IBM Does Social Networking on New Business Partner Site
June 15, 2009 Dan Burger
When you have 100,000 business partners, you don’t want them all talking at once. Or maybe you do. Later this month, IBM will test that theory as it rolls out a social networking site with high expectations that it will accelerate technology mashups and facilitate sales to the advantage of everyone involved.
Although it sounds like a good idea, as we all know the proof is in the puddin’. In other words, a partner will have to taste it before digging in. And then 99,999 other partners will have to do the same.
That seems like a pretty big number, but it’s hardly a bump in the road compared to the overall number of social network participants where peer-to-peer communication thrives. And it’s relatively small compared to the IBM estimate of several million developers that Big Blue is inviting to its My developerWorks social networking congregation for the Geek Nation.
The online meeting place for business partners will be called PartnerWorld Communities. However, those who are actively involved in social nets would say it’s much more than just a gathering spot. It’s more like a junction house where a multitude of business communities are connected and possibly interconnected by special interest topics, shared technologies, specific industries, or maybe geographic similarities. The common denominator that joins groups and subgroups are things like a pool of professional expertise, a considerable library of, in this case, IBM business partner content, a participant’s desire to problem solve, and all the bells and whistles of a state of the art networking arena.
Rich Hume, the general manager for IBM Global Business Partners, sees the new network as a giant leap for partner collaboration that ultimately leads to better business solutions and improved avenues to reach organizations that are looking for advances in functionality aimed at specific niches. Hume says the PartnerWorld Communities will be a better way for partners to engage clients in “higher value” discussions that lead to “more effective, efficient selling” and “jointly laying the groundwork along with our partners for the infrastructure of tomorrow.”
The focal point of any social networking site is the participants’ profiles. In the days when print publishing was dominant, these were called buyers guides. Company profiles could be easily found, but the guides were not interactive. The digital aspect makes it much easier to make connections based on similarities in underlying technology, areas of expertise, market reach, primary business interests, as well as access to complementary business partners. Improving the access roads should lead to more collaboration among partners and that could lead to new products, new markets, access to new subject matter experts, and possibly new resources in the sales pipeline.
Like My developerWorks, PartnerWorld Communities is based on IBM Lotus collaboration software called Connections, which consists of five collaboration tools–Activities, Communities, Dogears (bookmarks), Profiles and Blogs–designed to improve the accessibility of information. The most prominent of these is Activities, which integrates things such as e-mail, documents, chat transcripts, and Internet content, so each of those resources can be brought into the context of work activities.
According to IBM, the idea to bring social networking to the business partners grew from an online brainstorming session with global partners where it was seen as a viable method for establishing new relationships across global markets. IBM’s partners contribute approximately 30 percent of the hardware and software sales for Big Blue.
To augment the business partner relationship, IBM is also introducing an online skills resource that includes more than 60 online classes, Webcasts, and global events on topics such economic stimulus opportunities, creating what IBM calls dynamic infrastructures, selling to the midmarket, and selling to chief financial officers.