All Change

It seems to be the season for changes in the IBM Social Business Community and the same is true for me. As of 1st April (and it’s not an April Fool’s joke) I am moving to a new post within IBM as Channel Technical Leader for Europe for the Social Business Unit.

For me this is a bit of a homecoming, having spent most of my career so far as an IBM Business Partner. This move means I get to work with the people who have a genuine and deep passion for IBM’s collaboration solutions like I have, whilst at the same time still banging-on….er, evangelising, about the need for social business adoption.

My new role covers the whole ICS portfolio and the whole of Europe, so I will likely be coming to a town near you before long. I am working with your existing IBM Business Partner reps and my job will be to help you gain the skills you need to make money from IBM’s collaboration solutions.

Some of you will know my predecessor, Alex Forbes (@axeforbes), who is moving to pastures new in the IBM Security brand. Alex’s focus was primarily technical. My role, although still being technical, will be widened to include some of the professional services aspects of being a collaboration solutions partner as well as helping on technical issues.

So look out for some announcements in the next month or so about blogs, events, and other engagements happening in Europe which I hope you’ll take part in.

If you are attending the very exciting ENGAGE conference in Ghent at the end of March, I’ll be there and would really welcome the opportunity to get re-acquainted and start work on some plans with you.

The need for adoption

Quite rightly customers of IT solutions over the years have seen the use of collaboration tools as ways to improve how their business operates.  It can provide competitive advantage, it can make their business more agile, able to scale more easily, to share the experiences of others to the common good.  All of these things are possible and I believe essential if an organisation is to remain competitive in today’s market.

Employees entering the employment world today consider using email in the same way as we would now consider the telex or, perhaps, the fax machine.  It’s an unusually old-fashioned way of communicating with each other.  Yet, as we all know, business thrives on email and it is not the default communications mechanism for companies the world over.  Many of us are struggling under the weight of email we receive.  Bring in a new member of staff, less used to an email-focused culture, and you immediately burden them with something they are uncomfortable with.

Social collaboration solutions bring the best of social networking technologies to a business context.  They fuse status updates, comments, recommendations and sharing with more “traditional” collaboration tools like document sharing, wikis, blogs, and so on.

We have highlighted here, and in many other places, the need, however, to not only implement social collaboration solutions in business, but also to address the culture of the organisation.  Unless your business wants to be better, wants to share, wants to compete, then the best laid plans will surely fail.  That culture change must come from the top of the organisation.  The senior leadership needs to recognise that business is changing again.  They have probably overseen the move from paper to email and now they must adapt again to a socially-connected organisation.

As if implementing culture change is not enough, another barrier stands in your way towards becoming more profitable, more agile and having better staff stay with you – adoption.

A social collaboration solution must have a purpose – it needs to be there to solve a problem, or many problems. The requirement for its use must be clear and simple for people to recognise without being convinced too hard.  Line of Business solutions like a purchase order management system are now the only way purchase orders can be raised in your business.  A social collaboration system remains an optional part of communicating at work (we could still actually speak to each other or pick up the phone).  Thus, finding the purpose and driving the adoption of social collaboration is vital to ensure success.

Indeed, increasingly customers will connect their purchase of a solution to the success of its deployment.  In cloud-connected worlds “deployment” means “people using it”.  In the traditional sense “deployment” meant “installing it”.  It’s here that the fundamental change in our mindsets must happen.

Your organisation must recognise that in order to be successful with anything, people must actually use it. You must drive benefit from a technology solution in order for it to be worthwhile implementing. Getting people to use it requires adoption techniques which involves thinking about the business processes, the communications, engagement and support of the people who will use it.

If you are considering rolling out any new solution in 2015, please consider how you will involve your users in the uptake of it. If you don’t, you might find this time next year that you have paid a lot of money for something and still haven’t managed to make that fundamental change your business needs to compete in 2016.

And with that, I’d like to wish my readers my compliments of the season and I hope that your 2015 is prosperous, healthy and exciting.

IBM Verse – Connecting Me to We

IBM Verse fixes email to give you back your day.

IBM Verse fixes email to give you back your day.

If you have been around the IBM software ecosystem this week, you probably couldn’t have missed our announcement about IBM Verse. IBM has been working to bring the world of social collaboration into a context where many of us still work – email.

Most of us still use IBM Notes, Microsoft Outlook or some other email client as the primary place we work. We use it for filing, for storage, for search, for communicating and well, for being able to be productive at work. The trouble is, these days, email clients are not designed for this. If you are under the age of about 35 you probably only have a small number of folders with thousands of emails in them. If you’re older than 35 you probably have tens if not hundreds of folders and spend a significant part of your time diligently filing your emails for later retrieval.

Most of us, though, rarely look for and seldom find the emails we’re looking for. Lots of us, when on vacation come back to hundreds of unread mail, most of which are either for information, or if they were urgent, have probably been actioned by someone else in your absence.

The truth is, that emailing replaced the paper memo and as a result the explosion in information – both relevant and irrelevant – which lands on our desk is overwhelming. Email has become a hindrance not a help to daily business.

Smarter organizations have realized that social collaboration solutions such as IBM Connections can move much of the information chatter out of email and into centralized communities where people can work together productively and with purpose.

Until now, however, a social enterprise still had to struggle with a decidedly unsocial email world. That’s until IBM unveiled Verse. It is intended to bring the social enterprise (the “we”) to the email user (the “me”). It interconnects sharing and collaboration with messaging to give you the opportunity to see through the forest of information you get every day and help you be better at work. Who knows, you might even get home on time!