Case study: IBM s Journey to Becoming a Social Business

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1 Case study: IBM s Journey to Becoming a Social Business Rowan Hetherington, IBM, September 2012 Introduction The corporate world is in the midst of an important transformation: it is witnessing a significant change in the way business gets done. It is impossible to ignore the rise of social media and the impact it is having on the enterprise: the implications for business are profound. While this shift certainly means new challenges or issues to think through, risk or governance to name two, it also ushers in overwhelming possibilities. Among some of the companies that have started to embrace this shift, the correlation between social media use and business success is becoming increasingly clear. The figures below communicate IBM s journey to becoming a social business, and some of the questions that journey raises: what does a social business look like, what are some of the opportunities we see and what does an organisation need to do to progress on its journey to becoming a Social Business? A driver of innovation: Mobile offices and the need for collaboration IBM s social presence started well over 15 years ago. Back in the early 90's, prior to the arrival of Lou Gerstner as chairman of the board and chief executive officer, there were plans to break up IBM into smaller, supposedly more nimble businesses. Gerstner decided this was not a good idea and chose other means to get the company into better financial shape. One approach was to transition from the traditional office to the mobile office. Given teams were no longer sitting across from one another, remote collaboration was introduced as a means to ensure dispersed workgroups were up to date on corporate information and able to continue working as teams, as they would within traditional offices. IBM has always communicated very closely with its business partners and they too would be included in this collaboration. Developing tools for social networking As IBM s level of collaboration maturity developed and it became successful in leveraging expertise and knowledge across the company and with business partners worldwide, it began to see tools being developed that were enabling a different type of dialogue to take place, not just around doing business but doing business better. Someone in Boston would post an idea on how to do something better and it would turn into a global dialogue. Teams would step up and begin to execute the ideas. That was the introduction of social business within IBM. 1

2 Figure 1: IBM s journey to becoming a social business Since 2008, IBM has continued to think of new ways and channels for: Connecting people to expertise (whether customers, partners or employees), generating new sources of innovation, fostering creativity and establishing greater reach and exposure to new business opportunities. Removing any unnecessary boundaries between experts inside the company and experts in the marketplace. IBM embraces tools and leadership models that support capturing knowledge and insight from many sources, so that staff can quickly sense changes in the industry, customer mood, employee sentiment, or process efficiencies. Leveraging these social networks to speed up business, gaining real-time insight to make quicker and better decisions, getting information and services to customers and partners in new ways - faster. The journey Over time, this evolution has progressed IBM to the Social Model, characterised by end-user driven content and communities of practice that combine social capital with intellectual capital to enable collective intelligence. 2

3 Figure 2: The phases of progress towards becoming a social business The Website Model In the mid 1990 s, the internet browser was developed. It became easier than ever before to publish content, simply by placing it on a web server. When large numbers of people started to share content on the web, websites proliferated and it became difficult to know where to find specific information. Just like on the Internet outside IBM s firewall, lots of sites on IBM s intranet started to compete for online visitor traffic. Each business unit, department and country had its own website. Most of these sites tried to offer a wide variety of content. At the same time, IBM had a central site that could be described as a planet with a weak gravitational pull. In a way, the IBM intranet homepage wasn t really central at all. Its unique value was that its intranet editors, who at that time operated much like print editors, created high quality content, or corporate journalism. The Audience Model With the move to a homepage that could serve multiple audiences, IBM started to increase the gravitational pull of that central homepage and make it a useful tool for IBMers. By 2002 the intranet homepage could serve up profiled content to a variety of different audiences; however the links still often pointed to silo sites. The Roles Model IBM continued to focus on delivering all the relevant, personalised content (information, tools and applications) through one central location the single point of entry. Focus on 3

4 personalisation increased, and profiling capabilities delivered the relevant content to specific employees based upon their country and location, business unit, employee-type, industry and job role. This centralised model proved effective at creating a common environment for IBMers. The Social Model IBM has extended into a new paradigm of digital workplace that places significant focus on user driven content. In this social model, individuals can contribute to, learn about and find relevant experts and expertise, based on their interests, networks and connections. In this highly social environment, the content created through online interactions between individuals (as opposed to intranet editors) becomes the central experience. IBM s Social Computing Guidelines were created in 2005 through collaboration with IBM bloggers and later expanded. They are based on the view that participation in social media is in both IBMers and IBM s interest, because the value that IBM creates comes overwhelmingly from the expertise of its people. These guidelines help IBMers navigate the potential dangers and controversies that come with using social media, such as concerns about disclosure of confidential information, violation of privacy or breaches of security. The data created by all of the social interactions between individuals has fuelled deeper organisational learning and collaboration and a more responsive business. Social Business at IBM today IBM s scale, diversification, nature (a company of experts ) and culture fit with the opportunities of social business (see Table 1 below). The organisation Culture Value 400,000 employees Collaborative Flattening the organisation 170 countries Progressive Accelerating learning B2B, not consumer Risk averse Enabling influence Company of experts Table 1: IBM today IBM encourages the use of external social sites including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs to support their sales, communication, marketing and recruiting efforts. While employee s social interactions are not under a microscope, the experiments in using social on a massive scale continue to be governed by the social computing guidelines, along with the business conduct guidelines. Internally, the IBM social laboratory is exploring the use of gamification and crowdsourcing principles to reduce the cost of projects. IBM was able to significantly reduce the expense and increase accuracy of language translation and localisation effort for product manuals that typically cost the company millions by awarding points to employees who helped translate the documents. Employees with the highest point totals earned money for their charities. IBM Connections IBM Connections is social software for business that is widely used within IBM, often significantly reducing . The latest version offers eight distinct applications, and provides an 4

