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How connect.BASF Helped BASF Become a Social Business

Headquarters of the BASF Group – Ludwigshafen In the recent past I have been blogging over here a couple of times already on some of the amazing piece of work that BASF (disclaimer: An IBM customer) has been doing over the course of the last year or so on becoming a Social Business and behave and act as such. Living Social is no easy task, for sure, but with a bit of perseverance, commitment, resilience, and a couple of other key important traits BASF has been demonstrating it’s now possible to achieve it. And big time! Even if you are not in the IT industry. Even if IT is not your area of expertise, “get social, do business” is very much no longer a dream for the corporate world in general, but quite the opposite, probably; pretty much an imperative no business can no longer ignore nor neglect.

The story behind connect.BASF though (BASF’s social business platform, based on IBM Connections) is a special one. Through plenty of dedication, communications, executive sponsorship, education, unprecedented leadership, etc. etc. they are now at the stage where becoming a social business is no longer a long term goal, but today’s reality. Take, for instance, this short video clip of a little bit of 3 minutes, where my good friend CheeChin Liew shares the story of what it’s meant for BASF to live social:

The really exciting part of this tremendous success story is not the full commitment to make a difference in this Social Business space, but to eventually have done it in such a way that presents the perfect business case, and business opportunity, for all of those companies to embrace Enterprise 2.0 techniques and technologies, even if you are not in the IT industry. I surely would want to stress this one out a bit more, since time and time again I keep hearing from various different people how lucky we are (at IBM) for being an IT company with the right social technologies. It looks like for us it’s just a given, a no-brainer, and while I certainly disagree with that sentiment (Since we do have a bunch of other challenges to fight against), it’s great stories like this one from BASF that confirm that even non IT related companies can be amazingly successful with their 2.0 deployments to help improve their effectiveness and efficienfy from their own knowledge workforce as they get to collaborate and share their knowledge amongst themselves, their customers and business partners.

And so much more! Because in that video clip that I mentioned above CheeChin gets to share how becoming a social business has meant for them to empower people to connect with one another, reaching out to share their knowledge and learn from others in the context of nurturing, cultivating and fully embracing communities to solve business problems and achieve certain business goals. He also mentions how Mergers & Acquisitions have got the perfect use case for social business in helping teams, organisations and whatever other groupings get to know each other much easier by having information and knowledge flow naturally from knowledge worker to knowledge worker.

The use case for microblogging that he gets to share as part of that story is fantastic! One of my favourites, actually. One that I can surely relate to and corroborate as perhaps one of the most impressive cases to prove the business value of social tools: helping facilitate the sharing of ideas across openly to pursue further ad-hoc, on the spot, collaboration sparked by those same ideas in the first place. Eventually, with the end result of promoting such rampant innovation inspired by a engaged, transparent and nimble set of interactions and conversations for which most knowledge workers would probably wonder why they didn’t start much sooner! And the best part? All of that inspired by my all favourite 2.0 concept: facilitated serendipity (Or informal and accidental knowledge discoveries, whatever term you would want to use). Informal / Social Learning anyone?

Finally, one last key message from CheeChin’s interview recorded and put together on that video clip is that sense of utilising social software tools for something more than just related to pure work. In their case, for something so important, inspiring and mind-blowing as social good. What makes us unique and humane, and differentiates us from the rest of species. Now, I am not going to spoil it for you much further, you will have to watch the clip to see what kind of social good connect.BASF promoted with such a huge success. Needless to say that the first word that comes to my mind is a strong sense of pride. Ok, that’s 5 words, but you know what I mean, right?

Either way, if you are still wondering whether social business can be good for your company, whether in the IT industry, or not!!, brilliant success stories like BASF’s connect.BASF can probably confirm that there is a way to become a successful social business. It’s just a matter of having the commitment to make it work across the organisation, following that hybrid approach of top-down, bottom-up that I have talked about in the past, wanting to help define and shape up the next generation of businesses for the 21st century. BASF is already there!

Well done!!

