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Innovation

Social on the table for 100,000 engineers

Engineers Australia is currently thinking about how it can use social media to make the information it manages more accessible for its 100,000 members.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor on

Engineers Australia is currently thinking about how it can use social media to make the information it manages more accessible for its 100,000 members.

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(Screenshot by Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet Australia)

Engineers Australia is a professional association representing engineers by holding networking and professional development events, as well as providing information. A lot of information is generated by the association's 5000-strong volunteer base and its 40 to 50 colleges or technical societies.

"It's a professional organisation — we've always been the custodians of a body of knowledge," marketing director Jamie Penrose said.

The organisation has implemented Salesforce's social Chatter application to about 40 of its 130 staff in the last couple of months, and is now looking at using it amongst its 100,000-strong member base to help open up its information repositories.

He also believed that there was potential for one of Salesforce's new products, the service cloud, where organisations' customers can come to find answers, either scraped from social media or provided by service consultants or the community. Penrose believed that the service cloud could greatly aid Engineers Australia.

"What Chatter and its service cloud could potentially offer us is the ability to open it up in a much broader way," Penrose said.

Currently, the sharing of knowledge happens through professional networking and training sessions, as well as peer-reviewed papers and journals. However, it won't always be able to happen that way.

"Like any other organisation or community at large, everything's happening much faster," he said. Boundaries on how people access information are blurring.

"How do you hand your volunteers a set of tools that enables them to handle that knowledge in a way that's meaningful?" he asked.

"Over the last 100 years, we've managed to be a social grouping of people by virtue of the traditional membership structure. We can no longer rely on people being motivated to join a professional association so that they can go and sit in a typical session. They actually want to go and engage in a more interactive way."

Social applications could provide better services for members, he said, suggesting, for example, "the ability to be able to register for a technical session and have that automatically populated on your [continual professional development] record".

The service cloud could also help its call centres.

"A lot of our inbound calls from our members are very specific," he said. "Being able to contribute those answers to specific queries to a knowledge hub should make us more efficient."

Yet, it was necessary to do it right, if the organisation rolled out tools for wide use, according to Penrose.

"The worst thing you can do is implement a tool and not be able to support it," he said.

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