The “cloud” can do many things, depending on who you ask. If you ask Salesforce.com, it can help companies crowdsource their own staff for ideas on how to move the company forward.
Salesforce.com revealed Thursday that Australian incumbent Telstra has been using its Salesforce Ideas service for the past year to run a web forum called “T[ideas]” that essentially allows all of Telstra’s 30,000+ employees – as well as its partners, contractors and retail staff – to submit and discuss ideas that can be voted on and eventually passed on to the upper management.
According to Lindsey Armstrong, Salesforce.com’s VP for Asia Pacific & Japan, Telstra has identified close to 300 new company initiatives via T[ideas], and has implemented a number of them, including a 24/7 call center and scheduling technician appointments on weekends.
The selling point for Telstra, she says, is the ability to tap into the “long tail” of ideas in the telco’s vast workforce.
“In a workforce that large, most actionable ideas come from around 20% of the company’s staff, but the other 80% of the workforce have their own expertise and may have ideas on how to improve things that will never reach the ear of the CEO,” Armstrong says.
As such, crowdsourcing those idea via a social networking forum is a fast, efficient way to tap into that community knowledge even at scales in the tens of thousands, she says. Which is where the cloud angle comes in, she adds.
“We were able to help Telstra set up the entire thing in about 12 days, from conception to launch,” Armstrong says. “The cloud is the only way to do that. A project of this magnitude would usually take two years to set up by yourself.”
Telstra’s experience isn’t unique – PC firm Dell has been using Salesforce Ideas to tap its customers for suggestions or a couple of years, for example.
But the T[ideas] project does highlight the potential for telcos and other enterprises to leverage social networking to run their business more efficiently as well as a revenue generator.
Take Nokia Siemens Networks, which announced last week that its mobile quality analyzer for cellular networks includes a mobile app that uses an operator’s own subscriber base to record and report network performance metrics.
See also this story from the BBC on how tapping the social media is harder than it sounds – and how numerous companies are springing up to help companies understand just what they’re tapping into and how to do it properly.
Of course, leveraging social media does have its limits. See: Social Intelligence, a startup offering a social network data-mining service that helps HR managers construct profiles of prospective employees to see if they’re worth hiring or might pose a possible problem to the company in the future (by, say, selling company secrets to competitors or trying to kill your supervisor).