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Social Business Forum Highlights – Highlights from Breakout Sessions and Final Keynote

Once again, I am on the road on to another business trip. This time around to Boston, MA, to attend and present at *the* Enterprise 2.0 event of events. Of course, I am referring to the Enterprise 2.0 Event, a.k.a. #e2conf. So over the next few days you will see how this blog, once again, is going to go a bit dormant, as I doubt I would have some spare time to keep writing some articles; you know how it goes for these kinds of live events, face to face social networking will trump all attempts and efforts to go virtual this week, at least, for me, so I think I’d rather focus on attempting plenty of live tweeting while the event takes place, reporting further on the various sessions I will be attending, and then on my way back home, and seeing how I don’t have any other business trip coming up any time soon I will do a proper catch up on the blog about the event posting another series of highlights entries. But, for now, I thought I would go ahead and leave you folks with that other article from the series of the Social Business Forum event that took place in Milan a few days ago, and which I was due one last update. The remaining breakout speaker sessions and one final keynote. Thus let’s go ahead with it. Let’s do it!

Social Business Forum - #sbf11After the break from the first initial round of keynotes, the breakout sessions got kicked off into three different tracks: Employee Empowerment, Customer Engagement and Open Innovation. Obviously, I couldn’t attend all of them, since I had a couple of customer commitments and press interviews I had to attend to, but from the ones I attended I learned a great deal of new and interesting sites and thought I would go ahead and share those over here. For the remaining sessions you will probably have to wait for the recordings to become available to get a glimpse of how they went. I, too, would be looking forward to those!

I got started attending the excellent presentation from Phillip Schaefer, Head for IDEO Munich, on “Driving innovation through collaboration and connecteness“, where he talked about the various different challenges that distributed organisations face when trying to collaborate and share their knowledge effectively and how good design thinking could help address some of those various different issues. In fact, he focused on describing, and quite nicely, I must add as well, five different principles for collaborative tools that work in any context, in any environment:

  1. Build pointers to people
  2. Reward individual participation (Which I guess I was hoping to see some progression from the traditional issues that have always come along with rewards and incentives in a knowledge sharing culture, but didn’t)
  3. Demand intuitive interfaces (Which surely confirmed how knowledge workers should never get tired of demanding for better quality products when interacting with social tools, on the contrary)
  4. Take the road more travelled
  5. Iterate early and often

Overall, quite an interesting session and a very nice job well done by Phillip, specially, when he mentioned that one of the key elements from collaborating effectively was to make it fun and I couldn’t have agreed more wholeheartedly with him on that argument. It’s the fun part of work what makes work worth while, not only, because of the huge potential of facilitating better relationships and connections with fellow peers helping increase trust levels and social capital, but also because fun@work should always be the main trait from any social business out there; the alternative, as we have seen over the course of decades is rather ugly and should be avoided at all times. It’s now a good time to realise that not doing that is just basically helping us all waste more than one third of our lives not having fun and that’s something that I am not sure about you folks, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it. At all. Why neglect, when you could embrace it fully and get the most out of it?

Here is the embedded Slideshare deck from Phillip, so you can have a look into it and watch through the slides:

The next breakout session that I attended was conducted by my good friend Cordelia Krooss, who spent a few minutes talking about one of my favourite customers, BASF, describing their fascinating journey of becoming a social business with “Connect.BASF. The Online Business Network“. Indeed, to date, the BASF story continues to remain one of the most inspiring out there, because it details a few things that most social businesses need to realise in order to embrace such social transformation. As a starting point, the fact you no longer need to be in the IT industry to become a fully integrated social business. the BASF folks have done it; in fact, just recently, they celebrated their first anniversary from when connect.BASF was born and still going rather strong.

Secondly, they continue to prove how becoming a social business is a task that involves every single part of the organisation. Not just the IT department, or Marketing, Communications or HR. It involves all of them. It involves a new kind of leadership where you inspire changes to take place in order to provoke such social transformation from your entire business by empowering every single business unit of your organisation ensuring they all share that co-responsibility of wanting to make things right, which, in my opinion is as good as it gets and why I keep saying that Social Business is not owned by anyone, but by everyone, in equal parts, sharing the same responsibility of wanting to make a difference and drive that change.

