So having returned from Lotusphere 2011, and hearing all the great news regarding the shift in IBM strategy towards a Social Business, had me at first very excited. I mean, after all “Collaboration” had been the buzzword at past Lotuspheres, and with the advent of Enterprise 2.0, Social Networking, and Social Media over the past 2 years, to have IBM jump into the “social” discussion was very exciting and promising to hear. Then I began to think what exactly does “Social Business” mean to IBM? Does it mean their whole product portfolio will be awash with Social functionality, integration of various Web 2.0 widget\mashups? Does it mean IBM will now direct more of their knowledge to promoting Social Business as cultural transformational lever? Does it mean the old-fashioned brand of “Lotus” will be phased out as IBM looks to capitalize on the tremendous opportunity for moving away from on-premise technology consumption model?
Surprisingly, I found the answer to all the questions was Yes, Yes, Yes! I came away from Lotusphere 2011 with a new sense of excitement and hope about how IBM has finally “gotten” it regarding collaboration. Collaboration is not a tool, Collaboration is not something a person does regarding documents, Collaboration is not a buzz word on a PowerPoint slide. No…for me, Collaboration is a state of mind, a fundamental Business Process that needs to be inextricably linked with everyone in the company. For those of us who have embraced the concepts of Enterprise 2.0, we have been preaching this type of integrated social business process, along with the brute force cultural evolution needed to provide the ecosystem necessary to bring about real change within the enterprise. Now while I am a firm believer in Enterprise 2.0, in the seeking and linking of weak-links within the social space of an organization to strengthen a persons spectrum of knowledge and information sharing, IBM is providing the technology possible to fulfill those aspirations Enterprise 2.0 promotes.
Another surprise for me was the presentation from Dr. Andrew McAfee from MIT. Dr. McAfee is the creator of the term Enterprise 2.0, and leads the research on digital information at MIT. He said he did not particularly like the term Social Business, preferring Enterprise 2.0, but in reality he did not care, and is more interested in the phenomenon in emergent social interactions than the names.
Another excellent part of the Lotusphere was the IBM Social Business Industries Symposium held the first 2 days of the conference. This was meant for executives and senior leadership to better understand what is meant by being a “Social Business”, and how to mitigate the risks while maximizing the benefits. For me, this was the best part of the conference, as it focused on Social Business language, and not technical mumbo jumbo, which executives could not care about.
I am hopeful business leaders will begin to embrace some of the teachings that are beginning to filter into the Social Business space. Some leaders may think Social Business is not a serious business process resulting in top-line revenue, but IBM has given me great hope that the message will be more than simply deploying some piece of technology.
With IBM now fully behind this Social Business phenomenon, they will no doubt be pushing the quantitative business value of Social Business platforms, and that means for practioners like myself, will only provide more ammunition to push for the business-cultural transformations necessary to drive increased productivity and garner business form being “Social”.