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Experimenting on Themselves

How IBM fosters internal experiments with social software.




MIT Technology Review, March 10, 2011  —  About 400,000 people work at IBM, scattered in offices all over the world. To help them work together, the company has been conducting large-scale internal experiments with social software. What started as ad hoc experimentation has become a focused effort driven by the company’s senior management, reaching almost all the company’s employees.

As far back as 1997, IBM built an Intranet directory in an effort to help employees find others with the skills and experience they were looking for. For several years after that, employees informally built applications on top of that infrastructure. While many of those tools were helpful, they often didn’t have the technical support they needed to really improve work at the company, says John Rooney, who heads the Technology Innovation Team in IBM’s office of the CIO. “Projects might be running on a server under someone’s desk,” he says.

Five years ago, IBM started the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) to facilitate employees’ software experiments. The company created a website with a catalogue, where employees could find projects to try out, and supplemented it with infrastructure to host and develop the projects.

TAP hosts a variety of projects, from early tests of planned commercial products to tools and plug-ins designed by employees in their spare time. “Many things enter TAP without a specific agenda,” Rooney says. IBM then looks at how people embrace and adopt the projects, seeing them through a life cycle that can lead to broader deployment if early indicators suggest value.

For example, 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.

Measuring the success of social tools can be tricky, since many of these technologies serve intangible goals such as making a geographically separated team feel more cohesive. However, TAP tracks ratings and adoption levels for its technologies. Employees of IBM’s research arm also conduct studies on tools shared through TAP to quantify their effect. The company says that Lotus Connections, which includes many features that originated in TAP, is the fastest-growing product in IBM’s history.

In its social experiments, IBM has “sucked in virtually all of the concepts from the Web and Enterprise 2.0 worlds,” says Michael Coté, an industry analyst with RedMonk. “I like to think of what they have as your own version of the Web, for behind the firewall.”

At IBM, employees are participating in what Rooney calls “a truly social community.” About 358,000 employees are registered for IBM’s internal version of Connections—effectively 90 percent of the work force. More than 124,000 employees are registered to be early adopters through TAP and have committed to making a bigger investment in developing new internal social technologies.

He adds that the company further supports social experiments by using the tools for companywide events known as “jams,” which are conversations between senior management and employees. By having senior management initiate conversation through social technology, Rooney says, “we send a really important signal that we value a certain type of interaction.”

Harvard Business School


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Please Update Your Status at Work


Robert Wright: How cooperation (eventually) trumps conflict

Collaboration software from a company called Jive is challenging products from established rivals such as IBM.

MIT Technology Review, March 10, 2011, by Lauren Cox  —  Some companies actually want their employees to blog, tweet, and update their social-networking profiles at work—as long as they’re doing it on corporate-purchased software.

Three years ago, the information management company EMC began encouraging employees to spend time on internal social networks discussing their extracurricular interests. “We have people talking about photography, and art, rock climbing—you name it,” says Jamie Pappas, whose title speaks volumes: she is manager of enterprise social-media engagement strategy.

EMC had something in mind beyond connecting all its motorcycle enthusiasts. The management wanted to test new “social business software” from Jive, a company that runs online forums and social-networking and collaboration software for businesses.

“The thinking really was that employees really want to come together around a topic, and they’re worried about saying something wrong if it’s about a [work] project,” Pappas says. “So those social conversations were sort of like icebreakers. It helped people get in there and then feel comfortable jumping into the business conversation.”

When companies get too big, opportunities for collaboration can diminish. Individual employees looking for a colleague with expertise on a particular topic can struggle to find the right person. E-mail is little help: employees’ in-boxes are deluged. Corporate memory of sales leads or customer service solutions can get buried.

In hopes of cutting through the noise, Jive offers a wide-ranging platform for collaboration, competing with the likes of IBM and Oracle. It offers applications to connect colleagues and projects the way Facebook, Twitter, and Web forums connect fan bases and friends. Employees set up profiles, blogs, groups, and Facebook-style “walls.” All this interaction happens behind the corporate firewall but is accessible by internal search programs. In turn, these programs work with software that companies already have in place, including customer relationship management (CRM) programs, Microsoft’s Sharepoint, and software for human resources, supply chain management, and accounting.

At EMC, instead of starting long e-mail threads, employees can check updates about a project on a Jive page, search for relevant materials, and download the files as they need them. Sales representatives looking for insight about a competitor can query the “competitive community” on EMC’s internal social network and get an answer as they walk to a client meeting, Pappas says. The company also now uses Jive’s tools externally, to augment user-support forums and to create community or “affinity” pages for clients that use EMC software.

Collaboration tools with origins in the consumer world, such as instant messaging, have often met with resistance from IT departments. But Stowe Boyd, an analyst and advisor to companies building such applications, says business-focused social-networking software is growing much faster than earlier tools. Christopher Morace, Jive’s senior vice president of business development, credits the increased popularity of Facebook. When Jive started selling its social business software in 2007, some potential customers were wary of adding more tasks to the workday. But now, Morace says, he doesn’t need to explain that with these tools, a person can realistically keep track of multiple conversations and engage hundreds of contacts.

Jive hopes to become something like a Facebook in business—a widely used platform on which many kinds of applications are hosted. The company is building a developer community and allowing third parties to write apps to work with its software. “When push comes to shove,” Morace says, “when this market becomes really competitive, we decided we are really good at being the modern platform.”


