Talk:Social profiles for staff - case studies

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Margaret Jack, 2010/5/12

Hi Ian, Johannes and others.

I refer to this message you sent to KM4Dev in March. I am advising an organisation to set up a similar-sounding staff profile/registration page for a new initiative of LED practitioners from all over the world. I have three queries: 1. Can you give me a detailed description of what info people can enter in their profile, apart from name, job title etc please? 2. How did you encourage people to register? 3. And finally, what does it look like? Does everyone have their own page, is it similar to facebook, is it through the UNICEF website, what does one see when one looks for others' profiles?

With thanks, Margaret

Margaret Jack

Johannes Schunter, 2010/5/12

Hi Margeret,

1. For a description of the user profiles in our social networking system 'Teamworks', I guess it's best I send you the two screenshots attached (one from the Dashboard = startpage after login, and one from a view of a user profile).

2. We've launched the prototype one year ago without any official release or communication. The word got out and people joined organically. Sometimes units who got intrigued requested a briefing, and after that naturally many staff of that unit joined. But apart from that, we didn't provide additional incentives. So far out of about 8000 UNDP staff, 3000 have logged in once within the first year, plus we have about 1300 users external users who have been invited into specific groups to participate and exchange. We will launch the site officially in September, along with training events for different offices, to get everyone on board.

3. 'Teamworks' looks indeed more or less like Facebook, just that all staff are automatically registered with their standard HR data in their profiles. The profiles get activated after their first login (same login as corporate intranet). In the Dashboard you see the activity feed on what's going on with your colleagues and connected peers and groups. When you view a colleague's profile, you see his general HR data, his contributions (files, links, wiki pages), his colleagues list, his group membership, his blog and a feed of only his activities (same as in Facebook).

Hope this helps!


Johannes Schunter, 2010/5/12

Forgot to attach a mockup of how the profile pages will look like in the final release in September.



Sara Teitelman, 2010/5/12

Hi Johannes,

I have been looking at similar platforms for our organization. We are planning to launch a social networking system later this year.

I am curious, is the software that 'Teamworks' is based on something that can be purchased as is or did UNDP have it custom built?

Thanks! Sara

Sara Teitelman, MPH Senior Technical Editor Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

Johannes Schunter, 2010/5/12

Hi Sara,

The prototype was developed on the open source framework "Elgg" with significant customizations. The final version will be based on the the open source CMS, again with significant customizations (but not touching the core).


Margaret Jack, 2010/5/13


I copy an old post, from Jun, who talks about the Crabgrass project, which might be what you are looking for. Jun, I hope you don't mind me posting your words.


Chris Burman, 2010/5/13

Hi -

This has been very useful for me. Can I throw something else in? Knowledge Brokering: is there any useful, quick links / ideas around this that people know of?

With kind regards


Chris Burman (PhD) The Development Facilitation and Training Institute (DevFTI) University of Limpopo Tel: 015 290 2873 Fax: 015 290 2826 Cell: 072 241 8166 Skype: chrisburman

Ian Thorpe, 2010/5/13

Hi Margaret

In our case the "social profile" is integrated into our Intranet and our office people search, although it is optional to participate. Basic information (name, job title, e-mail, Office/Division/Unit, phone number) is generated automatically from our internal phone directory, the rest is entered by the staff member.

Fields that can be entered by staff member include: photo, names of colleagues, mobile number, gender, nationality, entry into the organization, previous positions in UNICEF, prior work experience, educational background, areas of expertise, professional interests, countries worked, languages spoken, reading recommendations, external links and membership in communities of practice, as well as a status field "What are you currently working on". The profile also includes an internal messaging system. Everyone has their own profile page which they are responsible for maintaining.

The profiles are not a full social networking system in of themselves, but are integrated into our communities of practice system which does have various web 2.0 features (and you need a profile to participate in our online community space). We also intend for the profiles to be integrated into other intranet based systems so that you can easily link content with the individuals that created or shared it across the intranet.

