Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Key to a Successful Social Business is Social Everywhere

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The keyword 'social' is undoubtedly top of of mind for many people. It seems it's harder and harder every day to go by without hearing the words Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn in your job, in the media, in the bus, in the subway, or wherever else you go. Hollywood has even taken this to the big stage with the movie The Social Network . And while the words 'social' and 'social software' may come up often, they could mean different things to different people. Some think of 'social software' as a way to waste time. Others view it as a way to collaborate with friends and peers. Others see it as dangerous because it makes content sharing too easy.

Nevertheless, consumer social networking sites such as Facebook are widely considered a success for its power to connect people and make it easier to market products. It begs the questions

  • "Is there any value to bring social collaboration technologies into my Enterprise?"
  • "Can I use Web 2.0 technologies inside the firewall to effectively transform my organization into a Social Business?"

This entry describes the importance of social technologies to your organization, common challenges faced when deploying these, the importance of a 'social everywhere' strategy and what tools are available to achieve this mission.

Why Is Social Important To Your Organization?

This past decade has been a difficult one on many fronts. Starting in 2001 the global economy has suffered and it's just now showing some signs of recovery, though painfully slow. Businesses have found themselves trying to rapidly adjust to the market demands. Some of those businesses have found, however, that they are not agile enough and can't adapt as fast as they would like to respond to emerging opportunities. It's time to take action and position your organization for growth as the global economy slowly comes out of its downturn.

The following sub-sections describe steps to take to position your company for growth.

Step 1: Accelerate Innovation - Increase Productivity

In order to position your organization for growth, we need to understand what are they key areas to focus on. An imperative way to drive growth is to accelerate innovation and ensure that you innovate faster than your competitors. Apple is a great example of this. They've seen huge success in the last 3 years because they've innovated a lot faster than their biggest competitor: Microsoft. While Apple still has a lot of work to do to catch up on market share, their revenue and profit numbers are certainly impressive. Apple has also been able to surpass Microsoft and has become the biggest technology company based on market capitalization.

In a survey of global CEO's, 98% of those CEOs said they need to restructure the way their organizations work. 5.3 hours are wasted per employee per week due to inefficient processes. Additionally, two hours are spent per employee per day looking for the right information and expertise within an organization.

Often times, information within an enterprise lives in silos. Therefore, the usefulness of this information is not maximized across the organization. Many companies have deployed team sites in the hopes that employees would dump their wisdom in these sites. However, each part of the organization, down to the department level, uses different places for document storage. This leads to fragmentation of the corporation as a whole and it means that employees must do a lot more work to individually search across these information silos. Inevitably, this leads to employee frustration and because they can't find the information they need, they need to "re-invent the wheel" and recreate the intellectual capital which already exists.

This is the where social software for the enterprise first comes in. Social software inside the enterprise helps accelerate innovation and increase productivity. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, for example, deployed IBM social software to bring speed and effectiveness to the organization.

Step 2: Rapidly Develop Workforce Skills and Capabilities

IBM recently released the 2010 Global Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) Study. The study highlights major challenges faced by organizations that could prevent growth. One of them is ensuring that the right employees with the right skills are allocated to the right projects. In fact, organizations classified as financial outperformers are 47% more likely to rate themselves as effective in workforce allocation.

Additionally, CHROs feel there are three critical capabilities they need to provide but feel its beyond their ability to achieve: developing future leaders, rapidly developing workforce skills and capabilities, and fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration. There are various reasons why CHROs feel they are not able to address this, as cited in the study:

Embedding creativity, agility, and speed, however, won't be easy. A number of boundaries -- functional, cultural, geographical, generational, and informational -- constrain workforce productivity and prevent enterprises from realizing their full potential. Organizations must overcome these borders to address emerging opportunities, whenever, wherever, and however they arise.

