Upcoming Florida show to highlight social networking IBM style—social business tools that are secure and support initiatives that are measureable.
Lotusphere will open this weekend in Orlando, Florida, and those fortunate enough to attend will get a look at IBM's next generation software for social business networking now known as "social business."
Conference organizers expect a good turnout of application developers along with the usual collection of business executives, managers, and IT managers. Of course anyone who uses Lotus products or is considering adopting Lotus products will be there. And those who want to get a hands-on feel for the new IBM Customer Experience Suite will be there. It runs from January 30--February 3 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.
Organizers are calling the nascent social business a "new business model" and have, with Wired Magazine, planned a two-day IBM Social Business Industries Symposium encouraging people to jump into social networking. As the website suggests, "becoming a social business might be the key to staying in business." The promise is that by attending the conference, you will discover the secrets of "social success."
IBM commissioned a study last year that surveyed some 700 top human resources executives in 61countries. The conclusion? A number of impediments are restricting organizations from matching resources to opportunities. As the pace of business increases in the wake of the long recession, companies are being challenged finding future leaders, rapidly developing workforce skills, and effectively collaborating and sharing knowledge, the study concludes.
Among the more interesting findings from the study is one suggesting that financially outperforming organizations are 57 percent more likely to allow their employees to use social networking and collaborative tools than those less successful. Apparently employees are using these social networking tools to "spread innovation."
In his State of the Union speech this week, President Obama told the nation that the U.S. must "...out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world." As world economies struggle to emerge from the recession, it seems the need for innovation and education are central themes to address unemployment and deficits all the way from the board room to the White House. Personally, I liked the line in his speech in which he said, "In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives, it is how we make our living."
Barriers between countries are not so different from barriers between different departments in the organization. In a transnational organization, there may be barriers of geography, departments, language, business, and information technology. I constantly hear about silos within IT between the .NET people, the UNIX folks, and the IBM i administrators and developers. No one understands or appreciates the other camp--and they don't want to. Unfortunately, this mindset is one that most businesses can no longer afford to support.
Apart from a new generation of workers entering the workforce who are savvy about Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the management of leading organizations understand that the range and capabilities of social tools are having an effect on their brands and their sales. Businesses are finding new ways to use this new form of advocacy in which people "Like" someone or some product and can be a "Friend" with a brand or company. Organizations are beginning to realize that their level of success can be altered by the interactions and relationships provided by social networking tools.
The effect on the organization of social business is, according to IBM Lotus, is having an impact on a broad range of professions, and Lotusphere organizers are using that to attract a broader spectrum of attendees to this year's event. We're not just talking email here, we're looking at a whole new way of doing business that is based on establishing trust between people who have never yet met, but who may be recommended, or linked, to a known party. The concept is appealing to marketers who see taking the idea of a utilizing a database to sell products to a higher and more useful level. As such, Lotusphere is now appealing to:
- Business Leaders who are looking for new and innovative ways of attaining value from collaboration
- Marketing Leaders and Agency Heads who can add social capabilities to their set of tools used to gain insight into customer needs so as to develop new products, services and business models. Expect to learn about new technologies to help build digital brand strategies and orchestrate new business techniques.
- Customer Service Managers will learn about new software that can embed knowledge sharing into the software's tools. Knowing what areas of interest co-workers in a large organization have, what communities you share, and what people and information topics you are following can be helpful in keeping current with a fast-paced organization.
- Human Resources Professionals can learn how to boost teamwork and productivity as well as ensure their organizations are attracting and retaining employees with key social skills. Expect to hear about companies who have boosted participation in company blogs, blog comments, and facilitated the creation of employee groups with common interests all through social networking.
- Application Development Professionals will get a chance to network with thought leaders and business partners and get a better idea of how organizations are using social capabilities to fuel innovations and helping to improve current products while dreaming up new ones. Learning about the new IBM Customer Experience Suite is reason enough for developers to attend.
In a white paper IBM Lotus published last spring called, Measuring the Value of Social Software, Defining a Measurement Approach that Maps Activity to Business Value, the company addresses ways to measure the effectiveness and value of a social software initiative, what tools can capture key metrics, and what to consider when establishing a measurement approach. Among the most common business uses for social software include helping organizations:
- Work more effectively across countries and time zones
- Bring together expertise from multiple sites and countries
- Reduce travel costs
- Bring innovations to market faster
- Deliver projects faster
- Resolve problems quicker
- Retain experience of employees leaving the company
- Acclimate new hires faster
- Build communities of practice to share knowledge
- Improve retention
- Foster closer relations with customers and suppliers
Measuring a social business system involves quantifying values within the company that may not have been measured before including vitality, capability, and business value. Vitality, for instance, measures user activities, such as number of blog postings. Capability might measure how the social software tools, for instance, help find solutions to problems faster. Business value might be a measurement of an organization's key value indicators, such as how quickly a new product can be brought to market.
Lotusphere this year promises to be a great show because it seems that the time is ripe for the collaboration message that IBM Lotus has been sounding for some time now, but only a limited number of companies have been hearing. And with security at sites like Facebook in serious question as even CEO Mark Zuckerberg's fan page gets hacked, products from IBM Lotus, that offer a much higher level of security, can have nothing but reassuring appeal to companies that want to become social businesses but don't want the risks associated with public social networks.