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Francesca Karpel on Bridging Employees and Customers: Fresh Ground #17

Francesca Karpel heads up internal communications at NetApp, a company that has twice been named the #1 Great Place to Work. She connected up with Fresh Ground principal Todd Van Hoosear at the 2010 NewComm Forum to talk about social media and corporate culture.

Some highlights of the conversation:

“Our vision for online community was to … flatten the company if you will, so that it didn’t matter where you were in the world, what function you were in, what level of the organization you were in — that you would have equal access to other people in the company to ask or answer questions, to really transcend so many of the barriers that create silos.”

“As I started to look at [flattening the organization], I discovered that there were a number of pilots going on within the company testing social media, community, blogging, [and how we could help partners and customers. I] asked those folks if they would like to be part of my initiative to find a platform that we could use internally, with a common hope that we could find a platform that would work internally and externally, but no promises.”

“We launched both our internal communities and our external communities at the same time as we launched our [new] brand back in March of 2008…. What this allowed us to do is to offer both our customers and our employees a functionality that they didn’t have before of immediately asking and getting questions answered.”

“Most of our communities are actually public communities, so whether or not you're a part of, say, our services team, if a conversation, if content in that area interests you, you can search for it…. We really only have private communities when there is a business reason for that community to be private — where there’s a need for confidentiality.”

“We’ve created [an] environment which leans to being very open. Actually, the very first employee who commented in our NetApp Live … internal community was someone from Singapore. And what we found with other initiatives is that people who are from outside the U.S. are some of the early commentors.”

“I completely respect the concept and the practicality of a firewall to protect data that needs to be protected. But not all information needs to be protected.”

“We’re using the Jive Software platform, and their most recent upgrade includes a concept of ‘bridging’ [both external and internal communities while respecting confidentiality]. The bridging would allow an employee to see public content … with the same search that they would use … in the internal community.”

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