Pfizer launches RSS for R&D and eyes "Pfacebook" social network

Pfizer launches RSS for R&D and eyes "Pfacebook" social network

Pfizer is on the cusp of launching an enterprise RSS project for its R&D employees worldwide and is in the earliest stages of launching a social network for employees

When it comes to companies that have whole-heartedly embraced Web 2.0 - or in this case Enterprise 2.0 - Pfizer ranks high on the list of early adopters. A handful of trailblazers launched a grassroots campaign almost two years ago that has since been formalized and branched out to various parts of the company.

As such, it is a good company to continuously gauge for what approaches are working and what might be next on the pharmaceutical behemoth's Enterprise 2.0 agenda. It turns out that Pfizer, whose Web 2.0 journey began in July 2006 with a blog to improve internal employee communication options, is on the cusp of launching an enterprise RSS project for its R & D employees worldwide and is in the earliest stages of launching a social network for employees. Some have suggested that the fledgling social network be called Pfacebook (following in the footsteps of Pfizerpedia, the company's wiki, but a name has not been settled on yet).

Simon Revell, Pfizer's manager of enterprise 2.0 technology, noted in an interview this week that Pfizerpedia is advancing beyond just being fueled by the enthusiasts and trailblazers to entire groups and departments that are beginning to use the wiki as part of their everyday work processes, a sign that it is taking hold in the company.

Pfizer is about to go live with an enterprise RSS suite for its R & D employees, he added.

"RSS has huge potential," he noted. "Even if you ignore doing any of the other things in this space in the enterprise ...RSS has a role to play. We have a whole bunch of content inside of Pfizer that we want to expose. We have a lot of internal Web sites, Internet sites and apps. And anyone in any role has to touch quite a few of them in their work. The newest version of [Microsoft's] SharePoint is completely RSS enabled so ... every single piece of SharePoint can be exposed. Users can see when folks are reading content."

In addition, unlike email where people can get bogged down by correspondence they don't really want or need to read, RSS allows people more control over what content they consume and how they consume it, he added.

"[The enterprise RSS suite] is a social solution very similar to BlogLines where you can see what other people are subscribing to and how they react to it," he added. "That fuels the social aspect of it."

As for the new social network, Revell - who is based in Europe - is in the US this week to launch the initial stages of that project. While he admits that there are some pockets in the company that view social networking as "some frivolous thing that happens on the Web," he added that there is a real need to connect people across the globe.

"The challenge is how do I leverage the fact that there is a guy in Columbia that has certain experience or a certain skill?" he noted. "How do I start to make these types of connections? As you start to work your way down to the various department and divisions ... the same thing occurs at different levels."

But, Revell has learned from the company's previous Web 2.0 projects that the social network must be community driven for it to fly.

"They've got to want it and see that value in it," he said. "We have to put the users at the center of this, and we have to understand it from their perspective. This is a huge challenge."

But, he added, not all the rules have changed from Web 1.0 to this latest iteration of technologies.

"In some instances you can't avoid the type of change management process you would do for any new service," Revell pointed out. "A lot of the old rules will apply - the need for sponsorship, leadership and endorsement. Everything has changed, but at the same time nothing has changed."

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