Start small to build success with Social Business

Iterative Adoption ProcessIf you are a regular reader of my blog, or even my book, you will know that I recommend an iterative approach to rolling out a social business project. By picking one area of your business and fully implementing IBM Connections to solve a specific business problem you:

  1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew;
  2. Gain the experience needed to expand your efforts into more complex areas;
  3. Show progress early on for your business sponsor;
  4. Can celebrate success earlier.

I am often asked which department in an organisation should get the solution first. The perceived wisdom has been that the IT department is generally the LAST place you would want to start (mainly because everyone will have a view about technology you’re implementing
and not the business solution). In reality, as long as IT has a need which we can help with then there’s no reason not to start there.

Another question I get is which processes are best tackled with social business? Should we solve file sharing for the company? How about meeting management, standardisation of documents, etc. The truth is that it depends. I would not try to tackle anything for the whole company in one move. Pick off departments or areas of the business which have a clear and pressing need and help them. Once you’ve finished with that, move on to the next area.

One department’s problem might be the need to share files amongst themselves. Tackle that, get them happy and move on to the next department. The next one might need to make Standard Operating Procedures more accessible. Use a wiki to achieve that. Move on.

Breaking down your organisations’ problems into iterations will result in a long list of work for you do to. Once you get the first few of these iterations implemented and have a process which works for you, it’s important to consider how you are going to be able to scale the rollout so that the pace of change can increase.

The key to this is to find “early adopters”, “ambassadors”, “champions” or whatever else you want to call them. These are people, sourced from the departments where you are going, who clearly get what you are trying to do. They might self-select – i.e. come to you and ask to be involved, or might emerge from your earlier iterations. Whatever the case, in order to scale your implementation out you need to change your approach.

You need to go from being a hands-on practitioner to a coach of those who will do the job you’ve been doing up until now. You need to lead, enthuse, motivate, support and generally cheer for your team of people who you want to take your now finely-honed approach to rolling out an iteration of social business to the rest of the organisation.

It might seem obvious, but this is the time when your own use of IBM Connections becomes critical. All the lessons you’ve been passing on to people about status updates, being vocal and visible, etc., now really matter because your newly-found recruits will need your help.

Create an “ambassador” (or what ever term you’re using) commmunity. Focus it on using Forums, and drive Q&A through the forum. Make a commitment to timely responses. Be ruthless about having questions posed in the forum as this is the time where your tacit experience needs to be converted into explicit knowledge, i.e. something someone else can search for and find without asking you.

Make sure your ambassadors don’t bite off too much at the beginning either. They are now on the same learning path that you were and need to gain confidence in their approach too.

Socializing Microsoft with IBM Connections

The title of this post is one which I borrowed from my colleague and friend, Omar Davison, who has (with some assistance from his colleagues) put together a very compelling and direct little video on how IBM Connections can bring a whole new dimension of collaboration to Microsoft SharePoint and Outlook:

The point he makes here is that the many organisations out there who have SharePoint and Outlook are not getting the return on investment, the sea change in productivity, they would expect.  The reason for this?  Because although SharePoint is where many organisations lodge their documents and expect people to find them, it doesn’t put the people involved in the work in the centre.  The result is that you haven’t really moved past a file server and email which we all had back in the 1990’s.

IBM’s approach is to recognize how people interact with the knowledge and information they are presented with.  We’ve built tools and solutions around that paradigm to support better productivity, smarter decision making and faster access to knowledge:

By adding IBM Connections to your Microsoft environment you unlock your staff's potential.

By adding IBM Connections to your Microsoft environment you unlock your staff’s potential.


Don’t expect to be social with your (closest) colleagues

You might think you’ve read that headline wrongly.  Surely the whole point of social business collaboration is to be social with your colleagues?  Yes, it is, but it depends on how close they are and which tools you are using.  Confused?  Read on.

If you have a Facebook account and several members of your immediate family (spouse children, siblings etc) also have Facebook accounts, I would bet that it is unlikely that you will use Facebook as a major collaboration tool with them.  It doesn’t happen.  We don’t post status updates to find out when dinner is, or to remind each other about some domestic arrangement (I am sure this actually does happen in some families, but I am hoping you see my point).  We use good old fashioned collaboration techniques like, oh I don’t know, speaking to each other.  We might go as far as notes on the refridgerator, or a note under the car keys, but we ordinarily don’t resource to a social collaboration network to remind our spouses to get some milk on the way home.