At the employee level, it's often left up to the employee to do self training or figure out which courses to take. Companies also struggle to both find and nurture effective future leaders. A U.K. HR director said "Our leaders currently rise to the top by chance, not design. We need to foster talent." Try as they might, organizations don't have a clear view of who's who in an organization.

Social software behind the firewall is the right solution in this case. Whether users decide to blog, write wikis, share files, participate in discussion forums, join/participate in communities, their intellectual capital is captured in one single place: their profile. This profile is fully searchable and discoverable making it easier to identify individuals for the right job. At the same time, employees can effectively learn from each other and discover topics that they may be interested in and even career opportunities that best match their interests, skills, and capabilities. This informal learning (also called social learning in the enterprise) is critical to empower employees to rapidly develop the skills they need for the job they want.

Sogeti, a Capgemini subsidiary that specializes in technology services, deployed IBM social software because it wanted to ensure that its consultants had the right skills for the projects they needed to staff. Additionally, it made it easier to identify the consultant that had the right skills and experience for a particular project.

Step 3: Break Down Existing Silos

For some time now, organizations may have been following knowledge management principles where everything is tightly controlled and centered around documents. Individual business units, departments or divisions may have chosen their own way of collaborating around documents. This often means different technology products sitting disconnected from the rest of the enterprise, and perhaps not even accessible by everyone in the enterprise.

Organizations need to develop the infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, culture required to stimulate innovation and enhance operation efficiency and effectiveness. The 2010 Global Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) Study clearly concludes that the best way to achieve this is by encouraging the formation and use of cross-organization communities around strategic business topics, solicit and recognize fresh insights and new thinking from internal and external sources, and create value through the systematic capture and reuse of individual work outcomes.

Cultural and organizational silos often compromise the ability of companies to share information across functional boundaries. A senior vice president of HR of a North American company said: "We need to know our stuff and be self-reliant, to solve problems cross-functionally and to fully leverage our talent and ideas".

An enterprise-wide social collaboration platform can easily break down organizational and collaboration silos and unite your workforce. It can give your workforce the tools necessary to form and track communities of practices, share and re-use intellectual capital, and lead idea capture. Additionally, it can even break down the barriers between employees and customers. Sennheiser, a leading manufacturer of headphones, microphones, and other audio equipment, recently deployed IBM social software to more effectively connect the workers across the organization. The platform enabled the company to build a single global collaboration solution among customer support representatives, audio engineers and global experts. Using the solution, the company started to build a single knowledge base. Team members can now instantly access detailed information about a performer’s equipment requirements and a venue’s technical specifications. Global RF specialists exchange their knowledge, ideas, and suggestions over blogs and wikis.

Common Enterprise Challenges with Social - If You Build It, Will They Come?

A key challenge here is determining who has ultimate responsibility for driving information sharing within an organization to effectively break down these information silos. Dion Hinchcliffe, founder and chief technology officer for the Enterprise Web 2.0 advisory and consulting firm Hinchcliffe & Co, recently wrote that it doesn't have to be a C-level executive. However, he does emphasize that while strong executive leadership is a key success factor, it's really critical that a group of forward-thinking leaders from across the organization get together and drive the organizational and culture transformation:

It really takes a village, or more properly, an forward-looking organization that is trying to recalibrate itself around the way that the way that the world seems to be shifting. That shift, the fast-moving and global world of sharing, participating, and openness that is social media at its finest, is one in which smart organizations will pull together their best internal leaders to proactively make themselves better. This will get the ideas, innovation, and knowledge into the right places at the right times to the benefit of customers, shareholders, and ultimately, you and I.

Hinchcliffe is not alone. According to CMSWire, the biggest challenge in transforming your organization into a Social Business is adoption.

You can't expect to build a Social Business solution and pray to the gods that employees will use it. It just won't work. As stated above, Social Business aims to break down silos, connect employees, and increase productivity and this is only achieved if the employees believe and use the system. Social Business is about leveraging the wisdom of the crowds. Social Business is about leveraging each other's work and ideas. Without people, the system breaks down.