Jive News

Recent articles & press releases. from Jive

2011: The Year Enterprise IT Finally Gets a Social Life

I’m perhaps a bit late to the prediction party but I’ll make a decidedly self-interested one right now. In 2011, Social Business will cross the threshold from shiny object to gotta have. (…)

Why do I think Social Business will flip the switch and go mainstream in 2011? Early adopters of Social Business are reporting real ROI on their investments. That’s no surprise considering social media and social technologies have saturated the consumer space. These technologies have completely and permanently altered the way people think about accomplishing tasks, sharing information, and collaboration. Equally important, a rapid enterprise transition is underway from siloed discrete software solutions to application marketplaces built on flexible, SaaS and cloud-based frameworks. Taken collectively, these three trends are driving big companies large and small to more tightly weave social into their business processes and tap social capabilities to improve productivity and eliminate bottlenecks.

  • February 3, 2011 eWeek

Social Software Boosts Employee, Customer Enagement: Jive

Preparing for an IPO, Jive Software said social business software users reported nearly a 40 percent increase in “employee connectedness” (…)

Social business software users reported a nearly 40 percent increase in “employee connectedness,” while 42 percent reported a boost in communication with customers.

The findings stem from a survey social business software vendor Jive Software commissioned of 500 people in more than 300 Jive customer companies in worldwide in December. These businesses spanned high-tech, financial services, communications and health care, and other industries.

  • February 2, 2011 Press Release
  • January 31, 2011 ZDNet

Jive Strengthens Market Leadership with 2010 Global Customer Wins

Jive Software Customer Survey Reveals State of Market

Jive are to be commended for revealing the state of their market: they have essentially articulated the broader playing field and demand for collaboration software, community software, social networking and social media monitoring, which are used to engage employees, engage customers – and in some cases attempt to engage both.

10 year old Jive have been the pilot in this space, growing from a forums company, thorough their Clearspace product period to the the present ‘Social Business’ messaging and are now making a lot of noise about a possible IPO.

In a year when many other vendors are rolling out similar ‘me to’ collaboration, workstream, community and monitoring add ons to existing enterprise products, this is a timely reminder from pure play Jive about where the heart and business benefits of their market is.

  • January 31, 2011 All Things Digital

In Case You Needed Reminding, Social Enterprise Software Is Going to Be Big

[…], the fine folks at Jive Software would like to remind you again how important the social enterprise software is going to be, and they have survey data to prove it.

The company asked 500 people at 300 companies, many of them large companies with 10,000 or more employees about the business benefits they were seeing from using social business software, which in this case was Jive, naturally, though an independent firm did the survey itself.

  • January 31, 2011 Press Release
  • January 26, 2011 ComputerWorld UK

Jive Survey Reveals Key Business Benefits from Social Business Adoption

Jive CEO Says Company’s Social Networking Is More Beneficial than ‘Bolt-On Rivals’

[Jive CEO] Tony Zingale questions ability of competitors to deliver proper online community tools

The chief executive of up-and-coming enterprise social networking firm Jive has said the company’s offering is stronger than that of rivals because it is a dedicated service.

Tony Zingale told Computerworld UK that while Jive faced large competitors such as Oracle and engaging in business social networking, “what they offer in social networking is a bolt-on”.



To read more about Jive go to this link……..

Social Tools for Businesses

Technology Will Make Collaboration Your Next Competitive Advantage

New tools are changing the way people work with each other, their companies’ partners, and their customers.

Editor’s note: Today we begin a new monthly topic in Business Impact at Technology Review: Collaboration Tools. Powerful software and widespread Internet connectivity are making it easier than ever for people to work together no matter where they happen to be. Throughout March we will look at the latest tools for collaboration within and between organizations. We’ll analyze why some technology-enabled collaborations work and why others don’t. We’ll explain why some collaboration tools have failed to prove useful to the employees meant to benefit from them. We’ll present case studies, profiles, and interviews that help you understand how to make the people in your organization more collaborative and more productive.


MIT Technology Review, March 10, 2011, by Jeffrey F. Rayport  —  Since the dawn of managerial capitalism, collaboration and work have almost always been synonymous. People need other people to realize their greatest impact, and innovation, perhaps the most valuable activity in business, depends critically on the kind of cross-pollination of ideas that collaboration enables.

But technology has changed how we collaborate, especially since the communications revolution began 150 years ago with the telegraph and the telephone. This wave of change continued with the commercialization of the fax machine in the 1970s and of e-mail in the 1980s. The last 20 years have brought a convergence of communications and computing technologies that has expanded the possibilities for technology-enabled collaboration, whether synchronous or asynchronous, proximal or distant. With voice mail, videoconferencing, instant messaging, chat forums, blogs, wikis, social networking, microblogging (through services such as Twitter and Foursquare), voice-over-IP, telepresence, and, of course, mobile communications and computing, never have we had so many ways to collaborate without having to be in the same place at the same time.

Technology-based platforms explicitly designed for collaboration arose in the late 1980s with the concept of “groupware” or “collaborative work environments.” These made it possible for people to join forces even though they were working in different places and in different time zones. Lotus Notes brought the notion to the corporate market at a time when business use of the Internet was still in its infancy. As the journalist David Kirkpatrick wrote in 1992, “If groupware really makes a difference in productivity long term, the very definition of an office may change.” With admirable prescience, he noted: “You will be able to work efficiently as a member of a group wherever you have your computer. As computers become smaller and more powerful, that will mean anywhere.”

