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

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IBM’s Client Experience Jam Is Now History

La Palma - Roque Los Muchachos in the WinterYou may have noticed how over the course of the last few days, things have been a bit too quiet over here in this blog and for a good reason. Last week, IBM hosted the Client Experience Jam from March 12th to March 15th, to commemorate not only the 10th year anniversary of the first IBM Vales Jam, but also to help redefine those very same values that were established back then in 2003. It’s really unimaginable that 10 years ago the company that has always been flagged as archaic, hierarchical, over-structured, rather rigid and strict, complex, obsolete, and what not, a dinosaur, basically, gave such a unique opportunity to all of its employees to air our their voices on establishing the core values that would dictate how the company would operate in the 21st century. Well, 10 years later, it did it again, but this time around not only as an opportunity to redefine those very same values, but going even deeper with something so fundamental and so much en-vogue nowadays as the client experience.

That is why over the course of last week you haven’t seen much of me out there on the Social Web and on this blog. My self-inflicted Twitter and Google Plus silence was supposed to end up last week as well, but didn’t. Right from the very beginning of the online event, I decided to focus all of my energy and free time in engaging in as many conversations as I could possibly do not only to share my own past experiences while doing client work in the hopes of adding further up into the conversations, but mostly because of the huge learning opportunity IBM Jams always give all of us in sharing experiences and plenty of know-how with fellow peers. Yes, I know, this time around, and contrary to other Jams in the past, IBM conducted this one for IBM employees only. And it was a massive success!

It’s probably a bit too early to share some additional insights in terms of Jam statistics and metrics, but I can tell you that they have been stunning and rather mind-boggling. However, and as usual when talking about metrics, the important bit is not really so much the focus on the social analytics, but more in the quality of the conversations and most of them have been outstanding. One of them, in particular, started off by a fellow IBMer from IBM Taiwan has generated such amount of traffic, interactions, ratings and conversations that it was a little bit of a mini-jam on its own! Main subject covered? Something as exciting, as complex and as tough as changing our core values that have been guiding IBM over the course of the last few decades. Talking about bold moves, about a meaningful impact, about an open dialogue with a purpose to make a difference! Absolutely brilliant! Something that, still today, a few days after it finished, gives me chills and makes me proud of working for the company I have been working for over the last 16 years.

No, don’t worry, this is not going to be one of those cheesy kool-aid blog posts where I praise the good things about what my company does for a living. Those of you who know me too well know that’s never being my kind of thing and I won’t start it now. We also have got things that don’t work. Everyone does. That’s what makes coming to work exciting and energising every day, that we are presented with an opportunity to change those and keep improving experiences over the course of time. What I wanted to talk about today on this blog post though is about something that goes very much along those lines. It’s about the open dialogue.

If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would know how at the beginning of the year I put together a blog post where I was talking about something that, three months later, I am now even more convinced than what I was back then to carry on with it. Regardless. And that is that shift away from Social Business into Open Business. Plenty of people would venture to confirm that my employer, IBM, is a successfully Socially Integrated Enterprise, and they might be right. I think we still have got plenty of room for improvement and a fascinating journey to complete, but we are getting there. But at the same time, and this is what really excites me, IBM is also making the move, a huge one, by the way!, into becoming an Open Business. How? Well, with small steps, but building further along from there. Slow, steady, but with a firm attitude that there is no way back, and that’s what excites me big time. Why? More than anything else because of things like the Client Experience Jam we just experienced in the last few days.

Yes, I know some of you are going to say how open can a large firm be, when one of the most massive online events ever held by the company has only been available for internal employees and not for everyone else (customers, business partners, analysts, competitors and other industry thought leaders). Well, becoming more open needs to start somewhere and when you are not too comfortable, just like when Social Business first came about, it’s better start where you feel you could make up for a big impact: start by opening up internal conversations, get people comfortable interacting with one another, without not necessarily knowing each other, so that they get the gist of it, before they can move on. And then when things will be all right, that’s when you would already venture into the rest of the world. And that’s just what we have been experiencing with that Client Experience Jam. That is, opening up from the inside out one step at a time! No need to rush. We are here for the long run. Always have been, even with Social Business.