Thus, without much further ado, and in case you may not have seen the excellent slideware that Cordelia put together to describe such a wonderful journey for BASF, here is the Slideshare embedded code, once again:


After a couple of customer commitments and the lovely lunch that followed, it was time to come back to the next round of breakout sessions. This time around it was my turn to deliver a presentation on “Organisations or Communities -The Socially Integrated Enterprise“, which I will take the liberty of talking about it, more in detail, at a later time, once the recording becomes available, so that I can continue adding some additional nuggets that would explain how networks and communities are starting to become the new state of the workplace, i.e. how work gets organised and done, versus the traditional hierarchical structures we all have gotten so used to. Too bad I missed the always insightful, and good friend, Sameer Patel on “The Connected Enterprise“, as both our sessions were taking place at the same time. Well, another good reason for me to catch up with the recordings whenever they are ready :)

Social Business Forum - #sbf11From there onwards, the next breakout session I attended, at least, half way through before I had to deal with some press interviews duties, was one I was really looking forward to as well, specially, since it was coming from one of the folks from whom I have learned the most, over the course of the years, around the topic of Learning & unLearning (Social Learning, even) and that we, finally, had the chance of meeting up face to face after all of these years following each other on the blogs and tweets. Yes, that inspiring speaker, and good friend was George Siemens who talked about the topic of “Analytics in knowledge and learning“.

In that presentation he covered how the “crazy abundance” we have been calling Big Data from all along is changing and shaping up the way we learn nowadays, even more when that growth is exponential with the continuous exposure to the Social Web. His perception of sensemaking in such abundance and complexity was brilliant (Check slide #20 for more on that topic!) and surely quite an incentive for me to catch up with the rest of the recording, as that was the time when I had to step out, but certainly the way he described how learning happens nowadays, trying to make sense of it all, is no longer yesterday’s Learning methods. Quite the opposite! And all of that influenced by the huge impact of Social Networking tools, whether internal or external. In fact, my all time favourite tweet from the entire conference came out from his session, as it was beautifully captured by Cordelia over here:

@gsiemens at #sbf11: If you are on facebook, you’re the product that facebook sells: information on you provided by you or your network

Just brilliant!

Social Business Forum - #sbf11 Then it was the turn to tune into one of the most interesting panels I have seen in a long while. This time around with  Bertrand Duperrin, Keith Swenson & Mark Tamis on the topic of “Exceptions are not exceptional. Organizing for Unpredictability”, where they engaged with the audience on a fascinating conversation on the topic of Social Business and Adaptive Case Management, which reminded me of this absolutely masterpiece on ACM by the always rather resourceful John Tropea. I would need to come back and revisit this particular topic on ACM and how it relates to Social Business, but I can surely tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed the various connections made around the topic of social business and how much it relates to business processes, unpredictability, embracing of failure, just as much as success, knowing and embracing your limitations, delighting your customers, etc. etc. Lots of meat on this one to digest further. Watch out for the recording whenever it comes out!

Social Business Forum - #sbf11 And, finally, the last session that I attended at the Social Business Forum was that keynote session from Keith Swenson where he talked about “Enabling quantum organizations as a new level of effectiveness“, where he introduced a new kind of organisation under the concept of “Quantum Orgs” that I can surely relate to big time! He defines them as orgs dominated by the “Pull” model, vs. the “Push” model from previous decades. Once again, Newton came up (See Slide #7) to help reintroduce the topic of how we are moving from Newtonian Orgs. to Quantum Orgs (Slide #13 displays a beautiful comparison chart that is worth while every single word!).