That prediction has become reality, especially since the recent financial downturn. As businesses cut back on workers and resources, the number of professionals who defined themselves as freelancers increased to 30 million in the United States alone, and many of them turned to social-networking sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, to build their businesses. Many people who remained employed used the same strategies as an insurance policy against the next reduction in force. They also compensated for leaner IT budgets by supplying their own hardware, leading to new acronyms such as BYOD (“bring your own device”) and BYOC (“bring your own computer”). In fact, Kraft Foods “coöpted” employee-owned smart phones and tablets, explicitly welcoming and supporting “third-party” devices not directly purchased by the company.

Such policies, in turn, created a new meaning for BYOC: “bring your own culture.” Why? Workers equipped with their own smart phones and notebooks became accustomed to using those devices in whatever ways they chose. They demanded freedom of access to rich media websites (like YouTube), social-networking platforms, and certain content providers (such as WikiLeaks and publishers of its documents, like the New York Times and that many corporations and government entities had blocked for reasons of bandwidth costs, data protection, and corporate security. One senior Dell executive I’ve come across argued that if he was going to spend 60 to 80 hours a week at work, the company had no business deeming any content on the Web off limits. The corporate firewall, designed to make a stark distinction between internal and external information resources, was an artifact of a bygone era. The Dell executive prevailed.

As we’ll see in this month’s articles, interviews, and case studies in Business Impact, network-enabled collaboration both within and between firms is changing work in fundamental ways.

To fuel this revolution, established companies and startups are offering tools and platforms that support ever more powerful means of collaboration. Their business propositions are predicated on Metcalfe’s Law: as linkages among individuals increase arithmetically, collaboration as a result of those linkages rises in value geometrically. That’s why many companies seeking to accelerate the pace of innovation turn to open innovation.

Here are seven big themes you should watch for as this month’s stories unfold:

1. Consumerize everything. Just as workers have flexed more muscle in their choices of smart devices and online resources, their expectations have changed even regarding the physical appearance of many workplaces. It makes sense that one U.K. design firm, Morgan Lovell, specializes in creating offices that look like living rooms and cafés, to stimulate more interaction. By the same token, many tech platforms for collaboration draw upon experiences from the consumer world. In its heyday, Linden Lab’s Second Life hosted a dealership for Toyota’s Scion brand, which enabled buyers to customize their prospective new cars while exchanging ideas with one another. Second Life also provided a platform for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting of world leaders—in effect, a virtual Davos operating concurrently with the real one. Researchers at UC Irvine, with a $3 million National Science Foundation grant, now plan to study how online virtual worlds such as Second Life and multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft can help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively.

Less radical is the appearance at IBM of collaboration software that has put corporate garb on many familiar consumer applications: examples include Dogear (Delicious-like social bookmarking), Blue Twit (a proprietary Twitter knockoff), and SocialBlue (an internal social-networking platform strongly resembling Facebook). Similarly, Cisco’s collaboration software, called Quad, integrates WebEx along with third-party resources like Twitter, iGoogle, and personalized RSS feeds. Its home page, or “personal manager console,” is widget-based. Its design resembles the presentation layer of a popular Paris-based personal news site, NetVibes. But the casual-looking interface should not mislead: Quad also includes an “enterprise policy manager console,” which monitors task accountability, individual productivity, and policy compliance.

2. It’s all about the culture. International Data Corporation, an IT research firm, argues that we’re entering “a new phase of business collaboration” based on the “intersection of Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, and collaboration tools to form the social business.” Although IDC believes that the global market for collaborative applications in general is “largely mature,” it projects that revenues for social platforms specifically will rise from $390 million in 2009 to nearly $2 billion by 2014. The firm says that this growth is being driven by “social business” functions that resemble what we know as the social Web: people connecting, conversing, sharing, and interacting socially online in grappling with common business goals. Essential functions include other familiar features of the social Web: social bookmarking, blogs, microblogs, voting, ranking, RSS, tags, and wikis for what IDC calls “people-centric collaboration and communication” that is “open, synchronous, and unstructured.”

When all of this works, it becomes the “human cloud”—a concept that entered technology circles only a couple of years ago. This is a corporate resource that transcends the corporation, by linking its employees not only to one another but also to customers, partners, suppliers, and third-party resources. “Tools merely offer the potential for collaboration,” argues Evan Rosen, a leading thinker in this field. “Unlocking the value of tools happens only when an organization fits tools into collaborative culture and processes. If the culture is hierarchical and internally competitive, it will take more than tools to shift the culture.” In other words, don’t assume that high-performance collaboration will happen just because you have the tools to make it possible. Collaboration is a social phenomenon, and it has to fit with the culture of an organization.

3. Cherish your experts, not your documents. The most compelling promise of the human cloud is that peer-to-peer networks (or networks of networks) will create value in a business. Patent protection aside, the value of corporate intellectual property diminishes with every passing month, given how quickly rivals can imitate products. Witness how fast HTC matched the touch-screen interface of Apple’s “revolutionary” iPhone using the Android OS. Companies often use a function known as “knowledge management” to retain, classify, and search internal documents, but what happens when the value of those materials goes to zero in record time? The focus changes from the documents to the experts—the people who can create the next innovations.

