92 SOCIAL MEDIA AT WORK
BT Group: Ahead of the Curve
In 2007, a young new hire purchased a software server
with his corporate credit card and placed it under his desk.
The server was a way for him to improve his productivity.
Soon Richard Dennison, the senior manager of social media,
appeared beside him, not to chastise him for purchasing the
equipment through the company, but to share ideas with
him and explore ways they could improve productivity for
many. That’s how it all started at BT Group, the UK-based
telecommunications company.
Operating in 170 countries, BT Group provides com-
munications solutions and services to people around the
world. Its employees are located primarily across eight corpo-
rate offices throughout the United Kingdom, with additional
operations in more than twenty-five locations. That keeps
BT’s corporate communications group busy. That’s where
Dennison works, creating the strategies, policies, and gover-
nance for the company’s intranet. He saw that serverand
the employee who saw the need for itas a great oppor-
tunity to begin experimenting. The first social media tool
BT put in place was ‘‘BTPedia,’’ an enterprise-wide internal
Wikipedia of sorts. (In fact, the software platform used is
the same one that underpins Wikipedia.) Dennison wasn’t
the only one interested. Many other employees, including
many college graduate hires, soon found BTPedia, and it
began to gain momentum with employees sharing anything
and everything that would help them do their jobs more
effectively.
Because that seemed to go well, the company launched
a pilot blogging platform using WordPress. WordPress took
off, too. Increasing numbers of people found the blog site,
initiated ideas, and contributed their thoughts. Up to that
time, no corporate communication had been issued, and no
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WHERE SOCIAL MEDIA HAS AN I MPACT 93
promotional campaign had been launched. People just came.
Next, BT decided to launch a very small social networking
site. Suddenly, use went through the roof and blew up the
little server under the desk! So Dennison had to close the
social networking site and take the next step.
He quickly went to the IT group to request resources and
infrastructure. But because social media was not yet a part of
the company’s IT road map, a slew of conversations ensued.
In the end, IT saw that the platforms needed were free and
easy to set up. So, the department helped Dennison support
the social media craze at BT Group.
Nearly three years later, utilizing social media tools is a
way of life at BT Group. The company’s social networking site
is properly supported and no longer ‘‘burns up’’ the server.
BTPedia remains the most popular tool for employees to
cocreate useful information. For example, a common practice
that has emerged is the creation of ‘‘index pages.’’ Employees
create Web pages to catalogue useful links on a particular
topic, pulling the information that is currently scattered
throughout the intranet into one entry point. Incidentally,
the most popular index page is titled ‘‘Recognition’’ and lists
the five primary places where employees can give kudos to
their colleagues for valuable contributions. Engagement is
certainly alive and well.
The blogging platform continues to gain momentum.
Podcast Central is the tool with which employees load and
download user-generated audio filesimportant meetings or
self-made training modules, for examplethat they want to
share with teammates. A discussion forum graces the front
page of the online Corporate Newsdesk, a professional news
e-zine managed by freelance journalists.
And one of the most valuable tools that B T Group
employees gravitate to is the project wiki called Confluence.
Project teams use Confluence as a centralized work space to
house all their thoughts, documents, and resources. They can
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