Serving Our Veterans: Social Collaboration Powers A Giant Leap Forward

Serving Our VeteransWhen Megan Smith, the newly appointed CTO of the United States, explained her role, she said,“It’s focused on all the technology opportunity ahead for our country and for ourselves.” On this Veterans Day, not only will I take time to reach out to my brave family members and friends that have served in the military, I also want to shed some insight into Smith’s agenda.

Yesterday, Jive announced the launch of VA Pulse, an internal community for the Veterans Administration. VA Pulse will connect 300,000 clinicians and specialists across 1,700 medical locations. While the VA has gotten its share of criticism, the organization is actually more similar to our other Jive customers than it is different — it’s a siloed organization struggling to manage major transformation and engage younger workers.

Siloed, Distributed Agency. The VA is a series of regional centers around the country that don’t interact or communicate with each other. For instance, the San Francisco regional medical center might find novel ways to help amputees with pain management but clinicians in Birmingham who serve with the same patient population have no way to access this experience and knowledge. They might try emailing for help, using LinkedIn to find specialists in California, or even seek out an expert at a conference.  However, none of these is an efficient method for sharing best practices or offers the opportunity for collaboration in a trusted network.

Organization in Transformation. Like businesses that must reorganize post-merger or align employees around a new strategy, the VA faces many factors that will transform the organization. It already serves an aging population of Vietnam veterans and now faces the aftermath of the country’s last 13 years of war.

The agency realizes it can’t approach its work in the same way it has for the last 30 years. The VA’s new secretary, Robert McDonald, says it needs a new way to work. On 60 Minutes, he announced the biggest reorganization in the agency’s history and investments in technology, including the internal network. VA Pulse provides the connective tissue that brings all the VA employees together and will host communities of practices, working groups and task forces. Like other Jive customers, the VA recognizes the need to help employees work better together. Specifically, it must support employees who use mobile devices on the front lines of patient care. And speaking of patient care, the VA has become even more forward-thinking than many hospitals; it appointed a Chief Customer Officer and now refers to vets as “customers.”

Urgency to Attract Millennials. The VA’s human capital function focuses today on recruitment and retention of the next generation of workers, millennials. But the VA recognizes that it can’t successfully hire and engage these individuals with 1990s technology. The anchor of VA Pulse is people and the latest mobile and collaboration tools. It supports personal networking and teamwork and offers many features that are already familiar to millennials. In addition, through community it creates a sense of shared purpose that is important not just to millennials, but employees of all generations.

The VA has over 300,000 employees, 150 medical centers, delivering 80 million (yes, million) patient care visits annually. It supports 22 million veterans. The largest fully integrated healthcare enterprise in the U.S. now uses Jive-n to connect, communicate and collaborate, transforming patient care. I’m so proud to work for the company that is powering this giant leap forward.

Happy Veterans Day to the veterans among our employees and to all of the women and men who have served our country. I am grateful to you.

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