Consider a recent initiative at Intuit. In the company’s words, it created a platform called Brainstorm as “an innovation management tool to encourage collaboration throughout an organization and help put good ideas to work faster.” It shows the human cloud in action (“get the best talent available regardless of location”). You can’t find talent without “visibility,” so a critical component of Brainstorm is “tagging” experts within the organization. Intuit provided a platform where employees could post challenges, and (taking a page from Google’s playbook) declared 10 percent of its employees’ time “unstructured” to fuel the “supply side.” Further, Intuit recruited a dozen college students into a development program. They, in turn, brought into Intuit any consumer-based collaboration tools they liked, including Facebook, Google Docs, wikis, blogs, and IM. Recognition systems rewarded what mattered most: “people shaping ideas and making connections.” The result? Participation in innovation activities increased fivefold. Time to market decreased by half. And annual new product releases rose from five to 31. Now, Intuit markets Brainstorm to Fortune 1,000 companies, universities, and governments. Intuit itself has seen a tenfold return on its investment from its use of Brainstorm and, according to a GigaOm Pro Special Report, it has witnessed comparable benefits among clients to which it has furnished the tool.

4. Build the 24-hour knowledge factory. I borrow this quaint phrase from the title of a 2004 research paper by two MIT scholars, Amar Gupta and Satwik Seshasai, who observed that managers at businesses with workers in both the United States and India once believed that the misalignment of time zones was a barrier to collaboration. Today, the reverse is clear, as Gupta and Seshasai were among the first to see: link enough time zones together, and you have an organization that never sleeps, conferring a natural advantage in product development cycles or service delivery times.

When global collaboration works, whether within a firm or across firms, the results can be impressive. Conversify, for example, is a social-media marketing agency with principals based in Alaska, Denver, Boston, and the U.K. Even for a small organization, this geographical distribution makes it easy to monitor and manage social media around the clock. It also creates a virtuous time warp: one manager remarks, “When we have something due on Monday, I feel like I have two Mondays in which to do it.” In global enterprises such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Cisco, Wipro, Tata, and HCL, this kind of round-the-clock, round-the-globe approach has become commonplace: project teams linked across three or four time zones hand off work continuously and move it forward in a kind of perpetual motion. This is what scholars Morten Hansen and Nitin Nohria defined nearly a decade ago as a source of “collaborative advantage.”

5. Mandate structure within the social cacophony. Businesses should not be lulled into thinking that social media’s conversational metaphors eliminate the needs for structure, discipline, and protocols. On the contrary, strict guidelines and defined terms of engagement become even more critical. The application programming interface (API), closed or open, is a good metaphor. Want to collaborate with Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, RIM, or Yelp? Want to get an app into one of their app stores? API and Embed Codes specify structures and pathways available for collaboration.

The open-source Web management framework Drupal is another example of how a structure can be set up to enable collaboration in online social environments. (Dries Buytaert, a computer scientist from the Netherlands, created Drupal in 2001 and intended to call it “dorp,” meaning “village” in Dutch; when he mistyped the word while searching for a domain name, he wound up with Drupal and thought it sounded better.) Unlike Linux, an open-source operating system that didn’t become popular until corporate third parties like Red Hat provided enterprise support, Drupal grew through collaboration among Web users and developers. Its strength lies in its simplicity: while it offers a sophisticated API for developers, no programming skills are required to create and administer a basic website. As a result, by 2010 Drupal was running 7.2 million sites on the Web, including and Its modular design, “plug-and-play” extensibility, and free downloads accelerated its popularity. A community supports it, volunteer developers enhance it, and the “collective” uses a heuristics-based approach to improve it. (Drupal has now extended activities into a commercial entity, Acquia, to provide services for building websites.) A similar story of social collaboration has resulted in the popularity of Ruby on Rails.

6. Tap the wisdom of your crowd, and any crowd. Think of crowdsourcing as mass-market collaboration. Either talent or inventory can be sourced on demand.

Crowdspring, an online ad agency, gives users the ability to spec out design tasks (say, a brand treatment, a logo, or a creative ad execution), post structured RFPs online, and await “bids” on the work. A simple request of this kind can generate dozens of design submissions within 24 to 48 hours. Only the winning submission (if the user selects one) gets paid. That’s talent on demand.

Meanwhile, Threadless, started in 2000, is by now the paradigmatic example of crowdsourcing on the Web. It’s an e-commerce retailer that sells T-shirts designed by a community of users, who submit 300 designs to the site a day; the site’s fans vote for the ones they like best, and winning designs earn their creators $2,000 each. The goal is to post seven new shirt designs a week-and sell those designs for three to eight weeks. In 2009, the site generated over $30 million in revenue.

The contrast between these two sites, however, illustrates an important lesson. Collaboration enabled by networked technologies works best in knowledge-intensive and information-based tasks. While Threadless manages an entire business process from design to manufacturing to distribution, Crowdspring does not. Once a “client” has settled on a creative execution, there’s still the task of making it real—printing materials, creating video or online advertising, placing media. In that sense, crowdsourcing underscores a key question for any task completed by technology-based collaboration: how much of the desired outcome or solution does collaboration actually deliver?

