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July 20 2011 Posted by: Mark Fidelman in: Enterprise 2.0

Want to See the Future of Social Business?

There are executives who are social and there are executives who are anti-social. There are executives who do social well and executives that don’t. Some claim to be leading social organizations, and there are those that boast that they are not.  There are executives who have thousands of followers, and there are executives that have none. 

There are social executives that say, “Trust me” or “Admire me,” that tweet, “Believe me” or “Look at me,” or that yell, “Follow me.” But there are very few executives, only a fraction, who are actually creating next-generation social experiences for their companies like Jeff Schick

The IBM executive doesn’t just leverage social business solutions, he and his team create them. 

“We started well over 15 years ago. We’ve been thinking about how to better connect people with people and people with information in terms of IBM itself,” Schick says, “the idea of getting the right person over the right opportunity at the right time to yield the right result was genuinely a business imperative at IBM.” 

IBM Connections Profiles

And the imperative has been in the IBM social laboratory ever since.  It’s been a big blue flame ignited by the IBM Bunsen burner that is feeding off the social oxygen being pumped into the IBM corridors.  The results have been mixed, but the more successful experiments are being incorporated into IBM’s product roadmap.

So, true to IBM’s founding principles, Schick and team seem to be following Thomas Watsons advice, “Once an organization loses its spirit of pioneering and rests on its early work, its progress stops.”

IBMs Social Business Stats

Internal

External

  • 17,000 individual blogs
  • 1 million daily page views of internal wikis, internal information storing websites
  • 400,000 employee profiles on IBM Connections, IBM’s initial social networking initiative that allows employees to share status updates, collaborate on wikis, blogs and activity, share files.
  • 15,000,000 downloads of employee-generated videos/podcasts
  • 20 million minutes of LotusLive meetings every month with people both inside and outside the organization
  • More than 400,000 Sametime instant messaging users, resulting in 40-50 million instant messages per day
  • 29,000 communities
  • Over 25,000 IBM employees actively tweeting on Twitter
  • Over 300,000 IBM employees on Linkedin
  • Approx. 198,000 IBM employees on Facebook

 

Social Chemistry: Where Every Employee is a Social Scientist

If you’re wondering what it means to be a social business, here’s one litmus test anyone can take: does everyone in the organization have permission to speak to customers on behalf of the organization? If the paper turns blue, you’re definitely a social business.  If not, then your company’s Social pH levels may need some adjustment.

At Big Blue, the company encourages the use of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs to support their sales, communication, marketing and recruiting efforts.  While employee’s social interactions are not under a microscope, the experiments in social on a massive scale have led to a set of social business conduct guidelines that govern their employees’ social interactions. Schick advises that you need to establish behavior standards for employees to follow.

The IBM Social laboratory is also using gamification and crowdsourcing principles to reduce the cost of internal projects.  Schick cited a language translation and localization effort for product manuals that typically cost the company millions. Yet IBM was able to significantly reduce the expense and increase accuracy by awarding points to employees who helped translate the documents.  Employees with the highest point totals earned money for their charities.  

IBM’s Social Chromatograph

Separating IBM’s social activity streams and analyzing behaviors is a big focus for IBM.  Schick explains, “Social analytics is playing a huge role in not just making recommendations of content, people and communities, but in recommending what an organization need do to better its financial results.  By using Cognos Consumer Insight technology, we’ve got detailed insight into the interaction of people and content.”   

IBM is also utilizing a social network analysis technology called Atlas.  Think of Atlas as both a map and periodic table of social elements, used to determine how people interact.  “It can mine who’s reading who’s blog, who is subscribing to who’s social bookmarks and who is subscribing to specific communities,” explains Schick, “It can identify and draw relationships between people and how they collaborate by analyzing instant messaging, Notes Domino, Outlook Exchange and other messaging solutions.” 

 

It’s important to note that IBMs privacy policy doesn’t allow this type of social networking analysis without the employee opting in.  

Predicative Analytics

Just as it’s important for chemists to predict the chemical reactions that take place when chemicals are combined, it’s equally important to predict social interactions and how people might change.  No one wants an explosive reaction, people much prefer to anticipate and negate the negative reactions while promoting the positive.  

That is pretty much the reason IBM acquired SPSS in late 2009.  Schick explains, “From my perspective, we’re back to making better informed decisions to derive greater value, better results and better customer satisfaction.  That’s an important aspect of the role predictive analytics will play as social analytics evolve.”

When IBM integrates their Cognos Consumer Insight solution with IBM Connections, they are able to conduct sentiment analysis across their communities, blogs, activities, discussion forums, and micro-blogs to determine if projects are going well or not.  Add Atlas technology to the mix, and IBM can also analyze sentiment in email.  With that powerful concoction, predicting the viability of internal projects will get easier. 

Mobile as Usual

“Every single thing we do includes ‘and mobile’ or ‘with mobile’. So everything IBM is doing in the area of social business is accessible through mobile devices.  Connection’s entire technology, every application and service is available on the iPhone, Android device or Blackberry,” Schick said, “In order to be a great solution, you’ve got to introduce mobile capacity in communities, sharing documents, search, and interacting with people.”

But the most extraordinary and in some ways most appealing, is the ability for IBM to capture analytics on their employee’s use of mobile devices.  Admittedly, it sounds Orwellian, but some believe an employee’s true social network is best determined by who and where they call and text on mobile devices. Assuming IBM’s opt-in privacy policy extends to mobile, consider the information that can be derived from mapping out a company’s mobile social graph. It’s a brave new mobile world.   

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So Why does IBM Represent the Future of Social Business?

Becoming a social business is hard.  In reality, a struggle.  Fortunately there are companies like IBM that can afford to experiment with cultural and technological – social transformation while the rest of us observe and learn.  

So why do they do it? Since they are both an early adopter and creator of social technologies, they’ve learned that content management, business process management, collaboration, commerce and analytics must all be combined with a social layer to create a universal and unified solution.  Consequently, IBM recognizes and is capitalizing on the market opportunities for these solutions because 400,000 employees have proved it in their corporate laboratory. 

To emphasize the point, Schick said that most of the technologies they bring to market are a direct result of the research and testing they’ve done internally. So IBM does represent the future of Social Business because they are willing to invest, test, fail and succeed in becoming a social business.  

That’s why while everyone else seems to be asking the questions, IBM has the answers.

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