It has only been eight months since we announced the rollout of IBM Verse inside IBM. In that time we have exceeded our initial target - over 416,000 mailboxes were moved to IBM Verse and cloud email in 2015. About 40,000 IBMers remain in queue. We expect to complete that group in January, 2016. While we aren't quite ready for a complete celebration, the project team has absolutely achieved success by surpassing our annual objective.
In this blog, which I also posted internally, I'd like to highlight some of our key learnings as part of the #NewWayToWork. Writing now is particularly timely as I will be delivering a presentation showcasing our rollout at the IBM Connect 2016 event in February. You can learn more about IBM Connect 2016 in a Blab hangout with Julian Rochichaux, Kathy Brown, and me on Monday, December 7.
The #NewWayToWork, delivered
We promised a new approach to IBMers in January -- moving to IBM's own social business cloud platform and deploying Verse, the new innovative email solution, starting the day it shipped. We promised to end "mail jail." We promised the exact same collaboration capabilities as our commercial customers leverage. We promised an integrated environment of Verse and Connections, accessible anytime, anywhere.
Deploying the solution across IBM required a coordinated, Agile approach. For IBMers, this rollout would be different: taking small, fast steps; failing quickly if needed; adjusting; and delivering a better solution in future iterations.
A key early decision was about attitude -- could we create an environment where the Verse rollout was more internal marketing launch, less IT forced rollout? That meant some radical shifts - in the form and channels of communication, the language of engagement, and accessibility of subject matter experts. We launched a Connections community -- Verse for IBMers -- as home base, making social the centerpiece of a social rollout, changing how IBMers engaged in the deployment.
The summer of iterations
My team came together in May to hone our deployment strategy. At the time we were only boarding about 1000 users per week to Verse, facing some frustration and issues. We declared our mission to be:
This goal helped with defining our focus areas:
• Communications: Emails, IT helpdesk content, and community postings were written in plain English, with minimal copy and the fewest instructions necessary to accomplish mailbox conversion to Verse. In return we received thousands of compliments from IBMers, like "First time I see something so well planned". We also proactively established a cadence of project updates via blog to keep IBMers informed of project status.
• Simplification: When the Verse rollout started, it took eleven steps for each IBMer to get their email reconfigured and operational on Verse and in the cloud. Feedback from the early adopters helped us simplify to four steps by the end of June. This agile process was the most important element to scaling up the rollout while decreasing helpdesk calls and defects. By the time rollout started in Japan, they were able to board over 30,000 IBMers with an astonishingly-low 0.01% defect rate.
• Access to humans: We quickly learned that feedback through the Verse community forums was our single best channel for learning what was working -- and what wasn't -- as the rollout accelerated. My team and I committed to engaging with IBMers directly in community forums, resulting in better big-picture and trend analysis of the rollout than we ever would have been able to obtain through help desk calls. By Q3, it became clear that the community support model (and our new community managers) increased IBMer satisfaction with the rollout. We are now doing the same with other IT rollouts at IBM.
• "White glove" treatment, workshops, and 1:1 assistance: When early adopters ran into roadblocks, IBMers stepped up to help. Our teams established an executive buddy system that ensured that senior leaders had a human face to the Verse rollout , and ran numerous on-site workshops open to all at IBM offices around the world. I personally had the opportunity to participate in several of these both in North America and in China/Japan/Australia, and it was great to experience the deployment first-hand and learn from the experience of others.
The Verse rollout has provided some valuable lessons, for CIO and ESS organizations and for the commercial success of IBM Verse in the market. Some of those include:
• Transparency: We had issues. We made mistakes. Owning those, talking about them openly in this community, provided a level of trust and engagement that was unprecedented. No IT rollout is perfect, and if we had waited for perfection, the Verse rollout would have started in 2017. By taking collective risks, instead we completed the project at a pace faster than the IT industry has ever seen.
• Early adopters: Having feedback from a patient group of first movers made this project successful. Early adopter feedback on how it was going paved the way for acceleration and adoption. Early adopters showed that the solution and project were benefitting IBMers in the ways we had anticipated.
We are now in the fun period of the lessons learned phase - sharing with clients, and thus this blog and my session at IBM Connect 2016. I've talked to over two dozen organizations this year, sharing our experience and helping drive social adoption within their organizations. What I've found on this project is that our scale and speed far exceed customers' own expectations -- one client with 20,000+ mailboxes said they expected to take about six months to move to the cloud. When I told them we were able to do that pace on a weekly basis, their whole attitude about potential success accelerated.
It has been a wonderful opportunity to lead a team of talented IT professionals through this deployment. We are not done and there is more to do in 2016 as we move IBM to Connections Cloud. Still the promise of Verse has delivered, and the hundreds of likes and comments this blog received internally proved it. So so many of the comments highlighted IBMers who had moved to Verse and never looked back, finding the search and interface to be incredibly productive tools. It will be very exciting to join our Connections content together with Verse in the cloud, and truly have one integrated "New Way to Work."