Facebook Reawakens 'Sleepy' Serena Software

Ann All

Ann All spoke with Kyle Arteaga, vice president of Corporate Communications for Serena Software, a provider of application lifecycle management software, project and portfolio management software and business mashups.


All: I've read accounts that indicate that Serena began using Facebook to replace an intranet. Is this true? Did Facebook replace an existing intranet?
Arteaga: That's correct. Let me give you a little bit of history. We're a 27-year-old enterprise software company. Recently, we've moved into business mashups. Our senior management team has been in place about a year now. And one of the first things they said was, "We need to change the corporate culture." Our average employee is in their mid-40s, they are mainframe developers. A mainframe developer is different than a Web 2.0 developer. We wanted to explain culturally, "How does this Web 2.0 work?" The thinking was, to really make a move into the software-as-a-service business, we need to show our employees what SaaS is really about. You can talk about it all sorts of ways, but until you interact with it, there's no way to really show the value. So we looked at each other and said, "Nobody likes our intranet." All of us were already on Facebook, and we said, "Why don't we outsource (the intranet)?"


All: Facebook isn't what most people think of when they think of SaaS. Was the idea just to get people used to accessing things from a browser? Were you taking it down to that level?
Arteaga: As far as we're concerned, Google is a SaaS company. Salesforce.com is probably the biggest enterprise SaaS company, but only sales and marketing people typically interact with Salesforce. Finance people are on SAP. HR people use SAP or Oracle. Everyone has their own systems. Before we looked to port each of those into a SaaS application, we wanted to do a universal application. The first two that came to my mind: GMail and Facebook.


(Harvard Business School Professor) Andrew McAfee says if you ask 100 people in a room who likes their intranet, he'd be shocked if one person raised their hand. Ours was particularly bad. It did org charts, and that was about it. For three months, the only new news I saw on our intranet was about a blood drive in Portland that was six months old. And I think that's pretty typical. We have a corporate communications department of one. There wasn't time and energy being spent on the intranet, so no one was getting value out of it.


We asked employees what they wanted on an intranet. We did that in parallel with working with IT to determine the usage patterns on the intranet, to find out where people were going. What we found was, first of all, the majority of people weren't going to anything having to do with confidential information. They were doing things like looking up rules on vacation time or checking the holiday schedule. If you look at the company, there are probably only about 20 people in our company of 820 that regularly touch confidential documents. The main thing people were asking for was pictures. When I asked IT if we could add pictures to our intranet, I got a long explanation of how difficult it would be to do that.

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