From Silos to Social: How Unisys socially-enabled its global enterprise

By Kelly Kass

“No matter where I am, I am a connected, socially-enabled and effective Unisys employee," Gloria Burke stated while presenting at the recent Intranet Global Forum in New York. She is a living model of how Unisys employees are leveraging the power of social technologies to connect, share and collaborate.

For the past three years, Burke, director of Knowledge & Collaboration Strategy and Governance at Unisys, has been co-leading a global, virtual team of 30 colleagues responsible for transforming the how its employees connect, share knowledge and collaborate across the enterprise. When Burke joined Unisys in 2009, the company was faced with multiple knowledge silos and a limiting top-down internal communications model. Perhaps not surprising for a 140-year-old company.

Burke recalls, “As a top technology innovator and services company, Unisys had a substantial knowledge base and an extensive pool of expertise to tap, however, it was not easy or intuitive for its employees to access or share knowledge or to identify and connect with subject matter experts. To a large extent, knowledge had become siloed within business units, organizations and regions and sharing was limited to small networks with limited transparency.

Realizing these inefficiencies, Company leadership set forth a strategic initiative to leverage the power of enterprise social media technologies to engage its 23,000 global employees in a more effective and transparent means of sharing knowledge and to provide them with a more seamless way to collaborate across the businesses and geography.

“Our goal was to make knowledge-sharing and collaboration an intrinsic part of the Unisys culture; to help employees understand how adopting the use of social media tools and processes could make them more efficient and effective in their daily work,” Burke explained.

This vision was shared by Unisys CEO, Ed Coleman, who was quick to recognize the economic impact of social media in the marketplace, and was keen to capture its value and benefits within Unisys. Unisys had successfully leveraged social media in external channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and You-Tube to promote its brand and to improve customer relationships. It was now time to harness the value of a socially-enabled workforce within the company.

The approach

Socializing the vision and obtaining senior leadership support was critical in making Unisys’ journey toward a socially-enable enterprise a success. With CEO support from Coleman, Burke then met with senior organization leaders to socialize the change and to gauge their use and understanding of social technologies and conducted an external benchmarking to understand market trends and best practices.

Burke’s team then developed the strategic vision and initiative structure. “In order to drive change, you must have a clear vision of where you want to be and a strategic road map to get you there. Without a well-defined and socialized strategy, it’s easy to veer off course – similar to driving to a place or event without a map. You’ll eventually get there, but it will take longer, consume more fuel, and you may miss out on some key activities or opportunities."

Next, the team structured the initiative into five key areas and developed an implementation road map.

1. Social Connection and Collaboration

2. Knowledge Capture, Repurposing and Reuse

3. Knowledge Access, Management and Governance

4. Infrastructure and Applications

5. Culture transformation – this is of critical importance because “unless you help employees understand the value of social tools in relationship to their daily work, they won’t adopt or use them long term,” Burke stressed.



First, Unisys upgraded its technology infrastructure to SharePoint 2010 and added a social engine, “NewsGator” to enhance social networking capabilities. The company introduced “My Profile” and a newsfeed capability that enabled employees to establish a company presence and to quickly build a valuable network of colleagues. Authoritative skills sets were integrated from its HR system into the profile and “Badges” were used in Search to help employees easily identify and connect with subject matter experts.

Inside Unisys

In June 2010, the company redesigned and rebranded its intranet. “Inside Unisys”, is the company’s primary communication vehicle and source of authoritative knowledge and information for all global employees, and provides the necessary structure for it social collaboration network and knowledge base.

Continuing his support for enterprise social media and the upgraded intranet, Ed Coleman recorded a launch video welcoming employees to Inside Unisys. He also distributed an email to all thought leaders in the organization to encourage their participation in connecting and sharing with in the company’s newsfeed. “This created an avalanche and inspired other leaders to do the same. Creating a leadership down model to promote and support the Initative has been a key driver of our success," said Burke.

The home page on Inside Unisys offers two way communication and employee interaction (e.g., commenting, tagging) on featured news stories and blogs. “Leadership Blogs, provide transparency of what’s top of mind, what they see happening in the marketplace and anecdotal experiences with clients. This has helped promote the use of blogs as a medium for sharing and disseminating information across the company," Burke commented.

In addition, FAST Search was deployed to improve the quality and relevancy of search, including use of refiners, topics-driven page results and end-user comments and ratings. Prior to its implementation, all organizations were required to perform an audit and review all sites and content as a prerequisite to migrating into the SharePoint 2010 environment. “This resulted in our ability to retire more 57% of non-relevant content, which greatly contributed to the overall improvement of search results.”

