Update on Social Business

an interview with
Jeff Schick Vice President of Social Business, IBM

Two years ago this month, I wrote an article called  Why IBM Could Be Bigger Than Facebook in Social Media and it was my most popular story of 2010.  The performance of this article was not a testament to my stupendous skills as a writer but rather to the unrivaled power of IBM’s army of social sharers and provided yet another proof point to me that all this social stuff might actually work!  That article was based on an interview with Jeff Schick, then VP of Social Software.  I was lucky enough to catch up with Jeff (now VP of Social Business) to talk about IBM’s latest efforts to help transform their clients into social businesses.

Drew: Why do you think CEO’s are waking up to Social Media now? 
IBM’s 2012 CEO Study of more than 1,700 Chief Executive Officers from 64 countries and 18 industries worldwide reveals that today only 16 percent of CEOs are using social business platforms to connect with customers, but that number is poised to spike to 57 percent within the next three to five years. What’s driving this change?

There are three shifts that are creating an opportunity for social to create real business value, that CEOs are finally beginning to realize:

  • Pressure to build and share expertise across an organization for competitive advantage
  • Increasingly influential and vocal customers who are taking to social channels to voice their opinions and sentiment
  • Growing demand for 24/7 and mobile connectedness from both employees and customers.

CEOs are quickly realizing that social is the ticket to success both from an internal collaboration and innovation perspective as well as a customer service and marketing tool. It’s no longer a nice to have, social is a must have, a business imperative.

Drew: Are CEO’s seeing this as a transformative “social business” play or more of a marketing channel to drive sales?
Social is certainly helping marketing departments, but it’s reach and potential is far greater and the C-Suite is recognizing this. Not just the CEO, but the CIO and CMO. A blended agenda focused on social is quickly emerging in the C-Suite. They are using social to fundamentally change how they do business whether it’s how they develop products and bring them market, how employees collaborate across the organization, geographies and times zones, how they interact with business partners and customers; social is being integrated into each and every business process to affect change. So organizations aren’t just looking to implement social into one area of the business, they’re holistically transforming into social businesses.

What specific analytics are CEO’s seeking that will help them rationalize an increase investment in social media?
Social analytics help surface the most important information at the right time to help drive innovation, decision-making, and knowledge sharing. CEOs are looking for platforms that not only provide them with the social capabilities, but also the big data analytics. Generally speaking, business leaders lack the tools to gain insight into the enormous stream of information and use it in a meaningful way. At IBM we’re seeing clients come to us saying they want social, but they’re concerned with the amount of extra data the transformation will bring. How can they process, analyze and take advantage of all this extra insight from employees, business partners and customers? To truly realize the full potential of a social business, leaders need to empower a company’s most vital asset – the information being generated from its people.

How is mobile changing social media interactions?
The explosion of mobile devices have paved a unique way for organizations of all sizes, in all industries to transform the new era of Social Business. With the mobile workforce expected to reach more than 1.19 billion by 2013, according to research firm IDC, nearly 1 trillion Internet-connected devices will be in market this year, generating 20 times more mobile data by 2015. Social enabling these workers to be effective, collaborate and innovate is a major requirement for organizations.

The goal is to take the mobile workforce beyond just gaining access to email and calendars but to enable them to collaborate and generate new ideas and be more efficient anytime, anywhere, on any device.

IBM sees social business and the move to enable the mobile workforce as a key driver of business transformation, helping all aspects of an organization from marketing, human resources, sales and customer support and development, leverage the power of social concepts in their business processes.

Drew: What can companies do now to take advantage of the convergence of social and mobile?
The simple answer is to choose a partner that can support both social and mobile on the widest range of mobile devices. Through our IBM Connections software we are enabling mobile employees to create networks, documents, share files through a community that they can access and manage on their mobile device and tablet. The software delivers features that enable mobile employees to collaborate on the fly. This includes developing social networks, sharing files, locating business experts, participating in online discussions and conducting in web meetings.

Drew: What is IBM Connections and how will it help companies in their social/mobile activities?
IBM Connections is the industry’s leading social software platform, ranked number one in market share by IDC for three consecutive years. Connections incorporates sophisticated analytics capabilities, real-time data monitoring, and faster collaborative networks both inside and outside the organization, whether on premises, in the IBM SmartCloud or using the broadest range of mobile devices. Clients today are using Connections to activate their workforce to improve productivity, and gain insight on data to anticipate individual customers needs.

This week we announced the general availability of the newest version of Connections that includes a revamped activity stream for a consolidated social dashboard. The activity stream allows users to act within the dashboard  to do their job. Other new features include trending topics within the enterprise and social network and integration with enterprise email and calendar tools.

Drew: Can you provide one real world example of IBM Connections in action?
LeasePlan, one of the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management companies in the world, is using IBM’s social software platform across the organization’s 40 subsidiaries, in 30 countries and over 6,000 employees. With nearly 800 communities formed, 400 blogs, and over 800 forums, the platform has become an integral component to business operations for the organization, increasing efficiency, enhancing knowledge retention, increasing innovation, and helping to improve customer care and insight. By socially enabling its business processes with IBM’s social platform, the organization is seeing significant improvements in workforce effectiveness.

By collaborating with IBM LeasePlan has been able to transform their business processes. Their internal social network allows employees to find experts faster, leading to better customer service, superior workforce effectiveness, and enhanced product and service innovation. Using IBM Connections LeasePlan is able to transform into a social business.

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