Social Business: What Lies Ahead?
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A number of enterprises, including BASF, Premier Healthcare Alliance and the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration - as well as IBM itself - have implemented IBM's suite of services known as IBM Connections, a platform that incorporates cloud, social networking and mobility solutions.
"This is one of things I think is really important about social business: It's not just about cool tools, it has to be about business outcomes," said Jeanette Horan, IBM VP/CIO, during a session at IBM Connect. "What is it that the business can get if you implement them into your business processes?"
Indeed, in conversation after conversation with CIOs and other IT leaders who are pursuing a "social business" strategy, it always boils down to how the tools can change business processes. Sometimes, IT has a hard time convincing users who have grown accustomed to viewing social media as a "fun" tool that it has real business potential.
Dr. CheeChin Liew, enterprise community manager at BASF, presented a case study at IBM Connect in which he described implementing IBM Connections in May 2010 as the platform behind the connect.BASF network. He said workers often ask him how they can join the company's Facebook. "It's good to have social media that is so well known but it's hard to for them to unlearn this," says Liew. "We have to tell them it's not a Facebook. It's not for fun, it's actually for work."
BASF has more than 109,000 workers worldwide and its goal with connect.BASF was to break down business silos and foster collaboration among a dispersed workforce. In the 18 months since connect.BASF launched, 28,500 employees have signed on and are using the network, forming 2,300 different communities, according to Liew. The efforts to raise awareness and entice users continue. "We didn't expect that we'd need so much coaching, that was a surprise for us," says Liew. "Training and coaching takes much of our time."
At the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration, Lead IT Architect Robert van den Breemen, said the organization's digital workspace initiative -- which includes the Connect People network built on the IBM Connections platform -- has changed the way his team talks about technology. Presenting his case study at IBM Connect, van den Breemen said, "The main change is that we started to no longer talk about the technology and products people use in their daily work. Instead, we started to talk about people. All our initiatives [now] are human centric."