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

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IBM Aims at Reinventing Relationships with Northstar: We Better Watch…

IBM Customer Experience Suite - NorthstarToday has been one of those days where I had hoped I would have had plenty more time to tune in and participate in one of those live events that you know will surely be worth while engaging in, because it comes up right along the alley of interesting subjects you would want to know plenty more about over time! Alas, work had other plans reserved for me, trying to extinguish a couple of fires here and there, in between another day of meetings galore, and I am only now catching up with things, having digested plenty of the good and interesting online coverage that’s been going around IBM’s Reinventing Relationships event that took place earlier on today. Did you have a chance to look into the brand-new shiny IBM’s Northstar tool suite that is supposed to provide us with an opportunity to reinvent relationships? What do you think? Was it worth your time? I hope so. You know, one cannot get to reinvent relationships out of the blue and overnight, right?

If you have been reading this blog for a while you would remember how all along I’m the kind of blogger who really doesn’t talk much about business products nor business tools, in whatever the area; more than anything else because we all know how they all come and go; they evolve, they mature, they die off, eventually. What remains behind though is the overall user experience. In this case, our user experience, which has been, all along, what I have been really interested in for a good number of years. But today things are different. Northstar has managed to change such perception to a certain degree, not because of the tool suite itself, but more how it aims, in my opinion, rather successfully, to change the way we build relationships between customers, business partners and vendors through the Web. The New Web.

So you would have to excuse for today, while I keep talking a little bit more about what Northstar means, at least, to me, based on my overall user experience of having interacted for over 13 years with that thing we have called all along the World Wide Web: The Internet. Yes, that’s right, I first started making use of the Web in 1997, when I joined IBM and right then I knew it was going to be something totally different than whatever I had experienced in the past. Even more when during that time the company was encouraging everyone to go out there and explore the Web. So instead of blocking this huge resource of inexhaustible information and knowledge, like most other companies were doing at the time (And some of them even today!), IBM was telling us all to go and see what was happening, what people were publishing on their Web sites, what customers were doing, what competition was doing as they were getting ready themselves to embrace the world online.

And right then you knew that something special was just about to happen. Not only would you have an opportunity to access an unprecedented amount of information and resources, but also you also had the opportunity to reach out to places and people you never thought you would be able to! Welcome to the Web 1.0 experience!

During the course of three to four years I grew up online experiencing what I knew was probably at the reach of a few; yes, that’s the time where I felt I was privileged to work for the company that employs me today. I had access to resources and news items incredibly fast, and although I couldn’t interact much with it (Remember, I am not a technical person, at all!), I was still having that strong sense though that I was in the know. Fast forward to 2000 and 2001, and there I was already about to experience something totally new that, back then, I realised was going to change me forever: The Social Web!

Welcome to the Web 2.0 experience! I realise that this whole account has just been a rather simplified and simplistic view of the evolution that the Web has followed over the last 10 to 15 years till today. And I have done that on purpose, because if you would really want to have a much more detailed one, you would just have to pop over to Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s excellent blog post under the heading “Reinventing Relationships“, which talks about this very same trip down the memory lane, but making the right connections towards Northstar along the way.

So how does Northstar itself relate to all of this experiencing the Web, you may be wondering, right? Well, in my opinion, in a very special way, which my good friend Larry Hawes translated very nicely on the following live tweet: “Time to move #social discussion beyond features/functions to business value“. And, to me, that business value translates, quite clearly, into building stronger personal business relationships, where the Social Web becomes just the glue, the means, the connector that inspires and nurtures the cultivation of those experiences amongst customers, business partners and their vendors. Does that ring a bell?

It’s all about how systems will be getting instrumented and increasingly interconnected to provide us with an opportunity to increase the productivity, and efficiency, of knowledge workers through networked enterprises; what I have been blogging about for a little while now when talking about work and the future of work evolving around networks and communities, versus traditional hierarchies and organisations. Welcome to the Knowledge Economy of the 21st century! 🙂

It’s those exceptional Web experiences that we have been waiting for a while that would help knowledge Web workers become more empowered, engaged and inspired to drive their own workflows, to make them co-participate and co-create their own working experiences, right where it matters: with their customers! Something that we have been starting to witness already for a couple of years, but that I think is going to start consolidating itself, quite a bit, with new products like the Northstar tool suite, where context, content and social analytics will be paramount to improve, tremendously, the overall experience from those of us, customers.

Because, when was the last time you spent a few minutes online being WOWed by an extraordinary Web experience, that would certainly help you come back time and time again? In my case, if you take out some social networking sites, it’s been a while. A long while! That’s why I have got really high hopes and expectations (So I will be the very first one to look up to it!) for Northstar, and other similar initiatives, to start changing, dramatically, such overall Web user experience(s), because it is very much needed, in my opinion! Specially, as we are witnessing that successful transformation of the traditional Web into The Mobile Social Web! Mobile as in I’ll take it with me, where I may well go! Regardless of the device!

Isn’t that a change that we all expect to become a reality, sooner rather than later? I surely hope so! At least, I am expecting that change; in fact, I am demanding such change! And, by the looks of it, I am not alone, because judging by the guest speakers and panelists who attended and shared their experiences and customer stories at today’s launch event, it’s something that we are all looking forward to!

If you would want to get a glimpse of or catch up with what the event itself has been like, I would strongly encourage you all to have a look into IBM’s Reinventing Relationships Social Media Aggregator, where you can get a good chance to digest quickly through the social buzz that’s been generated over the last few hours. And if you would want to find out plenty more about what the Northstar tool suite is all about, I would suggest you have a look into this demo, to get things going; then go through the Northstar Homepage and don’t forget to stop over at the IBM Customer Experience Suite. And, finally, if you would want some rather extensive details about how this tool suite would work out for you, as a customer, check out this article by Barb Mosher, where the heading is rather self-explanatory of what you can expect: “IBM’s New Customer Experience Suite Mixes Analytics, Social Software and Commerce“. Then, you would realise why I am now so excited about today’s Northstar launch event!

Like I said, I am not the kind of person who likes to talk about business tools or give people one of those marketing pitches with boring and unsubstantial messages that don’t go through nor do they stick around. I would rather prefer to concentrate on the Web experience that has allowed me to grow as a knowledge Web worker, as well as a networked individual, on the unique opportunity that the Social Web has presented us all for the first time in history: where content (Information & Knowledge), context (Us, knowledge workers) and analytics (Specially, the emergent area of social analytics), come together, walking hand in hand, showing us the way towards our final destination as customers: business value = successful customer experiences!

Yes, dear Northstar, I will be watching you; I would want to experience you soon, to the fullest, for my next online customer experience and you better be good, because I will be watching how you will be successfully reinventing relationships. I’m not going to expect any less from you. I want to come back over and over again… After all, [disclaimer] I am an IBMer!


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