The Inside Story to Launching a Social Intranet: Part 2 – Resilience

It was everyone’s commitment to the project that got us to the actual cutover day. But it was our resilience and sense of purpose that helped us persevere the next three days that would prove to be the most difficult challenge we would face to date.

 

The Friday prior to launch, the database migration was on track and confidence was high we would be able to access the new Social Intranet production site on Saturday morning. And at 8am Saturday it was confirmed, the database migration had completed and we were ready to start our changes. By 7pm, we felt like we were at a good stopping and that the IT team could kick off the search index rebuild that would take approximately 16 hours. This is where the challenges began….

 

At 5:30am on Sunday, the search index process appeared to be hung at 97%. Rather than confirm with the vendor or project team, a unilateral decision was made to restart the service and start all over again. This was one of the first mistakes we made as a team and can’t help but think that a lack of sleep over the prior three days had something to do with it. Around 11am the search index was back up to 94% and the vendor confirmed this was typical as the process slows down the closer it gets to finishing and isn’t uncommon for several hours to pass between 97%, 98%, 99%… In hindsight if we had let the process continue, it would have been completed by this time. But, we pushed on realizing we couldn’t change anything at this point and we were well beyond the point of no return.

 

By 3pm that Sunday, It was time to get out of the command center, get some fresh air and new perspective on status and moral. It was a beautiful sunny day and we talked about how we felt and where we were in the upgrade process. Morale was surprisingly high. There was still more to do but everyone felt we were continuing to make progress and nothing that would prevent us from completing our goal. Most of the old intranet pages had been moved over, all 500+ communities had been updated with the new layout, widgets and template, home page content was being populated and the training space was all setup and ready to go.

 

It was 8pm on Sunday night and APAC offices were coming on line. We decided to split the team at that point so at least some of us could get some rest and were fresh in the morning when users began accessing the site. At that time, a member of the team made a statement that really caught us off guard. “I am seeing users beginning to access the system. Should I bring the other three nodes of the application cluster online?” We all just looked at each other and said, “Why are they down? Yes bring them online”

 

All the work we had been doing over the last 48 hours, including uploading images, formatting spaces and organizing content had all been completed against Node1 of the four-node cluster. So, when the site came up our beautiful baby turned into an ugly monster that was out of control. The nodes hadn’t been synchronized which resulted in missing images, broken links and an inconsistent experience. By the time we realized it, user questions started rolling in from the Australia offices. “Why can’t I access this link?”, “Why is the home page missing images?”. We fielded as many questions as possible and tried explain and use this as a test the experience and it was immediately clear it wasn’t good.

 

It is about midnight now and knew EMEA would be coming on-line in a few hours. The experience was terrible, the search index wasn’t complete and there wasn’t much we could do other than let process finish, cycle the servers, clear the cache and keep our fingers crossed. The site was a disaster and quickly realized we needed a maintenance page that would prevent users from accessing the site. This would also give the team a few hours of sleep and let the index process complete. The UX team said they could modify the entire theme with a maintenance message and would quickly test. We agreed and got to work.

 

By 1am, the maintenance theme was live. It wasn’t pretty but it would do the trick and we agreed to meet at 5am and reassess where we were. This was a critical point in our go live preparation. Everything depended on the search index process completing. Everyone was tired, mistakes were made but we still believed we could get through this and the reward of delivering the experience was still in sight.

 

Have you experienced any particular challenges where you persevered and resulted in a positive outcome?

 

The Inside Story to Launching a Social Intranet: Part 1 – Commitment

These are posts I wrote in early June when we launched our new social communication and collaboration platform…

June 9, 2014 Over the last week, I had the opportunity to share some of the challenges the Social Intranet team ran into throughout the project but especially in the last 10 days prior to launch. I didn’t realize it at the time, but many of the issues we faced as a team are similar to what we have all faced when launching a product, event or campaign. I think there are three areas we can all relate to similar experiences we have had when launching anything.

