Social Business as a Catalyst of Company Organization

4. Januar 2013 Posted by Lars Basche

This article is a guest post by Axel Oppermann, Market Analyst for the Experton Group.


With the Release of Connections 4, IBM Consolidates Its Position in the Social Business Market

Two general trends are emerging in the use of social business technology today. On the one hand there are initiatives and campaigns driven by companies’ IT, administration, or corporate development departments, which are roughly comparable to project and procurement processes in conventional IT projects. Companies tend to find that the technical implementation of such tools proves less of a challenge than reorganizing the workflows involved. On the other hand, we are seeing social software applications and associated thought patterns spreading virally through companies from various other departments or individual interest groups, generally in a more unstructured fashion. In the first scenario, social business applications are introduced in a planned and controlled manner, while in the second they spread because they offer an immediate and pragmatic way of meeting the specific needs of individual employees or teams. In other words, social tools or so-called Web 2.0 services are introduced and become established as an integral part of the digital workplace in a bottom-up approach. If these products and services are intuitive to use this further encourages wide participation of like-minded users and a rapid spread throughout an organization. Once the “tipping point” has been reached, the applications are integrated with other IT solutions within the company. The tipping point tends to occur when the new users of a social business solutions are particularly influential in terms of a company’s culture, performance etc.

As a result, applications like Jive, Socialtext, Yammer and Tibco are increasingly making their way into the workplace. However, in many cases their capability – in terms of licensing or level of service, for example – is inadequate for use in larger companies or corporation, even if the basic capability is there. Companies need, and are increasingly demanding, social business solutions that are enterprise-ready.


IBM Collaboration Solutions Software (formerly Lotus/Notes): Like a Phoenix from the Ashes

When it comes to collaboration in the widest sense, many users and IT decision-makers all too often still associate IBM with the old-fashioned, inflexible worlds of Lotus/Domino or with falling market shares in the area of groupware solutions, where IBM had to take a few hard knocks in recent years. But in actuality, the picture has changed completely over the last few months and years, and IBM products have become trailblazers in the market for enterprise-ready social business solutions. IBM’s persistent efforts towards facilitating the integration of internal and external collaboration are finally paying off. By rebranding its range of products and services as the “SmartCloud for Social Business,” it has placed them within a larger context. IT managers can now choose between a multi-client capable and a dedicated version and globally distributed data centers. Essential functions can be accessed from most mobile devices and platforms, including iOS, Android and BlackBerry.


A Shining Light: IBM Connections 4

One of the spearheads, or shining lights, in IBM’s portfolio is Connections, an all-round platform for team collaboration, networking and the exchange of knowledge. IBM released the new version 4.0 at the beginning of September.

The new product generation boasts numerous “smart” features that have been updated and expanded with an eye to pragmatism. One of the core features of the new version is the “activity stream,” a function of social software and social networks that allow activities to be syndicated across different social Web applications. The activity stream in Connections 4 not only integrates internal messages such as e-mails, public messages (status updates) and communications relating to specific projects, it can also display news and information from external systems such as SAP and platforms like Xing and Youtube. Users can initiate activities such as workflows directly from the activity stream – offering what IBM describes as “embedded experiences.” As well as making routine tasks much simpler, this kind of integrated information stream also significantly facilitates the process of searching for and analyzing data or solutions, and ultimately enhances users’ trust in these and consequently in their own performance.

Even if IBM likes to claim that the era of the e-mail is over, corporate strategists have recognized the necessity of integrating social business applications into existing e-mail systems. In keeping with its name, IBM Connections Mail accordingly enables a connection to external mail servers like IBM Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange. Users can access their e-mails and calendar without having to switch to another program, and new e-mails and appointments are visible at a glance on the Connections navigation bar. Thanks to these kinds of features, other PIM (Personal Information Manager) front ends are gradually losing importance and are destined to become obsolete.

As well as focusing on a user-friendly linking and display of messages, information and activities, IBM attaches great importance to smooth content management and analytical capabilities in its social business for collaboration solutions. IBM’s many years of experience and its pioneering role in this area have taught the company that social business can only deliver true added value to “the social us” (= working in a team) and “the social me” (personal organization in a dynamic environment) if the three aspects content, analytics and social networking are equally taken into account. 

Over the past few years IBM has attained – or purchased – comprehensive expertise in the area of data analysis and analytics; Cognos and SPSS are just two examples. In Connections, the Metrics function offers detailed analysis and evaluation on the use of IBM Connections applications in a company. Metrics is supported by the analytical capabilities of the IBM Cognos Business Intelligence Server, which is installed as part of Connections, and there are additional search and analysis functions that help make expertise or content available to users quickly and in high quality. 

