IBM Takes Social Business Message to Partners and Universities
February 7, 2011 Dan Burger
IBM is out to prove itself a champion of enterprise social media, also known as social business. In what we used to call the “eat your own dog food” test, IBM is a chow hound. Its internal use of social media is widespread. And its enthusiasm for making its Lotus software division increasingly social has not been half-hearted. Big Blue’s next move is to increase its efforts through initiatives in its PartnerWorld and Academic Initiative programs.
Transforming traditional businesses into social businesses doesn’t come from a CEO having an epiphany while updating his Facebook account. Executives want some demonstrable evidence that a cultural shift like this is going to pan out. Dog and pony shows and even reports from the research and analytic firms forecasting future success will only go so far, and it doesn’t typically go far enough to sign a software licensing contract.
This investment in social business is being pitched as preparation for the a new era in business that will be led by a future workforce accustomed to the ways and means of social media as the previous generation was to writing letters or picking up the telephone. A lot of people are asking why the business world needs to adapt to whippersnappers, when it’s always been the other way around. Newer doesn’t automatically mean better. But where efficiencies are to be found, businesses aren’t in the habit of looking the other way. IBM believes social business is a big deal in the whole Smarter Planet scheme of things.
This isn’t Big Blue’s first rodeo when it comes to promoting big ideas. Getting the word out relies heavily on the IBM business partners. Those of us in the IBM i community know that promotion and marketing relies almost entirely on the business partners, which gives rise to initiatives like iManifest when IBM is not doing enough pushing with its partners. (If you are still in the dark about iManifest, look back on this article from a month ago in The Four Hundred .)
However, with its emphasis on software, IBM has more interest in promoting Lotus than it does the IBM i platform, so here is what the inventive-incentive thinkers at Big Blue have in mind to help the partners promote social business via Lotus.
Money is a proven incentive. Partners who learn their social business lesson well and translate their knowledge into identifiable skills suitable for peak evangelizing will be rewarded with an additional 15 percent sales incentive. So if you are a partner, it will pay you to stay after school, burn some midnight oil, pass your test, and get out on the street.
The sales incentive increases for those who take their skill level up a notch by getting industry specific. For instance, apply social business to industries such as retail, finance, transportation or healthcare and IBM will bump up that sales incentive another 15 percent.
IBM already has some of the training bases covered. First of all it would like to get its business partners to transform into social businesses. If you are going to talk the talk, then you have to walk the walk, right? So through the PartnerWorld organization, there are guides and webinars that provide assistance in doing just that.
Additional Lotus-specific education is available online through the IBM Innovation Centers and is very Lotus specific. Session topics feature topics such as mobile solutions, team collaboration, content management, and application development. A list of Lotus training options can be found at the IBM Innovation Centers Web site.
The training and education options are free. The investments in new social business software are not. But if you believe in social business, you believe these investments are wise. Ultimately, seeing is believing.
Beyond the business partner route, the IBM Academic Initiative is rolling out new enterprise social software courses to more than 30,000 professors at 6,000 universities around the world. The courses feature IBM social business technologies, and are aimed at imparting a better understanding of the needs of a social business and the benefits of organizational change.
In an attempt to put more wind in the social business sails, IBM has a Web-based event scheduled for February 8 through 11 called a Social Business Jam. IBM calls it “a proven IBM management tool for driving innovation and collaboration.” At Big Blue, this type of Internet-based brainstorming has been used for 10 years. It’s also often referred to as crowdsourcing.
It’s predicted to have thousands of participants who will pool their knowledge and experiences that can be applied toward the transformation to a social business. Topics on the agenda include: building the social business of the future, building participatory organizations through social adoptions, using social to understand and engage with customers, what social means for IT, and identifying risks and establishing governance.
Registration for this event can be found at Social Business Jam Web site. No invitation to participate is required.