 participating hospitals of the Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Network. The hospitals, found in Hawaii and New York and places in between — use the site to communicate and collaborate on both complex and routine patient care activities, in an environment that is rich with resources, mobility and functionality.

Take the case of a physician standing in a patient’s hospital room wondering what other approaches have been tried to treat a stubborn situation. Instead of making note of the question and following up with research and emails to colleagues hours later when she finally sits down in her office, the doctor can tap into the network via her mobile device, ask the question and find out what's worked or hasn't worked for others. She might even come up with something she can do now, like order new tests or a palliative medication.

Answers can come from disparate places — physicians can ask MD Anderson faculty questions about specific patient scenarios, they can tap into MD Anderson’s archives to see what’s been learned, and tried, over time. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Time is better spent caring for patients and furthering research.

One of the benefits of collaboration according to Wong, “A question only needs to be asked and answered once.” Once the answer is posted, the information is available for all to see.

Much of this functionality is now possible because Jive just announced that Jive Chime, its real time messaging app, is now HIPAA compliant, enabling clinicians to communicate (even via video), collaborate and take action in real time. (They can also set quiet hours).

“The best way to cure cancer is knowledge,” said Wong.

Pearson's Secret to Employee Engagement

Knowledge, in this collaborative age, comes through bringing relevant people, information, systems and things (internal and external) together. Jive CEO Elisa Steele referred to the concept as a “Work Hub.” In the case of healthcare, a patient might be at the center of the hub, with relevant healthcare providers, lab test orders and results, medical records and such surrounding him.

In the context of customer experience, it’s all about the customer. When it comes to employee engagement, the employee is at the center.

And employee engagement was top of mind for some at the conference.

How do you get 40,000 employees, based in 70 countries on the same page? How do you make them feel like a team, working for same company, whose members are willing to lend a hand to one another when needed?

New York City-based education corporation Pearson Education seems to have found the answer in Neo, its Jive-powered, cloud-based corporate community. Nearly 75 percent (more than 28,00) of the company’s employees not only regularly check into Neo, but they also consistently consume, create and “like” content and earn badges as well.

Marin Beckman and Dina Vekaria, Pearson community managers 

What’s Pearson’s secret? “It has to be a mix of fun and play,” Dina Vekaria, Pearson’s community manager told CMSWire. Not only do employees connect with community members from all over the world to gain insights, best practices, information and more, but they also help each other out on projects, trade recipes and participate in book clubs.

When it comes to lending a hand to coworkers, Vekaria, for example, has let the community know that about her strong Photoshop skills, so anyone at Pearson — whether in Brazil, South Africa or China — can call on her to help them with final touches.

Pearson’s CEO John Fallon also engages on Neo to great success. Instead of communicating top-down through traditional chains of command, Fallon goes straight to the workforce via livestream. Thousands of employees have tuned into his briefings.

The company also holds contests in which winners could become “roving reporters” for events. One staffer apparently enjoyed a “genuine fan girl moment” when she was acknowledged by the CEO.

“There’s no way she would have been recognized otherwise (by someone at that level),” said Vekaria, probably because they would have never crossed paths.

It’s a prime example of how an intranet can dissolve barriers and foster communities.

Unclogging the Circulatory System of Information

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

That’s what Gil Yehuda, senior director of open source and standards at Yahoo told the crowd at JiveWorld. He is responsible for the technology strategy around Open Source communities at Yahoo. 

These communities are made up of “collections of engineers who work on a variety of products, most don’t even work for the same company,” explained Yehuda. While that may seem like a nearly insurmountable management challenge, Yehuda saw it another way, “we’ve learned a lot about collaboration based on the successes of the open source world,” he said. (Think Apache Hadoop — most say it was born at Yahoo.)

Keeping it simple seems key.

But things at Yahoo were complicated until recently.

“Yahoos also like technology, so we would bring every collaboration tool we could find into the company and use it,” said Yehuda. That caused problems.

“The more collaboration tools you have, the less effective your collaboration,” he said. In other words, “we (Yahoo) became a little clogged.”

So clogged, in fact, that information became difficult to find. And when your company is in the Search business, that’s a problem.

Yahoo turned to Jive to get rid of what Yehuda called “corporate cholesterol.” With its new intranet in place, information flows freely and is found easily.

It’s no surprise that Yahoo, with its 10,000 employees, did well when you consider that other companies like Thompson Reuters has 60,000 employees successfully using Jive to find each other, work with each other and to communicate.

State of the Corporate Intranet

I wrote a post four years ago, “Social Business in 2012: Like Having a Party and No One Shows Up.” It was based on a Harvard Business Review article “Why We Use Social Media in Our Personal Lives — But Not for Work.”

Things have changed, it seems. We caught up with Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky to ask whether the intranet buzz at JiveWorld extended beyond the conference.

“Intranets are becoming more important than ever,” he told CMSWire. “Companies have so many tools, and information is so spread out across multiple places that having an intranet allows you to bring together information, and more importantly tailor or personalize it for each employee.”