IBM is a social business

December 9 2010

As a student in college, it was my dream to work for IBM.  Heck, maybe it was even earlier.  Mom took us on a cruise when I was a teenager, and one of the men seated at our dining table told us he was an "IBM executive".  He was of course fit, tanned, and living a good life, or maybe that is what my brain chooses to recall some 25+ years later.  For sure, I still vividly recall how much I wanted to work for IBM straight out of college, though it took me being part of an acquired company to actually get here.

What I never imagined is that one day I would become a face of a faceless conglomerate.  Stuart McIntyre actually saw this before I did, noting that the landing page now features five IBMers who we are encouraging customers to connect with, myself included.

Image:IBM is a social business

How times have changed, and quickly.

When Ambuj Goyal was announced as being appointed general manager for Lotus, one of our PR managers chastised me for blogging even a hint about this to the outside world.  "We don't have celebrities at IBM, our solutions speak for themselves".  The old IBM fought mightily to isolate our public persona to just a few key executives, while everyone else worked anonymously below.

Thing is, nobody wants to do business with a faceless conglomerate.  And the social transformation of Web 2.0 compelled IBMers to think differently about the value of unique voices in the marketplace.  Instead of appearing as a disciplined army, it was now time to project an image of more of an alliance of like-minded thinkers.  This fit the transitions in our overall business approach, with diverse offerings and solutions across hardware, software, services, consulting, etc.

In the last few years, IBM senior executives have embraced the transformation of our company.  It was only a decade ago that at my brainwashing class for new managers, one of the VPs made the dramatic assertion to aspiring future leaders to "pack your bags....we make our money all over the world, but we make our decisions in Westchester County".  Today, I am living the dream -- as one of many leading this company forward.  When I started blogging back then, I would never have imagined the day that the home page of a business that generates tens of billions of dollars would be focused on how to connect with the company.  

Blogs, communities, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter.  These are all tools that have made IBM more successful, and in turn we have envisioned solutions to help transform yours into a social business.  While some of the data in this article isn't quite right, the story -- and where it appears -- is pretty impressive.  MIT's Technology Review just ran a story headlined "Facebook for Work" which reports on how the real world is adopting this technology:

Like Facebook, Lotus Connections doesn't just sit back and wait for workers to spread a meme. It actively suggests other users and topics based on shared interests: Who do you already know on the network? What do you look at? What do you comment on or tag? IBM's goal is to make these types of recommendations for coworkers within a big company, as well as across multiple companies that turn out to have common goals.
With a customer result:
Cemex uses Lotus Connections as part of an internal collaboration platform. With the help of the combined platform, "we were able to take a new product from idea to launch in four months," says Nelson Enriquez, technology innovation manager for Cemex. "That was unheard of before."
As unheard of as having faces of IBM in commercials, on websites, and using YouTube.  But this is how businesses are more successful, more innovative, and more connected today.  Are you ready?

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