Eureka Streams Fosters Employee Communications

August 5, 2010
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Online Exclusive
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Open-source, social networking tool is designed to help employees get the job done.

An open-source, business-oriented, social networking tool helps organizations’ employees be more productive by making it easier to share information. The tool helps employees build their careers by marketing their own value and establishing a positive reputation, and it helps them make more informed decisions by following relevant information from colleagues, groups and Internet sources.

Eureka Streams borrows features from existing tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and iGoogle. It is designed primarily for “knowledge workers,” whose value lies in their ability to produce information, ideas or knowledge rather than their ability to perform manual labor or heavily process-driven work. Although the tool can pull in some information from sources outside the organization, such as news feeds, nothing is published publicly, which allows employees to freely discuss proprietary information or other issues they could not disclose on public social networking sites.

“Eureka Streams is about business-appropriate use of social media. It’s about accomplishing the mission,” says Tom Haser, director of social media solutions within Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions, the company that developed Eureka Streams. Business-oriented social media usage is most effective when it’s ingrained into employees’ daily business rhythms and used in teams and organizations to answer questions and collaborate on such things as project status, lessons learned and best practices, rather than being just a task added to the end of a workday, Haser adds.

Eureka Streams emerged from lessons learned after Lockheed Martin rolled out the Unity social networking tool two years ago. Unity’s designers wanted to foster a social computing ecosystem around a standardized platform, integrating blogs, wikis and other documents. Over time, they added discussion forums, a social bookmark tool called “uBookmark” and weekly activity reporting to capture usage and adoption patterns. Lockheed Martin took on—and accomplished—a lot with Unity, company sources say, but they found actual interactions among employees to be lacking and needed a fast, simple tool to get employees communicating.

“Our Unity investment was built on top of Microsoft SharePoint, which was very much focused on generating content. What we were told, as we collected some lessons learned after deploying SharePoint, was that people got lots of great content, but not much conversation, so that was the impetus for delivering Eureka,” says Shawn Dahlen, social media program manager at Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions. “With Eureka, we recognized that one area we could really improve upon is that communications experience, so we put our entire energy, effort and focus on doing that one thing well.”

The company does not yet have a business plan or a schedule in mind for selling Eureka Streams externally, but they acknowledge a broad range of potential customers, including the federal government, businesses and nonprofit organizations. They have, in fact, already begun talking to—and receiving feedback from—possible customers.

“The capability could be used by really any enterprise in any domain, whether it’s government, private industry or whatever. Our focus, of course, is on our core customer set. We’re focused first and foremost on the federal government. That’s really our sweet spot,” Haser explains.

The company launched the beta version of Eureka Streams internally in early 2010, and in July they made it available to 36,000 employees. Two weeks later, 1,600 employees were actively using the system.

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