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

From the blog

How IBM Uses Social Media to Spur Employee Innovation

Tenerife - Los Roques De García & Mount TeideI have mentioned already a couple of times how my first contact with social software tools inside IBM, my current employer, was around the year 2000, when one of the communities I still belong to (And still one of my favourite ones, too!) decided to put together a wiki where we could all contribute and share our knowledge across. From there onwards, the continuous learning experience of transitioning from traditional collaboration and knowledge sharing tools to these social tools has been quite exciting, to say the least. But I am sure you may be wondering when did IBM *really* got started with all things 2.0 on a wider scale, right? Well, this is a blog post where I will share some of those insights myself.

However, I am not going to start telling you all sorts of various different details on how IBM has been adopting social software tools over the last few years, starting probably on that landmark date of late 2003, when a blogging platform called BlogCentral  first became available through the Technology Adoption Program (a.k.a. TAP). No, I am not going to do that. Mainly, because I am not very fond of re-inventing the wheel myself, and, secondly, because there is a stunning online resource out there that has done a wonderful job in describing very thoroughly how everything got started and where we are now.

Check out the article put together by Casey Hibbard, over at Social Media Examiner, under the title: "How IBM Uses Social Media to Spur Employee Innovation". Casey has been working with my fellow IBM colleague, and good friend, Adam Christensen, putting together, perhaps, one of the most tremendously comprehensive and thorough articles / reports, available out there that clearly describes in very simple, effective and helpful terms what IBM’s Social Media strategy is at the moment, and how it all got started a few years back.

In a way, the article itself is a lovely trip down the memory lane on how things got started, not only from the perspective of what social tools there are out there available to us, from back then till today, but also how something so important as IBM’s own Social Computing Guidelines came about and how IBM made a conscious decision to not just have a single corporate social media voice, but instead have thousands of voices! making them all become *the* brand. I know that this may surprise a few folks, but if there would be a single word that I could use to describe it I would probably stick around with effective.

Another interesting part from the article itself that both Casey and Adam talked about is the section on "No Policing", which I am sure it is going to come about as a shocker, specially for those businesses out there that still live in a command-and-control world. Well, here is an interesting, and very relevant, quote from Adam on what IBM means with that "No Policing":

"We don’t police. The community’s largely self-regulating, and so there hasn’t really been a need to have someone go about and circuit these boards and blogs" Christensen said. "Employees sort of do that themselves… And that’s worked wonderfully well"

Indeed, again thanks, for the most part, to those Social Computing Guidelines I mentioned above. Thus, as you will see, it’s not unrealistic to have such policy. Yes, I am sure you would be thinking by now there is a lot to risk involved, but then again, there is plenty more to gain. And having had those guidelines for nearly five years now, and living by them quite dearly, I can assure you that the advantages have been much more numerous than the disadvantages. But you can read more about it on the article itself…

Finally, you will be able to see a couple of other very interesting, and revealing, sections around the subject of the key role from Jams in helping mature those efforts of social software adoption as well as how social media plays that paramount role within the Smarter Planet initiative. Rather fascinating read!

Before I let you go though, as I am wrapping up this blog post, I will tell you what’s my favourite part of the entire article; one that has always been in people’s minds with regards to their own social software adoption efforts (And initiatives): proving the business value of social software. Yes, the good old dilemma of figuring out the ROI of social networking. Now, if you have been reading this blog for a while already, you know what my ¢2 of the conversation are. So I’m going to finish this article with Adam’s take on it (Which, by the way, I wholeheartedly agree with 100%!!):

""I think if you d ask any senior executive at IBM, How important is it for our employees to be smarter? , inherently they understand that these tools can play in helping with that, Christensen said. "I don’t see myself rarely or ever having that hard conversation on the value of engaging employees in these spaces.""

Spot on, don’t you think? All the way coming down from the top! It’s all about how smart and productive you would want to be with these social tools as a knowledge worker. And next time that someone asks me what IBM is doing in this space of Social Computing or what my thoughts are on proving the business value of social software, I guess you folks know where I will be pointing people to, right? …


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  1. Nice write up, Luis (and I’m sorry I’m late in seeing it!). I felt the same way reading it… a nice stroll down social media lane a bit.

    I had a different conversation with Shel Israel the other day when we were talking about the history of “online” collaboration at IBM. It dates back to well before the Internet. The VM system was around in the 80s, and was a social hub. I’m writing up some info on it now… and putting together a timeline. I think you’ll enjoy.

    1. Hiya, Adam! Thanks for dropping by, my friend! Glad you enjoyed the write up! Not as much fun as I had, probably, while reading up the original article. Lots of golden nuggets in there to ponder some more and digest!

      Yes, I have “heard” about how you guys are putting together a section on what IBM has done about online collaboration starting back at the good old VM world! I hope you will have a chance to mention there the VM Forums and their tremendous history of success in being the glue that helped the company stick together as well as how VM, back then, already provide a very similar functionality to what Twitter does today, i.e. micro-sharing…

      In a way, we may not have invented anything at this point in time, after having that blast from the past when you brought VM up! 😀

      Look forward to getting my hands on it and reading it through! I’m sure it will be another interesting reading! Thanks, Adam, for the feedback!

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