It’s been quite an exhilarating and exciting experience. The Jam, that is. One that I am hoping to be able to talk about over the course of time, once we start seeing some of the various different insights and outcomes that came out of the event itself. The biggest challenge starts now though, that is, gathering all of that data, analyse it, make some sense out of it, come up with some pretty defining initiatives and continue helping the firm evolve accordingly based on that employee open feedback and direct dialogue.

Yes, indeed, that is the most exciting phase of the Jam, more than anything else because there is nothing more important and critical towards employee engagement that once you collect, out there in the open, plenty of input from your knowledge workforce on what works AND what doesn’t work, the least you can do as a business is come back with ideas and initiatives you plan to put together as a result of the online event to address plenty of the issues at play. Now, that is employee engagement, when you not only embark on a massive online exercise of active learning, but at the same time of active doing. On the Jam itself, in one of those moments of inspiration that you know come up every now and then I quoted that transformation as “Doing Is Believing!” and I am now more convinced than ever that is all what it is all about: not only learn by doing, but do what you believe in, i.e. in those ideas you keep throwing out there on the table for others to make them better, to work with you, to collaborative, to eventually co-create something better, something that would have such a significant impact that will change the industry for good!

Now, will my company be capable of doing that? Well, we will have to wait and see. Like I said, Phase II of the event just launched and over the course of the next few weeks I will be sharing some additional insights over how far have we moved further on with plenty of the ideas that flourished during the course of the event. For now I guess you may be wondering what were some of the various different ideas that I put together around that Client Experience Jam event that took place last week, right? Well, in an exercise of openness and transparency from my side, I thought perhaps about putting the titles of those ideas over here with a brief note of what was discussed from the thousands of interactions I got throughout the whole event. Yes, thousands!, so it’s going to be a bit challenging, but I can give it a try. So here we go:

  • Exceeding Client’s Expectation by Going the Extra Mile (23 Ratings – 28 Replies) Talking about going the extra mile to delight clients, to ensure everyone understands there is a shift towards becoming more customer centric than vendor centric.
  • Investing Your Time in Business Schools (32 Ratings – 66 Replies) Reflecting on one of my favourite activities that I get to carry out, which is essentially be immersed into the trends of thought of the next generation of the workplace: the younger ones.
  • Leaving a Legacy Behind … PhD Students (60 Ratings – 56 Replies) A bit of a follow-up from the one above, but this one with a direct impact on helping college students work through their PhD thesis understanding there is always a “Yes!” for an answer, because, you never know, they may as well become your manager tomorrow!
  • Work Smarter, Not Necessarily Harder (53 Ratings – 48 Replies) Where we explored how social networking tools and having the right IT infrastructure can surely have a huge impact in terms of adoption, enablement, collaboration and knowledge sharing. 
  • Great Managers Lead, They Don’t Manage (502 Ratings – 1075 Replies) Tremendously powerful conversation on redefining Management and Leadership for the 21st century, and along the lines of Servant Leadership, that I talked about not long ago on this other blog post.
  • Is IBM Ready to Become an Open Business? (42 Ratings – 125 Replies) Yes, see? I told you! The intent is there. The small steps have already been taken on moving further along into Openness and Transparency. I am hoping to develop further along on this one as we move forward in time, but judging from the interactions I had in this thread alone, yes, openness will become more the rule, than an exception. It may take time, but it will eventually get there!
  • Believing in Your Ideas: Life Without eMail (863 Ratings – 867 Replies) And, finally, of course, I just couldn’t help thinking about bringing up the one idea that has changed my life for the last 5 years (Yes!! 5 years! We just crossed the 5th anniversary and very soon I will be sharing a much long overdue blog entry on the topic with some surprises coming along! Stay tuned!). Of course “A World Without eMail” did have a rather significant impact, which at some point it brought a good big smile into my face when I realise that, finally, 5 years later, the world, my world, is at long last, catching up! As an example, the deck I put together some time last year on this topic, and which I am hoping to share it out there, outside of the firewall, pretty soon, once I go through a final update and a bit of sanitation, has been downloaded over 3,000 times! Just internally. Double yay, I know! 

