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Lotusphere Looms As IBM Expands Its Social Business Strategy

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IBM is setting out its stall for Lotusphere 2012 with a set of new programmes and services to expand its social business strategy, announced at last year’s event

Ahead of its Lotusphere 2012 conference, IBM announced a series of new programmes, services and partnerships to continue to push forward the company’s social business strategy.

IBM launched its social business play in a big way at Lotusphere 2011, delivering new software and services to lay the foundation for its enterprise customers to take advantage of social networking and media to become truly social businesses. Now, IBM has introduced a set of strategies – including consulting opportunities, educational programmes and workshops – to expand on its social business initiative.

Social business migration

“The opportunity to transform into a social business can be stunted without a focus on engagement, culture change, and policy.” said Alistair Rennie, general manager of Social Business at IBM, in a statement. “Social technologies, when combined with the right skills and culture, can truly unlock the potential of people within the organisation to collaborate, innovate, make smarter business decisions and ultimately drive their bottom line.”

With its Lotus software IBM has a legacy of social software products and is poised to tap further into the lucrative market for social business software and services. According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for social business software is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016, reaching $6.4 billion (£4.2bn), compared with $600 million (£391m) last year.

In June 2011, market research firm IDC ranked IBM number one in worldwide market share for social platform software for 2009 and 2010. Also according to IDC, the worldwide revenue for the social platforms software market was more than $500 million (£326m) in 2010, representing growth of 31.9 percent. The market opportunity for social platforms is expected to grow by a factor of nearly two billion worldwide by 2014, IDC said.

With this latest move IBM is IBM is investing in its clients and business partners to develop the skills, technical support and industry resources that will allow them to effectively adopt social networking capabilities to transform their business operations, the company said. This includes introducing new technical workshops designed to improve skills and consulting offerings to help develop a business culture that fosters open collaboration and sharing among employees, clients, and business partners.

The new IBM social business initiatives include:

  • Strategic consulting from IBM Global Business Services to help organisations better understand their current adoption of social business tools for both internal and external purposes and helps to articulate how social business accelerates and alleviates business challenges.
  • Global educational and mentorship programmes for clients and business partners on how to become effective community managers, the fastest growing job in social, while increasing employee engagement over top, line-of-business communities on the social software platform.
  • Technical certification programmes that help customers and business partners validate and demonstrate their skills through assessment exams and training resources so that they can plan for and perform the installation, configuration and day-today tasks associated with ensuring the smooth and efficient operation of social software applications.
  • Social Business Agenda workshops on IBM’s Virtual Innovation Centre providing immediate access to discussions forums focused on the benefits of becoming a social business, providing clients and business partners with case study examples of successful social businesses, and helping them to develop an agenda for driving social adoption.

IBM also announced a partnership with The Dachis Group, a large social business consultancy, to help organisations quickly drive adoption success through a social business adoption quick start workshop. The workshop combines IBM services for the implementation of social business products for enterprises with additional services from The Dachis Group and focuses on the use of social business technology while fostering cultural skills and engagement, IBM said.

“You can really see a growth of maturity in the marketplace that IBM helped create,” said Sandy Carter, vice president, Social Business Evangelism and Sales at IBM, in an interview with eWEEK’s sister publication ChannelInsider. Carter was referring to IBM’s major push into the space at Lotusphere 2011.

Carter also noted that social and mobile tend to go hand-in-hand and cited research that indicates that 68 percent of social networking activity happens on mobile devices. In August 2011, IBM announced new software, including a new IBM Connections app, designed to help organisations embrace social networking using a broad range of mobile devices.

“Mobile will be a huge game changer in 2012,” Carter said.

Educational front

Meanwhile, going further on the educational front, IBM and San Jose State University (SJSU) announced a collaborative effort to help students turn their social networking savvy into business ready skills to prepare for the jobs of the future. This new academic programme provides students with the opportunity to deepen technical and business skills in the emerging arena of social business.

IBM said the goals of the partnership are to help students: Understand the tenets of a smarter Social Business through the use of social networking software; build business skills and real-world experience by assessing the social business capabilities and business challenges of an IBM partner organisation; develop teamwork and collaboration skills; better understand how to use IBM social networking technologies; and deepen relationships between faculty, students, IBM, and IBM business partners.

Led by Professor Larry Gee, SJSU students assess the social networking capabilities of an IBM Business Partner organisation as a way of learning about the characteristics of a social business while helping to apply social networking technologies to business operations for more efficient collaboration and faster innovation, IBM said. As part of their coursework, the students are mentored by IBM experts and learn about internal and external use of social business applications.

“Today’s students are already social savvy in their personal lives,” Gee, a professor at SJSU’s College of Business, said in a statement. “However it’s vital for them to be able to apply these skills to business and differentiate themselves as they enter a tough job market. Through the use of IBM technology and experienced mentors, our students will join the corporate world prepared to compete.”

“IBM and San Jose State University have a long-standing relationship, founded on our deep commitment to preparing students with the skills needed to become successful business leaders,” said Jim Corgel, general manager for Academic Programmes at IBM, in a statement. “There’s no disputing that social business has become a necessary component in today’s business strategy and the skills that go along with social business are in high demand. With SJSU, we are taking the next step in ensuring students are prepared to use social business technology to create business value, and solve complex business challenges quickly and efficiently.”

Alison Diana contributed to this report.