On our intranet (called George) we have an element called ‘People Finder” (PF). It was put in place a couple of years back now with the intention of making it really easy to find somebody. Nothing new in that you may say: a telephone directory can do that, but PF is more than that.
In the system you have a profile in which you place all your ‘work’ information. Where you are, what you do, your specialisms etc. And, in an early use of mapping, clicking on where somebody works brings up a map of where it is in the County. There is another tab into which you can put your personal stuff… languages spoken, activities like horse riding, football, photography etc.
Another tab handles pictures. You can upload pictures of events and of things you may want to sell – this section is connected to our ‘market place’ where you can offer things you wish to sell (one of the most popular areas on our intranet).
All in all People Finder is a really useful tool. For example, if you want to find somebody who is, like you, interested in football perhaps, you simply look at your own profile and if the word ‘football’ is underlined then there are others in the system who have indicated they like football too. Clicking on the ‘football’ link lists them.
There is a downside. Putting yourself on PF is not mandatory so not everyone is in it and no form of conversation is included. This set us to think how we could improve this service.
The use of Facebook across users in any organisation is widespread. Lots of people either use it or have heard of it. What then if we could provide an internal version of Facebook. We started to look and there are quite a few in existence. These offerings seem to fall into 2 camps. Either software as a service or software running on your own machines. As most of the Software as a service suppliers seem to be US based that causes a problem under data protection where our data would be held on machines outside of the European Economic Area and therefore outside of European law. So they sort of rule themselves out. We are opting for buying software to run on our own machines.
What is our view of this ‘internal facebook clone’ future? Setting up a county wide, internal, social media project will allow barriers of space and department to be removed. Setting up work or project based groups will allow instant collaboration between the members of the group – and of course they can belong to many groups. Using central files, cutting down on e-mails*, cutting down on phone calls and reducing traveling are seen as possible benefits.
We are going to make it mandatory to be included in this system. It’s not like we have to persuade people to use a “Facebook” type of product is it? In some ways, like all organisations, it’s stopping people using Facebook that’s the problem. This is merely turning that desire to use social media to benefit the Council and the users alike.
We are off on this course, currently just past the research stage. I’ll let you know how we get on.
*cutting down on e-mails… Great you may say but the content of e-mails is invaluable under data protection act. Moving some of those ‘conversations’ outside of a regularised and recorded medium could cause problems. The records management mantle falls across my shoulders too and I have set our records manager off on a search into his society to discover how we may handle this.