A Case of Collaboration Made Simple

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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

The Problem in Depth
MWW Group, like most advertising and PR firms, needed to find a solution that would allow it to better manage projects, track news in real time, gather information updates, and ease communications for its own disparate workforce as well with clients around the world. Email was proving to be inefficient in allowing employees to communicate internally with each other, as well as with clients; collaborating in a real-time environment became crucial to meeting everyone’s needs in a more timely fashion. Tom Biro, senior director of New Media Strategies at MWW Group, says: "We wanted to have [fewer] versions of documents floating around the country, just sitting in people’s inboxes. We wanted a way to collaborate with everyone, and for our clients to collaborate with us, in a real-time environment. That collaboration didn’t exist."

The company decided that its most promising solution to these common problems was a wiki, since wikis are known to provide significant benefits concerning vendor-client communication and account management, as well as internal collaboration. While shopping around for the appropriate wiki to meet its needs, MWW Group considered a variety of factors like ease of use, minimal strain on IT resources, scalability, and an increased ability for interaction.

The New Media team at MWW Group, faced with the challenge of evaluating new technologies, started its quest for collaboration with the free, downloadable option PmWiki. "Prior to Socialtext, we tried PmWiki," says Biro. "We rolled PmWiki out within a smaller segment of our organization just to see how we could change from everyone editing documents and keeping them on shared servers to a more real-time environment. However, with PmWiki, there was no real integrated collaboration, so it didn’t really give us what we wanted." With the main goal of internal and external collaboration in mind, MWW Group turned next to Socialtext.

The Solution
Several factors contributed to Biro’s eventual choice to deploy a Socialtext wiki. MWW Group appreciated Socialtext’s usability and easy integration into the firm’s existing network. Socialtext’s privacy settings allowed for internal use only, as well as separate client-vendor use. Furthermore, new workspaces could be set up quickly and easily, and if a problem did arise, Socialtext’s support staff was active in troubleshooting, practically eliminating the strain on MWW’s own IT staff.

Socialtext’s technology enabled MWW Group to finally drive collaboration in the way that it had hoped. Included as a bonus within the wiki were added features like RSS feeds, blogs, and the Socialtext Dashboard. Socialtext also provides email notifications to users when changes or updates have been made to a workspace. Jeff Brainard, director of product marketing for Socialtext says, "MWW saw the wiki as a great way to move communication out of email and static webpages into a dynamic wiki so that a client can provide feedback. MWW is using Socialtext to drive collaboration; the company uses it both internally and also as a tool on their extranet where MWW can provide secure workspaces so that clients can login and see exactly what’s going on."

Biro agrees. "It was nice that Socialtext offered document update reminders as a feature; update reminders like those offered by Socialtext can really help to improve the work process flow," he says. "With Socialtext, our virtual teams have the ability to access a web-based, password-protected system so that every single client team could have their own private workspace."

Beyond collaboration and secure workspaces, though, MWW Group also saw Socialtext’s potential to minimize the strain on the IT staff in implementing a collaboration tool. Socialtext’s enterprise solution provides users with an appliance that consists of a Dell hardware box, a Linux-based operating system, as well as the Socialtext wiki application that, when incorporated into a company’s network, requires little assistance from IT. "Most people take a very binary approach, but Socialtext is unique because we do a combination," Brainard notes. "MWW doesn’t want to have to hire another IT person to manage [its] wiki; [it] would rather spend the money on another PR person in order to enhance [its] core business. Socialtext reduces the operating cost for customers so they can leverage their money elsewhere."

"Socialtext was a solution that added little to no IT workload," Biro adds. "Socialtext is upgrading nearly constantly, so we don’t have to worry about it. That was really important to us at MWW."

In Socialtext, MWW saw a wiki solution to its quest for real-time collaboration, content security, and ease of use. When combined, all of these factors add up to a more efficient work environment for MWW Group, thus leading to more satisfied clients. And in the public relations industry, client satisfaction equals success. In August 2006, MWW deployed Socialtext, and immediately the New Media team began using the wiki to communicate with one another and with clients, as well as to track media outreach and integrate Web 2.0 technologies—like blogging and podcasting—into the company’s new media initiatives.

Internally, employees use the wiki to manage projects and keep schedules for PR activities. MWW Group account executives use the wiki to manage elements of a PR campaign—from the date of the launch through milestones for materials to links for the finalized press releases and targeted media contacts. Furthermore, a number of teams at MWW use the Socialtext wiki to draft press releases, as well as to maintain a file of PR pitching documents and briefing materials. When changes are made to these documents, all team members receive a notification email making them aware of edits made and who made them.

The Outcome
Within 3 months of implementation, not only was the MWW team using Socialtext for a variety of projects, many of the firm’s bigger client teams were using Socialtext for event planning and collaboration. Today, Socialtext has been introduced to almost all of MWW’s senior executives, and about half of the staff at headquarters uses Socialtext in one way or another. Implementation was easy, claims Biro: "It was definitely easy to teach people to use Socialtext. Most of the time we can get a group together, and in a half hour everyone understands the features they will be using on a daily basis. People can understand the basics within almost five minutes. That’s a big deal for us."

Life at MWW Group has simplified since the arrival of Socialtext. Clients and their representatives are more connected than ever since collaboration can now occur in real time and from virtually anywhere. "MWW has seen huge benefits from the wiki," Brainard says. "The speed of business is accelerated and things get done more quickly, since everything is in the wiki. MWW is innovative because of the technology it uses; the people at MWW sell the Socialtext technology as part of their business pitches to potential clients. Clients are turned on because collaboration with MWW happens more fluidly." Biro adds, "Clients love to see that they can collaborate with us via a wiki—that’s probably our biggest selling point."

With Socialtext, MWW Group has upped the ante when it comes to collaboration between clients and representatives. Time and space are no longer of importance in connecting since accessing the wiki can easily occur from any mobile location, event, or client office. Says Biro: "While I’m on the phone with someone, if they want a new wiki space to enable collaboration, I can create it for them almost immediately. It’s a painless way to connect people to their clients, and the secure environment allows anyone with administrative privileges to share content with their clients back and forth. Socialtext has opened up our ability to share."

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