In this document, we have collected and compiled the most important experiences and lessons learned from the last six years of our award winning social intranet. With it, we want to give inspiration, courage and confidence to people who face similar situations at their companies, and sometimes obstacles and challenges: "Keep going! It's worth it."
YOU AND ME
FROM CORPORATE SOCIAL INTRANET
TO THE HEARTBEAT OF DEUTSCHE
OVER HALF A DECADE
YOU AND ME
Over five exciting years of YAM – Time to take stock
In YOU AND ME, an ecosystem for collaboration and knowledge
sharing, has been created over the last six years, at Deutsche
Telekom. Today, it's difficult to imagine daily business at Deutsche
Telekom without YOU AND ME. More than any other communication
platform, YAM represents the heartbeat, the moods, the ideas and
the diversity of one of the world's leading telcos.
In this document, we have collected and compiled the most important
experiences and lessons learned from the last six years. With it, we
want to give inspiration, courage and confidence to people who face
similar situations at their companies, and sometimes obstacles and
challenges: "Keep going! It's worth it."
"At first we thought it would be a relaunch for the Intranet.
Instead, it became a relaunch for the way we work together in
the company. With YOU AND ME we did pioneering work.
We tried a lot, constantly discovered new things and
discarded some of them. The result was a co-creation
platform that became the heartbeat of Deutsche Telekom -
and a project with passion."
ALEXANDER DERNO, "YOU AND ME" PRODUCT OWNER UNTIL 2017
From heterogeneous beginnings to a co-creation network
In the time before YOU AND ME, there were different applications, such as department
intranets, wikis and collaboration platforms, where various communities were organized.
There were no blueprints or role models for a new corporate social intranet; only the idea
that all of these communication channels should be grouped together under one roof.
We realized quickly that we were talking about a transformation project, one that would
turn the employees themselves into communicators and would change our role in
Corporate Communications into that of moderators and coaches. Today, more than five
years later, we talk about a co-creation network in which more than 120,000 employees
worldwide create content, share information and knowledge on a daily basis, and
generate new ideas every day.
Where will we stand in five years? We don't know.
All we know is that we will have far to go on our journey.
ON THE WAY TO A
YOU AND ME
We are talking about a product
The development of a corporate social network
does not work like a conventional IT project. It is
more comparable to the development and launch
of a new product.
The team is always the most important thing
Flexible structures and the right team
philosophy are the foundation for successful
We are empowering employees
Employees aren't just the future customers;
they're also the most important advisors
during the development phase and can help
to make the product successful.
We are delivering a
By guiding instead of regulating, we enable
creativity and flexibility. This applies to both the
creation of content and the enhancement of the
We need a strong brand
To become a strong, successful brand, it must
communicate at eye level, be credible and
pleasant, and must reduce complexity.
We will measure success
Measuring and communicating success are essential
for a co-creation network like YAM. But this also means
sometimes leaving the figures aside and listening to
In the end, you can't succeed
A project like this can't be implemented simply through
the rote processing of project schedules. It requires
passion and a willingness to explore new paths.
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT
Not a typical IT project with start and finish
The development of a corporate social network is not a typical IT
project with a defined start and finish. Instead, we have to see its
development like that of a product that has to take root in a free
market and work according to the rules of the web. That means the
work starts in earnest with the rollout. Without active people, it's
nothing more than software. To become a product, it has to have
content that is relevant for others and attracts people to return again
WE'RE ALWAYS IN
Because the biggest fish always wins
The most popular platform wins. To establish our product sustainably on the
market – that is, among Deutsche Telekom employees – we had to think
about future growth of our platform from the start. In doing so, we used the
following recurring life cycle:
1. In the beginning, it was about building a critical mass, from which point the number of users and awareness of the
platform would begin to grow exponentially.
2. In the second step, we concentrated on increasing employee activity. After all, to fill a platform with life, we need
employees who create, share and comment on content.
3. In the third and final step, the increasing networking among employees helped to accelerate growth and quality further.
CONSISTENT DEVELOPMENT FROM THE
And what do the users say?
We used a variety of tools, such as
usability tests and user surveys, to
optimize the user experience. This was
completely uncharted territory for internal
IT projects. In addition, we gave
employees the opportunity to express
their own wishes on the platform. In the
end, it even became a public process,
with fact sheets and feedback.
IS ALWAYS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
More than just empty words
The team takes on one of the most important functions in
the project. The project managers see themselves as
product owners, who feel responsible for the entire
environment. Communication was one of the most
important tasks of the leadership role. Since processes
and roles changed constantly, we relied most on
relationships on the team. Face-to-face meetings and
personal talks were crucial elements. Respect and
appreciation for the – sometimes competing – goals and
ideas was our top priority.
We never cared about organizational charts
The team structure wasn't based on complicated organizational
charts, but instead on responsibilities and sensible interfaces. No
one was to be able to withdraw to performing isolated tasks;
cooperative thinking was encouraged. The tasks at hand were always
the focus of our regular meetings. Everyone on the team was asked
to think about which information might be relevant to others' work.