We announced the system last October but have only promoted it very lightly mostly through word of mouth, although we now plan to step this up by presenting it formally to various teams, and getting some of our senior leaders to prominently use it. Several teams have chosen by themselves to promote the profile within their office or professional group to improve networking in their own area. So far we have had 2,300 signups over the past 7 months - but our total staffing worldwide is close to 11,000 85% of whom are in the field, and so we have a way to go before it is universal. Adoption has been higher in HQ than in the field, where I suspect many staff are simply not aware that this system exists.

This system was developed in-house by our IT department on Lotus Domino which is the platform used for our Intranet. There are lots of tools which could potentially be used to do this though. One consideration from our side was to develop this as part of our intranet so the profiles could be linked to other content across the intranet rather than being a standalone system.

I hope this is helpful.

Best regards


Tammie Alzona, 2010/5/13

Dear Friends,

Here at SNV, we launched a social networking, document management system with faceted searching and we included a profile with contact information, status information (what you are working on at the moment etc.), personal information like a biography and about me, what organizations you are affiliated with and tags that you can select (thematic, geographical, etc.) or free tags that you can add to your profile for searching purposes. People are also able to leave comments on your profile page and everything is linked to an internal chat function so that you can contact anyone that is online in the organization.

I have attached a screenshot so you can see what it looks like. Let me know if you need any more information.

Best regards,

Tammie Alzona

SNV Senior Regional Advisor in Knowledge Management Quito, Ecuador

Hapee de Groot, 2010/5/13

Dear All,

this is all very interesting but it would really help me if I can get some more information on these tools:

  • what is it build on (technically)
  • is it open source
  • can I get the source
  • is it hosted solution
  • can I use it
  • how much did it cost

I know a lot of people use fancy tools but by the end of the day it is still relevant how much it costs to build it and how to maintain it and not how it looks.

Can we have this kind of information on Teamworks of Unicef and the tools that SNV launched?

Kind regards, Hapee

Ian Thorpe, 2010/5/13


Our tool is built in house on Lotus Notes 8.5. It's not open-source. I'm sure our IT department would be willing to share the database template, which you could run if you are using a Notes platform. But if you are not running Notes then you would be better off finding another tool.

This type of profile system could be designed to run on a very wide range of platforms (Notes, Sharepoint, Elgg, Drupal, Ning, Wordpress, Ning...) there are literally hundreds of options out there that could do this - we chose to use our existing intranet platform because it then links to the rest of what we do in house, and people don't have to have a separate login or learn a new system - also then it can be easily maintained by our IT department.

I think the most important thing is what information the system has in it and how that can be useful to support the organization's work. For this design and functionality are very important, whereas the underlying software is less important. As I said, there are lots of options for software depending on your budget and what systems your organization already has in place, and what you are familiar with.



Tammie Alzona, 2010/5/14

Dear Hapee,

I may not have all of the answers to your questions but I'll tell you what I know and if you need more information, I can connect you with our developer.

what is it build on (technically)

The database is MySQL, the full text search is based on a combination of Apache Solr and Tiki (for text extraction). The Casebook application on top of that is built in ASP.NET MVC. It can run on a Apache / Linux machine.

is it open source

The MYSQL Solr and Tiki are open source. The sourcecode of the application is available to us, as part of our agreement with our developer.

can I get the source

I suppose you could negotiate an agreement with the developer if you are interested.

is it hosted solution

In our case, it is not hosted by the developer but could be if we wanted. We have our "own" hosting agreement with a supplier on whose servers the application is running but the developer provides tech support.

We also considered installing the application on our servers (in Quito), but given the connectivity and security/backup requirements we opted for hosting at a data-center.

can I use it

I can put you in contact with the developer if you would like.

how much did it cost

For us it depended on a couple of variables: number of registered users, hosted or not, source code available or not and amount of customization (we had the developer integrate some other previous work we had done at SNV into the system).

I assume that some of your questions come from a certain desire to be independent from a supplier. That is why we looked for a product that was built using as much open source components as possible, the availability of the source code to us and that could be hosted on servers that are "controlled".

If you need more information, let me know and I will send you the contact information of our developer.

