ABS generates internal buzz with collaboration

Government statistics department bucks trend, extends Lotus contract

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found internal buzz and word of mouth ironically drove adoption of the department’s new social networking and collaboration software, IBM Lotus Connections.

The software, currently in use by a few select hundred employees, will ultimately be rolled out across the government statistical organisation’s 3200 seats in order to implement Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis for internal use.

However, the department’s chief of technology infrastructure, Duncan Young, found that, while the implementation started off as normal in the ABS technology e-division, it had become one of the easiest rollouts so far, thanks to enthusiasm amongst staff.

“We started a pilot in a small area of a few hundred staff and within a couple of months we found that over a quarter of the organisation had logged into the environment, looking at content in there or adding comments, adding tags to the environment,” he told Computerworld Australia.

“It’s probably the first one I’ve seen that’s been taken up in a viral type fashion.”

Now halfway through a year-long rollout, Young said the ABS would begin to promote internal use of those aspects of the software that aren’t immediately accessible or notable for staff, such as enterprise search.

While the Lotus Connections software won’t be used for public-facing tools, Young pointed to the department’s Betaworks program as well as its public consultation blogs as evidence of the department’s Government 2.0 projects.

Internally, Lotus Connections has already been used to develop wikis and by senior executives as an internal engagement tool. According to Young, one executive used a video log rather than the standard blog format to pass on “key messages around business operations”.

“[It’s] a quick and more personable type way rather than a statistical, hierarchical type of information flow,” he said.

The extension of ABS’ contract with IBM comes amidst an increasing exodus from Lotus software, with the Department of Human Services latest to indicate a move to Microsoft offerings. Young said the department’s long-running investment in Lotus Notes, which it has used since 1992, was a key incentive for sticking with the platform.

Young conceded that, being a customer, he was likely to defend IBM, but that Sir Peter Gershon’s recognition of the ABS for best practice in knowledge management in his report on IT efficiency in government served as proof of the product’s success in the department.

“We’ve had significant investment in that Lotus platform in terms of team workspaces, integrating email, team installs of information together. Really the way we work is in a corporate sense rather than in an individualistic sense. For us there hasn’t really been a strong temptation to move away because we’re really getting some great value from this space.”

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