Those Quantum Orgs. are actually defined by limited precision, turbulence (Which, I agree with Keith 100% is a healthy behaviour!), relationship based and unpredictability. And they clearly separate the newtonian orgs. which are mostly labour based, from the quantum orgs, which are mostly knowledge work based. His description of what a knowledge worker is in today’s social computing environment is just wonderfully inspiring and, if anything, a really great guide of what will shape up the next generation of the workplace, if not already: The Knowledge Worker 2.0. And his conclusion slide #38 is a must-see to understand the challenges we are going through to explain that social transformation I mentioned above. But I will let you go ahead and watch through them on this Slideshare embedded code:

Social Business Forum - #sbf11

And that would be it, for me, folks, for now; hope you have enjoyed this series of highlights blog posts that I have put together for the Social Business Forum event that took place in Milan on June 8th and there is still one more entry to come along, which is the one where I will point you all to the links for the recordings of the various presentations, so that you can replay them all at your leisure. Hope you have enjoyed the ride reading through these just as much as I did attending the event. And, for now, get ready to take a short break of a couple of days and come back again, as I get on my way through the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston to capture plenty more new insights, key learnings, new relationships, continue to nurture good old ones and a whole bunch of other stuff. The vibe is pretty good so far. The conference will be *even* better  … And I will be more than happy to share further thoughts on it for those folks who may not have been able to make it this time around!

Thus stay tuned for more to come along shortly … and, once again, a special Thanks! to the Open-Knowledge folks for their kind invitation to the Social Business Forum event! I’ll see you all next year!

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Social Business Begins by Unleashing Your Business Talent

Gran Canaria - Presa de SoriaOver the last couple of days, two rather interesting, and noteworthy, articles over at Technology Review, written rather nicely by Erica Naone, have been making the rounds out there on Social Web around Enterprise 2.0 and the successful transformation of becoming a social business altogether and I thought I would spend a few minutes talking about them today, since both of them would serve me quite nicely to embark on a lovely trip down the memory lane by pointing you folks to “Experimenting on Themselves” and a glance into the not so distant future by referencing “Social Tools for Business“. One common theme around both of them: unleash, at long last!, the huge amount of hidden talent of your workforce by empowering them to make best use of social software tools!

That’s right! In “Experimenting on Themselves” Erica comes to describe one of my all time favourite programs inside IBM, which, in my opinion, has been much responsible for IBM’s breath-taking adoption of social software, technology and rampant innovation, over the course of the last 15 years! For those folks who may not have heard about it, I am referring to IBM’s Technology Adoption Program, a.k.a. TAP, that surely has served the good purpose of providing a test ground for innovators and early adopters to push the limits on their development and adoption efforts of new emerging technologies.

Going as far back as 1996 with the first iteration of BluePages (Check out this snapshot from 2000/2001 to get an idea of what it was like), or 1997 when VP Buddy first came about (The first corporate Instant Messaging client I relied on to get my job done!), to then move into Fringe in 2001 (Profiles), just as IBM Community Tools (a.k.a. ICT, and as part of the larger IBM WebAhead unit) came about as well, to be followed by the first instance of BlogCentral (Blogs – Back in November 2003), Dogear (Social Bookmarking – 2005 / 2006) and later Cattail (Personal File Sharing – 2007) one cannot be but truly inspired at the rampant innovation that has taken place inside IBM thanks to TAP. I am 100% certain that without this program itself IBM would not have even dreamed of getting exposed to social software tools so soon like we did, to the point where most of those loose components, or services, that today make up for the bundle known as Lotus Connections would not have probably even existed in the first place!

I am sure by now you may be wondering what was the main key success factor that influenced such a powerful experience with all of those innovations over the course of time tapping into multiple areas of common interest for those really smart innovators and passionate early adopters, right? Well, I can probably summarise it nicely as well with a single sentence that Erica mentions in one of her articles:: “[IBM’s ability to let go and empower /] facilitate employees’ software experiments“, but perhaps this would be a bit more obvious seeing it with one of those experiments that my good friend, and fellow colleague, John Rooney described quite nicely under “Experimenting on Themselves“:

Rooney says, many companies struggle with finding an efficient way for employees to share files. When people use e-mail for this purpose, it’s often hard to tell which version of a file is the most recent, and duplicate files are stored all over the place. For years, IBM’s IT office had a file-sharing service in place, but hardly anyone used it. An employee reconceived the service, adding better social features. The new version caught on throughout the company and eventually led to a product that IBM offers to its customers