Hope this is useful to you

Best regards,


Lotta Adelstal, 2010/5/17

Dear friends out there,

First of all, as a newcomer to KM4Dev, I would really like to express how happy I am to be part of the community and have "access" to your experience and generosity. Lovely! I posted an inquiry named "contents of knowledge directory" and got useful feedback from Daan and Tom (thank you!), then another thread got going again that apparently started in March "Staff profiles" that gives me plenty of useful information and experience (I have copy and pasted your responses in the attached document since I find it a bit difficult to navigate between the different inputs). Many thanks! I would like to follow up with the following:

(1) Ian, is it possible for you to share snapshots of UNICEFs social network "pages" and staff profile like the ones from Johannes. It was really valuable to get a visual example. (2) Johannes, we are planning on using Sharepoint both for the corporate intranet and our social network platform. As I understand it you will be using Sharepoint and "teamworks". Are we "covered" with "only" using Sharepoint or will we be missing out on something? (3) In terms of trying to develop a social network system that also satisfies HR needs I find difficult. The HR department people needs and perspective is quite different from "ours".

I am now planning to launch an internal process together with colleagues to form the contents and design of our social network system (using Sharepoint) and will be happy to share how things develop.

Sida NETWORKS From own to shared knowledge Connect and collaborate

Lotta Adelstål Senior policy specialist - Networking and Knowledge Sharing Secretariat for Development and Coherence Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) SE-105 25 STOCKHOLM, Sweden

Johannes Schunter, 2010/5/17

Dear Lotta,

We had this discussion internally as well, why we don't use Sharepoint for document management AND social networking of instead of adding a social networking layer with another platform? In my personal view the answer is more or less: Yes, you can write letters with Excel and do all the formatting and printing, but it's orinially not designed to be a text processing application, and therefore will never be optimal for the job. Sharepoint from its core architecture is built as a quite good document management and excellent workflow system, plus its highly customizable if you have a respective budget to invest. However, it has never been good at connecting people and facilitating lively knowledge exchange across organizational boundaries on a daily basis. Yes, it has introduced some Web 2.0 elements like profiles, blogs and wikis, but those elements are not "native" to Sharepoint, they have rather been added on top. In fact, Sharepoint is known for actually creating silos within organizations, rather than breaking them.

We've decided to use Sharepoint as our intranet, strictly for staff and with focus on file management and workflows. But as knowledge sharing environment, we introduced an "Extranet" layer as social networking application, which is meant to facilitate easy connection among people, transparent commenting and discussions, ad-hoc user groups and the ability to invite external clients and partners which are not staff (which in case of a large amount of external users is almost impossible with Sharepoint, considering Microsoft's per-user licensing model).

I know that just recently MS released Sharepoint 2010 which is supposed to be much stronger on the social networking side. I've not seen it so far and would be happy for comments by anyone who is working with it. However, trusting Microsoft that it can turn a silo-encouraging file-oriented Web 1.0 system like Sharepoint 2007 into a transparent and exchange-fostering Web 2.0 social networking system within just one version iteration is a big leap. Not sure if I'd bet my money on it, but would be happy to learn otherwise! ;-)



Ian Thorpe, 2010/5/17

Dear Lotta

Here is a few screencaps of our social profiles system. As I mentioned this integrates into a broader intranet web 2.0 community of practice platform (which you will see linked from here) but also functions as a stand alone profiles system.

This system was developed in Lotus Notes 8.5 without any social networking add-ons. UNICEF is also considering a move to Sharepoint 2010, but the priority will be for document management related applications and we don't know when/if our profiles system will be migrated or adapted to Sharepoint. Our existing system was developed so it could be low cost and would integrate easily with our existing intranet. I think whether you can develop a system in Sharepoint or not depends a lot on what you want your system to do and what resources you have available either to customize Sharepoint or develop a separate platform that can integrate with it. My understanding is that if you want a sophisticated social networking system you will need to do custom development, despite the a lot of improvements on social networking in Sharepoint 2010.

We deliberately chose not to merge our system with our HR system, to allow staff themselves to manage their pages and what the system says about them. I think this type of function has an important role in its own right, and I'm not sure its wise to try to merge this with an HR sponsored system in which all data on experience, skills etc. needs to be fully validated. Both types of system have their uses, and I fear if you combine them you might end up with a system that doesn't meet either need very well, and which has a low level of buy in from staff.

