According to Tripet, who had continued to ruminate on SITA's challenges long after leaving the organization, SITA officials "knew they wanted and needed to do something" to improve their situation by the time he approached them as a consultant in April 2005. It's an assertion Vardhan confirms. "b-spirit.com approached us proactively just as we began realizing [the extent of our] business challenge," he says. The timing couldn't have been better.
"When I started talking to them, they weren't really conscious of the existing possibilities in terms of online collaboration, knowledge management, and the modern techniques available to them," Tripet explains. "My first action item was to present to them what was possible. It took a while to make them understand the potential benefits of blogging, what it was all about, and what time, money, and resources it would take to make it happen."
Ongoing discussions between SITA and b-spirit.com led to the identification of two main objectives: to foster collaboration and communication between the 100 or so team members who would be using the tool initially and to create a searchable knowledge base. With those objectives in mind, the partners considered several solutions, including Traction TeamPage, Domino Blog, Yet Another Community System (YACS), and IBM Lotus QuickPlace.
"We wanted to be able to bring people from different groups into a dialogue with one another. We needed a tool that would allow us to go in that direction—something with a very flat, flexible structure where people could easily enter content without having to think too much about where to put it, how to enter it, how to categorize it, and so on," Tripet says of the product-comparison process they undertook. "If it's too complicated, people won't use it.
"We also wanted to provide a space where the most knowledgeable people in the group could contribute and create a knowledge base that could be used by everybody else, especially the newcomers," he continues. "We wanted a restricted space where people could log experiences they'd had with specific solutions or customers—the types of things you can't find in official documentation."
By mid-May, SITA and b-spirit.com had agreed to implement a test version of Traction TeamPage for a limited number of users. Vardhan says several factors made Traction the obvious choice. Besides being easily configured out of the box and deployable in a short period of time, TeamPage "runs with very little administration and didn't require us to replace, modify, or reconfigure any of our existing business tools, platforms, or processes." What's more, "users can put knowledge in any form," he says. "They can write an article and post on any subject without thinking about how it's organized."
By September, the partners had built a platform using TeamPage that features ten "projects" (i.e., blogs) divided by business function. Its front page "rolls up all content across the blogs any user can see," Traction's Jordan Frank explains. "Each main page has user-defined sections, which are lists of links assembled dynamically based on the section's criteria and user permissions that draw out key content both timely and timeless." Users are alerted to new content via a daily email newsletter.
The current implementation, which Vardhan says is likely to expand, operates across six regional sales units, one global customer support center, and several marketing, business management, and sales development units. SITA's $30,000 investment covered licensing fees for 101 users, product implementation and training, and ongoing hosting and support by Traction Software and b-spirit.com.
SITA adopted TeamPage a year ago, and Vardhan couldn't be happier with the results so far. "One of the first, most obvious benefits we gained is general visibility," he says. "Before, everything was constrained within micro employee groups or even within individual mailboxes. People were working in silos. Today, corporate communications, market news, sales and support operations, and business processes in general are centralized and shared. Every team member can contribute, learn, and build upon the experience and knowledge of his or her peers.
"Individually," he continues, "employees have the means to capture and share unstructured data—customer feedback, field experiences, questions, ideas, and so on. They can comment on anything that is published. They also can start new initiatives and act as a real global team on those initiatives, thereby making the best use of everyone's skills and expertise."
Yet another benefit, which Vardhan insists shouldn't be underestimated, impacts the bottom line in less obvious ways. "Communication and online collaboration have a lot to do with the social context underlying the corporate culture," he explains. "By allowing every single individual to collaborate in an open, common environment, we've increased employee participation, recognition, and social networking and we've broken hierarchical barriers. Interestingly, it's also generated a strong viral effect: we have a number of departments now clamoring for their own access to the platform to foster collaboration. For us, it's real evidence that there was a need for this."