IBM has also thought hard about a topic that is of particular significance for knowledge workers, namely the compilation and provision of content. IBM developers recognized early on working with documents often involves additional (meta-)information, such as comments. In solutions such as Microsoft’s SharePoint, such meta-information is not linked with the document, so that it is no longer available after the document has been downloaded or sent. In Connections, on the other hand, comments and discussion threads are linked to the respective document, and it is possible to create links to blogs and activities. Connections also includes a tracking function, which allows users sharing files to see when and in what way the relevant files are being accessed – a feature many other currently available solutions do not offer. In short: While the main focus of other solutions is on the document or the process, Connections places more emphasis on the aspects of sharing and expanding users’ knowledge.


SmartCloud for Social Business and Smarter Planet Initiative Offer an Integrated Concept

But IBM’s vision goes beyond individual products like Connections. It is pursuing a much more comprehensive strategy that unites products, solutions and services from various fields and is aimed at both IT managers and decision-makers in other departments such as Human Resources. The breadth of IBM’s social business approach can be seen from its recent acquisition of Kenexa, a US-based company specializing in recruiting and human resource services. The idea is to combine cloud-based applications and consultancy services to help select the best applicants for a certain job or provide human resources managers and company management with the information they need about employees and their skills so they can put together the best team for a specific project. But that is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The SmartCloud for Social Business portfolio offers companies a comprehensive range of collaboration tools to help make day-to-day interactions between coworkers/employees, customers/clients and business partners more effective and more efficient. The strength of SmartCloud for Social Business is that it enables people to work together seamlessly, both within and outside a company structure. IBM follows through on its belief that no man, woman, or company is an island: They are all dependent on others to provide input and accept their output. Moreover, the business process is generally subject to countless influences that go beyond fluctuations in input and output.

With SmartCloud for Social Business, IBM has launched a product that meets three important basic requirements of companies and users: collaboration, messaging, and web conferencing. It is hoping to attract new target groups as well as the “classic”, i.e. existing Lotus Notes users. Even if IBM has stayed true to its concept of repeatedly changing the names of its products during their lifecycle and thus contributing to a lack of transparency, it has not left users with existing Lotus/Domino systems out in the cold, but offers them the possibility of building on and expanding existing solutions, either in local infrastructures or in cloud scenarios. 

However, as already mentioned, IBM is not targeting only the classic clientele. It is hoping to appeal to user companies that work with solutions and platforms from other IT providers, particularly since many other companies are not yet able to offer the “social layer.” That social layer is becoming increasingly important because it allows companies to introduce comprehensive social business models in the workplace. One target group identified by IBM are users of Microsoft SharePoint. Microsoft is the dominant player in the market for office productivity solutions, and SharePoint is the world’s leading platform in this area. However, the “social layer” is conspicuously absent in Microsoft’s current portfolio. IBM can provide that missing social layer with SmartCloud for Social Business in general and Connections in particular. And indeed, more and more businesses are combining SharePoint (2010) with Connections, including well-known companies such as Bayer and Continental. Companies that have decided that SharePoint does not meet their social software requirements and are doubtful about placing their trust in young Internet companies can upgrade their existing platforms with IBM Connections and thus combine the strengths of SharePoint with those of a mature social software suite.

IBM is pursuing a broad strategy built on openness, interoperability and intelligent networking. Its developers have recognized that while networking within and between internal and external communities is important, that alone is not enough: Networking capabilities must, above all, be implemented intelligently and with users’ needs in mind. IBM’s goal is to provide these capabilities so they can be used independently of specific (mobile) devices, information sources or platforms.


Summing up

The social business software and services provided by IBM feature a combination of social networking functions and analytical components that is currently unique in the market and allows companies to gather information and interactively support the dialogues of their employees and customers. IBM’s head start is also reflected in the fact that its approach and solutions to problems and tasks often seem more mature than those of its competitors. Companies should aim to use social business tools more intensively and harness their benefits more effectively. This could give them a distinct competitive edge.

5Cs: Why to embed communities in website strategy

19. Dezember 2012 Posted by Lars Basche


This article is a guest post by Martin Meyer-Gossner. Martin is a web business- and media strategist and founder of The Strategy Web.


One of the main challenges for companies on their way to social business is the questions: Why to integrate communities in corporate websites? In a deeper sense, this question asks how to become a community-centric (and therefore customer-centric) business? And by community-centric we don’t mean collecting (email) addresses, filter and package target-groups in product categories with the mere purpose to spread newsletters or other formats of „inbox-spam“ for the next product launch.

