Sun Microsystems Uses Open Source and Enterprise Social Software to Build YouTube-Like Portal for Social Learning





If you are looking for a real-world example of what's possible when a corporate learning function decides to make formalizing informal learning a centerpiece of its strategy, look no further than Sun Microsystems.  

At Sun, the sales training group does not have sufficient budget or hours to meet all the training needs of sales professionals. The training group also wants to make sure sales teams have selling tools at their fingertips with minimal clicks and support in the field, and by making it possible for subject matter experts to share valuable information with peers worldwide.

By thoughtfully implementing a social learning environment called Sun Learning eXchange (SLX), the training function found an effective way to "do more with less."




What Did They Do?

  1. Conduct a Needs Analysis. Discussions and interactions with hundreds of field personnel revealed that sales teams needed more support and that they like to get information through TOI, or Transfer of Information, a practice of informal product demos and data sharing. Sales teams wanted to be able to access such peer-provided content and share best practices while in the field, right before a sales call.
  2. Design an Open, Informal Learning Environment. Sun wanted a solution that would be fast, accessible, easy to use, and functional on both desktops and mobile devices. Most of the system was built in-house using open source tools, and the online content delivery network was outsourced. The entire solution was built for $60,000.
  3. Viral Rollout. A beta testing phase served as stealth buzz marketing, as early users showed off the content they'd posted on their new tool. A few high-profile internal bloggers also posted items about SLX. SLX team members also worked the management angle, up to and including the CEO, doing demos for business owners to talk about power of the tool.

What Changed?

  1. One week after launch, there were 3,338 unique users (employees and contractors) from 51 countries; 19,508 content views; and 315 pieces of new content uploaded. 
  2. Uploaded content doubled in two weeks, beating the goal by 10 weeks. Less than a month after launch, SLX has been accessed by more than 6,750 unique users in 82 countries, with 42,941 page views during 9,637 visits. 
  3. Today, the system receives up to an average of 100 pieces of new content uploaded daily, making it one of the most frequently used learning programs across the company.



Enterprise Social Software is changing the face of corporate learning. The Sun Learning eXchange is a great example of how companies can leverage this technology to build highly effective portals for sharing and distributing just-in-time information and training.



 Want to know more? Check out our extensive case study on the Sun Learning eXchange here.


Dani Johnson

Dani Johnson, Vice President, Learning & Development Research, writes about the evolving L&D function. Specifically, she focuses on the necessary changes in how L&D approaches its responsibilities and allocates its resources (people, time, and money) to have a lasting effect on both organizations and individuals.

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