Social intranet case study: Teekay Corp

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(VANCOUVER, CANADA) Teekay Corporation has grown from a regional shipping company into one of the world’s largest marine energy transportation, storage and production companies. It operates 170 ships and has global operations in 20 countries. On the surface, this might sound like a group of traditional salty dog sailors, but it has successfully operated a social intranet for two years.
Using Yammer, Teekay uses an enterprise social network (social intranet) to break down geographical barriers and connect people, regardless of location. Ironically, Yammer replaced SharePoint as the former main intranet technology. SharePoint still exists today, but is relegated to file management and some project management.

Now Yammer is the enterprise social network that connects people across the globe.

“On our old intranet I began an anonymous blog called The Pundit covering the 2010 World Cup – talking about the teams, games, which employees supported which team and randomly throwing in some satirical barbs about the senior leaders in the organization,” says Jonathan Anthony, Director, Corporate Communications, Teekay Corp. “Lots of people liked it – and lots of people didn’t – but it opened up a whole new way of communicating inside the company – personality-led, first-person, relaxed, opinionated, direct, immediate, (ir)relevant.”

“Fast-forward two years and we have Yammer in place – where everyone has the opportunity to express opinions, share ideas, commune, and participate in the conversation. There are maybe 200 people – 25% of our network – participating in this one Euro2012 football poll and conversation. We are democratizing and flattening the organization one conversation at a time.”

Teekay became the first company in the World to use Yammer as a main intranet, and Anthony, is a showcase case study, and a member of the Yammer Customer Advisory board (council).

Teekay employees use the intranet for business purposes, and some light business bordering on social, but it is first and foremost a business tool. A dedicated section called “People on the Move” encourages the employee community to share promotion and departure announcements, and allow people to discuss changes in the organization, and offer congratulations. There’s a group for Executive and Admin Assistants (Exec & Admin Assistants) and those assistants share a lot of knowledge relating to work but also to travel regarding hotels, restaurants, and even coupon codes.

Not all employees are on the social intranet as of yet – only the office-based knowledge workers, and a handful of others (about 1000 of 5000 employees, not including the sailors that spend their work life at sea), but Anthony believes that it’s only a matter of time before the intranet is extended to all hands on deck.

“When you share information you reduce the ‘tyranny of distance,’ says Anthony. “Deloitte found that 30% of the value of a social intranet is to reduce ‘tyranny’ of distance (or the geographic distance that separates employees).”

But it hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for Teekay, not all executives supported to the move to a social intranet. “There is one executive who didn’t like Yammer, and often complained about it,” adds Anthony. “One day he resolved to use it to find an answer to a question and a particular a type of document, a Knowledge Transfer Plan. Many responses came in from all over the World, in Australia, in Europe, and in Canada, and sample plans were shared on Yammer.”

That executive has since warmed to a social intranet. “Wow, Yammer is just changing how we work!” exclaims Anthony, quoting the doubting Thomas.

Social intranet groups on Yammer, Teekay Corp

Email and other systems still serve a purpose, but the enterprise social network is indeed changing how Teekay works. “If I need action, I use email,” says Anthony who has been able to reduce his email burden 30% since introducing Yammer. “If there’s knowledge that you think is useful, then find the appropriate group on Yammer and share it. But we don’t ‘force’ behavior (or discussion). Email is good for quick decisions but not for conversations. It’s not good for file management, and (more involved discussions). “

Far too often, too many executives worry that introducing enterprise social media to employees will reduce productivity and promote inappropriate behavior – just as they worried about employees abusing the phone, email and Internet access. But Teekay does not worry about the behavior of employees, and for example, staff wasting time or posting inappropriate comments and material. Not at all.

“We’ve not had a single instance of inappropriate material,” says Anthony, who admits the system is self-policing as no employees can post anonymously. “We do not approve or vet comments – we trust our people. I told people from day one, I’m not the police. It’s not our job to police, it’s our job to trust.”

Before migrating from SharePoint to Yammer, Teekay spent a lot of time talking to employees and researching options as part of a redesign process. Ultimately, the change was made because of the feedback gathered from employees. “In short, they wanted a more collaborative platform, and Teekay responded with Yammer. We proposed Yammer to senior management, and they approved it.”

Not surprisingly, as is the case with most true social intranets, senior executive support of the intranet is a key to success for Teekay. “The CEO is the number one fan of Yammer – he is in New York and is remote himself, and often travelling. We are very blessed with having him there, and I don’t think it would be a success without it (his support).”

Anthony offers a number of key lessons for moving to an enterprise social intranet:

  • Live it yourself (don’t just observe, use it regularly)
  • Prepare for failure… learn by doing (you won’t be able to make all people happy)
  • It’s just a tool (don’t worry about technology, focus on people and process)
  • Work is learning and learning is the work
  • Ideas that spread, win

To learn more about the Teekay social intranet, Mr. Anthony will showcase the Teekay intranet during a complete case study presentation this October in New York City at the Intranet Global Forum Conference (discounted registration for members of IABC).

If you’re looking to undertake an intranet redesign with the intent on making your intranet ‘social’ then please see our complimentary new white paper, Intranet Design: Planning + Process (31 pages of insight, recommendations, examples, and screenshots).

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6 Comments

  1. Jonathan Anthony

    Toby – I enjoyed doing the webinar. Thanks for organizing. I believe if you want to “Do Social” (business) then you need to “Be Social” and share stories, experiences, wins, and failures.

    The social journey can sometimes feel like a bumpy ride on a road less travelled, but it has been a worthwhile one. We definitely played the ‘long game’ – we knew it would be difficult for many people to adapt, and still there are hold-outs in our community. But we also knew that step-by-step, day-by-day people would find their own use case on Yammer, their “aha” moment, and so it has proved.

    I like the quote you sued: We are democratizing and flattening the organization one conversation at a time. With Yammer, we are preparing the organization, and the employees, for the future of work.

    Reply
    • Toby Ward

      … the…? Do as Teekay does?! Of course 🙂

      Reply
  2. Adam Wasserman

    I would add one more lesson from my experience. Start slow.

    I’ve seen too many failures from clients who pushed too hard to change the company with a new technology, change need to be methodical and well planned to have a smooth transition.

    Find one use case for the tool to sell it and then let others start to explore and find other uses for how their needs can be met by the tool as well. Let the tool prove itself in the corporation and word will quickly spread throughout the company.

    Reply
  3. Anne Combs

    “We launched our first app 1 year ago, and we’ve been focusing on Twitter because we wanted to do only one thing to make it great. Building the integration with Yammer was really challenging for us because it’s not just 140 characters. We choose Yammer to be our second social network because it’s would be huge to allow employees to be updated while they can focus on what they are working on” says Roberto Gluck, CEO of The Social Radio.

    Reply
  4. Archie R. Bradley

    There’s no doubt that businesses need to have an online social presence to succeed. According to a study by Experian Marketing Services, 27% of the time Americans are online, they’re browsing social networks . Additionally, according to Social Media Today, over 90% of small-medium businesses are using social media. Looking at these two facts side by side, it’s undeniable that in order to capture the minds and attention of your customers, you need to have a presence on at least one social network related to your market.

    Reply
  5. Abe T. Padilla

    This is a very common problem for social intranet. When there is a new technology in the organisation, everyone would want to use it – just like a new toy. However, after some time, people may perceive that there is little value in using it. After all, what’s the use of “yammering” your thoughts or ideas? You have better things to do.

    Reply

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