  1. Commitment
  2. Resilience
  3. Reward

So, here is the inside story behind our launch.

This wouldn’t be a truthful if I didn’t admit that I wanted to quit at times. The challenges, obstacles and politics were taking a toll on everyone. I was on stomach acid medication for the last 8 months, members of the team were throwing up in the middle night due to anxiety of coming into work the next day and many tears were shed. We all knew that launching a new collaboration platform was going to be a challenge, but didn’t expect some of the obstacles we would face.

 

COMMITMENT

 

But, WE were committed… committed to the goals, objectives and most importantly, to each other. No one wanted to let anyone on the team down, so we did what ever it took to keep moving forward even though it felt as if the ground kept pulling us backward.

 

10 DAYS AGO…

 

It was the Tuesday after Memorial Day when we were ready to communicate that the internal social collaboration system would be coming down on Thursday May 29th in order to begin the cut over to the new platform and data base migration. Interestingly, a few that hadn’t been engaged on the project but held authority over company-wide communications decided that the email communication would not go out until the day of, not realizing the multitude of users who leveraged the platform 24/7 and needed more than 12 hours of notice. This was just one of the many examples of the challenges the team faced. There always seemed to be someone that would make a decision that wasn’t on the project team but directly impacted our ability to move forward. Whether it was global security requirements, legal review, or policy procedures of the executive team adjusting launch dates or changing scope, these were a few of the items that were the most frustrating. There always seemed to be more reasons why we shouldn’t do what we were doing rather than collaborating together to define what was possible.

Thankfully, The commitment from the project team, stakeholders and executive sponsors allowed us to over come many of the challenges and at times tough conversations. One of these was updating the executive sponsors some features weren’t going to make the release, like mobile, that Thursday we were to start the cutover. I have to give credit to the executive team, as they were tremendously supportive throughout the project and helped drive the communication through the leadership level. And because of their commitment they agreed with our approach for the release plan and allowed the team to get started. Enthusiasm and moral was high.

 

 

What experiences have you had when their either was or wasn’t commitment on a team and how did it impact the project?

A Responsive Debate: Mobile, App or Web

“To be or not to be?” That was the question we ran into during our last executive update regarding the mobile experience for our social intranet. Actually, it wasn’t a question as much as it was a statement. “What would it take to create a responsive mobile design for our launch?” I don’t know the answer yet as IT is still scoping capabilities but I can assure you it isn’t as simple as it looks. And this led to another debate about when do you need a responsive mobile experience, a mobile app or the option for full web functionality. It all depends really on what you are trying to accomplish and is also dependent on the platform you are trying to make responsive. Websites aren’t as difficult as it is all flat HTML for the most part but what if you are trying to create a responsive design for a community which is dynamic and is constantly in motion.

I guess I would classify web mobile solutions as the following.

1.) Responsive – which is intelligent enough to respond to the device you are using to view the website and it will adjust the design (or respond) to the size of the screen resolution more or less. So, if you turn your phone or iPad it will respond and expand the design to show more.

2.) Mobile Optimized – Not as intelligent to know when you are changing resolution but created specific for mobile devices so it provides an optimized version vs. the full website version which is difficult to see or use at times on phones. What this includes similar to a responsive design is building templates that react and are surfaced depending on the device and screen resolution.

3.) Mobile App – I am not in favor of developing apps for websites. The above example are more simple to manage and maintain as your website or community for that matter continues to scale and evolve.

We have been building our social intranet on the Jive platform and mobile hasn’t exactly been a strong solution for Jive which they will readily admit. I was at a Jive user group in Boston last week and was the one thing I recommended to the team for an area that needs to be improved. However, Jive has done some nice things with a company called Mobify. They have been able to create a nice compromise  which is not a responsive design as much as what I would refer to as mobile optimized but is functional. They recently rolled this out for Starbucks and looks pretty good on your cell phone. However, this is a pretty simple site and not that difficult to create a mobile optimized solution. If you think about creating a social intranet where there is an extensive navigation of employee resources you can imagine the number of templates you may need to make this truly responsive.

