E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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IBM Warms to Social Networking – Probably About Time, Right?

Continuing further with some other discussions I have been having over here around the role of Web 2.0 or social software within the enterprise, I thought I would continue sharing some further thoughts on what is actually happening inside IBM itself;Β  how it is being impacted (And big time!) by the adoption of this same social software and how it is going to reflect in some of the different products that the software division has been working on for some time now and which, some of them, are in the final process of seeing the light. So with all that said I would like to point you to an interesting article where Mike Rhodin, general manager of IBM’s Lotus division, was interviewed by CNET on this very same subject: IBM Warms to Social Networking.

Both Ed Brill and Chris Reckling have shared some good highlights but I thought I would also let you know about a couple of quotes that I found quite remarkable and which I think would be worth while mentioning over here since they all match the thread of discussions we have been having over the last few months. So here we go with them:

""The real phenomenon of Web 2.0 is the concept of community," Rhodin said. "What if you could create tools that allow you to tap into the collaborative wisdom of a community?""

Yes, indeed, this is one of the reasons why perhaps communities are actually quite a hot topic at the moment and more than anything else because for the first time in a long while they have sparkled a number of different interactions between different community members and communities themselves within the business and beyond and all that thanks to the introduction of the emergent social software within the enterprise. What can there be out there more social than communities? Where people just hang out there to learn from one another, to share their knowledge with others and, above all, to collaborate with one another. Sorry, but whoever thought that communities were dead within the enterprise they should think about it twice because they aren’t. They are coming back very strong and ready to stir the pot some more, and all that, believe it or not, thanks to the multiple interactions that social software and its adoption have been able to create.

"These tools (IBM Community Tools), due out in the "near future," will allow an individual worker to ask a group of colleagues if they know the answer a specific question, he said. Later versions will make use of IBM’s Dogear, a social bookmarking system to help different communities share information."

In the past I have been talking multiple times about Dogear, IBM’s own social bookmarking tool, but the other interesting thing from that quote is the fact that Mike just mentioned one of the main tools, along with Notesbuddy, that is part of the code base for the already available Sametime 7.5, the next Sametime version IBM is launching out there in the market. Yes, that is right IBM Community Tools. There are tons of materials already available about this next version of Sametime and as time goes by I will be sharing some of the most interesting but just to give you a teaser, Sametime 7.5 has been the only IM client that has been able to drag me back into the Instant Messaging world, even more so after I gave up on it a few months back! That is just how powerful it is. But more on that in upcoming weblog posts. Let’s move on.

""The reason Knowledge Management failed is quite simple: Knowledge inherently resides in minds. Putting it into a system that can be managed is inherently flawed,"

By contrast, social-networking tools tend to be voluntary and controlled by the people that use them."

There you go, something that to most of us has been crystal clear for a number of years now and that I would say is about time others would realise about it, too. For quite some time I have been saying how many enterprises, IBM included, have been putting just too much focus and emphasis on explicit knowledge exchange, i.e. the capturing of Intellectual Capital, as opposed to start looking into tacit knowledge exchange and look for a more balanced approach where both of them could co-exist. And that is exactly what social software is actually going to be doing. Bringing together two different worlds into a single one where people get to share what they know with others and collaborate at the same time that they still feel they are in control of the flow, which they are. If you ask me, about time that happens, right?!?!

"IBM has found that a small percentage of people respond to these queries (From IBM Community Tools). But even a few connections allow people to discover each other and their common interests"

Yes! This is something that I have been advocating for quite some time now. One of the primary goals from social software within the enterprise is not to try to reach to the entire corporation and get them all into the social software bandwagon. I mean, can you imagine having over 330,000 IBMers weblogging away ?!?! Would you be able to keep up with them all ? I wouldn’t. The key message from all this Web 2.0 thing is to actually start small and build up from there. Get yourself a bunch of early adopters, a critical mass, that will get things rolling and that over time would be able to get people up to speed with what is going on in that new social media space. Then help them facilitate that other knowledge workers get a chance to participate and make things happen and before you know it a good chunk of the enterprise workforce would be on it without even noticing it. That is the whole power behind social software, that you can start as small as you may want, perhaps the smaller, the better, and build up from there. Remember that you just need a bunch of webloggers or social bookmarkers in order for the enterprise to benefit from those interactions. That same thing would apply over here.

"Traditional content management and collaboration applications usually focus on the creation of a document or presentation, Rhodin said, whereas many technologies and practices associated with social-networking sites focus on people and connections between people."

