IBM Connect Opening General Session, a set on Flickr.
Collection of photos and videos from the Opening General Session of IBM Connect 2013
IBM Connect Opening General Session, a set on Flickr.
Collection of photos and videos from the Opening General Session of IBM Connect 2013
On the Saturday before IBM Connect kicked off some of the community staged a soccer match where the United Nations of IBM Connect came together to play the Beautiful Game. I’ll let you decide how beautiful this particular game was, but here are some of the highlights:
The path to becoming a social business, one which has a more engaged workforce, customer-base and supply chain, is one which ultimately leads to greater business success. What components, however, do you need to consider putting in place from a strategic standpoint?
My graphic below attempts to put each of the components I feel any organisation should consider implementing or integrating into their social collaboration environment.
The blue cans at the bottom of the arrow are the silos of information your organisation already has in one shape or form.
Working from right to left, the tacit knowledge of your employees is the one you definitely have. By tacit I mean the things they know about your organisation, your customers, how to do things, what works, what doesn’t, the intelligence the have about product pricing, service delivery and so on. If you could somehow capture that information, i.e. know what you know then the collective intelligence of your company would explode exponentially.
However, just asking people to tell you everything they know about your organisation is a strategy destined for failure from the outset. If I asked you to tell me everything you knew, how could you possibly do so. You might start with some personal history of yourself, your family, your work but soon become tired. Most of what you might tell me might be irrelevant to my use. It might be “interesting data” but not “knowledge”.
Instead, if you and I had a conversation where I asked you questions and you answered then two things happen: 1) I get the information I need 2) You get the satisfaction of assisting. That endorphins-releasing satisfaction is addictive, and something you will want to repeat. Before I know it you willingly help me by giving advice freely, without being asked.
So it is in your organisation. By asking your experts questions and getting their answers into a medium which can easily be shared their tacit knowledge, i.e. things they just happen to know, are set free. Everyone gets to profit from them. The expert gets their endorphine-release satisfaction and the recognition of being a subject matter expert and everyone else can get on with doing their job just a little better. By turning this into a virtuous cycle so the collective intelligence of your organisation can be dramatically enhanced.
That knowledge in your experts’ heads is not of course the only source of intelligence. You will have spreadsheets, databases, HR systems, ERP systems and all sorts of other pools of electronic information. Most of these line of business applications don’t talk to each other. Often they have contradictory or sometimes complementary information about the same subject. Imagine being able to connect these different pots of information when you needed it so that when you’re trying to find out about that new customer you’re trying to win you have as much information as possible to help you succeed.
Many organisations are “socializing” their business processes to build the tacit knowledge capture into these systems. For example, take a look at this integration of IBM Connections and SugarCRM:
How could you engage your staff more by adding social technologies into your business processes? What might be the outcome?
Whilst at IBM Connect 2013 in Orlando I have been using my iPad for blogging, tweeting, and generally staying in touch. Thanks to the fairly-stable WiFi throughout the event it’s been easy enough to broadcast updates to my colleagues and give them updates on what’s going on.
One area I have struggled, however, is in using the IBM Connections App for iOS to update my Connections blog in the office. Currently it only supports plain text transfer of the blog article. This is naturally a bit limiting and so I set about looking for something which would let me write blog entries using rich text or HTML.
The best-known blogging tool for iOS which directly supports IBM Connections is Blogsy. I confess, however, that I have always struggled with it because our Connections server uses a self-signed SSL certificate. Blogsy seems to complain about this although I hope that by posting this someone will show me how to work around it.
So my quest continued and I discovered that there are actually lots of blogging applications for iOS. One that I found was particularly good, and established how virtually any blogging tool could be used, was BlogPress.
In BlogPress, set up a new blog with the type “other”:
Put your user name (email address) and password in. Now for the clever bit (and this is the thing that works on any blogging app that supports the Blogger or Meta Weblog APIs:
When you connect, your credentials are used and a list of blogs for your account appears. Pick your blog and you’re good to go. Try this out with your favourite blogging tool and you should find that the current limitations of the Connections iOS app are gone!