An entirely different application of crowdsourcing comes in the form of “prediction markets.” These can be a boon for strategy formulation and product planning. For example, retailer Best Buy uses an internal prediction market, called TagTrade, to tap the collective intelligence of its tens of thousands of in-store employees. In 2003, DARPA also tried to put a prediction market to work: the Policy Analysis Market (or PAM), whose purpose was to anticipate future terrorist attacks. (When members of Congress denounced it as “grotesque” to enable online users to “bet” on “atrocities and terrorism,” PAM was shut down.) These markets represent a third type of crowdsourcing that is, in many ways, the most profound: the means to tap collective intelligence.

7. Keep it real. The downside of knowledge work—the lifeblood of technology-based collaboration—is its intangibility. It’s hard to visualize remote colleagues or a set of abstract tasks and deadlines. The most promising collaboration tools, thus, are those that provide updates from team members, relevant news feeds, project reports, deadline alerts, and other visual reminders that make the intangible tangible. This is especially critical for talent workers who are alone in remote locations or who collaborate on abstract tasks.

For example, DreamWorks Animation has created a global work space called Virtual Studio Collaboration. It combines animation design tools with high-definition videoconferencing and telepresence to let creators around the world work together on feature films. Their collaboration, once sequential, now takes place in real time—and the technology makes their connections palpable and immediate.

Similarly, some argue that the success of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was due in part to the way the company integrated collaborative tools with the applications that engineers use to design the products themselves. Rival Airbus, which lacked such high-tech visualization tools and advanced aerospace design software, simultaneously suffered expensive failures, including delays in delivering the A380.

Many leading collaboration tools (including Jive, Traction, and SocialText) specialize in visualization of collaboration “streams.” In addition, technologies such as near-field communications (NFC) can make collaborators even more “real” to one another by tracking and connecting them virtually as they move through the physical world. NFC can instantly synchronize mobile devices with information resources, secure access to encrypted Wi-Fi networks, and coördinate physical movements of remote team members to enhance coöperation, accessibility, and accountability.

I hope these themes prove useful as a lens through which to absorb the articles appearing in Business Impact this month, and to assess the applicability of these ideas to your business now. Please share your views in the discussion section below.

Jeffrey F. Rayport specializes in analyzing the strategic implications of digital technologies for business and organizational design. He is chairman of MarketspaceNext, a strategic advisory firm; an operating partner at Castanea Partners; and a former faculty member at Harvard Business School. Carine Carmy contributed research to this article.

Monday, March 7, 2011

In a business world where people meet face to face less often, social software can foster collaboration.

By Erica Naone

With social tools such as Facebook and Twitter ballooning in both numbers and cultural impact, businesses are looking to adapt these consumer technologies to the security and etiquette needs of the workplace. IBM in particular has experimented with using social software to promote collaboration within its own workforce of 400,000. Now it has distilled the resulting insights to create Lotus Connections, the first enterprise social software suite to reach the market.

Connections, which is three years old, is founded on what IBM has learned about applying consumer social technologies in the business world, both from its formal research arm and from informal projects driven by its employees.

Suzanne Livingston, lead product manager for the project, says the features offered in Connections were shaped by the company’s own experiences. The suite’s components include Profiles, which allows employees to get to know each other’s interests and expertise; Blogs; Wikis, a way for employees to work together on repositories of information; Bookmarks, a social bookmarking tool similar to Delicious; Communities, which facilitates connections between groups within an organization; Files, for file sharing; and Activities, which helps employees organize and plan together.

IBM started experimenting with social tools in an effort to help employees work together more effectively, especially if they were geographically far apart. Livingston says that many other companies have similar needs, even when they’re not as large or as global as IBM. “There are some common situations that arise irrespective of size,” she says.

For example, Livingston says, many companies want to improve cross-cultural collaboration between employees living and working in different regions. They may want to find better ways to communicate with customers and partners. They may want to make it easier for employees to find experts and share knowledge within the organization. They might also want to preserve company culture while growing, or make it easier for new hires to get acclimated.

She says that IBM helps customers figure out which aspects of Connections work best for them, how they can use the software, and whether it’s meeting their company’s needs.

Over the past couple of years, IBM has been working with BASF SE, a huge chemical company based in Ludwigshafen, Germany, to deploy a customized version of Lotus Connections called connect.BASF. Cordelia Krooss, who is responsible for the collaboration platform, says 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.

BASF started its pilot program in 2009 and officially rolled out the platform in May 2010. Krooss says the pilot introduced content that made the platform more useful when it officially launched and helped illustrate how the software could be used.

Less than a year after the launch, the company is pleased with the early results. Krooss says there are more than 19,000 registered users—more than 21 percent of the potential users in the company. Of these, 45 percent have joined a community.

BASF has found that users of connect.BASF are distributed fairly evenly among its regions, which also suggests that the software is helping accomplish the goal of fostering cross-cultural collaboration. In a user survey it conducted, the company found that 82 percent of people who had tried the software said they understood its purpose. Of those who used it a couple of times a week, 70 percent said they thought it was useful for work. Of those who used it daily, 90 percent said the same.

Krooss says there are other early signs that the software is effective. In particular, she’s pleased that so many employees are using it when doing so is entirely voluntary. Many teams have approached her office asking for training so they can use connect.BASF more effectively, which she takes as a sign that they see the software as valuable. So far, she says, Connections has given BASF a social foundation that the company can build on and develop

The new employee connection: Social networking behind the firewall

As Facebook-like apps infiltrate the enterprise, they’re integrating the workforce in unforeseen ways.

