Lance Yoder
Program Manager, Cerner, Lance Yoder

Many companies talk about collaboration but fail to execute. Content has a lot to do with that. To actually do collaboration well, a content strategy must combine with both technology and a culture truly open to collaboration. For Lance Yoder, Program Manager at Cerner, collaboration must involve analyzing current content consumption and figuring out how technology can help Cerner do it better. And when you consider Cerner is a global health company that helps optimize processes and eliminate error for healthcare providers and consumers, the stakes for successful collaboration through content are high.

Using a social collaboration platform called Jive, Cerner currently hosts about 8,500 groups consisting of both clients and associates who have formed communities to share information and ideas. “We’re always thinking of ways to make the collaboration experience more personal,” says Yoder.

In this interview, Yoder shares some ideas and examples from Cerner’s successful collaboration adoption across 13,000 employees, and how to both start and maintain content-driven collaboration momentum at an enterprise.

When increasing collaboration among employees, clients, and peer groups, why does content matter so much?

For people to meaningfully collaborate, they need to collaborate around a purpose such as an idea, a document, or a blog post. The most successful communities on our collaboration platforms may not think their activities constitute a content strategy, but they think about what their audience wants and regularly produce content to meet those needs. Without content, why collaborate?

After crystallizing the group’s purpose and audience, we always suggest that a group select someone primarily responsible for regularly publishing content and documents. Without content, collaboration dies. That includes responding. If people join a group or someone asks a question, someone needs to respond in a timely manner so that people see and experience a vital, active community.

Talk about a successful content collaboration effort that had a significant impact on Cerner.

The SolutionWorks Support Group, a group run and managed by some of Cerner’s helpdesk personnel, provides information to clients with questions about our solutions. Since Cerner offers over 100 solutions, the SolutionWorks Support Group serves as an excellent portal for clients. In fact, we tell clients to join the SolutionWorks Support Group as one of the first steps in our relationship.

Since clients receive answers to questions without submitting a formal helpdesk ticket, the SolutionWorks Support Group saves Cerner time and money. We save even more time as past questions and answers accrue. Like a library, people can look up answers to their questions by reviewing discussion histories about particular topics.

How do you sustain content collaboration over time so that it doesn’t fizzle out?

First, receive buy-in and approval at the executive level. Many of our most active social collaboration platform users include executives, VPs, directors, and mid-managers. That activity from the top encourages all associates to become more active.

Second, you need to provide resources and staff behind your collaboration efforts. Our development team continually adds collaboration platform enhancements such as features requested by users or new visual themes.

Third, a company needs the right culture for collaboration. Although Cerner approaches 13,000 people, Cerner still remains entrepreneurial. That means a culture of collaboration and innovation where people like to work on new things and explore ideas. For an entrepreneurial company that likes to share information, content collaboration becomes second nature.

How have social media and mobile devices affected content collaboration?

On the whole, social media and mobility helps foster collaboration. At Cerner, we encourage people to use social media, and people now expect it in the workplace. But it also continues to challenge us, in a good way, because people expect to share information as easily as sharing content on Facebook and Twitter. On the whole, that’s a positive development, but it keeps us on our toes. We must make sure that people’s experiences on our collaboration platforms are as easy-to-use as possible.

Given the plethora of content collaboration technology solutions and tools, what technologies have worked best for you?

We use four key content collaboration applications that help serve different needs.

uCern Connect. This is our Jive platform, with some customization, where people collaborate around any topic and gather input from others. With uCern Connect, they form groups, post documents, create blog posts, share videos, and talk to each other. It received over a million hits in the first quarter of 2013, up about 14% from this time last year.

uCern Wiki. Our wiki is based on Confluence, along with some customization. We worked hard to inform our associates and clients that the wiki stores controlled documentation, reference or help information, and standard process documents. We’ve seen a huge growth (1.1 million visits, a 76% increase over the first quarter of 2012) in the number of wiki pages and amount of use by both our clients and associates. For example, all of Cerner’s HR information now resides in the wiki, and people now know that’s the place to retrieve all HR information. We consider that a successful cultural shift enabled by a content collaboration platform.

(Successful is right. Check out this infographic showing indicators of success for uCern Connect and the uCern Wiki.)

uCern Infographic

(Now let’s turn our attention to two more important uCern collaboration applications.)

uCern Organizations If uCern Connect functions at the individual level, then uCern Organizations takes the capabilities of uCern Connect to the client and organization level. For example, let’s say I work at a hospital and I want to find another hospital similar to me with the same number of beds, patients, and other parameters. uCern Organizations allows me to find and connect with Cerner clients that match my criteria.

uCern Search Finding information poses one of the biggest challenges in any content collaboration platform. We created a separate search application that integrates into uCern Connect. I can type in a search term and filter it by criteria such as videos-only or specific groups. We educate people about appropriately tagging content because that will impact search. If a content collaboration platform grows in size and scope, getting to the information is key. Content collaboration can’t work without good search.

As Yoder points out, content-driven collaboration does not magically work with a simple content strategy or a cool technology tool. It requires a systematic approach combining strategy, technology, implementation, executive buy-in, and a collaboration-ready culture. Recruit all the right stakeholders before creating your content collaboration strategy and investing in the technology to make it happen.

Curious? Check out uCern for yourself. 

Originally published on the now-archived Content Science blog in June 2013.

The Authors

Content Science is a growing content strategy and intelligence company based and the publisher of Content Science Review. We empower digital enterprises for the content era by taking their content approach to the next level. Customers of our professional services and one-of-a-kind products (such as ContentWRX and Content Science Academy) include the Fortune 50, the world’s largest nonprofits, and the most trusted government agencies.


Lance Yoder is a Sr. Team Lead, CTS uCern, with Cerner Corporation in Kansas City, Mo. He manages a team of consultants for uCern, Cerner’s social business platform for engaging employees, clients and partners, as well as creating the content strategy for additional public-facing applications. In his 10 years at Cerner, he has also worked in marketing communications, solutions marketing and internal communications roles.

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