In January 2011 I attended Lotusphere and witnessed IBM’s entry in to the Social Business arena. It was a seminal moment for me, having been involved in IBM collaboration solutions for nearly 20 years. In my time I have seen collaboration described variously as groupware, document management, knowledge management, intranets and now social business. I am not saying that each of these solution categories are the same – they most definitely have distinct features and facets which distinguish them. I am saying, however, that each of these disciplines have a large common overlap.
So it was, therefore, with great interest that I saw the launch of social business with a critical eye. What was different about this compared to the many intranets I have been involved in building, or the groupware solutions I have created in Lotus Notes?
The fundamental difference between social business and ALL that has gone before in the collaboration space is that while a social business solution such as IBM Connections supports the collaboration features of its predecessors, it introduces spontaneous collaboration into an otherwise linear knowledge capture system.
In laymans terms, what I mean is as follows: An intranet, discussion database, document management system or similar is designed by us to hold information we otherwise wish to access in the future. We have agreed that we will use it to store that information and will, for the most part, refer to it when we are looking for something. These systems do not encourage the spontanaeity of discussion, commenting, referral or improvement. A social solution treats these as the bedrock and builds mechanisms for being better informed about what’s going on. It provides the capability to start a discussion thread on an individual atom of data.It encourages participation, knowledge-seeking and knowledge capture.
A social business solution stands in the gap between Systems of Record, such as an intranet or document management system and Systems of engagement like instant messaging, video conferencing and web-meetings.
It allows the knowledge which circulates in the Engagement to be fastened to the atomic level of data which resides in your organisation. It means that you can provide context, background and a snapshot of the mindet of the individuals involved in your business process at the time. Neither the Systems of Record or Systems of Engagement can do this.
Thus, given the time I have spent in this area, the announcement that IBM was getting into the Social Business area was a big deal for me. In the intervening two years I have witnessed IBM Connections go from being a collection of different projects in IBM into a single product. I have seen it move from being this close-flying formation of applications into a single cohesive system. I have also seen it mature from a ground-breaking solution which some people had difficulty understanding the purpose of into one which in my slightly biased opinion is the gold-standard for social collaboration in the enterprise.
Thus, it is with great expectation that in a couple of weeks I will join the many thousands of other social collaborators in Orlando at IBM Connect. It’s a week of intense knowledge-capture. It’s a week of intense social activity and its a week which reminds you that you are part of something quite extraordinary.
Above all, however, I am looking forward to the next chapter of social collaboration: The previous chapter was about socialising your organisation to get at the knowledge which existed but remained largely unmined. The new chapter will be about driving real business advantage by implementing social business processes.
Socialising business processes means that your bridge between the engagement and record systems is complete. You can start to bring knowledge into your atomic data and build INTELLIGENCE from it. Your customers become part of your business in ways they have ached for over the years. You increase the motivation of your staff and start on the road to building the kind of business relationships money cannot buy.
If you are attending Connect in Orlando please come find me. I’d love to have a chat.
If change is happening on the outside quicker than it is happening on the inside of your organization, the end is in sight.
– Jack Welsh.
Let’s consider one simple scenario which would occur in any organisation. We have the company handbook, published by the management as a rulebook by which staff are expected to refer and abide. Typically the HR department will produce this document, perhaps in consultation with senior management, certainly seeking senior management sign-off.
Once it’s done it might be posted onto the Intranet and a news item put up with a link to it.
In other organisations the document, often a wordprocessor document or PDF is put into the requisite folder in the ECM system or the file server and an email sent round to everyone with a link to it.
I bet in the majority of organisations the file is still emailed around everyone and new starts get a copy of it emailed to them when they start. Each update of the document requires another mass mailing to all staff. Because its an important document people file it in their email folders. Subsequent updates also get stored and as a result they have lots of copies of older revisions of the same document. The net result is a massive duplication of files.
None of these scenarios are particularly efficient and, frankly, mimic the business processes we would have followed in 1913, not 2013.
You might think that you have read this sort of article before: you know that there are great and fancy new ways of working with the cloud, with servers and all sorts of stuff. Equally you know that your organisation has no chance of actually implementing these things because primarily the way you’re doing it works and ALWAYS HAS WORKED.
This is why if you really want to effect change in your organisation you need to reach the hearts and minds of those at the top. Your success in this endeavour is by your ability to influence those at the top.