This is true at work too.  In a situation where you work within about thirty to fifty feet of people in an office old collaboration tools prevail.  We might send the odd email to each other to give them a copy of something or to provide them with a convenient link to something but for the most part we go round and talk to them.  After all we are SOCIAL animals and the primary means of being social is still talking to each other.  Expecting us to widely adopt the many tools and features of our favorite collaboration platform to unite a locally-arranged, close-knit team is therefore going to meet with limited success.  Instead, we should recognize that a product like IBM Connections or SmartCloud for Social Business provides a range of tools which can be used for a variety of purposes.

In 1973, Mark Granovetter published “The Strength of Weak Ties” where he examines the interactions of people who are weakly-connected to each other. Long before the internet was publicly available or social software had ever been thought of, Granovetter showed us that the ways we work or communicate with people who are physically or psychologically distant from us is different from how we work with those around us.


When working with our close-colleagues we predominantly use speech, email and file sharing.  For more advanced teams we might also use something like status updates to help reduce the volume of transactional email we need to send to each other.

strongties1When we have a team of people who need to work together but who are spread through a large building, across a car park or across a continent or ocean then other collaboration tools help.  Blogs, wikis, status updates, communities, bookmarks and so on are useful.

weaktiesMy point here is to highlight that many of the current collaboration tools you use can be social if you want them to be.  By sharing what you know and have, and encouraging engagement with those resources, both your closest colleagues, and those across an ocean from you can benefit from what you know and share.  You should recognize that you can improve your collaboration and improve productivity amongst those you work with most frequently by doing simple things, such as:

  1. Make the files you can share fully available in a central, easily-accessed location.  Don’t just use it to share what someone has asked you to share – share it all – or at least what you can, so that others have the chance to discover what’s there and potentially make use of it.  This will save your colleagues time by not having to hunt around, or worse re-invent, something which “if they had just asked you, you could have given them”.
  2. Consider using status updates instead of emails to inform each other of changes which they might need to know about.  Replace the round-robin emails with status updates and encourage people to check out your messages.  This helps them filter out what they need to know and potentially increases the serendipitous discovery of information.  It also keeps their inbox down to stuff they actually need to deal with, rather than stuff other people think they might like to know.

These are just a couple of ideas which you can easily implement to make collaboration and working together easier for you and your colleagues.  Why not contribute some of your own ideas in the comments?

How to move from Email to Social without moving at all

At work virtually all of us work with email. At present it is the default and defacto method of communication. We probably also all recognize its shortcomings when it comes to working together with other people. It is intended as a means of messaging primarily between two individuals but over time, of course, we get emails copied to us for various purposes.

Being on the receiving end of an email which is copied to you, or blind copied is a decision which (it’s likely) the sender has made – not you. You may well be grateful to receive such an email but in my experience my inbox gets filled with the information other people think I will want to know about.

Moving to a more socially-collaborative working environment allows me to be more selective about the information I want to receive. By “following” a person, a community, a document or some other aspect of an enterprise social network I can choose to be updated about something I care about, rather than be on the receiving end of a firehose of information sent by other people.

Moving into this social nirvana can be a difficult process for many people. Email, after all, is really just the electronic manifestation of the paper office – electronic memos have replaced the paper memos we would receive. Folders in our mailboxes have replaced the filing cabinets which populated our offices. This deeply-embedded habit is something which we digital immigrants, those who were born before the internet arrived, are struggling to change these habits.

I have written a lot in this blog and elsewhere about methods of adoption – ways you can organise projects and your working groups to ease the transition to being more co-operative, collaborative and open in your day to day work. Some people, however, still see this as too big a step to take. They are not prepared to take the extra effort of changing to get the benefit. So how can we help these individuals move into a better working situation in smaller and more easily digestible bites?

