The launch of Workplace by Facebook at bol.com was very successful. This article describes the key aspects that contributed to this success.
What is bol.com
bol.com is one of the largest and well known online stores in the Netherlands and Belgium. In 2016, their turnover exceeded €1 billion and half a million transactions took place on the busiest day of the year.
What is Workplace by Facebook
Workplace was officially launched in October 2016, as a professional communication and collaboration platform for use within companies. It is a business twist on the Facebook that we know so well from our own personal use. Roughly 90% of the features are similar to those of Facebook. On Facebook, the bulk of activity is posted on your own wall or that of another. Within Workplace it is very different. With the focus being on work, it’s all about driving activity into groups. A comprehensive review of Workplace can here.
Why did bol.com opt for Workplace
bol.com is a rapidly growing organisation. One of the consequences of an ever-growing group of employees is the fact that people no longer all know each other. Knowing what is happening in the organisation and who is doing what becomes increasingly more difficult. This problem is called ‘findability’ within the bol.com. A new professional social network was seen as part of the solution. To increase the ‘findability’ 3 theme’s were defined that Workplace needed to contribute to:
Everyone can be found on function, discipline, knowledge, experience or interests.
Everyone can easily share what they are working on to keep informed. This is called Working Out Loud.
Engagement is increased through better internal communications and organisational alignment.
bol.com had more or less selected a new social platform when Workplace launched in October 2016. However, the team concluded that a platform such as Workplace, with a rich background in connecting people, could not be ignored and it was added to the selection process. After thorough analysis, Workplace best matched their requirements on essential criteria. Specifically the usability and familiar interface were closest to their idea of a future proof communication and collaboration tool to resolve their ‘findability’ issues.
Launch and adoption
bol.com has made some very conscious choices for the launch and adoption of Workplace. The fact that the bol.com launch was such a success shows how important these decisions were. Within a week, 90% of the profiles were claimed and after two months this had risen to 95%. 87% of bol.com staff log in weekly.
Annelies Elsendoorn from bol.com internal communications: “The project team was convinced that you only have one chance to launch a platform such as workplace. If you don’t get it right and the first visit does not show value to a visitor chances are great they will not engage. As a result the value of the platform for the company will not be great enough in the long run. Therefore, we spent a lot of attention preparing the launch.”
It's not about the tool
Many companies focus most attention on the tool or technology at their launches. Often, this leads to resistance among employees: “Another tool?!” An approach that will drive more enthusiasm and cooperation is to address the business problems you solve, or the opportunities that are created and to make the technology secondary.
The connecting dialogue
The main instrument used at the launch of Workplace was a question of CEO and founder, Daniel Ropers. He sent all employees an e-mail with the request to consider and contribute to one of the strategic pillars of bol.com. The question was selected and formulated so that everyone in the company could contribute and would feel involved in the dialogue. At the end of the e-mail was a link to group where the conversation would take place on Workplace. Within a very short time the vast majority of the organisation visited the platform to view and participate in the dialogue with Ropers.
Coupling with a large company event
The launch was timed to precede a big company event by a week, namely; Inspiration Day. On this day bol.com gathers almost all its employees together to discuss the company’s strategy. They run workshops where they brainstorm and inspire each other to make the webstore better every day. Workplace was used as a means of direct interaction both between the board and employees as well as amongst colleagues. Many questions were asked on Workplace to further increase the involvement in the day. After the event, employees submitted photos and videos showing they had been inspired. The online presence gave an extra dimension to Inspiration Day and for many, it was a good reason to fill in their profile and download the Workplace applications to participate via their mobile during the event.
Preparing the platform with pilots
In preparation for the launch, a number of use cases had been identified. Based on specific use cases, such as problem solving or opportunities for concrete improvements, teams started to work in groups on Workplace. The purpose of such projects is the creation of “in house” examples that others can be inspired by to adopt within their own team after the launch.
Team groups are the engine of success
A measure of the success of social intranets is whether they are used by teams for their daily work and communication with their stakeholders. Bol.com has applied themselves to this yardstick and 80% of the groups on their Workplace instance are team related.
Many organisations make the mistake of thinking that social tools will regulate themselves when it comes to the creation of groups. That, however, is often wrong. For example, double groups arise, others become cluttered and users feel lost when they first land on the platform. bol.com ensured that a structure was present on the platform with a number of valuable groups for each employee to join. This was the starting state of the platform at the moment everyone got access to the platform. In addition, there was also room for new initiatives and groups, which users certainly made use of.
Some of the groups deserve special attention. Before Workplace, bol.com had an email address that would deliver an email to all 1500 employees at once. Many people within bol.com were proud that a company of this size trusts their staff enough to give access to such a powerful instrument. This function had a counterpart on the platform in the form of the group “bol.com everything”. A group where anyone can post anything. The advantage of such a group over using email is that these messages are less intrusive. You can choose to read the message or just scroll over them. An e-mail however, provides extra work and frustration because you have to process them. In addition to this group the communications department also launched the more formal sister “bol.com everyone”, where the company puts official posts. Other good examples were a lively group on innovation for the webshop and service channels for facility management and IT.
Annelies Elsendoorn: “In our culture it is very important to share certain things with the entire organisation. An email address that everyone can use to reach everyone is a great concept. However, because we were growing so fast we were hearing more and more colleagues that saw some of the messages as spam. As internal communications you want to strike the right balance here and certainly do not want to just kill such a trust based cultural element. With Workplace we were able to offer best of both worlds. Furthermore we see a lot more interaction on employee messages than we had on the email messages. You can see Workplace is a lot better at engaging people with each others activities than email.”
Information about privacy
Most employees like it when a platform such as Workplace is introduced. However, there are also people with a healthy amount of caution regarding Facebook when it comes to privacy and security.
bol.com handled these concerns by making extensive documentation available on how Facebook organises its business as well as the legal and security agreements with Facebook.
bol.com has carefully planned and successfully rolled out Workplace by Facebook to increase ‘findability’ in the organisation. The main reasons for success were:
Don’t focus on the tool.
Launching with a company-wide dialogue where everyone feels involved and to which anyone can contribute. The fact that this happened on Workplace is almost an afterthought.
A major business event shortly after launch can help to further improve the adoption in general and especially increase the adoption of the mobile app.
Create examples around use cases before the launch. These examples can inspire others to get started after launch.
Teams that use the platform are the engine of adoption. Make on-boarding teams a central focus in your strategy.
Create a good content architecture.
Address any concerns about privacy in an open and honest manner
Why did I write this article
We helped bol.com launch and adopt Workplace. I’m genuinely happy for their success and very proud of our team.