Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Celebrating Social Media Week: Our Big Blue Social Business

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Remember the logo, that curvy red “e” that mimicked the “@” symbol, which came to represent what IBM meant by the idea of “e-business” back in the late 1990s?

Starting in 1997, the IBM e-business logo signaled IBM's focus on helping organizations transform themselves using Internet technologies. It's now helping them pursue similar transformations with "social business" adoption.

Well, imagine replacing it with a curvy “s” instead and calling it “social business” instead, and you’d have a pretty good symbol for describing IBM’s social transformation inside the company, as well as the market it’s helping to make for other companies and organizations around the globe to follow suit.

IBM: The Social Case Study

As we celebrate “Social Media Week,” I wanted to write a post to let people know some details and facts behind IBM’s social transformation. As the largest consumer of social technologies, IBM is a case study for this transformation into a social business.

This goes beyond IBM’s business in social software and services (IBM’s collaboration software, consulting services, analytics/social media research, conducting Jams for clients).  IBM is leading social business on all fronts – technology, policy and practice.

IBM takes social networking seriously —  to develop products and services, to enable sellers to find and stay connected with clients, to train the next generation of leaders, and to build awareness of Smarter Planet among clients, influencers and other communities.

What’s Past Is Social Prologue

IBM’s social media activity dates back to the 1970’s when its mainframe programmers started online discussion forums on the System 370 consoles. For 15 years, IBM employees have used social software to foster collaboration among our dispersed 400,000 person team — long before Generation Y became fixated with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

I remember, because when I joined the company in 1991, I used to collaborate with fellow employees in other locations via IBM’s internal mainframe.

Then, in 1997, IBM recommended that its employees get out onto the Internet, at a time when many companies were seeking to restrict their employees’ Internet access (I’d gotten on the commercial Internet starting in 1993 myself).

In 2005, the company made a strategic decision to embrace the blogosphere and to encourage IBMers to participate (I started this blog in June 2005).

In 2007, IBM launched its own social networking software for the enterprise: IBM  Connections. My team now uses Connections to collaborate and coordinate work literally around the globe. I’m not quite sure how we got along without it (but we used to say the same thing about email!)

This is a screenshot from an IBM Connections Community that I use to manage a workgroup of people who attend a weekly call I've been holding for nearly six years now. The Connections community streamlines the time I have to take to manage basic details for the call, ranging from communicating where files are located to highlighting the call-in number. In short, I'd be lost without it, and be much less productive in my day-to-day work!

In early 2008, IBM introduced social computing guidelines to encompass virtual worlds and sharing of rich media. (Remember Second Life?? Yeah, me neither…well, kind of.)

And later that year, IBM opened its IBM Center for Social Software to help IBM’s global network of researchers collaborate with corporate residents, university students and faculty, creating the industry’s premier incubator for the research, development and testing of social software that is “fit for business”.

Social Business Means Business Change

Here’s a profound stat: According to Gartner, in 2010, only five percent of organizations took advantage of social/collaborative customer action to improve service processes.

IBM sees social media morphing into what we view as a key requirement for “social business” — as tools for organizational productivity and culture change, for engaging with diverse constituencies of clients and experts, and for spurring revenue growth and innovation for our global workforce.

Today, IBM views itself as one of the most prolific users of social networking in the industry with one of the largest corporate-wide communities on social media sites.

Some examples of IBM’s internal social media footprint today include the following:

  • 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 400k Sametime instant messaging users, resulting in 40-50 million instant messages per day

The screen above has become one quite familiar to IBMers around the world. "LotusLive" emeetings have become commonplace, helping employees across multiple geographical locations come together in real-time and virtual space to meet and get work done!

If you were to glance outside IBM on the social media external to the company, you’d find a continued and expansive footprint of IBM participants:

  • Over 25,000 IBMers actively tweeting on Twitter and counting
  • Approximately 300,00 IBMers on Linkedin. This number is growing at 24%/year, which gives IBM the largest employee presence of any firm on the platform.
  • Approximately 198,000 IBMers on Facebook

Putting Social Into Action

Our social business initiatives have had a profound impact on IBM’s business processes and transformation. By way of example, well before the phrases “Web 2.0″ or “social media” came into being, IBM was using online jams to drive business initiatives and values development across the company.

