Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Global 500 pharmaceutical company boosts retention of MBA candidates with 3-D social network powered by ProtoSphere

We have another client on the record. Here's our latest case study detailing a project that a global 500 pharmaceutical company launched with ProtoSphere. We don't have permission (yet) to use their name, so we scrubbed the case study of all identifying elements. Other than that, everything documented here is real and in the customer's own words. We have a nice graphically designed version coming, too, but we wanted to share the data with you now. Once we have permission to use our client's name, we'll post an updated case study here.

Global 500 pharmaceutical company boosts retention of MBA candidates with 3-D social network powered by ProtoSphere

Customer name
A global 500 pharmaceutical company


Recruiting and retaining MBA candidates with leadership potential is essential to
the success of any company in the life sciences arena. It’s a time-consuming, costly, and unique process that differs from traditional recruiting.

A global pharmaceutical company with annual revenues in excess of $50 billion wanted to improve its recruiting ROI by increasing how long MBA candidates stayed with the company, and by boosting the number who became company leaders. The company also wanted a more consistent and repeatable onboarding process for MBAs, because the process differed across countries and cities.

Additionally, company officials saw a need to provide the latest online tools to MBA candidates, who might otherwise be attracted to competitors with more exciting information technology. Financially, every recruit that stayed with the company beyond a three-year average would advance the company’s ROI past the break-even point.

The company’s executive project manager was charged with developing a more efficient and consistent process. She interviewed people throughout the organization to define the problem, uncover pain points, document processes, and evaluate technologies that could address the issues she found.

Several problems stood out. Candidates reported the onboarding experience, which typically spanned two years, needed to be more consistent and fulfilling. Many wanted more hands-on experience and independent work. Others wanted more management support and mentoring regarding career goals.

In the end, she found what she believed was a lynchpin: A significant number of
candidates had developed a negative attitude toward their role at the company, which they did not express to management. Over time, this ultimately motivated them to leave after a short tenure.

The research indicated that the company could reverse this trend by improving connectedness and collaboration among MBA candidates as part of the streamlining of onboarding. The search began for a technology platform that reflected how the company communicated as an organization, could be endlessly customized to drive optimal business processes, and provided detailed metrics that documented whether outcomes were being met.

The company had considered or used various communication, collaboration, and Web 2.0 technologies to foster engagement and community among MBA candidates. These included blogs, wikis, social networks, knowledge management, online meeting and screen sharing tools, video over IP, virtual worlds, and more.

The company’s project manager believed that many of the requirements could be met through the use of a 3-D virtual world, where some or all of these capabilities are integrated into a single “always on” business environment. The virtual world had to be capable of meeting the company’s legal, compliance, privacy, security, and audit requirements.

One 3-D world platform for business was already at the company’s disposal: ProtonMedia’s ProtoSphere was being piloted inside the company. In contrast to her experience with other vendors, the project manager found ProtonMedia enthusiastic about tailoring ProtoSphere to meet her precise requirements.

Working with ProtonMedia’s developers, she assembled a global team of 15 members. They invested about 20 hours a week to define the business’ processes and technical requirements that would ensure adherence to the company’s standards.

For example, ProtoSphere would be integrated with the company’s Microsoft Active Directory services. Every user on the globe would use the company’s standard sign-on for authentication, which ProtoSphere would apply to role- and zone-based permissions. This would control where users go, what they do, and what they access in the virtual world.

This also leveraged Active Directory logging for activity auditing. In addition, all communications (VoIP, chat, screen sharing, etc.) would be protected with 256-bit encryption. Every hyperlink, page, or post would trigger a notification summed up in a daily report, to help managers make sure nothing violated privacy, healthcare compliance, legal, and other policies.

To foster engagement among teams, a Facebook-style “Wall” was created to automatically notify teammates when comments are posted on their projects. And the team developed a roadmap for integrating ProtoSphere with other core company platform assets, such as Microsoft SharePoint.

Most important to the ongoing success and funding of the project was establishing measurements and metrics for the application. These would identify whether the project was meeting objectives, and delivering results on the company’s grand vision and goals.

The project manager worked with ProtonMedia to define how a range of crucial performance metrics would be tracked and reported. “I needed metrics, bottom line,” she says. “I had to have the data. I can’t go in and keep asking for budget
without the data. That was my number one objective.”

After several months of joint development with ProtonMedia, the company’s new 3-D social network, powered by ProtoSphere, went live. The enterprise virtual world is now used to manage onboarding, training, meetings, and corporate communications; and foster a stronger sense of community among the company’s MBA candidates around the world.

No matter where on Earth they physically work, 59 percent of all MBA candidates (over 1,000) have signed on and are networking virtually throughout their onboarding. Those who participate share a consistent process across all the company locations. They are also receiving ongoing MBA training through the environment.

Candidates are connecting and collaborating through ProtoSphere’s 3-D social networking tools. The platform integrates training, meetings, interactive applications, videos, white boards, blogs, wikis, screen sharing, chat, RSS subscriptions, and more —- including the company’s corporate knowledge assets such as Microsoft SharePoint.

In a visionary and, some would say, risky move, the company management enabled ProtoSphere’s ability to support crowdsourcing. MBAs are encouraged to contribute to the wiki, blogs, social network, and other embedded information resources. All changes are logged and vetted by management through a compliance workflow managed by ProtoSphere.

But it’s ProtoSphere’s virtual world that facilitates the most compelling engagements. For example, a candidate strolling down a virtual hallway might overhear a discussion. They might walk into the room to listen or participate.

If they enjoy the conversation, they click the speakers’ avatars to add them to their personal network. This reflects how real relationships happen when people are physically working in the same office, except they are actually separated by thousands of miles.

