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August 23, 2007



Sorry to unearth this post, but I'm thniking about embarking on the same journey as you, and I'm reading the whole stuff, starting at the begining.

I have a question regarding your point on 'no private space'

Do you still think that some 'private spaces' are needed?

Doesn't the C-suite need some place where they can discuss some confidential aspects of the business?

Or would you want to have a private space to discuss some project that would only pollute everybody's dashboard with topics that might not be of interest to them?


Chuck Hollis

Hi Xavier

We made our decision based on specific context. We already had lots of places at EMC where people could share information privately (e.g. concalls, email, file shares, eRoom, etc.) and we had driven that model about as far as it was going to go.

Our thinking was (1) why attack a problem that we already had solutions for, (2) how do we foster broader collaboration and engagement, rather than make small teams productive, and (3) how do we get our employees "speaking in public" on social media platforms?

For us, it was one of the best decisions we made along the way. Your mileage may vary!


I see!


kevin shea


I’ve been involved in the introduction of eRoom in a really big automobile company. The specific area that I was involved with didn’t have the issues that you describe here. However, although the general growth of eRoom in this company advanced pretty virally, much of it ended up with the same issues as you have described.

The reason for the difference was that we introduced eRoom using a “controlled emergence model”, rather than an open emergence model. It went like this.

a. The goal was to improve the work practices of an engineering department and to introduce change and improve processes by introducing collaboration.
b. The idea was to introduce this easy-to-use tool, provide some guidance, make collaboration interesting, and then stand back and help direct.
c. The first step was to work with a small group of end users to define a work space that “mostly” mimicked the process.
i. We modified some areas that we wanted to change and placed some barriers in the way in areas that we wanted to test.
d. Prior to opening to members, we created a framework and structure that provided an environment within which work could be conducted
e. We promoted the idea that by imposing structure, people would be able to innovate.
f. Right from the start, we had a vision of what we wanted to end up with, but we limited eRoom creation in order to control rampant growth.
g. We made it a privilege to be part of the new effort. Engineers sold the benefits to other engineers
h. Throughout it all, we didn’t try to manage the technology, we mostly tried to influence behavior.
i. In the end, eRoom deployment in this department did go viral and met the goals; 250 eRooms, 2500 members, integrated suppliers, integrated project management. They currently “run their business” in eRoom.
j. We did have to make small corrections along the way after we learned from the users how they wanted this thing to work.
k. The other departments are getting better, but still have many of the issues that you note.

What we were really focused on was changing behavior. It was pretty apparent to us that if we went in and let people create eRooms, what would result is a very good picture of how the company really looked at that time… pretty ugly. What we ended up with was a generally consensus of “why don’t we just do that in eRoom?”

In my opinion, there are downsides to an open emergence model within businesses. I believe that social networks within businesses are more constrained by the influence of profit, regulation, quality and other attributes. It is these attributes that must be taken into consideration to define the type of emergence that best serves the people and the business.

From my experience controlled emergence can be an effective way of introducing social applications that can work to support business needs.

Chuck Hollis

This is a wonderful chunk of practical knowledge here, Kevin, so thank you very much for sharing.

And eRoom sounds like it's delivering all the benefits you had hoped, which (as an EMC guy) makes me smile a bit ...

Quick question -- would you describe your style of collaboration as "document oriented" or "conversation oriented".

We have both here at EMC. And maybe we should have followed your advice when we rolled out eRoom internally.

Thanks again for sharing!

kevin shea


I guess it was more a hybrid, following the design philosophy of maximizing integration and the idea of creating a “complete story”

That said, I think the issue is content (document side) and context (possibly your conversational side). eRoom is being used to capture both. All the pertinent discussions, debates, relevant emails, etc are associated with a document, a list, or an image, etc.. Maybe it is better to call these business discussions.

Of course there are other conversations being conducted outside of eRoom in email, person to person, at meetings, or in IM. There is not yet any blogging being done, nor are there separate forums. However, the important elements of these conversations are distilled and then added to the eRoom.

The architectural intent of the design was to keep all related discussion associated with the content. The model was the court room, in which, the evidence is the content (documents) and the conversation is the exchange between the lawyers and witnesses (context). Together they make up the complete story. The idea is not to have the users think of content over there, and context over here.

How it is stored, and making sure that the storage method doesn’t disrupt the story, is a different issue.

Keep at it, eRoom roll-outs can be corrected.



Just starting to think about using eRoom for a colloboration tool between company engineers and customer engineers - for use during rollout of new products that undergo interop testing. We will need to provide access to various artifacts of the testing effort, as well as opportunities for engineering discussions about issues and resolutions. We are currently utilizing the documentum product in house, so eRoom might make sense for us to implemenmt as a web based collaboration tool. Any advice on where to start is appreciated, These erooms will intiially be temporary in nature - allowing a team of a dozen people to focus on the testing effort for a number of weeks/months, but they could develop into web portals dedicated to specific customers.

Just how difficult is it to implement eRoom - for this type of specific colloboration. Not trying to change the internal company colloboration norms, just want to facilitate a specific set of content, and discussion in a certain area with access by multiple parties.

thx - robert

Chuck Hollis

Hi Robert

My impression is that eRoom can pretty much do what you want, and without too much fuss.

Your use case strikes me as something that's primarily document-centric: people looking at documents, and discussing what's in them.

eRoom is good at that.

Deployment models vary, but I frequently see a "self service" approach where someone can request one, and they're off to the races. Of course, you'll have to clean up the aftermath, since no one likes to tidy up after the project is done.

You didn't mention whether you're a Documentum user -- if you are, there's the added benefit that the documents can be managed by Documentum processes and workflows, which is frequently useful.

Let me know if I can do something else to help!


I'd agree and disagree here. I've seen some great uses of eRoom and in other cases, it was just a place to dump files.

eRoom is a business tool like anything else. If you don't use the tool the right way, or educate users on how to use the tool the right way...then you just might make a mess....which sounds like what you did at EMC. Funny how an information management company creates a mess -- like a plumber with leaky pikes at home.

I'd argue the problem was in the way you deployed and managed eRoom. Your IT was not close enough to the business to understand exactly how people were using the tool and educating them on how they should be using the tool.

Migrate to sharepoint or Jive or another tool ...you'll probably get the same result -- I've seen it.

Now I'm not opposed to openness and community. You need that to connect people and share knowledge. However, you also need secure collaboration for projects, client work, product development, mergers & acquistions, etc....

And that's what eRoom is best at -- both inside a company and outside.

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