With the rise of cloud communication and the advent of social engagement, inboxes will soon face their downfall anyway. For the digital natives, a generation that by 2020 will make up almost 50% of the global workforce, social networking, SMS and Internet chat will replace emails, landlines and office desks. Just ask IBM and Atos. Millenials want community communication and access to companies through "social portals". So, why not incorporate communities in corporate websites?

Communities enable to engage with the company value chain at the „web point-of-sale“. When customers are in shop already, why not embrace their visions, views and emotions. Why not share those with your partners immediately? Why not display the employees’ authenticity, competence and transparency inside your websites?

Communities demonstrate the company’s modern business culture to work with employees, partners and customers by using the 5Cs of Social Business.


1. Competition: Communities are business catalysts

Corporate communities open up an engaging branded ecosystem for LIKEminded, while still holding all levels of control. This is unlike Facebook and its competitors where design, content, assets and flexibility are limited within the boundaries of the network’s framework. In corporate communities, products and services of the competition are NOT just a LIKE away. Communities in websites lead customers from live conversations to lead generation to inbound upsale, cross-selling and launch tasting. Why not speed up convergence through integrated ecosystem where competitors have to stay outside?


2. Commitment: Communities are guestbooks

In order to foster brand commitment, the corporate community offers the most valuable sources a voice on the website: the ones of employees and partners. But more importantly, customers can give feedback and statements on the woes and wows of products and services at every stage of the development. When the community is connected to the website, commitment of all engaged parties is connected to brands or products. Just like a guest book that offers arguments for differentiation through  ratings, reviews and recommendations – the 3Rs of the social customer. Why would you need to write case studies? And how easy is it to generate, aggregate and curate content via community knowledge? Especially, when guestbooks are being updated permanently?


3. Content: Communities are publishing houses

Like sales teams needed marketing to publish specific collatoral for sales pitches, employees can post explanatory texts, pictures or videos and connect them with product features on the website. Like analysts that have shared their insights through guest posts in media, they and customers might discuss their experience in realtime brainstorming. Like market research experts had to be paid for their consulting, partners can share their feedback in how and why the market is longing (or not) to buy the products and services (i.e. test product packaging). And when content gets changed, the user will be informed straight away, just like the McKinsey study „The rise of networked enterprise“ told us. Not to mention the benefits for engaged press members...


4. Context: Communities are „consulting-on-demand“ touchpoints

Knowledge exchange and leveraging experience is depending on when content is and people are available. Community profiles can be made transparent, links accessible and visible based on location and time 24/7. People and emails cannot. Email adresses are not even public. They are kept like secrets the higher the hierarchy. Especially, when traveling, and when traveling time zones, available contact details, location specifics or just-in-time knowledge delivery might become business critical. Communities are conversation. In communities people help people contextually. Conversation that stays and cannot disappear like on social networks. Thus, communities become trusted touchpoints. Touchpoints like Cisco's customer service community where the value of having problems solved by the community is estimated at over 120 Mio. USD every year. And when these communities are aligned to websites and mobile business needs, „consulting-on-demand“ can deliver contextual value for the right persona in the relevant buyer interaction.


5. Collaboration: Communities are teamwork

In corporate communities people don’t think in hierarchy. Like in any social network environment, people give advice, exchange information, recommend brands, products and services, and even develop ideas. External, all work for knowledge exchange towards a common goal whether customer, partner or employee. Internal, employees might help each other on projects though in different departments. Thus, product development becomes a hybrid of internal and external synergies. Through teamwork feature requests get covered faster from launch to launch to update release. Corporate and brand team spirit increases. Through clever incentives, social influencers appear and brand advocats arise. The closer the community is connected to the corporate website, the easier the interaction for all people involved. Interactive collaboration on websites will increase traffic, relevance and page rank of any corporate website.


Are you still asking why companies should integrate communities into their websites? IBM, Philips and Bayer MaterialScience know what the connected customer is longing for…



Martin Meyer-Gossner is entrepreneur, web strategist, business blogger and founder of the international management consulting company The Strategy Web GmbH. The company offers guidance, consulting and market insights for companies, brands and their investors on their way through the evolution of social business, mobile, customer engagement & digital transformation.

IBM’s Journey to Becoming a Social Business

24. Oktober 2012 Posted by Lars Basche

Here's a nice case study about IBM and the company's own way to becoming a Social Business. IBM is talking about Social Business and the benefits for organisations since more than three years now. But the company itself has started this Social Business journey even a couple of years before (also probably before they even thought about a "Social Business" in that context themselves...).