Ahhh, you know where I am coming from on this one. Yes, indeed, it is all about the people. Do I need to add something more to this? I don’t think so, otherwise I would be repeating myself once more πŸ˜‰

""Ad-hoc, interpersonal processes are a great opportunity to eke out more productivity," said Rhodin. "A lot of these concepts have been around for a while, but the user interfaces have become more approachable.""

Certainly! Things are starting to get easier now than ever, but for that to happen enterprises need to open wide their arms to social software and start preparing the way for their knowledge workers to make extensive use of it because otherwise it would fail and would not have the same effect as we are all eagerly anticipating for some time now. Yes, the key is to start small, but to start looking for that well balanced approach of putting together both the explicit and the tacit knowledge exchanges, and I am not sure what you think, but I am certain that social software is the key fundamental factor that would make it all finally work. And already starting to happen now, although I would be detailing some more on that as time goes by…

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5 comments

  1. Luis, this is the Terrific summary of what is happening in IBM’s activity in social software area. Dogear, Fringe Contacts and “activity explore” etc would be expected to be integrated into a kind of “federated services” to empower knowledge activities of prodfessionals, empowerd by BLOG and QESwiki collaborative tools in social software. Looking forward to seeing your continued coverage and analysis of all these trends. Regards

  2. Thanks very much, Sawada-san, for the kind feedback comments and for dropping by. Welcome to elsua!

    I certainly agree with you that we are witnessing some really exciting times where we would be able to see the real impact on a large corporation like IBM with that adoption of social software. Right now there are plenty of different initiatives becoming available to knowledge workers so that we can already start experimenting with them. And what we are going to see, indeed, like you mentioned, is how after they have reached critical mass we would be seeing how they would try to integrate with one another in order to provide that people portal concept that I have been talking about a couple of times already.

    Take, for instance, the example of Sametime 7.5. Perhaps right now, one of the most powerful real-time collaboration tools out there that I will be expanding some more on as time goes by but which it is already starting to integrate some of those different social software tools with the usage of the famous plugins that continue to being built over an extended period of time. More and more of these plugin components are connecting Sametime with other social media tools and acting as the main bridge between one and the other but the key important thing over here is that the knowledge worker / end-user is always in control of the information so that they decide themselves how to best make use of it. Very powerful, indeed, but not to worry because I shall be explaining some more on this as time goes by.

    Thanks again for the feedback !

  3. Luis, thanks for additional clarification. Expecting to see YOUR Summary of upcoming Lotus announcement. BTW, FYI, pls refer tp the following report on IBM QEDWiki to address situational applications development for hidden application development, so called DIY IT coined by Rod Smith and echoed by Mike Rhodin. File is located at

    http://www.wsug-nordic.org/riga2006/files/presentations/D2T3S5_Mashups_TFV13_handout.pdf

    Appreciate your commnent on this QEDwiki project too.
    Best regards

  4. Luis, additional information for your interests.

    Mike Roche of IBM Ireland conver IBM activity relative to Social Networking Software, aka “People” software

    Dive on β€˜People’ software
    􀂃 Collaboration services
    τ€€— Instant Messaging
    τ€€— Learning
    τ€€— Knowledge Management
    τ€€— Expertise location
    τ€€— Documents
    τ€€— Teamspaces
    􀂃 Social Computing
    τ€€— Tagging
    τ€€— Social bookmarking
    τ€€— Social Network Analysis
    τ€€— Communities
    τ€€— PeoplePages
    τ€€— Activities
    τ€€— Blogs

    forms.edifice.org/Presentations/Bringing_people%20and%20processes_together.pdf

    Looks like this is very close to what your are covering.
    Best regards

  5. Hi Sawada-san ! Thanks a bunch for the feedback comments and for the sharing of those really great resources around the subject of social software and what IBM is doing in that particular respect. You would have noticed how it has taken me a little bit of time to reply to your comments and I must admit that it is all due to the fact that I am preparing a couple of surprises regarding those different resources and I am just waiting for the final heads up and you will get to see what that surprise was all about. So bear with me while I get the final details sorted out and you will see the end-results…

    Again appreciated all the feedback comments and wonderful resources shared thus far and will hopefully be speaking to you soon ! (I have tried to locate your e-mail address in your own blog to drop you an e-mail on this but couldn’t find it. Therefore this reply hoping that it may still get over to you)

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