July 16 2012
It's time to come out of stealth mode on my summer project this year. I'm writing a book, specifically a book about social business and product management. If all goes well, the book will be published in the first quarter of 2013, though that somewhat depends on you.
I have felt like I have a book to write for a long time. For me it is a bit of full circle -- my first real job in high school was at Waldenbooks, and until the day that I started a part-time summer job installing TCP/IP routers at Indiana University, I was convinced my career destiny was going to be to open my own retail bookstore.
When I thought about a book project over the last few years, what I really wanted to write was a "history of Lotus Notes", including behind-the-scenes stories and observations. The only problem with that concept is that I can't write that book while the product continues to be a significant part of IBM's business, and/or while I also am an IBM executive. It just doesn't compute. Someday maybe.
Earlier this year, my IBM Press colleagues Steve Stansel and Ellice Uffer approached me with a different idea. They suggested that it was time to write a book on how to be a social product/brand manager. There are obviously a number of books on social business lining the physical or virtual shelves these days, but most of these take a marketing point of view or are more narrowly about social media. No line of business owner has attempted to take the successful experience of using social business tools and turn it into a opportunities and lessons text for others. Yet here I was, with ten years of history documented in the pages of edbrill.com and my other social feeds, plus the inside-the-firewall collaboration within Lotus Notes and other tools.
At first, I was hesitant to sign up for the idea. What did I have to say that hadn't been said already? Everything I had done was just the right thing to do. Whilst I believe that the community around Lotus Notes is a key contributing factor to the product's continued success, cultivating it was not some social experiment. How would you all react to the idea that I was going to take real world examples from the last ten years and turn them into lessons for other companies?
Answering that question will be a significant measure of how successful the book will be.
The inspiration that moved me from "no, thanks" to "yes I'll write the book" came out of a presentation that IBM CEO Ginni Rometty gave when she was in Chicago a few months ago. Rometty talked about how important the "digital IBMer" would be to our success in our second century, and the emphasis that she was personally putting on making IBM an example of a best-in-class social business. In that context, our own analytics tools have surprisingly indicated that I am one of the more influential IBMers online. Rometty's presentation convinced me that as an IBM executive and thought leader, I needed to tell the story of how our evolution to be a social business had benefitted my piece of that business--and me personally.
I also think the story of IBM encouraging individual voices -- at the heart of being a social business -- is one of the key cultural transitions we have made as an organization, and the only way that an line of business executive like me could publish my part of our story. Looking at the success of other IBM Press efforts aimed at line of business, such as Sandy Carter's "Get Bold"/"New Language of Marketing 2.0" and John Lamb's "The Greening of IT", I am confident that IBM Press can make social product/brand management a topic where IBM offers experience, expertise, and best practices.
As those of you who have worked on book projects know, the timeline is both extremely compressed and lengthy all at once. My objective is to have the first pass of the book done in the next eight weeks or so. After that, it's editing, production, and all that other good stuff that turns the written word into a finished product. Along the way, I'll be sure to share some of the process.
So what's your part?
Mostly, inspiration. My friend Michael Sampson, who has written several books, warned me that it takes about an hour to write a single page. He's been mostly right, even with all the material on edbrill.com and elsewhere that I can mine for content. It's a long slog. Having all of you along for the journey will keep me focused on getting this project done, and in a way that you, or your colleagues, will want to read it.
For some of you, I may ask for a little more. Occasionally, I will be quoting comments from edbrill.com or tweets or other social media. I'll usually need your permission if you made the comment, though, so watch for some requests in the next few weeks.
I've reached out to a few people already to ask for a more in-depth contribution, something of a sidebar or more in-depth insight on a particular topic along the way. I'm not quite ready to publish the outline or table of contents, but the general theme is to discuss how social business tools make for more successful products/services/offerings.
Some of you have that experience, too, and if you think you would like to contribute, I would love to have you be part of the book.
In the coming weeks, I'll obviously be talking more about this project, but I'll also likely be relatively quiet (as I have been since I started writing last month). I'm looking forward to sharing along the way!