5 exceptional social platform that helps enable access to the right people, as well as internal and external content, through professional networks and communities. Figure 3: Screenshot of IBM Connections home page Home Page: The Home Page application helps provide individuals with a consolidated view of their social data from across all of the other IBM Connections applications. Communities: The Communities application connects individuals with a common interest, responsibility, or area of expertise to share information, exchange ideas and collaborate on projects. Recommendations: Social analytics provide recommendations about people to connect with and content to view. Forums: The Forums application provides a convenient way to create an online discussion board where people can ask questions, share their experiences, and discuss topics of common interest. Activities: The Activities application helps individuals create online work areas where they and their teammates can gather together the s, Instant Message (IM) chats, documents, messages, and other information that they need to accomplish a business objective. Bookmarks: The Bookmarks social bookmarking application helps you save, organise, and share bookmarks as well as discover bookmarks that have been qualified by others. Profiles: The Profiles application helps you locate the people you need by searching across your organisation using keywords that help identify expertise, current projects, and responsibilities. Wikis: The wikis application provides a convenient online method for teams to author content collaboratively, edit it and then publish it. This is designed to help businesses create content faster, and also improve its quality by utilising input from a variety of experts. 5

6 Most of the technologies IBM brings to market are a direct result of the research and testing performed internally. IBM Connections is now the fastest growth organic software product in IBM s long history. Benefits of IBM Connections: Engage instantly and in context to get business done by staying on top of relevant activity in your professional networks and communities Act quickly and be responsive to customers by pivoting rapidly between internal and external communities Create an ideal community experience and anticipate the needs of a community by monitoring social activity and participation Increase personal and organisational effectiveness by creating, connecting, and sharing in one easy to use social experience IBMs Social Business statistics (as at September 2012) Internal 433,000 users of IBM Connections 32,000 individual blogs 120,000 communities 775,000 files shared (and 21.1M downloads) 1.5M bookmarks (4.3M tags) 75,000 wikis (60.6M views) 50M instant messages/day via Sametime 35,200 IBM experts enrolled in the Expertise Locator service More than 120,000 mobile users External 304,000 employees on LinkedIn; 692,277 people follow IBM on LinkedIn - more than any other organisation in the world 32,000 IBMers engage via Twitter each month (Methodology: This is an approximation based on a study that found 93,000k people or accounts tweeted about IBM per month. Based on the analysis, 35% could be considered IBMers.) 198,000 IBM employees listed on Facebook 1000s of individual IBMer blogs 343,000 IBM alumni have self-identified on LinkedIn 100,000 IBM alumni in Greater IBM Connections Almost 4.5M video views on IBM's channel on YouTube 100,000s of followers on IBM s Twitter handles Nearly 250,000 people follow People for a Smarter Planet, one of IBM s many Facebook pages that regularly stimulates lively debates about smarter planet topics through frequent "guest appearances" of IBM subject matter experts Approximately 50,000 visits in a typical month to asmarterplanet.com - a group blog, popular with visitors to IBM.com and IBM employees Business impacts (as at July 2011) Improved Company agility & responsiveness Reduced time to complete projects by 30% Increased use of software assets by 50% Cut component costs by 33% Reduction of over $100M/year in help desk support costs Increases in Employee Satisfaction Increased Employee productivity 6

7 Dramatic increase in innovation (employee crowd sourcing ideas identified 10 high potential incubator business which were funded with $100M) Improved employee networking and expertise Figure 4: The growth of social tools and employee-generated content IBM s willingness to invest, test, fail and iterate has been key to the journey to becoming a social business. The International Data Corporation (IDC) ranked IBM number one in worldwide market share for enterprise social software for the third year running in 2011: Further information As a global technology leader focused on delivering forward-looking technology and solutions, IBM is no stranger to taking a unique approach in order to generate a stronger end result. To encourage discussion and foster a cultural affinity for social media across its vast network of 400,000 employees, countless partners, and global customer base, IBM made social engagement a key responsibility of every employee. Through a collaborative effort led by marketing, employees embraced social media to help get the word out about IBM solutions and events. The result was a measurable increase in awareness and tighter collaboration among IBM employees to better meet customer needs. ~ Forrester Research, January 04, 2011 Find out more about the capabilities of IBM Connections at: Read IBM s Social Computing Guidelines: Read more about IBM and Social Business at: 7

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