Mary Brandel


August 11, 2008 (Computerworld)

Microsoft calls it TownSquare. Deloitte hosts D Street. IBM has its Beehive, and Best Buy its BlueShirt Nation.

No, it’s not a real estate explosion. In industries from retail to high tech, banking and manufacturing, companies are increasingly building networks behind the firewall where employees can create profiles and connect with one another in ways first demonstrated by LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace.

“The whole Web 2.0 explosion has moved from the consumer and college student world to professionals in the business world,” says Amy Shuen, author of Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide. (O’Reilly Media, 2008). “Employees are seeing this as a way of enlarging their sphere and interacting with colleagues.”

It’s more than an electronic water cooler, she says. Companies may start with the idea of helping employees feel more connected, but that’s just the beginning. With easier and faster connections among people, suddenly cross-division collaboration happens more naturally, leading to greater innovation. “People don’t just chat; they connect with people and end up talking about things that have an impact on the business,” Shuen says.

Forrester Research Inc. agrees that 2008 is a time of rapid adoption of internal social networking, citing software suites that include social networking features, such as Awareness Inc.’s Enterprise Social Media, Jive Software’s Clearspace, IBM’s Lotus Connections and Microsoft’s SharePoint.

Here are three companies that are already seeing benefits from early adoption of internal social networking.

Deloitte LLP: D Street

The idea for Deloitte’s D Street began when the firm’s talent organization wanted to make a large company feel smaller. In addition, it wanted to create an environment that would appeal to its mostly younger workforce. At a company where the average age of employees is 28, “we knew we had challenges to win the talent war,” says Patricia Romeo, the leader of D Street. But in January 2007, when the group began to create the business case for the social networking environment, it also started to envision some of the side benefits the initiative might engender.

For instance, by enabling connections among employees, the company could more easily offer flexible work arrangements, establish virtual teams, bring new employees up to speed, improve collaboration and increase retention among people who hadn’t felt a strong sense of belonging.

After getting the support of Deloitte leadership and partnering with internal IT, communications and knowledge management groups, the team launched the alpha version of D Street in June 2007, basing it on a commercially available collaborative platform. The initial rollout was to 1,500 employees.

Deloitte’s Patricia Romeo: “We knew we had challenges to win the talent war.”

Romeo describes D Street as having capabilities similar to Facebook’s, except that profiles are prepopulated with basic information, including name, job title and contact information. Employees can personalize the profiles with things like photographs, resumes, work and community affiliations, and former employers. D Street enables workers to introduce colleagues to one another, list external social network memberships and write blogs. There’s also a “guest book,” in which visitors can leave comments.

And D Street helps people connect. An employee who searches on “Web 2.0,” for example, will find other people interested in that topic, as well as their connection to him.

Since few employees personalized their profiles initially, early adoption was slow, Romeo says. “People aren’t going to go in as readily when the well is 75% empty,” she explains. But with the encouragement of leadership, more people got involved, and they were soon demanding access to the rest of the organization.

Next, the development team tweaked the system with enhancements such as reporting capabilities and launched it this year to Deloitte’s shared services organization. Currently, all 46,000 members of the organization are in the system.

According to Romeo, 400 to 500 employees have been personalizing their profiles each week, meeting a goal of involvement by 25% of staffers in the first eight weeks.

Avinash Jhangiani, a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting LLP, says D Street has helped him expand his internal contacts at the company, which is especially helpful because he’s a mobile worker. For instance, he says, the organizing committee for Deloitte’s community service initiative found him on D Street via a simple people and keyword search.

“From there, I was asked to join a volunteer project that allowed me to share my passion with nonprofit organizations and help them build their online presence,” he says. “What a cool way to enhance my personal brand within the organization.”

A gap still exists between collaboration evangelists and those for whom “it’s just not part of their DNA,” says Romeo. To encourage reluctant people, the team will continue educating employees about the value of collaborative technology, and it plans to expand the technology to increase D Street’s value and utility.

That brings up another challenge: to not be diverted by some users’ desire to add new features. “We’re going slower than what our users would like, but we want to be strategic” about making enhancements, Romeo says.

Romeo’s advice: Continue to build leadership support, even after the early-stage buy-in. “Make sure support is there throughout the organization,” she says. Once the platform begins filling with valuable content, she adds, “it’s really about viral adoption.”

IBM: Beehive

Eight years ago, IBM created BluePages, a Web-based corporate directory that includes profiles with contact information, employee photographs, name pronunciation, experience, self-descriptions, bookmarks and blog entries, as well as “friending” and information-tagging capabilities.

“Very early on, we recognized the importance of connecting people within IBM and moving beyond a static view of the individual,” says Jeff Schick, vice president of social software. The heavily used directory includes 450,000 employees and gets 6million lookups per day.

With an initiative called Beehive, IBM is experimenting further. The application uses the code base of BluePages, which is based on Lotus Connections, but it’s a separate system.

IBM’s Jeff Schick: “Poor user adoption is rarely because users didn’t know how but rather didn’t see why.”