To promote collaboration, Burke’s team established a Communities model and enablement framework. They developed and launched key strategic communities around the company’s solution areas of strength, focus industries and key roles within the company (e.g., program/project managers, architects, engineers), and positioned them as the “Hub of Social Collaboration” within Unisys.

“The idea was to create an ecosystem for the sharing of knowledge, leveraging of expertise and harvesting of ideas that feed intellectual property and innovations that could be leveraged by employees to effectively and efficiently 'get work done,'" Burke said.

In addition to Strategic, company-owned communities, employees can create and own an organic community. Most communities are open to all Unisys employees and members can freely share knowledge and information using newsfeeds either within the community or more broadly in a global newsfeed, depending on broadness of topic.

Unisys provides a Communities Center to help employees understand how to effectively leverage community membership to share, learn and advance their skill sets. Unisys provides specific training to Community managers to help them enable, evolve and measure the growth and effectiveness of communities. Strategic communities have been seeded with subject matter experts, integrated with authoritative content and linked to project team rooms.

“We want to ensure that employees have faster access to relevant information so there’s a richer knowledge exchange," Burke said.



The Unisys Knowledge & Collaboration Initiative is governed by an Advisory Council comprised of business unit and internal organization stakeholders across the enterprise. “The principle behind the establishment of the K&C Advisory Council was simple – “people support what they help to build and then have a stake in its ongoing success," said Burke. In addition to meeting once a year to review and evolve the Initiative vision and strategic plan, the Council meets monthly to review and guide progress.

Culture tranformation

To drive culture change, a comprehensive communications plan was developed to raise employee awareness of the Knowledge & Collaboration Initiative and to socialize the desired behaviors necessary to support a successful social collaboration environment. A visual poster campaign was created at each Unisys location (remote workers received e-cards) to socialize the new tools and processes and to illustrate how employees can use them in their daily work.

Supporting training videos and social media guidelines and emphasized the appropriate use of news feeds, including protecting privacy, client confidentiality and company intellectual property.

“Rather than introduce formal, extensive training, we felt it was more effective to organize training materials into short topical video segments that employees could quickly access and consume.” We linked self-help training and education materials into a community-based Knowledge & Collaboration Center, where employees can share and leverage best practices, 24-7, essential for a global company,” Burke said.

Role-based social collaboration workshops were also conducted where groups of employees participated in identifying they key benefit areas where social collaboration could add value in their job role. To each benefit area, participants identified specific use case scenarios by using the new tools. Success stories were then captured and shared with the wider role based audiences to drive adoption and use. “Nothing promotes adoption and use of a new tool or process more than a fellow colleague’s endorsement that it worked and added value to them," said Burke. “Providing our client-facing employees with iPads and enabling mobile connectivity within our intranet was also an important step in driving change. Social capabilities deliver the most value in enabling employees to connect with experts and to access critical information at the time of need – wherever you might be."



During an 18-month post-launch phase of the Knowledge & Collaboration initiative, Burke’s team tracked adoption progress of the new My Profile and Newsfeed and measured it against the Rogers’ adoption curve of innovation. Unisys achieved a 91% adoption rate within a targeted user group audience of 16,000 employees and and a 78% total adoption and use rate among it 23,000 employees. In the year following, they showed similar success metrics for Community memberships with more than 7,000 employees engaged in one or more communities and more than 22,000 non-unique subscribed memberships across all communities.

Burke – a virtual worker herself –relies on a community structure and the newsfeed to effectively direct and manage the Initiative. “Transparent communications and the ability to seamlessly collaborate is critically important to our globally dispersed, home-based team that spans the U.S. United Kingdom and India. We felt it is important to live with the tools and processes that we have put in place so that we can objectively evaluate and continually improve them to deliver the most value to Unisys employees. We are our own best use case," said Burke.

During the journey to socially-enable Unisys, Burke said, “The biggest piece of our lifting was transforming the company culture and influence employee behaviors to adopt and consistently use the new social tools. In fact, our culture is still evolving in this regard. As more employees realize the impact and benefits of using the tools we move closer to the tipping point, where such behaviors will become intrinsic to our workplace culture."

So what is the key to success? Put simply, she said, “Define a vision, develop a strategy and build a road map to get to the end state. Engage Leadership and cross organization stakeholders to drive and inspire change. Measure progress and solicit end-user feedback. Implement a governance model to preserve the integrity of the social environment and to ensure proper use of tools. Focus on culture – remembering that “people drive the success of the social environment – technology is just an enabler.”

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