The meetings also provided a place for handling items to be clarified.
Everyone involved was encouraged to ask questions and make
BRING THEM ALL
TO THE TABLE
Everyone has a voice and a face
We established a regular meeting, to ensure ongoing interaction among all
project team members. We wanted to ensure that all stakeholders who have an
influence on how the product is perceived are essential parts of the project.
Even those who usually have low visibility in such projects, such as support,
testers and community managers. In every meeting, we made it a ritual to begin
by asking how people felt on the project, how things were going and what
perceptions were like among the employees. To advance the project further, we
always asked what we could do better and what was going well. While these
meetings tie up capacity at first, the personal interchange they foster is worth it.
COLLEAGUES ARE THE BEST
Supporters direct from the heart of the company
From its inceptions, YOU AND ME was a project by employees for employees. That's
why it was only natural for us to search for suitable supporters from the heart of the
company at the start of the project. Thanks to an ambassador program, we were able
to quickly find colleagues who volunteered to support our project as YAM guides.
They helped answer questions from other colleagues about the reasoning behind the
project, as well as about individual functions. And above all, they infected others with
their enthusiasm for YAM. This was very well received, because there were no orders
from above to use the program. Instead, the employees showed one another how
practical and fun YAM could be.
The employees do it themselves
We had an ambitious goal with YOU AND ME: we wanted to enable direct
interaction between employees across national borders, to enable an
optimal transfer of knowledge. We previously had a number of different
tools, and not everyone had access to them. With YAM, all employees can
simply get started, make their voices heard and interact with others. The
platform has also made a major contribution toward creating an open
Employees help one another
Employees can help one another through the internal "YAM Support“.
Moderated by two colleagues, YAM Support compiled frequently asked
questions in documents that can be used repeatedly. The number of
conventional support tickets was kept low by addressing the simple issues
here. At the same time, this gave us an honest indicator of how things
worked and were being used.
BE OPEN TO
A culture of open dialog
As the product owners, we were always open to –
and grateful for – suggestions and constructive
criticism. Our new platform served as the
foundation for this interaction. No matter how
unpleasant it was, we never shied the debate. We
saw it as an opportunity for establishing mutual
WE ARE DELIVERING A
Utilize the strengths of social media
Openness was also the guiding principle when it came to establishing
the usage guidelines. We tried to strike a balance between
guaranteeing security and stability and giving employees orientation,
while at the same time granting the maximum possible freedom and
APPLICATIONS WITH A
Deliver flexibility away from rigid regulations
YOU AND ME was designed as an open, modular system that concentrates
on services and features that add value for employees. The foundation for this
flexible design of internal applications is Group Works Agreement 2.0, which no
longer regulates specific programs like wikis or blogs, but instead describes
functions, like those for profiles, commenting, publishing and editing. As a result,
the GWA no longer has to be supplemented for every new application and services
and functions can be continually recombined, making work much easier.
Describe "How," not "What"
Our Human Interface Guideline (HIG) created an additional point of
reference for the development of social media applications within
the company. The HIG is the conceptual foundation for ensuring
that Deutsche Telekom's social media applications are designed
homogenously, in high quality and user-friendly. It contains
principles, guidelines, use cases, patterns and lots of inspiration for
developing successful designs. Here, as well, our goal was to create
a flexible framework instead of trying to imagine specific situations.
A SOCIAL INTRANET NEEDS
A STRONG BRAND
Be accepted as a brand and communicate authentically
Strong branding was essential to success. The logo, two speech bubbles, is a
metaphor for the different perspectives that are unified at Deutsche Telekom. A
strong brand doesn't only mean awareness. It also helps to reduce complexity.
The colleagues automatically know that YOU AND ME is a platform for
employees. It encompasses dozens of different applications, projects and
initiatives. The name shouldn't be too technical, either. That's why we decided
to change the name from Telekom Social Network to YOU AND ME during the
branding process.. A good brand name gets the customers involved at an
emotional level. It is pleasant and works with different cultural backgrounds.
That was one of our first basic principles
One of the most important principles for communication is that we
do not talk about platform "users" in any context. For us, they're all
Deutsche Telekom employees, which means they're our colleagues.
In addition, we also avoided technical wordings in our
communication. We intentionally chose everyday language, to make
the technology secondary and instead focus on the people, their
work and their activities.
OUR COMMUNICATION WAS ALWAYS
Authentic communication at eye level
YOU AND ME isn't a product that we could simply enforce
on the organization from the top down, commanding that all
225,000 employees start using it overnight. Although we
grew quickly at first, we were still small, which meant our
possibilities were limited. Since we felt personal contact
with our colleagues was worth much more than information
flyers or social media instructions, we held hundreds of
presentations about the intention and handling of YAM.
After all, communication also lives from the persons behind
it. As such, the developer team members became important
multipliers at the company. What's more, we used the
platform extensively from the beginning ourselves, to show
our work to our colleagues openly and respond directly to
questions and criticism.
STRONG BRANDING THROUGH
The brand belongs to everyone
Our employees played a major role in the development of YOU AND ME.