Beehive is intended as a collaborative platform that emulates the physical work environment, where employees display personal items like photographs and trophies and chat about last night’s game. “We’ve added new dimensions to the profile capability to create the old-fashioned camaraderie of the office,” Schick says. The idea is to discover whether what Schick calls “the water cooler effect” will help people build stronger relationships and thus create a more effective organization.

For Michael Ackerbauer, a manager in the CIO’s office at IBM, the results are already in. He learned about Beehive a year ago, and “I quickly got hooked,” he says, especially since he manages a team of developers who work remotely. “It’s valuable for the team to get to know me on a personal level, and I like to get to know them.”

Ackerbauer says he can now connect with people on a social level that’s typically absent when working remotely. Such connections help his teammates relate to one another like human beings and not just as resources or assets. Just recently, Ackerbauer says, he ended up speaking at a technology leadership conference, thanks to a connection he made with another employee who wouldn’t have otherwise known he had expertise in the subject area.

Despite its experimental status, Beehive’s user population has grown to 38,000 in nine months, mainly through viral adoption. “People find it through word of mouth, when others blog about it or bookmark it,” Schick says. Adoption is strongest in the areas of product management, HR, talent management and the global services consulting business.

Because Beehive is behind the firewall, Ackerbauer says, people feel free to discuss internal business topics. For instance, he has used Beehive to explain his views on the topic of breakthrough thinking. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t know you knew all that stuff. Can we talk more?'” Ackerbauer says. “The connections lead to collaboration, which leads to innovation, which leads to transformations in the industries IBM serves.”

Schick’s advice: Be aware that one size does not fit all. To increase involvement, you need to explain the story of social software from multiple perspectives.

“What appeals to some will make others almost cringe,” he says. For instance, new employees may want to use social software to increase their visibility, while veterans may be motivated to keep people informed. Similarly, he says, focus more on why than on how in your training program.

“Knowledge workers today have no time to add new activities to their day; they’re looking for how to work smarter,” Schick says. “Poor user adoption is rarely because users didn’t know how but rather didn’t see why.”

The whys of social networking

Employees tend to have at least one of four goals when they use social networks, according to Amy Shuen, author of Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide. The first two are common, she says; the second two are more cutting-edge.

1. Quick access to knowledge, know-how and “know-who.” In their profiles, people can list skills, expertise and experience, as well as previous employers and people they know. As with LinkedIn, this helps simplify the job of locating people with the knowledge they need. “It’s a way of leapfrogging quickly through several degrees of separation to find out who knows something on a topic that’s of importance to you,” Shuen says. This is particularly useful inside multidivisional and multinational organizations, she says.

2. Expansion of social connections and broadening of affiliations. This is the Facebook model, Shuen says, in which the goal is to get to know people better online by interacting with them and keeping up with their personal information. “It’s about decreasing your social distance virtually,” Shuen explains.

3. Self-branding and expression of a personal digital identity and reputation. Before long, people get creative with their profiles and begin to think about how they want to be known in the company. This is along the lines of a Flickr account or a personal blog or Web page. “Web 2.0 is deeply changing the expectations of knowledge workers as to how they can build their own personal brand within a corporation, not just find knowledge they need or socialize,” Shuen says.

4. Referrals/testimonials/benchmarking/RSS updating. On social networks, the viral distribution of knowledge becomes important. For instance, people want to know how many of their “friends” have recommended a video or have joined a community. And in turn, if they discover something cool, they want to spread the word. “This sense of benchmarking against others in social networking is different from anything we’ve seen before,” Shuen says.

Best Buy: BlueShirt Nation

Two years into implementing BlueShirt Nation (BSN) at Best Buy Co., Gary Koelling and Steve Bendt see internal social networks as organic entities. Many of the goals they had for the platform in 2006 had to be scrapped once the site — which now hosts more than 20,000 participants — took off.

Now senior manager of social technology, Koelling was a creative director in Best Buy’s advertising organization when he and Bendt first thought of using technology to harvest marketing ideas from store employees. “The promise of being able to go out and tap into 140,000 employees and use computer magic to do it was really attractive to us,” Koelling says. He figured it was a matter of gathering support, getting funding and laying out the steps to meet that goal.

Instead, “we got schooled quickly that not only did we not know about [technology], we also didn’t know how people would react to a planned social network,” he says.

For instance, instead of providing answers to Koelling’s and Bendt’s questions, participants preferred to talk about World of Warcraft or something funny that happened at work.

BSN is based on open-source software, and since internal IT lacked those skills, Koelling hired a development firm. The network was promoted virally; all participants found it through referrals or word of mouth.

Best Buy’s Gary Koelling: “[BlueShirt Nation] is more scrumptious than what we hoped for.”

On the site, employees can create their own profiles and host forums on topics of their choosing. The result, Koelling says, “is more scrumptious than what we hoped for.”

Now that employees are connected, the site is rich with idea exchanges and discussions that have even helped change company policies. For instance, when one employee posted his thoughts on why it would be beneficial for all full-time employees to have e-mail access, it sparked a conversation that eventually led to a shift in policy to enable just that.

To Nick Pfeifer, a retail associate in one of Best Buy’s Colorado Springs stores, the site provides a social outlet, a protected place to discuss work- related topics and a way to close the gap between store workers and corporate employees. “As with any big company, it’s easy for the message of the customers to be lost when you don’t turn your attention to the people who interact with them on a regular basis,” he says. “Until BSN, there’s always been a schism between the two.”