Like I said, those were my own ideas that I submitted into the event. Remember, it was an internal, IBM employees only, event, so those links would work for those fellow IBMers who would still want to go through the conversations, since the Jam is now open again in read only mode, but there have been thousands and thousands of other ideas submitted by fellow IBM colleagues. This is just a glimpse of what actually happened. A couple of other words to describe it? Massive and overwhelming, and equally exciting!

At this point in time, I just wanted to reflect on the fact that those companies that may not be that open to listening to their employees sharing rather candid, honest and authentic feedback, even behind the company’s firewall, don’t know what they are missing in venturing to transform their own organisation and make it a better place. I have got no doubts whatsoever that the Client Experience Jam IBM hosted last week will have such kind of impact. Even more, I would venture to state that those who actively participated in the event would no longer be the same. I know I won’t. For once, I am incredibly excited to be given a huge unique opportunity to not only have a voice, an opinion, a perspective, but to do it in a venue where open, honest, transparent and direct dialogue has been not only encouraged but very much practiced throughout the whole of last week!

Now, when was the last time your company opened up to such brutal method of living an Open Business?

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  1. Hi Luis Suarez, some swell thinking from you at the jam. Congrats! Do they read each and every thread?Or is it luck that plays a role or is it early birds?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Amritha, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the feedback comments! Appreciated the input. If you are asking about fellow IBMers reading every single thread the answer would obviously be “probably not”. Thousands and thousands of interactions in such a short time span may not be humanly doable. People find their way into what interests them through emerging ideas, themes, tags used, people they would want to follow up on and so forth. Essentially, people dive in as they may see fit within their own work schedules as well. Even to the point where plenty of us just block our calendars at times during those days to participate in the Jam discussions…

      The fascinating thing comes afterwards, when the Jam is over and the IBM Jam team do a phenomenal piece of work on applying some social analytics to capture top-notch content and conversations, ideas and emerging discussions and get the most out of them. That’s the task that they are about to embark on in order to capture outcomes from the Jam they can then promote to initiatives that can be executed across the company.

      That’s also what I am hoping to be able to share over the course of time when those insights come along and they may be relatively open to everyone out there… Thus stay tuned for more to come 🙂

      Thanks again for the feedback!

    1. Hi Marnix! Many many thanks! Greatly appreciated the heads up and the feedback! And happy to see you have shamelessly shared a link to it. By all means, feel free to share, reuse, or whatever else accordingly! Thanks for sharing the link to the FB page and glad you folks have enjoyed it! Way too cool!

      And happy to see that good work coming along! 🙂

  2. Hey, Luis… social business is here and I was also there, enjoying the Jam!!!
    Just to be precise and “fair” 🙂 with such a historic Jam, let me remember you that it was not about redefining the IBMers values, but about capturing the behaviors that help us to show, precisely, those values. It was about building a new layer of IBM culture. So, it wasn’t a revision nor a “back to the past”, but a great step forward, as the behaviors are key to take properly care of that fundamental area of the client experience, as you define. Tought it was important to clarify this point to better understand the IBM journey towards social business you are comment here.

    And, by the way, looking back it’s really amazing to recall that IBM values were build by the IBMers in a pioneering Jam in 2003 (yes, 1 year before than, let say, Facebook, started to emerge). That’s a vision! Great to talk to you also beyond the firewall!!!

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