One way is to make use of the social extensions available for IBM Notes and Microsoft Outlook. These extend social capabilities offered by IBM Connections into the email software to enhance the experience and start to introduce more “social” features the users might benefit from. If you are a Notes user you most likely have free entitlement to use the Files and Profiles features of Connections inside Notes as part of your Notes software subscription.

The diagram below illustrates the concept of socializing the email environment in small, but deliberate steps:Slide1

Starting with the centre of the diagram, people are working with Email.

The next move outward introduces the concept of Status Updates and File Sharing.

Status Updates IBM Notes

Next out is “Embedded Experience” where users can access social features of IBM Connections from within IBM Notes:

Files Hans Erik Ballangrud has shared WinPlan DSD Q2 2014 doc with you IBM Notes

With Embedded Experiences the user interface of IBM Connections is brought into the email experience of IBM Notes.  Notice that I can comment, like and perform other “social” tasks right within the email I’ve received, without leaving IBM Notes.

Finally, Communities and Social Tools can be presented using the embedded browser of Notes, so the user remains in the Notes client, or you can move to a fully browser-based experience:

Activities IBM Notes

Don’t forget that IBM Connections also has “Connections Mail” which connects the Connections environment back to the email world (Domino or Exchange):



How to remain compliant while becoming a social business

One of the best things about working for the market leader in social business is that you get to work with some very smart people. My colleague in the SWAT team, George Brichacek, has prepared this useful video showing how compliance, such as the marking of particular content (like financial records or personal information), can be handled correctly and appropriately using IBM Connections.

Thanks for sharing this, George. And, please check out George’s other excellent videos on YouTube.

Experton put IBM as the leader in Social Business in 8 out of 9 Quadrants

With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50% by 2016, the market for social business for communication & collaboration (SB4CC) even outpaces cloud computing as IT and business driver.  (Experton, 2013)

Experton, a European Analyst organisation, has recently posted one of their first in-depth analyses of the social enterprise market.  Their findings?  IBM is the leader in social in 8 out of 9 of their categories:


What the Experton study highlights is that the term “social” covers not just collaboration, but also “socialytics” and talent management.  It’s about the complete concept of social in an organisation to gain fresh insight on what people know, how they work, how they interact and how best to uncover their expertise for the benefit of the organisation and for the staff member themselves.

To quote their study:

IBM has a strong, consistent social business history, covering nearly all market segments benchmarked for this study, including services.

If you are interested in obtaining a closer look at Experton’s study, my colleague, Stefan Pfeiffer, will be more than happy to help you.

It’s great to see such a broad and rounded examination of the marketplace and, for me at least, a European one at that.

BP403 – Driving Business Opportunity with Social Business Patterns

At IBM Connect 2014, Scott Smith & I presented at Business Partner development day how to generate business opportunities with the Social Business Patterns.  Here is the deck via Slideshare

Supercharged IBM Connections Activities

IBM Connect is the place to be when it comes to understanding all that’s happening in the world’s leading social business platform.   There is a large exhibition center where the large services and application market for the Platform can be explored.  Australian business partner, ISW is there as they have been for most years and are demonstrating something which I believe moves the paradigm of using Activities in Connections as a tool for managing projects to a whole new level.

If you follow my blog you’ll probably know that I have been an advocate for using Activities as a mechanism for managing the progress of your projects.  Combining the tasks to be performed with the documentation you collect so that the activity is both a system of record and system of engagement is something which bridges the gap in many collaboration environments.

Walking around the exhibition space at Connect I spotted ISW’s Kudos Boards product which drives this paradigm forward in a whole new way.  In IBM Connections, Activities are presented like a structured list of documents, tasks, and other information which can be grouped under headings:


Kudos Boards helps turn this concept on its head by presenting the contents of the Activity like a work-breakdown structure:

The major sections of your project are presented in columns with each of the tasks, entries, to-do’s and so on, shown below.  To my eyes this is a huge leap forward for group and personal productivity and something which, if you are at Connect, I would strongly encourage you to go and check out at the ISW stand.

Have a look at it in action:

Disclosure: I am presenting this topic because I genuinely believe it will be of interest to the readers of this blog.  I am not receiving or have received any compensation from the vendor or anyone else.  Basically, I think it’s great and I’d encourage you to check it out.