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

From the blog

Will IBM Compete with Facebook/Web 2.0? – Sorry, There Is No Competition, but Augmentation!

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Last week I had a very enlightening and energising conversation with Dennis Howlett on several various topics. We actually spent an hour talking away and it kind of felt like one of those conversations that you keep enjoying to no end! As a result of that conversation, Dennis created a post over at his excellent ZDNET blog "Irregular Enterprise" under the title Will IBM Compete with Facebook/Web 2.0? and I thought I would chime in as well sharing my two cents worth of comments. Oh, talking about comments, I initially thought about sharing a comment in his blog post, but apparently ZDNET blogs asks you for your home address details, phone number and a whole bunch of other stuff to leave a comment. And there is no way I am going to be doing that for a single comment! Instead, I am going to link back to it, hoping they would fix that at some point! Sorry.

Anyway, onwards! In that particular weblog post, Dennis questions whether large corporations, like IBM, in this case, are able to come up to the challenge of competing with a number of different social software tools available out there, free of charge, and ready for everyone to make use of. And it comes to put together that challenge mentioning how IBM and other large enterprises are going to have a tough time adjusting their already existing pricing models in order to make it all work, specially for those of them still under the realm of groupware.

While I think his comments in that area are very very valid, and I hope to provide some further insights in that particular respect in a follow up weblog post, I was actually intrigued when he shared this particular comment:

"[…] one has to wonder how long it will be before IBM gets its social computing act together."

While I know and fully realise that we may be just getting started with putting our act together (Kindly insert here my disclaimer for my blogging activities…) I think we are putting our act together as far as Enterprise 2.0 is concerned. If you come to think about it, this year is probably going to be the one where IBM will have the strongest presence in the social software space.

New initiatives just recently launched like Lotus Sametime 7.5.1, Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr (Topics that I have talked about in the past over here as well) clearly prove the point that IBM is thinking more and more seriously about putting together some pretty interesting social software offerings. And on top of that, you have got the upcoming final release of Lotus Notes 8, which Ed Brill and Todd Watson have just pre-announced will go live this coming Friday!, and which will introduce some really nice features related to social computing. Not to mention as well the incredible amount of work done thus far in virtual worlds like Second Life.

But the really nice thing about all of these offerings and something that not many folks seem to notice is that contrary to what everyone is doing out there at the moment, none of these social software tools are trying to replace or substitute already existing technologies. On the contrary, they are all trying to augment what is already existing out there in the area of collaboration and groupware in order to make those interactions much richer and beneficial for knowledge workers providing the perfect combination of traditional KM and collaboration tools and the next gen. of social networking tools.

And I think that is where the key may lay in the successful adoption and embracing of social software in the Enterprise. Not in the fact of looking through competition, but more on looking for the augmentation of what is already available out there, as a way to validate the way knowledge workers get to perform their jobs, so that they can be even much more productive without having to work much harder. Yes, the famous work smarter, not necessarily harder, by connecting with others, share your knowledge and learn from one another.

So, to "IBM…are you taking notice?" I would say, yes!, it *is* paying attention, and much more interestingly, it is trying to look into potential ways of integrating all of these different tools into the already existing collaboration flows that knowledge workers may be using already. And over time, very shortly, I am hoping to be able to expand plenty more on this and share some further thoughts on the subject, as I would be able to share some more stuff, even to the same level as Facebook. But that would be the subject for another weblog post very very soon…

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  1. Luis-
    I do not know what you mean by “augmentation.” I think you mean “non-replacement of existing applications” — but that has implications such as (a) added software maintenance (and licensing) costs, and (b) significant “business process change” costs.
    – Dennis

  2. Hi Dennis! Thanks a bunch for dropping by and for the feedback comments. Yes, indeed, I meant “augmentation” in the sense of “addition” of social computing technologies on top of what is already available.

    While I initially agree with you about a) and b), you would probably have to agree with me that social software maintenance is minimal and relatively easy to put together, at least, that has been our experience inside IBM with the Technology Adoption Program that we have been running for a number of years. I wouldn’t think it would be too difficult, pretty much like it would not be for folks, for instance, who are managing their own social software tools out there on the Internet.

    Regarding b), initially perhaps, but once people get more and more exposed to social software tools and they start seeing the benefits of using those tools as opposed to others, then those changes would be taken as something of a value add into something better. Something that would help them become much more productive with less effort and if that is the case I do not see the issue about the business process chance as I feel, if anything, will help costs keep under control and perhaps at a later stage prepare the sunset of a number of legacy tools, which would help address some of those costs you are mentioning.

    Let me know what you think and thanks again for the feedback!

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