Hosted virtual networking events are helping MBAs meet other MBAs who are already established in the organization. And a “virtual buddy system” pairs experienced MBAs with newbies, to orient them to the company culture.

The company’s project manager has also succeeded in encouraging senior executives from around the globe to inhabit the ProtoSphere world. This makes them accessible to MBAs as they traverse the environment to attend virtual meetings or collaborate on projects.

Within their first 90 days, MBAs are meeting, virtually, with a vice president that physically resides in another country. According to the company’s research, this human factor alone is dissolving corporate barriers, and measurably improving retention.

There’s even a chance an MBA could bump into and strike up a conversation with the company’s CEO, who has an avatar in ProtoSphere.

“Most MBAs wouldn’t be comfortable walking up to the CEO and striking up a conversation in the real world, but they don’t think twice about it in ProtoSphere,” the company’s project manager says. “That’s one of the key human factors that enables virtual worlds to augment and even facilitate real world relationships.”

As a corporate communications portal, ProtoSphere is helping MBA candidates get and share information on company news, management guidance, and skills training. Topics include management changes, seminars on how to run effective meetings, advice on managing e-mail overload, policy and standards, and more.

This fire hose of information would normally be hard to manage. But by using ProtoSphere’s Media Carousel (which makes it easy to tap knowledge in standard platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint), the company is building a substantial social knowledge library for existing and future employees.

In fact, company officials have found all corporate benchmarks are being exceeded when facilitated through ProtoSphere. Before deploying the 3-D social network, internal surveys were ignored by 90 percent of the MBA base. Today 80 percent of surveys initiated in ProtoSphere are completed.

The company is seeing a 22.3 percent open rate for communications, compared to a 20 percent benchmark; and an astounding 51 percent click-through rate, compared to a 3 percent benchmark. And most important, MBA candidates are now reporting a “great recruiting and onboarding experience,” facilitated by the 3-D social network, according to the project manager.

Taken in total, the company’s custom ProtoSphere implementation is improving communication, collaboration, connections, and knowledge transfer. In the end, the MBA candidates themselves are driving and shaping what they want their onboarding experience to be.

Financially, implementing a customized social network in ProtoSphere’s virtual world has eliminated travel costs for the MBA candidate program. “The budget got sliced,” the project manager says. “We don’t need it anymore.”

For more information


Unknown said...

I work for a client of yours in pharma but I have a general comment on how I can see the use of Proton Media's protosphere. It has to do with a new job role in the future called a digital curator. Its a job role that essentially organizes all digital content for an organization.

I can see protoshpere as a interface for a 3-D library allowing certain "rooms" to represent knowledge. Think of it as a current technology version of a holodeck (Star Trek term) of the dewey decimal system.

I think that protosphere has a great opportunity to enhance the navigation of knowledge by replacing web sites that display vast amounts of knowledge in two dimension space. Its these digital curators of the future that will be act as the facilitator of helping to find this knowledge.

I think Proton Media should really attack this opportunity from multiple angles including libraries from fortune 500 companies to even large school libraries for students. Some work for school libraries may even provide unique tax advantages as well.

It has to begin with Proton Media though. Organize all of your information into a 3-D library and allow anyone to navigate a demonstration of how the company uses this new tool to find and browse knowledge. Allowing to see images, video, etc on-screen in world is a key feature that will attach people. Also, allow existing library systems to easily update/insert information to in-world locations (since this method of updating information in traditional libraries won't change very quickly)

Thanks for your time. Good luck and let me know what you think of some of my ideas.


Dom Naccarato said...

In part, Mike, you're describing how we want to interact with SharePoint. We’re seeing more and more customers using SharePoint as their content repositories, and our first step in the direction of using a 3-D virtual environment for the navigation of that information is through our Media Carousels.

Beyond that, I like your idea of using rooms to represent buckets of knowledge. Imagine if you will that I’m searching for information about a certain topic. I might teleport into that library zone, which is specifically assigned to that topic, to find the various pieces of information that my organization has on it.

Since I’m in a live, 3-D environment, I might happen to come across other people searching for the same information. In this case, perhaps a dialogue about the topic might be started.

Or in your example, maybe the space is manned by a librarian -– or a content expert of sorts. When I jump into that space, I’m able to communicate with other real people about what it is I’m doing and searching for. It’s not just me alone, sitting in front of a Web browser searching through directories of information on my own anymore.

It’s like going to the library, walking down the stacks of books, and bumping into a colleague looking for the same kind of information or book you are (that you had no idea was doing the same thing). Chances are that’ll spark a good conversation.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reply Dom. Sounds like we agree on some of those thoughts.

In an unrelated note I would recommend checking out Daniel Pink's new book "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us". The reason why its worth checking out is that he describes three things that really motivate people. The one that is relevant for 3-D worlds is autonomy. 3-D worlds provide people with a feeling of autonomy unmatched by any sharepoint point site and it could be the beginning of many new people establishing themselves in new 3-D environments. I don't think its any coincidence that the same things that motivate people share some common elements with 3-D environments and/or online games. Its an interesting field of study. Thanks again for the reply.


Unknown said...

One more thought on your response. I think one way to help 3-D environments grow is allow people to create their own rooms with specific access points to the data they care about. You can get creative by for example having some information behind a secret wall activated by a special password. Or you can let someone use a Globe to represent their contact list. I think the key point is to let people attach what information they want to whatever visual objects they choose. It can help make the 3-D environment become a safe and welcome space where a person can start to attach an emotional feeling. If some people can have an emotional attachment to their cars or their Outlook inbox then why not their own virtual space/office?


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