Big Blue's social business VP details how IBM Connections fuels the company's 500,000 users with social capabilities and a social media mindset.
When it comes to enterprise social networking, IBM not only talks the talk, it walks the walk with its IBM Connections software.
Among business-oriented social platform software vendors, IBM has been ranked No. 1 in worldwide market share in 2009 and 2010 by IDC. According to IDC, worldwide revenue for social-platform software was more than $500 million in 2010, representing growth of almost 32%. IDC expects the market opportunity for social platforms to grow by a factor of nearly 2 billion worldwide by 2014.
I recently spoke with IBM's Jeff Schick, VP for social business, about the cultural shift these huge numbers represent, as well as about the company's own use of IBM Connections. The product includes profiles, communities, a blogging service, social bookmarking service, task management capabilities, a content library, and a wiki system. The latest edition of Connections, version 3, added moderation capabilities, an ideation blog, and a media gallery.
[ Connections is one of the top-ranked social platforms; learn more about it and its competitors. See Forrester Names 4 Leading Enterprise Social Platforms. ]
During a screensharing session, Schick showed me how Connections is being used internally at IBM. Each of the company's 410,000 employees and 80,000 contractors has a Connections profile. Profiles take a very extensive view of the employee, said Schick: "It's not just what your business card says you are, but what you've accomplished, what you do, what you share and who you work with." All of this information becomes searchable, he added, so finding who knows what within the organization (and how to contact them and what they are working on, among other things) is not only a simple task but one that is performed millions of times a day.
Anyone familiar with Facebook will find themselves right at home with the IBM Connections model. Users can post updates (Schick's for the day included his meeting with me), list experience and accomplishments, and post and comment on other profiles. Mobile users can access corporate Connections data from Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry devices.
One of the advantages of Connections over some of its competitors is the integration it affords with other IBM systems, including IBM Lotus Sametime, IBM Lotus Notes, and IBM enterprise content management systems.
However, when I asked Schick about the priority that companies are putting on integration in general--that is, integration with existing enterprise applications--he said that it's certainly important, but not for every organization, at least not right away. Indeed, Schick added, the technology aspect of getting enterprise social networking up and running is relatively easy. What's more challenging is building a culture that supports a social mindset.
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