Best of luck!


Jaap Pels, 2010/5/17

Hi All,

Are staff profiles not just a sort of collection of personal best practice? Speaks English? Tick, Managed 120 people or more? Tick, Preferred salary 110k plus? Tick, Experience in multi-sectoral interdisciplinary, sub-systematized anything-sensitive and beside that time and money bound sustainable project? Tick.

I personally do not keep a collection of my failures (although they can be turned into 'lessons learned' according the list 'top 10 pointers to make you realize you work for an NGO'). That would be my anti-profile :-). And the lessons learned thing can be questioned in my case.

And is 'preferred team-role' not a characteristic to profile staff on? Or do we team up with all leader-types? Role is something tested in assessments resulting in another file to add to a staff profile.

I would keep staff profiles low on central input and leave a lot to the staff themselves and give them hints on what to write about and keep track of but free of much format.

And while spending development budget on it: I really think the UN / NGO / bi-laterals should synchronise their application circus. Sometimes I even go through the seven step process to open an applicant-account just for fun. These endless screens to fill out and diversity of systems to comply with give me a glimpse on staff profile forms / software used and it does not make me happy...

Just Monday evening thoughts, Jaap

Tom Zeppenfeldt, 2010/5/18

In my view staff profiles are a combination of factual data (education/degrees/gender etc), information provided by the person him/herself (interests, expericences, resumé, tags), recommendations, comments and/or ratings by others.. and , and this needs to get more attention I guess, the information that can be derived from what (s)he is doing on a social network. By this I do not mean that the social networking system should be able to trace him/her wherever (s)he goes, but when the social network offers the possibility for q&a , or a forum , and this forum allows users to approve/rate answers that are given by others, this adds lots of insights with respect to someone's interests (on what subjects does (s)he ask/answer questions ) and level (how often are his/her answers rated as "good" or "best"?).

Another aspect is "role" as Jaap indicated correctly. Knowing a lot is not the only thing that counts: some people are good at creating , other ones at structuring and some at connecting / brokering. We are currently thinking about ways to integrate this aspect in our tooling, but we're not yet convinced that it is desirable.

Tom Zeppenfeldt

Lotta Adelstal, 2010/5/18

Many thanks Ian and Johannes for sharing snapshots and information. Apart from valuable input to the development of our platform I found some interesting stuff on your profiles ... Demysifying KM 2.0 and KM in UNDP presentation ... would love to get demystified! Swedes in UNICEF ... hmm good contacts :)

Ian, you mention that UNICEF integrates the social profile system into a broader intranet web 2.0 community of practice platform. Sorry for my ignorance and maybe stupied question, but is this the UNICEF intranet or is it a separate platform for your CoPs? Does each CoP have its own "page"? Would it be possible to have a peak at what the CoP platform looks like and the content of it? We are just in the process of developing our CoPs pages and looking for inspiration. Sorry for keeping asking for more, but it is difficult to let go of a gold mine ...

Johannes, the "Teamworks" startpage that you sent a snapshot looks quite different from the snapshot of the mock-up to the release in September. What did you learn from the pilot versions that you've decided to build into the final version? Does UNDP also have a (or several ) CoP platform(s) and what would these look like?

Regards, Lotta

Roxanna Samii, 2010/5/18

Dear Johannes

Your assessment of Sharepoint - or rather "store and forget point" - is music to my year!!!! Love you Ciao Roxy

Johannes Schunter, 2010/5/18

Hi Lotta,

We went through an extensive process of collecting user feedback over the last year, all of which fed into the specification for the next version. It's frankly impossible to list all the things we've learned here. Much of it are little tweaking items for the user interface, others are missing functions like responding to notifications directly by email, event management functions, better search engine, featuring of suggested content and users, moderation of discussions or categorization of files. Sorry if this is generic, but most of what we learned had also much to do with the limitations of the technical "Elgg" platform and how we could do it better in "Drupal".


Ian Thorpe, 2010/5/24

Hi Lotta

Here are some screenshots of our communities platform as requested: