The Business Value of Social Software by Luis Suarez

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas DunesWe all know that plenty of people nowadays are trying to figure out what is the main business value and various benefits of using social computing within the enterprise. Yes, the good old Return On Investment (a.k.a. ROI) conversations for Social Software that I like to talk about so much lately. Well, here is another blog post to share some further insights on the topic. This time around sharing a personal story on how I am benefiting from social computing myself and how, as a result of that, IBM itself benefits from it as well (I would hope).

January 2004, I experienced what some folks would know as a serious wake up call in my life. One of those times we all get to go through, once in a lifetime, where we need to pull back, think about things that *really* matter to us, make the right decisions, re-engage back and move forwards. Yes, I know, one of those wake up calls…

Back then I was heavily involved for a while already with social software, although mostly behind the firewall. Yet, I knew that it may have well been *my* moment to prove the business value of social networking within the corporate world. I decided to approach both my local resource management team, as well as my, at the time, project manager and ask them whether they would allow me to work remotely from another country, in this case, Spain, my home country.

And while I do realise that perhaps not many companies out there are ready for such somewhat difficult decision to make, specially from a business perspective, the answer I got back was a loud and clear "Yes, Luis, as long as your perform the way you have all along". To which I said, "Of course, no problem! I can do that!"

From there onwards, a couple of weeks later, I moved back to Spain, to Gran Canaria, to be more precise, where I have been living, and working remotely, ever since. And this is where social computing kicks in, because right then I realised that if I wanted to make it work in my new situation I needed to be out there: visible; easy to reach and connect with; always willing to help and share my knowledge with those who needed it (And with those who may need it at a later time, too!) in an open and public way; willing to share my expertise, experience and know-how across the board with those who I know, and those who I may not know yet; willing to feed those resources with knowledge and expertise that otherwise would have remained in my own head, or my computer, for that matter, and therefore with very little access for others to enjoy.

Thus, as you can imagine, I increased even more my already heavy presence in the social software spaces, both inside AND outside the firewall, and that only meant that more information and knowledge from myself became available to others and, hopefully, some of that knowledge was helpful to them as well. That good old "Knowledge is power" suddenly transformed itself into "Knowledge shared *is* power" and lo and behold five years later, still going strong.

Yes, that’s right, today, March 17th, 2009, San Patrick’s Day, marks the 5th year I have been relying on social software to keep me employed with what I consider still my dream job at such large corporate environment as IBM’s, where both of my managers are thousands of kilometers away from me, yet, through the daily usage of social networking tools I know they are just an interaction or two away from me (In most cases even just a single tweet!)

I can imagine plenty of folks out there would be questioning whether I would have been able to make the same move without social software and work in such extreme virtual environment without it and relying on more traditional collaboration and knowledge sharing tools. To which I could probably confirm that I wouldn’t have been able to. Five years afterwards, I am 100% sure of it!

So what is the ROI of this, my personal, story?, you may be wondering, right? Well, perhaps that engaging with social software, embracing a new model of collaborating and sharing my knowledge (Much more open, transparent and public than ever before, ever since I decided to live "A World Without Email") with other fellow knowledge workers has allowed me to prove the point that you can work wherever you want, whenever you need, and with whoever you would want to reach across, depending always on the context, by making extensive use of social software and forgetting about measuring people just by their sheer presence versus their overall performance and results obtained. That is what social software has done not only for me, but also for the company I work for…

5 years on and still going strong! That is, to me, the real ROI for Social Software, both inside and outside of the enterprise world. But how about you? What’s your personal ROI story?

I would love to hear your thoughts plenty more over here or elsewhere. But, for now, time to go and celebrate San Patrick’s Day at my favourite Lebanese restaurant downtown (Beirut), and then, of course, off to the pub! :-D

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3 Comments »

  • Frank Bradley says:

    Hi Luis,

    Great post. Your story almost matches my own. I joined Oracle in 2002 and in late 2004 I started working a few days per week from home, in order to beat the daily commute. Then in late 2006 we moved to Kilkenny which is a 3 hour one-way door to door journey. Since the move I only go to the office a few days each month.

    As with you, I would not have been able to do it without Social Software. This has enabled me to connect with people in a way that would have been really difficult just using email or the corporate intranet. In fact it has been so useful that I’ve found my network expanding well beyond Europe, and on a daily basis I interact with people in Asia and America, despite the timezone differences.

    At present we have just setup a Home Worker network to help people feel more connected and part of the company when working from home. In fact in the next few weeks we hope to hold our first Virtual Coffee Break!!

    Thanks for the blog, it’s always an interesting read and very motivating.

    P.S. Hope you enjoyed St.Patrick’s day. It’s my first one as a father so consequently it’s the least hungover I’ve been on March 18th in about 15 years!!!.

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Frank! Thanks ever so much for the kind comments and for the feedback input! Really appreciate you sharing your story as well, and it makes me feel very happy about it as well, because I was sure already I was not the only one in “this situation”. And the fact you have come over here to share yours is just the proof that there are plenty of us working under these new ways of connecting, reaching out, collaborating and sharing our knowledge and the fact that we have proved we can be equally productive, if not more!, regardless where we may well be, is just the whole point behind social software and its business value.

      I know for a well known fact that without it, I wouldn’t have stuck around in the company for as long as I have so far, and still going strong. I am sure there’d be plenty of others feeling the same way themselves on how they live social computing within the corporate world!

      PS. With regards to St. Patrick’s Day, it was fantastic! I had a GREAT time! It’s a big thing over here where I live, since there are plenty of folks celebrating it, but the fact that it marked the 5th anniversary since I came over here to live, was very special! And I felt it the next morning, too! LOL

      Take care and speak to you soon!

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  • [...] about his personal & his company’s (IBM’s) five year journey with social computing- the Business Value of Social Software.  It is a MUST READ. Some of the real nuggets from the post include the shift that Luis and his [...]

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