We wanted to continue this consistently in other areas. That's why we
decided to focus on simplicity in our branding efforts. Instead of delegating
responsibility to a branding team, every employee who wanted to express
their opinions of YAM was given templates, empowering them to put
designs together themselves, without requiring graphic artists or long
WE MEASURE SUCCESS AND SCRUTINIZE
The right feeling has more weight than data analyses
Everyone who develops a product of course wants to know how successful that
product is on the market. Accordingly, we thought about the right key figures and
how to measure them. We needed these metrics to help us understand how our
product was used and to point out the strengths and weaknesses of our platform. We
calculate the net promoter score once per year, for example, and have also introduced
the "activity index," an engagement rate measure we developed ourselves. By
measuring these key figures, we can now derive and implement targeted measures
for improving YOU AND ME on an ongoing basis. Nonetheless, we have never been
slaves to these numbers and always listened to our feelings in cases of doubt.
UNDERSTANDING THE PRODUCT BETTER
NET PROMOTER SCORE
Find the right measurements
The net promoter score is normally used in the marketing domain. We hadn't applied
it to internal IT projects before. Since we had adopted the product mindset in our
platform, however, we needed more than a simple key performance indicator; we
needed a measurement that helped us to better understand how our product was
perceived. That's why we selected a representative group of employees once per year
and asked them a question: "How likely is it that you would recommend YOU AND ME
to a colleague?" In addition to the net promoter score, we also carry out a driver
analysis. The feedback from the free text fields was particularly valuable to us here, to
understand how the platform is used and how we can improve it.
MEASURE THE UTILIZED POTENTIAL
The activity index is an engagement rate that we developed
ourselves, which enables us to compare different groups with one
another and with the overall base. In addition, the activity index was
also conceived as a strategic index, similar to TV ratings, to serve as
an established measure that everyone can use as a guide. This
number had to be simple and plausible, as well as have a certain
level of complexity. In fact, it expresses the utilization of the content
potential. The simple figure represents a calculation of different
content categories and their acceptance over a specific period.
LESSON 7 IN THE END, YOU CAN'T SUCCEED WITHOUT
How we became the heartbeat of Deutsche Telekom
At the start of our journey, we never had a single destination in
mind. We simply knew that we had to try out a lot of different
things. We learned from our mistakes and reinforced the things
that were working well. That's how we evolved continuously.
And all with the ongoing vision of promoting collaboration
across borders and boundaries and of connecting everyone
together. That isn't possible without passion. After all, there are
no requirements that must be met, merely those that have to be
avoided or created anew. It is rare for us to understand
everything at once. And the larger you get, the more political it
becomes within the company. Ultimately, YOU AND ME is a
reflection of the changes within the company and, at the same
time, a driver of those changes.
FLAT HIERARCHIES START WITH
A NEW WAY OF
Tim's Base – A direct line to the board
Today, flat hierarchies and open forms of communication have virtually
become normal expectations that employees have of their companies. It
was important to us to create an environment that enabled open,
authentic dialog across departmental boundaries and national borders.
This commitment to cultural transformation and, ultimately, to reducing
hierarchies, was supported by the entire Deutsche Telekom Board of
Management from the beginning. Our image was given an incredible
boost by the widely acclaimed and award-winning dedication of CEO
Timotheus Höttges, who uses "Tim's Base" not only to give Deutsche
Telekom employees insights into his everyday work, but also a place
where they can submit their ideas, questions and suggestions directly.
WE WERE A TEAM OF
Willingness to change can be achieved without shoving
What kind of team does it take to implement an ambitious project like this?
In total, we bring more than ten years of experience with digital
transformation to the table. Despite this, much of it was unexplored territory
and a constant learning process for us, as well. At some point, we arrived at
the model of the "gentle rebels." We wanted to do new things and strike out
in directions that no one at the company had ever taken before. To do so, we
had to shake some things up and question the establishment.
At the same time, it was important to us not to be pushy or act like a bull in a
china shop. We were aware of the responsibility associated with winning
people over and accompanying them through a transformation process,
particularly at a large, diverse company like ours. It's only
possible at eye level and with a spirit based on cooperation
▪ 74.9 billion euros revenue in 2017
▪ 216,000 employees worldwide
▪ Footprint in more than 50 countries
▪ CEO Timotheus Höttges
▪ The leading European
▪ Social Media Pioneer at
Deutsche Telekom, Expert
and product owner of YOU
AND ME until 2017
▪ With Deutsche Telekom since
▪ 124,000 registered
▪ 1,160,000 employee
▪ 30,000 groups in the
YOU AND ME IN FIGURES
▪ 105 million Millon page
impressions per year
▪ 11,000 employees follow
CEO Tim Höttges
▪ 54,000 discussions have
been held in YAM.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
▪ Enabler of new forms of communication and co-creation
▪ Content Factory as an ecosystem of all Deutsche Telekom‘s
▪ Publication of content on all widespread platforms, from
Corporate Blog to all relevant social media channels