In January 2011 I attended Lotusphere and witnessed IBM’s entry in to the Social Business arena. It was a seminal moment for me, having been involved in IBM collaboration solutions for nearly 20 years. In my time I have seen collaboration described variously as groupware, document management, knowledge management, intranets and now social business. I am not saying that each of these solution categories are the same – they most definitely have distinct features and facets which distinguish them. I am saying, however, that each of these disciplines have a large common overlap.
So it was, therefore, with great interest that I saw the launch of social business with a critical eye. What was different about this compared to the many intranets I have been involved in building, or the groupware solutions I have created in Lotus Notes?
The fundamental difference between social business and ALL that has gone before in the collaboration space is that while a social business solution such as IBM Connections supports the collaboration features of its predecessors, it introduces spontaneous collaboration into an otherwise linear knowledge capture system.
In laymans terms, what I mean is as follows: An intranet, discussion database, document management system or similar is designed by us to hold information we otherwise wish to access in the future. We have agreed that we will use it to store that information and will, for the most part, refer to it when we are looking for something. These systems do not encourage the spontanaeity of discussion, commenting, referral or improvement. A social solution treats these as the bedrock and builds mechanisms for being better informed about what’s going on. It provides the capability to start a discussion thread on an individual atom of data.It encourages participation, knowledge-seeking and knowledge capture.
A social business solution stands in the gap between Systems of Record, such as an intranet or document management system and Systems of engagement like instant messaging, video conferencing and web-meetings.
It allows the knowledge which circulates in the Engagement to be fastened to the atomic level of data which resides in your organisation. It means that you can provide context, background and a snapshot of the mindet of the individuals involved in your business process at the time. Neither the Systems of Record or Systems of Engagement can do this.
Thus, given the time I have spent in this area, the announcement that IBM was getting into the Social Business area was a big deal for me. In the intervening two years I have witnessed IBM Connections go from being a collection of different projects in IBM into a single product. I have seen it move from being this close-flying formation of applications into a single cohesive system. I have also seen it mature from a ground-breaking solution which some people had difficulty understanding the purpose of into one which in my slightly biased opinion is the gold-standard for social collaboration in the enterprise.
Thus, it is with great expectation that in a couple of weeks I will join the many thousands of other social collaborators in Orlando at IBM Connect. It’s a week of intense knowledge-capture. It’s a week of intense social activity and its a week which reminds you that you are part of something quite extraordinary.
Above all, however, I am looking forward to the next chapter of social collaboration: The previous chapter was about socialising your organisation to get at the knowledge which existed but remained largely unmined. The new chapter will be about driving real business advantage by implementing social business processes.
Socialising business processes means that your bridge between the engagement and record systems is complete. You can start to bring knowledge into your atomic data and build INTELLIGENCE from it. Your customers become part of your business in ways they have ached for over the years. You increase the motivation of your staff and start on the road to building the kind of business relationships money cannot buy.
If you are attending Connect in Orlando please come find me. I’d love to have a chat.