Questions to think about:

  • What can I do to engage users on day 1?
  • What can I do to keep users engaged?
  • How can I increase trust in the system

Importance of Social Everywhere

Today's workers are under extreme pressure to meet deadlines. It's unreasonable to expect that they'll have to take the time to learn new tools and figure out ways to incorporate it into their business process. Therefore, it's essential that these new collaboration technologies are weaved into existing business processes. If employees can collaborate from their existing tools without needing to open a browser, sign on, and consume/share content separately then it's more likely that the employees will participate more and rely on it. You want to drive your employees to social software, not away from it.

In real estate, it's all about location, location, location. When considering a Social Business deployment for your organization, you must think about integration, integration, integration. Think about this: where do your employees do most of the work? In e-mail? Mobile? In spreadsheets? In documents? Most likely, your employees are creating intellectual capital and doing their day-to-day tasks in a particular application that's not the browser. Therefore, why not bring the tools to the employee instead of waiting for the employee to come to the tool?

CMSWire recently published an article where it highlights the importance of integrating your Enterprise 2.0 solution with existing tools and processes.

Enterprise 2.0 tools don’t live in a vacuum, in fact, far from it. They have to be integrated within the fabric of your organization as it exists today. [...] You might think that you can roll out an Enterprise 2.0 tool without integrating it anywhere or with anything. However, beware of creating an information silo (or additional information silos).

Consequently, Social Everywhere is important because it will:

  • make the best-of-breed collaboration tools available to all employees everywhere, anywhere, anytime
  • make it easier for your employees to collaborate, share and re-use intellectual capital
  • help your realize value from an organizational transformation faster
  • keep end-users engaged
  • simplify the process of exchanging information
  • bring the tools to the end users
  • create trust
  • increase productivity

In all, a Social Everywhere strategy is about driving and sustaining adoption which accelerates the rate at which ROI is achieved and surpassed.

How to Drive Social Everywhere

IBM's Social Collaboration Platform is ideal to drive the social everywhere strategy you need. Ever since it was made available to customers 4 years ago, it has focused on integration as a key method to drive and sustain adoption. Through it's App Catalog, IBM currently provides integration plug-ins for:

It's critical that you don't forget about your mobile workforce. These are probably the first to realize value from a Social Business solution. IBM's Social Collaboration Platform is accessible via mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and Nokia S devices, and the like without additional plugins. RIM provides a native application for BlackBerry devices. ilionx has built a native iPhone / iPad application for Connections.

The following images show some of the integration points available today for free.

Figure 1. If your employees are already connected to your portal, then you can surface IBM Connections directly in their context

Figure 2. Microsoft SharePoint surfaced within IBM Connections where you can upload and download files directly through IBM Connections which effectively destroys those Microsoft SharePoint silos you have.

Figure 3. Bringing IBM Connections content to Microsoft SharePoint

Figure 4. IBM Connections available on your mobile device

Figure 5: Microblogging from your email client

Figure 6: Sharing documents directly from Microsoft Word

The integration points provided by IBM's Social Collaboration Platform are endless and it's impossible to cover all of them in this entry. Hopefully, this provides a sneak peek into all the integration options available which will be key to drive and sustain adoption of your new Social Busines platform.


In adopting IBM Connections technology, the ABS is in very good company. Over 35% of Fortune 100 companies have also adopted IBM's social software offerings.

According to the IDC Worldwide Social Platforms Revenues by Vendors, 2007-2009, June 2010, IBM was named the worldwide market share leader in the Social Software Market, which includes IBM Connections. The IDC report states that worldwide revenue for the social platforms market was $369.7 million in 2009, representing growth of more than 55 percent. Gartner has classified IBM's social platform as a Leader in their Social Platform Magic Quadrant of October 2010.

Thus, if you are ready to transform your company and get it ready for the new growth opportunities in this new decade, look no further than at IBM's Social Collaboration Platform.

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