This case study by Rowan Hetherington from IBM Australia describes this journey:

1. A driver of innovation: Mobile offices and the need for collaboration

2. Developing tools for social networking

3. The journey

4. Social Business at IBM today

5. IBM Connections

6. IBMs Social Business statistics (as at September 2012)

7. Business impacts



Social CRM moves your business to where your customers are going

18. Oktober 2012 Posted by Lars Basche



Guest post by Chris Bucholtz


Imagine that, for some reason, your business decided to serve only customers who called you on the telephone. Walk-ups would be ignored; mail orders go directly into the circular file; emails are be deleted without ever being opened.


That would be dumb, wouldn’t it?


But that’s a little like the attitude that people who deride social CRM are bringing to their businesses.


Increasingly, customers are living their lives in social media. It’s where they talk about their lives – people, places and things. In fact, you might sell some of those things they’re talking about.


So why would you deliberately ignore those conversations? By not having a social CRM strategy, that is what you’re doing. It’s like you’re excluding potential customer information because it’s being provided in a format that’s not convenient for you.


So start taking advantage of social CRM and social media. First, start listening to what’s being said about your business, and bring technologies into play that allow you to record and organize that data. Next, start thinking about ways to use what you’re hearing to identify places where you can join into the conversation. The word “social” implies a two-way exchange of ideas; that means opportunities to identify potential new customers and to foster loyalty with the customers you already have.


This can seem like a lot of work – and it can be. But, like anything in the CRM world, the key to effectively introducing these new concepts is to match them with pain points that exist in your organization. Start gradually and expand. If your sales team is lacking data to build rapport with potential customers, use social to give them more data. If support is being criticized in social media, build a social component into your customer support organization to allow them to satisfy these customers. If marketing is searching for insight on how the company is perceived by its target customers, give them the ability to listen in to what customers are saying.


Social CRM is not a replacement for CRM – none of these capabilities can be fully utilized without a CRM solution deployed and functioning as a foundation for your efforts. But it will open up an entirely new dimension for your CRM efforts – and since it’s a dimension where your customers are dwelling more and more every day, it makes sense that you join them there.



With 17 years as a technology and business under his belt, Chris Bucholtz took over the role of editor in chief of the CRM Outsiders blog in 2011. He first focused on customer relationship management as the editor of InsideCRM, then moved to Forecasting Clouds in 2009 to continue honing his views on how the discipline of CRM can impact the entire business.

Social Business in Germany at IBM Connect in Stuttgart

28. September 2012 Posted by Lars Basche


Last week IBM invited their clients, business partners, journalists, analysts and social business enthusiasts to attend their key event in Germany in 2012: the IBM Connect at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. And I had the pleasure to attend as an employee of IBM's PR agency in Germany. The entire event has been quite a success (I leave it to their Marketing team to use words like “huge” or “fantastic” :-), from the venue IBM picked this year to the selection of speakers.




The fact that the event was sold out with 400 people shows that the topic Social Business is definitely trending in Germany and in German companies. People are interested in learning from other companies about how they're using social software for their business, why they decided to take this step and about results.



After Maria Gomez, Director IBM Social Business and Collaboration Solutions IBM Germany, and Alistair Rennie kicked off the event, the attendees learned from five German clients how they're using social software: GAD, Robert Bosch, Hamm Reno, Hansgrohe and Bayer. It has been a very good decision to invite so many clients presenting their individual social business story. There are normally more IBM owned presentations at such events.



And IBM couldn't have told this story better than their clients who are using the software every day and who are also mentioning issues or challenges they're facing and how they are dealing with it. And I think that's more convincing than anything else because nobody believes typical marketing phrases that everything is working without any hiccups.


In addition to the 400 attendees on-site, more than 150 people have been watching the Livestream which is still available on demand. More than 150 tweets have been sent out on that day only using the hashtag #ibmconnect and more than 30,000 accounts have been reached, according to Tweetreach. And finally, IBM has organized two roundtable discussions with Alistair Rennie and journalists and analysts attending the event.


I really hope that events like this one will help spreading the social business story even further. It's definitely a good sign already that there aren't any condescending smiles anymore when people are listening to speakers standing on stage and talking about how using social software internally and externally makes them better in what they are doing every day.

Video: Kurt De Ruwe about Social Business at Bayer

26. September 2012 Posted by Lars Basche

You can watch all presentations of last week's social business event at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart on the IBM Webcast Channel (most of them are in German). I will post another article about the event later this week.

Watch live streaming video from ibmwebcastgermany at