That is a very inspiring, and dead on!, explanation of how Cattail came into existence a few years back, and how it then inspired the launch of the product service known as Lotus Connections Files shortly afterwards. That’s just what happens when you, as a business, allow your employees, your knowledge workers, to explore further ideas they have collaborated on with their peers and see where that experiment may take them; instead of hoarding their knowledge, instead of feeling trapped inside their own silos, instead of being burdened with endless paperwork and bureaucracy, instead of drowning their passion, their voice, their willingness to make a difference, businesses need to understand it’s about a good time now to unleash and free up those human batteries that my good friend Lee Bryant coined a little while ago and which I think is very descriptive of the new challenge that companies will face during the course of the next few years: how are you going to free up that talent to empower them to keep up with that accelerating innovation, specially, as you introduce the concept of co-creation with your customers and business partners? Gran Canaria - On the Way to Presa de Soria

Are you ready to engage? You may be thinking that this will surely be an exception, right? After all, IBM is an IT company, don’t you think? Well, 10 years ago that may well have been the case, but fast forward to 2011 and that’s no longer the case. It’s no longer an exception, but more a norm. A norm that will start becoming contagious from business to business, from customer to customer and so forth. Take a look into 3M. Better, have a look into this superb blog post that John Woodworth put together a while ago under the heading “Social Media Drives Creativity Inside The Enterprise” where he talks about how his work colleagues, spread around 17 different teams!, put together a rather inspiring and mind-blowing video clip to “surprise” their fellow 3M colleagues; and all of that without making much use of traditional communication tools, like email, but rather relying on social software tools instead.

You can watch the video over here or, alternatively, you could have a look into this Slideshare presentation that he put together just recently to deliver at IBM’s Lotusphere 2011 (#ls11) conference event in Orlando, FL, and which surely was one of my Top Highlights for Lotusphere 2011. Here is the embedded slide deck, so you would have an opportunity to play it right away; I can assure you it’s worth while going through every slide:


Another good example as well worth while mentioning is the one that Erica talks about under “Social Tools for Business“, where she covers some extensive commentary, from fellow IBM colleague Suzanne Livingston, on how Lotus Connections came about around 2007 “shaped by the company’s own experiences“. Read further on though on after that and on to that other example I just mentioned above, which in this case is BASF SE, The Chemical Company.

Have a look into the following excerpt quoting Cordelia Krooss, which I think reflects, very nicely, this whole concept of unleashing your hidden talent at the workplace to achieve a specific (business) goal (Another link to Slideshare referencing the presentation that CheeChin Liew and Keno Torfs did at Lotusphere 2011 as well, which would also count as one of my favourites from the entire event altogether!):

“[…] the company wanted to support the informal networks that arise within an organization, help employees share knowledge, and make it easier for the younger generation, which is comfortable with consumer social software, to fit in. “A lot of our work happens online via e-mail, which is not the ideal collaboration tool,” she says. That’s because using e-mail reinforces people’s tendency to communicate only with those they already know; it doesn’t facilitate getting feedback from unexpected sources, even if they might be helpful

Rather inspiring, don’t you think? Specially, the aspect of facilitating serendipity. This is exactly why 10 years ago I would have admitted I was a rather lucky knowledge worker for being exposed to all of this “greatness” and amazing innovations provoked by piloting social software tools at an IT firm like IBM; but fast forward to today I think we are witnessing that unique opportunity where more and more businesses are coming to terms with the fact they didn’t know they had such an amazing hidden talent out there, awaiting to be unleashed, and yet they are now more than ready to engage and empower their knowledge workers to make a difference by facilitating things further on their eagerness to reach out, connect and collaborate with their peers on something magical, while making the most out of social software tools to make it happen.

Now who couldn’t resist embarking on such a liberating experience, as a business? Would you? I bet you wouldn’t! Neither would I, to be honest! There is just so much to gain, such a unique opportunity. We probably even cannot afford neglecting it nor ignoring it altogether. It’s already happening, so we may as well embrace it altogether! Free your knowledge workforce to do what they know best. Trust them, respect them, engage them, show them how they, too, can excel doing what they have been passionate about over the course of the years, but under the covers. Let them go free … and be ready to take innovation and co-creation into the next level! It’s just too late now to come back. It’s already there.

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