Using Social Media for Peer-to-Peer Collaboration: The Xilinx Example

At Xilinx, collaborative tools to help peer-to-peer interaction resulted in an increase in engineer productivity by about 25%. It’s an example of “social organization” where mass collaboration is used to tackle strategic issues and opportunities.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jolieodell.

Social media is good for a lot more than marketing. Smart companies are figuring out how to use it internally to supercharge peer-to-peer collaboration. And results at one company include an increase in engineer productivity by about 25%.

In the recent MIT Sloan Management Review interview “The Amplified Enterprise: Using Social Media To Expand Organizational Capabilities,” Anthony Bradley, group vice president in Gartner Research, and Mark McDonald, group vice president with Gartner Executive Programs, explain how it worked at Xilinx:

We worked with a chip company out of California and Dublin by the name of Xilinx back in 2006. We were working with the CIO there, a guy by the name of Kevin Cooney, who recognized that there was a lot of value inherent in the work they were doing but that it was kind of locked up. He knew there was all this unstructured data and knowledge that existed between people’s ears.

Kevin and his team felt they could tap into that knowledge and expertise in something other than a traditional knowledge management approach where people dump their information in a giant database that nobody reads. They created an environment where they did peer-to-peer collaboration.

Kevin and the team at Xilinx initially built very small collaborative tools that enabled their design engineers to start the collaboration process and to get experience in understanding what it means. They had successes build upon other successes in terms of how engineers worked with each other as well as with their customers. And they’ve been able to progressively expand their collaborative capability to the point that they’ve raised engineer productivity by about 25%.

Bradley and McDonald add that Xilinx’s experience is “a great example of how we define the social organization, which is the repeated ability to use mass collaboration to tackle strategic issues and opportunities — as opposed to it just being a one-shot deal.”

The technology advisers have a new book, The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees, which was published by Harvard Business Review Press earlier this year.

Read our full interview with Bradley and McDonald for more examples.