As our own CEO Sam Palmisano explained, “Jams have helped change our culture and the fundamental way we collaborate across our business.”  We’ve conducted jams both for IBM and our clients, including the Innovation Jam in 2006 which led directly to the development of the business opportunities that preceded our Smarter Planet agenda.

So, from that perspective, it becomes evident a massive internal social exercise that allowed the employees of IBM identify a major strategic shift for the company!

When’s the last time you let your employee base determine a massive strategic direction that your company was about to take??

Human Resources Are Inherently Social

IBM’s HR hasn’t been untouched by the social business evolution. Our HR professionals use social media for tech-enabled recruiting (think LinkedIn), employee education, sales training and leadership development.

By way of example, IBM relies on social media for leadership development from the first day on the job.  IBM’s Succeeding@IBM makes new hires become part of a social group for the first 6-12 months, so that they can get better acculturated into IBM with other new hires.

In 2006, hundreds of thousands of IBMers came together in a 72-hour virtual jam to help identify the emerging business opportunities that came to represent IBM's "Smarter Planet" initiative. This was "crowdsourcing" of a massive scale, and led to over $100M in internal investments in these important new business opportunities.

In point of fact, IBM’s recent study of 700 Global Chief Human Resource Officers found that  financial outperformers (as measured by EBIDTA) are 57 percent more likely than underperformers to use collaborative and social networking tools to enable global teams to work more effectively together and 21 percent of companies have recently increased the amount they invest in the collaboration tools and analytics despite the economic downturn.

Most recently, we’ve launched an internal initiative entitled “Social Business @ IBM” on our intranet which serves as a resource for IBMers to better educate themselves about social media and various social initiatives taking place internally, while also helping enable them to participate in the broader social media.

We also host modules that provide the IBMer with an introduction to the social web, where they learn how to use social computing tools to foster collaboration, develop networks, and forge closer relationships…with people who are often halfway around the globe!

Social = Transformational

When people tell me they still have to go into an office my response is, “How primitive.”  Don’t get me wrong, I love to press the flesh, but I’ve found that in this flatter earth, increasingly globalized realm, where my colleagues and I have to work all different hours, the question that always comes to me is “Who has time to waste sitting in a car?!!!”

But more importantly, the social business evolution I’ve witnessed at IBM is truly transformational.  When I started work at IBM in the summer of 1991 as a greenhorn intern, we DID go to an office every day and we DID have meetings face to face all the time and I DID wear a white shirt and blue tie.

These days, I can’t remember the last time I went into the IBM office, and yet I feel more connected and more productive than ever.  Why?  Well, I won’t lie, even if I sound like a commercial — the IBM technologies, from our IBM Lotus Sametime Instant Messaging to Lotus Notes and IBM Connections largely remove time and geography from the productivity equation.

But I would suggest there’s an even more transformational thought at work: IBM now trusts its employees in ways it never did before, and the democratization that social tools brought forth has also brought us a democratization in decision-making.

I now make front line decisions that, 20 years ago, would have been driven through a host of hierarchies and managers at a pace that likely would have been acceptable in terms of those times.

Today, such delays would be completely unacceptable and even uncompetitive, as decisions often need to be made instantly. But based on both the technological and cultural transformation within IBM, that’s okay, I’m expected and trusted to make those decisions.

And finally, social business, like social media, is also just plain more fun.

It’s as if these tools enable you to have the whole world at your fingertips.  And that makes for a smarter planet and  a smarter, more competitive IBM.

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One Response

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  1. Great post! Would like to add IBM Press books that cover the topic in depth.

    Publishing this week – Get Bold by Sandy Carter.
    The Social Factor by Maria Azua
    Web 2.0 and Social Networking for the Enterprise by Joey Bernal

    All great content!

    Ellice

    September 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm


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