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

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Social Computing at IBM – By Ben Edwards and James Snell

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As I get to prepare a number of different weblog posts around the subject of what IBM is currently doing on the area of social computing, specially touching base on upcoming offerings like Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr, I thought I would create a weblog post (Perhaps some more, you never know) to help introduce the topic itself, more than anything else because I have been getting lots of feedback from different people telling me that they never thought IBM would be so serious about social software, after all.

Well, let’s see; let me tell you something on the subject to get things going. IBM has been getting involved with social computing for a number of years already and what most of you folks have been reading lately about what has been going on at Lotusphere 2007 with regards to the recent announcements is just the culmination of some intensive work taking place internally and which, slowly, but steadily, is coming out to the outside world. Yes, Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr are already making their way into providing some really useful business value to knowledge workers, but some of its many components have already been used inside IBM for quite some time.

And if not, check out the following videocast that Jeremiah Owyang (Thanks, Jeremiah, for putting it together and for sharing it with us!) put together where over the course of six and a half minutes he gets to interview Ben Edwards on what IBM is currently doing around the subject of social software / media. So you would get to hear from Ben how IBM has been making use of weblogs, wikis, podcasts, videocasts, etc. etc. in order to help IBM employees share knowledge and collaborate with one another.

I have actually been working with Ben on a number of different episodes for the always helpful and interesting IBM Shortcuts podcast and even though we work in two different workgroups we still get together to share our experiences and collaborate making use of this social software.

But that is not all of it. Here is another example of what IBM has been doing around the space of social computing over the last few years. This time around it is coming from James Snell, one of my fellow IBM colleagues who has been doing an incredible piece of work around the weblogging component from Lotus Connections and who has been looking after our internal weblogging platform for some time, too, along with his entire team.

Check out Just letting it happen. In that particular weblog entry James gets to share plenty of different gems about how IBM has been making its way through social computing over the last few years. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

"[…] if you want to build a viable, valuable social networking environment within the enterprise you simply cannot force it. You just have to let it happen and you have to be willing to let your employees run with it. Provide the tool, make it available, give them the freedom to use it, then step back and get out of their way. Don’t worry about short term ROI and don’t worry about the possibility of failure." (Emphasis mine)

That is perhaps one of the best descriptions that clearly explains what social computing is all about and how you can get things going within the enterprise. Bottom-up and onwards! And forget about the good old ROI and trying to justify it all. Let the knowledge workers do that for you when the right time comes.

"Today IBM has what may very well be the largest corporate social networking environment in the world. We don’t know that for sure because there’s not a lot of great information out there about how many folks are actually using these technologies within the firewall. Here are some numbers: Our BlogCentral environment supports 25k+ registered users with over 3k+ “active” blogs. There are over 100k posts and comments with over 10k+ unique tags. Our dogear server has over 200k+ distinct bookmarks to resources both inside and outside the firewall and is generally more reliable at providing quick access to important resources than our Intranet search servers. Our activities server has over 11k activities with 69k+ entries and has 35k+ registered users"

They say that for any social software tool to succeed in whatever environment you would need to have a critical mass of knowledge workers making extensive use of it. Well, there you have got some statistics on how that critical mass of IBM employees has been forming up over the course of the last few years around some of the most popular social networking tools.

"Generally impressive statistics, especially if you consider that use of the blogs, bookmarks and activities servers is entirely optional and there is no corporate mandate that Thou Shalt Blog or Thou Shalt Bookmark. Instead, a small group of people heard about it and started using it; they told some others about it and they started using ti; then they told some others about it and they started using it… and it evolved from there"

Like I said, bottom-up and onwards! That is perhaps the key successful factor on the huge traction that social computing has been having lately inside IBM. Build it, deploy it and they will come. Sooner or later, but they will come. And here you have got a couple of primary examples. The challenge now remains how IBM is going to consolidate all that experience it has been able to build up over the course of the years in this particular area and share it with its customers and beyond in order to help them share their knowledge and collaborate with others.

And that is basically what I would be trying to address in upcoming weblog posts over here as Lotus Connections, Lotus Quickr, Lotus Sametime 7.5.x and Lotus Notes 8 make it through to their final stages of becoming IBM products. Thus stay tuned for some more to come if you are good for an exciting ride!

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  1. Hi Jeremiah ! Yes, indeed, it surely looked like both of you had a great time putting the video together ! I am glad you did, actually, since it would help me (us) keep spreading the message around about what social computing in the Enterprise could well be. Keep up the great work ! And thanks again for dropping by and for the feedback !

  2. Hi Sawada-san! Thanks a lot for dropping by and for the feedback comments ! Appreciated. Yes, as we go along I will be sharing a whole bunch of different weblog post around the subject of social computing @ IBM since there seems to be a genuine interest from folks to find out how all this Enterprise 2.0 buzz is currently taking place in such a larger corporation as IBM. So stay tuned and come back for more, because there will be plenty more! So thanks again for the feedback!

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