It’s a tough decision and when everyone is focused on delivering an amazing user experience at what point are you willing to put things on hold until that optimal mobile experience is ready. I don’t know the answer to that but hoping to better understand our options, determine what we can release in sprints and get some clarity on a launch date soon.

Believe, Lead and Follow!

I have never found it too difficult to get people to believe in themselves or a cause. It usually just takes a little encouragement and telling them “why not you?”, “You can do this” and if that doesn’t work sometimes a kick in the pants is required. I recently realized a key to motivation for a team is believing. Believing in a cause, believing in themselves and believing in the team will always lead to success. If you don’t believe then you have doubt and if you have doubt then you trust those around you to support you when needed. And that is a recipe for failure. Belief and Trust is so powerful when it comes to teamwork and more importantly working together. You don’t always, actually you almost never, have the opportunity to remove a weak member of the team that doesn’t believe or continues to hold on to doubt. So, you have to work harder to make sure that member understands their importance and begins to believe in themselves. I am convinced that most obstacles thrown at a project are due to those who don’t believe in themselves and because of that they have fear. And that fear is what causes doubt and a desire to stop everything because there is a lack of understanding about the unknown. And that unknown is uncomfortable for most.

If you talk to any for the folks from Peak Teams  they may not agree as when hiking to the north pole sometimes you have to make a tough decisions and can’t help everyone. However, you can’t leave anyone behind either unless you have made appropriate arrangements.

It is frustrating at times dealing with opposing opinions and outside perspective from those who haven’t been involved. But you will learn quickly that  you can’t ignore them and hope they go away. You have to get them to believe as well and then you can get their help to lead and get others to follow. Managing a community has to be managed by a community. So, it takes everyone and lots of different opinions and if you can get everyone to come to consensus then the end result will ultimately be better. All of this is just common sense. If you are compassionate and can listen then you can get others to believe. And because of that you can get them to follow and then you can lead. But you can’t lead and no one will follow if you don’t first  believe.

“Get Shit Done!” Social Community Marketing

I have been thinking about writing a Social Community Marketing called Get Shit Done! I had planned to write about 60000 words but now I’m thinking less is better. The name was the unexpected result of a conversation I had with my team three years ago. I had just joined a new company and took over leading community strategy which hadn’t had much attention. It was pretty clear that the team was frustrated, wasn’t able to make any progress and couldn’t get consensus on where to start. As I listened to the discussions I said something rather innocent but would serve as the teams motivating rally cry.

I think it started with something like, “First life is to short not to enjoy what you do and we should be able to have fun doing it. What makes what we do fun is having a sense of accomplishment and seeing you are making progress. And at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how big your team is, or how big your budget is or how important your project is the company. The only thing that matters is who get’s shit done! That’s it.”

After not being able to make any progress, our little three person team was able to scrap up $150K budget and proceeded to do more in the next 6 months than had been accomplished in the previous 4 years. That got some peoples attention not to mention that the team began to feel really good about what we were able to accomplish and were excited to start planning out the next program and roadmap of items to address. So the next year our little team got some assistance with an executive sponsor and were able to add headcount and increase our budget significantly. But be careful what you wish for that meant there were expectations to achieve and achieve rapidly.

Well we did that as well knocking out the quickest social community deployment in history of the company within 4 months from the time we signed the contract to go live. BAM!… That has led to many other fun projects but the rally cry is still at the heart of what we do. Get Shit Done!…

So, I thought it would be good to write all this down and actual share from someone who has actually done it. I don’t know about you but I am tired of these so called Guru’s who what to give you advice when they haven’t ever even managed a marketing program ever let alone had to launch a social initiative. Oh and for the record. If you refer to yourself as a Guro or a Social Media Expert, your resume immediately goes in the trash. Because no one is the master of anything and if you aren’t still learning then you aren’t trying.

Stay tuned for more… I am researching self publishing even though I have a few contacts but will start releasing chapters here as I feel the are ready for reading.

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