Key mantra is the ‘purposeful use of social’
Analysts impressed but cautious on IBM’s social push
FLASHING lights and booming music courtesy of nerd-rock group They Might Be Giants opened the first day of IBM Connect 2013, which saw thousands of attendees pack the main conference hall at the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida.
The early morning show was certainly outside the norm for the band, with one member quipping: “It's exciting to even be awake. It's a dream.”
IBM’s general manager of social business Alistair Rennie told attendees that the key mantra to remember was the “purposeful use of social” and introduced actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt on stage to further drive home his point.
Gordon-Levitt’s presentation focused on how social technologies have strengthened businesses like his open-production collaboration community hitRECord, highlighting a short animated film produced called The Man with a Turnip for a Head which involved 295 contributions, narrowed down to 29 used contributions.
He outlined three core pillars which enable such collaborative undertakings: technology (cameras, laptops, video online, social networking), communities (started small which grew gradually and organically with positive feedback for the people doing great work) and the “remix.”
While the first two are self-explanatory, Gordon-Levitt (pic) said that “remix” refers to the building upon of art and ideas by others: "Once you let go of notion that ‘this is mine’ and others build on top of what you did, you can work together a lot better.”
A fictional company called Greenwell, staffed by IBM executives, which sells canyoneering equipment served as a demonstration of what the full IBM Connections suite could offer clients.
The opening session saw not only IBM executives on stage providing an overview of the company’s approach to social business but also a slew of clients.
Highlight presentations included engaging demonstrations from companies such as Caterpillar Inc, and Bosch sharing their own social business experiences.
"Social is like a healthy diet. It's not something you do temporarily. It's a lifestyle change," Sandy Carter, IBM’s vice-president of Social Business Evangelism, said during the product demonstration portion of the opening session.
Carter also cited a McKinsey Global Institute Study from July 2012 that revealed that 90% of businesses integrating social are experiencing productivity gains of 25% on average.
Social aggression, one-stop shop
IBM has taken a very aggressive approach in pushing its social business solutions to the market.
This push comes in the wake of a report in the Wall Street Journal, in advance of IBM’s Q4 earnings release, revealing that Lotus was the weakest performer in its software portfolio, shedding 6.4% of its sales volume in the first nine months of 2012.
According to estimates sourced by the WSJ, Lotus accounts for about US$1 billion in annual revenue, or one-sixth to one-fifth of IBM’s overall software business.
An article by Dylan Tweney for Venture Beat noted that ironically, “Lotus once led the way toward today’s hottest enterprise technologies, the collaborative software that helps teams communicate and work together on projects.”
“So the challenge for IBM is to continue milking as much revenue as it can from Lotus, while gradually shifting the branding and the revenue to newer, sexier lines of business,” Tweney added.
Speaking to various analysts attending the conference, many were positive about the enhancements announced and made to the overall suite, noting that IBM’s positioning as a comprehensive solutions vendor would play well with existing clients who would be more comfortable adopting these new solutions.
However, one analyst noted that looking at individual components of IBM’s Connections suite, nothing stood out at a “leapfrog technology” and it seemed like IBM was playing a “catch-up game” with existing solutions developed by other technology solutions companies operating in individual niches.
The front-office invasion
Most interesting from what was highlighted during the first day of IBM Connect was the solutions aimed squarely not at CIOs (chief information officers) and CTOs (chief technology officers) but rather CMOs (chief marketing officers) and HR (human resource) leaders.
For marketers, IBM revealed enhancements to its IBM Customer Experience Suite, including a new capability that allows the pushing of content like ads and promotions to social networks "with one simple click" and without requiring IT involvement.
For HR professionals, IBM is offering a new Web-based social software called Employee Experience Suite which leverages technology from IBM's recent US$1.3 billion acquisition of Kenexa, a cloud-based human capital management (HCM) specialist.
According to IBM, Employee Experience Suite will enable social and mobile interactions, allowing HR workers to attract tablet, motivate and educate workforces and empower their fellow employees.
However one analyst remained wary about the ability of IBM to fully capture the HR technology market, given that it was a relatively new space for the technology giant.
Despite reservations, one group CIO for a UK-based firm shared with Digital News Asia (DNA) that during their internal assessment of social solutions from IBM, Microsoft and Google, IBM scored the highest.
The importance of social business and its potential in enabling organizations to better leverage business opportunity and productivity in a changed communications and work environment has already been established.
With IBM Connect 2013 just starting, the company has three more days to firmly advocate and communicate its own vision of social business to the thousands of attendees here in Orlando.
Gabey Goh reports from IBM Connect 2013 in Orlando, Florida, at the invitation of IBM.
IBM Connect 2013:
The driving power of big data for social business
IBM confident Connections can vie against nimble start-ups
IBM boosts Connections portfolio
Social business to have huge impact
Social media and business: It’s about people, people
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