Assuming you can reach somewhere near the top of your organisation you have an opportunity to express how the culture of your organisation needs to accommodate change. Just because you’ve always done something that way doesn’t mean that a new way wouldn’t be better.
At the stage when you can actually get some sort of meaningful dialog with those above you the conversation needs to be framed in terms they will understand. Cost savings; efficiency improvements; customer service improvements; being able to hire the right people; retaining key staff – all of these are issues which senior managers want to know about.
Some of these benefits are wooly, or at least would need a lot of work to develop a return on investment model for. One that should have some resonance with anyone, no matter how long-in-the-tooth they are is the issue of STAFF.
People coming into your organisation, especially younger people (i.e. younger than about 40), are all well-used to expressing their opinions to strangers in online systems. They might review a product on Amazon, they might provide feedback on eBay, they might post something to their wall in Facebook or take part in that chat room or discussion forum on a subject of their choice.
Virtually everyone we’re looking at will have a mobile phone, and probably a “smartphone”. They will all know how to text people and are well-versed in shortening conversations to text-length to get the message across. They might not be avid Twitter users but I bet they have at least “Liked” a product on Facebook.
You already have an engaged workforce – it’s just that they’re engaged in other things.
My point is that you already have an engaged workforce – it’s just that they’re engaged in other things. No-one has trained them on their use of Amazon or eBay or Hotmail or Facebook. They didn’t read the (non-existent) manual about their phone in order to send a text message. The truth of the matter is that they figured it out for themselves or sought help from someone they thought could help (an “expert”).
These “Generation Y” employees that are slowly invading your organisation will find the working environment of your organisation old fashioned and backward. They know of lots of other ways in which what YOU HAVE ALWAYS DONE could be done better. Unless your culture encourages at least discussion and experimentation which these new approaches then I fear it will be writing its own long-term suicide note. Those new, energetic staff will not hang around for the long haul. They will use your organisation as a stepping stone elsewhere. The older members of staff will slowly leave too, retiring in most cases. With them will go the organisational intelligence which has been keeping your organisation alive all these years.
This is why your organisation, and its senior management in particular, needs to embrace a culture of change. Resisting change is like trying to hold back the tide. Sooner or later you will get drowned.
So if you are reading this as one of the “enlightened”, frustrated by your management’s inability to recognise what is going on around them in this respect, perhaps this article has given you some fuel for your culture change fire. Good luck.
We all know the pitfalls of New Year Resolutions. You can usually guarantee that that gym membership will be unused by February and that the old chocolate habit will be back the first time you need some energy. Turning your business into a Social Business – one which uses social collaboration tools such as IBM Connections to enhance the way people discover and share information – should be on your work resolutions list this year.
Maybe it was on your list last year and you went back to work with the best of intentions only to be thwarted by not knowing where to start.
Help, dear reader, is at hand. The graphic below gives you a list of resolutions and suggestions for when you should be completing them. If you stick to these resolutions you should find that your success rate grows and that by the end of Q1 your Social Business project will have real momentum.
So, have a Happy and Prosperous New Year, and get started on your resolutions:
It might seem a little early to be hanging up my blogging tools for the year, but I feel a recharge of my batteries is needed. Thank you again to everyone who gave me feedback and encouragement in my blogging efforts this year. Lots more to come in 2013.
Let me leave you with what I would like to be the enduring message from me for this year, the Social Business Equation:
Today is a special day for lots of reasons, not least because it’s the last time for a very long time that we’ll see a perfectly repeating date: 12/12/12.
It’s also No Email Day – a day when us social types use social networks, twitter and all other “social” communication methods to show that email is less useful these days for collaborating with our colleagues than other media available to us now.
With this in mind, I have prepared the attached which you might want to use for your desktop background or something similar. Enjoy.
I am a passionate believer in the use of social collaboration tools to enhance the way people work. I demonstrate how these tools can enhance the communication, collaboration and capture of information in organisations of all sizes.
I have nearly 20 years experience of helping to solve customer problems through the implementation of collaborative systems. In this time I have been lucky enough to turn many customer relationships into long term friendships.
I work for IBM in the worldwide Collaboration Solutions Tiger Team.