ThoughtFarmer in the Vancouver Sun

Peter Wilson of the Networks section of the Vancouver Sun came to visit us last week to discuss ThoughtFarmer, our wiki-inspired intranet platform, and how our clients at Intrawest Placemaking have benefitted from the software. Darren and I had a good chat with Peter and were pleased with the article that came out today. (Vancouver Sun subscribers can read it online with a username and password).

One of the issues with any kind of enterprise website, either internal or external, is some of the difficulty in coming up with business case and return-on-investment type data. As we've been espousing the use of social software techniques in an enterprise setting, it was nice to tell a story that shed some light on how organizations can expect to benefit from using these types of tools, one that has a real financial impact. What follows is one of the many stories emerging from Placemaking's intranet that appeared in the article:

Using tiles on the entrance to a new resort would have cost $2 million.

But a Vancouver-based construction manager for Intrawest Placemaking—which builds resorts worldwide—had a better idea. He used shaped concrete, polished and finished for a better-than-tile appearance.

That saved Placemaking more than $500,000.

Then the construction manager got the word out to the rest of the company by posting his experience to Placemaking's new everybody-is-an-editor intranet.

Soon the response was pouring in, said Darren Gibbons, president of Gastown's OpenRoad Communications, which, along with One Intranets, created the ThoughtFarmer software that powers the Placemaking intranet.

"Other construction managers saw what he had done there, asked him questions about it. He was able to upload pictures and respond to the questions. Now quite a few other construction managers have used that information on their projects."

Managers from Florida and Nevada were able to ask the Vancouver manager questions, get responses, see pictures, and engage in a conversation. This impromptu dialogue was facilitated through the use of the intranet. In a one to many publishing model, how likely is it that our Vancouver construction manager would have been able to get his tip out there for consumption to the rest of the company? How likely would it have been that this tip would have been adopted by others working on similar projects? How would this knowledge transfer have happened? In this many to many mode of publishing, it's easy for these geographically dispersed co-workers to collaborate and ultimately save a lot of money.

So we're obviously excited about the prospects of deploying social software in the enterprise and feel that it can demonstrate some real business value. One hot tip from an employee can pay for the intranet investment multiple times over.