Jeff Esposito for making all of this happen. I conducted several in depth interviews with Daniel Barret (director of technology) and Jay Moody (senior manager, research and innovation), big thanks to both of you for volunteering your time, effort, and knowledge. Vistaprint currently focuses on two things, an enterprise wiki and an internal ideation platform powered by Inutit. We will get into both of these during future posts, for now let’s get started with the business drivers.
Idea sharing has always been very important part of Vistaprint. Prior to a lot of the new social technologies that exist today Vistaprint used an internal system called “the funnel;” it was a very egalitarian system, everyone including the CEO put ideas in the same place. Ideas would then go to an innovation captain who would be in charge of deciding which ideas would get implemented and how everything would work out. Around 800 ideas were suggested but the problem was that not many were implemented. The big issues with “the funnel” was that a key component was not working for them, passion (since ideas always went through the one captain). The key shift is that now ideas follow the passion trail using the Intuit Brainstorm platform. It’s important to note (and I will repeat this many times) that the goal wasn’t Enterprise 2.0, the goal was to collect ideas from everyone in the company and to let them flow in a natural non-bureaucratic way. Vistaprint wasn’t looking for web2.0; web2.0 was the solution for what they were looking for. The business driver for the Vistaprint ideation platforms has always been new ideas to deploy for customers, pay attention to that phrase, “new ideas to deploy for customers.
As far as the wiki goes, Vistaprint didn’t call it a wiki when they started it. However, they knew that they needed “something” to manage information. This realization started when the company was just a tiny 80 people. At first Vistaprint started public folders, then share drives, then a blogging platform on Drupal which failed. Vistaprint was moving too quickly as a young company so clearly something had to change. Vistaprint had 50 engineers at the time and started a campus recruiting effort to get to 75 more engineers in a period of only 2 months; the capabilities team was really looking to ramp up. Once all the engineers where hired Vistaprint had a big problem, they had no idea how to train all of the engineers and there was serious risk of breaking the software. Eventually they were just told to “solve the problem WITHOUT using new technology”. However, they brought in another system anyway. The goal was to bring 25 new engineers up to speed without slowing anything down while making the entire process effective, lasting, and scalable, enter the wiki. A taxonomy of around 1,000 topics was developed. The whole process was rather simple conceptually. Vistaprint had to figure out what they needed first and then they found the technology to support it, again a very crucial step. Their key requirements to make all of this work were as follows:
- Needed to make it frictionless, if it’s not then they wont use it.
- Has to be robust
- Behavior change needs to happen so that people love it and it is integrated into their daily lives.
Eventually Vistaprint decided to go with Mediawiki which is the same platform that runs Wikipedia. This took 2 hours to set up and not upfront product costs. Mediawiki is very robust and allows for plugins which enable integration points into other platforms and tools, this was crucial for Vistaprint. There was no competition this was the best solution.
So where did the push for the ideation and wiki platform come from? For the Intuit Ideation platform the push came from the innovation team which was around 4 mid-level managers. For the wiki the push came from the head of the capabilities team however the ideas for how to actually make it work and how to do it came from the bottom-up. These ideas were talked about for a while but Vistaprint really had no business value until they needed to hire engineers and improve innovation for their customers.
Key takeaways from this post
- Vistaprint did 2 key things, launched an ideation platform and an internal wiki
- A business need MUST exist in order to make efforts viable
- Ideation was focused around improving the customer experience, the wiki was focused on knowledge sharing and information
- It is essential to understand the requirements BEFORE looking for a tool. You don’t want to find a tool first and then make it do what you need.
- Senior level management should actually use and be involved in the efforts, notice the CEO was involved and engaged from the beginning.
- The push came from the top down and from the bottom up, they worked together to make this work
We’re going to be getting much more in depth with Vistaprint and their E2.0 efforts in upcoming posts. Here’s some of the stuff we are going to be covering on Enterprise 2.0
Questions, comments, ideas? Lots more coming so stay tuned!