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How GE uses social tools to support its digital strategies

John Dix | May 22, 2014
Rich Narasaki is global manager, digital marketing in the GE corporate global brand marketing group and, as such, works with and supports the digital strategy efforts of the company's eight primary business divisions. While not a member of the IT team, Narasaki works with IT and marketing constantly, so Network World Editor in Chief John Dix tracked him down to get his perspective on how digital strategy plays out in such a huge operation.

Do each of the eight GE divisions have their own IT groups?

Yes, each one has their own. We're a very decentralized organization. Most of our businesses are Fortune 500-sized companies in themselves with multiple product lines, so each has a C-suite. Because of the complexity and breadth of our businesses, oftentimes there is another tier of CXOs for business divisions. So there is that opportunity for us to figure out how to make sure we're all marching in step. But having an internal collaboration platform has been one of the keys to really helping us stay aligned.

What do you use?

There is a team in Corporate IT that is responsible for all the different internal collaboration tools. They lead the charge on what we are developing, but we'll partner closely to help shape that offering. One of the newest tools is a platform we call Colab, which is built on a Cisco product. 

Previously we used platforms like Chatter and Yammer. But our IT team said, "You know what? We're a huge company, 300,000 people, let's build one that is really easy to use and where we own the conversation". All of that content generated is now sitting within our own firewalls, as opposed to going externally. So Colab is our version of Facebook meets Twitter meets Pinterest, if you will. It's got a really nice user interface. And it allows conversation and information exchange across the entire organization for people that would have never known another person existed in the company that could help them. 

An example could be somebody saying, "I'm trying to start this project. Does anybody have any information that can help me? Any best-practice?" And we wind up seeing five to 10 people raising their hands and saying, "Yeah, I've actually done that exact same thing. Here's the information." And it could be somebody over in the Aviation business asking the question and somebody in the Lighting business that has the answer. So it's really around creating those connection points across all the people. It's been a fantastic platform. The value is difficult to measure, but it's been around efficiency, cost savings, being able to go to market faster.

Where do you see this whole social thing going? What changes with time?

I think we're at the point where it's really about accountability of social. There is still a place for measuring likes and paying for likes, but we're further down the maturity path. We're using social to connect with our customers in ways that are much more meaningful and drive real business value. As companies invest more and more in social, they're going to have much more of a bottom-line lens on the activities. 


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