Have Your Say

Corporate social networking: Booster or time-waster?

To help close that gap, the site now includes an application called Loop Marketplace, where people can post new ideas, with the hope that a Best Buy executive will notice one and fund it. The challenge is to encourage more execs to visit it, Koelling says. “We’re trying to find ways to make visiting the Loop Marketplace a part of their workflow.”

There have been plenty of mistakes along the way, Koelling says. For instance, some users wanted to adopt a system in which people received points based on their participation on the network. But once he initiated that, Koelling learned quickly that most people thought it was elitist.

Koelling’s advice: Understand that on a social network, everyone shares equal status, even the person who runs it. “When the user tells me, ‘This is how I want to use it,’ I have to do whatever I can to accommodate that,” he says.

Brandel is a Computerworld contributing writer in Newton, Mass. Contact her at

New site coordinates travel plans and off-site meetings with co-workers and business friends

By Heather Havenstein

Computerworld – It’s a dilemma that commonly plagues business travelers: what to do with the sometimes hundreds of business cards collected during a trade show.

The cards are often accumulated during valuable meetings with people who could help generate new business or make introductions to key people. Some of these contacts could provide even more networking possibilities at future events.

But without an easy way to manage the new contact information or to glean insight into the future travel plans of people in a growing network, the collected business cards are more likely to collect dust than generate new business.

That was the vexing scenario that Marcel van Gemerden was aiming to eliminate by creating SkyLounge, a social network that focuses on helping colleagues, business contacts and others better leverage business travel. The site can keep users up to date on which of their contacts might be at the same trade show or in the same city at the same time they are.

SkyLounge Ltd.’s site, which launched in February, was upgraded this week to allow any user to open a virtual lounge dedicated to a company, an industry or an event. When people sign up for the service, they add their travel trip information and designate if the information is public or can be viewed only by the contacts in their own network.

“You can open any kind of lounge you like, whether you’re in the flower business or working on Wall Street,” noted van Gemerden, founder and CEO of the company. “You can start building up your network trying to find people in same industry or those you already know. If you’re in the same place as your contact, then you automatically get at trip alert. If you’re going to a trade show, and another person you have worked with in the past is also there, you will know ahead that he or she will be there, too.”

The site also includes restaurant reviews, where users can vote on the best restaurants in certain locales, and forums where they can discuss any topics they choose, van Gemerden added.

“That is the purpose — to give business travelers a set of tools so that before they leave on a trip, they can get lots of information,” he added. “During the trip, they can use the Web site to see who is there at the same time. Afterwards, they can add all the people they met on the trip to their network.”

The site also includes a separate section dedicated to events. After a user indicates the industry they work in, they will be provided with a feed of trade shows related to that industry. After adding the events they are attending to their profiles, all others attending that event will know that the user is attending and vice versa, he noted.

So far, there are 50 lounges on the site — including those for American Airlines crews, golfers, General Electric employees and Shell “Globe Trotters.” The company expects to launch 250 additional lounges over the next two months.

Because the lounges can be organized by member trips or by name, date or destination, employees also could use the site to share flights, taxis or other information about business travel, he added.

So far, about 5,000 people — 70% of whom are upper management-level employees — are using the site.

Read more about Web 2.0 and Web Apps in Computerworld’s Web 2.0 and Web Apps Topic Center., March 10, 2011, by Jessica Lee  —  Social media is not yet a science and it’s even sometimes difficult to find the logic in it all, so proven theories on Twitter tools, unfortunately, do not exist. But, you can do research, apply deductive reasoning, test and form hypotheses about which tools will work best for your business.

There are hundreds of “top Twitter” this and “top Twitter” that lists roaming around, and it can be a little overwhelming. So, here are a couple tips on how you can whittle those lists down into something manageable to experiment with.

Internet marketers: You can also brush up on your knowledge of Twitter tools so you can best advise clients on what will work for them.

Understand the Genres of Twitter Tools

New Twitter tools come and go so quickly these days, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. First, identify what you want to do with your Twitter account(s), then seek out the tools that can help you do it.

Some Twitter tools perform very specific functions, while others address several objectives at once. Just some of the things Twitter apps can help you with are:

  • Managing Twitter followers to see who is following you that you aren’t following back and vice versa.
  • Directories for finding people so you can engage in the communities that matter most to your business.
  • Managing Twitter productivity to streamline your Twitter usage outside of the traditional Twitter user interface.
  • Managing your brand on Twitter through design and brand tracking to ensure your business is putting its best foot forward.
  • Searching and aggregating current or popular topics and trends to see what people are talking about.
  • Sending images and/or video on Twitter to make the experience even more interactive.

Start Reading User Reviews

You should apply the same techniques to choosing Twitter tools as you would to choosing a restaurant, for example.

You’re going to want to find candid reviews about the tools from the people that have used them before, so you don’t waste your time.

A site that I have found really helpful in choosing Twitter tools based on functionality and user reviews is

This site allows you to search for Twitter apps based on many of the functionalities I mentioned above, plus it has reviews from people who have used them.

It also suggests similar apps based on the one you are researching, and it gives developer information, press mentions and related tweets about the tool you’re looking at.

It even has an area on the site dedicated to Twitter Toolkits, where users can share their arsenal of Twitter weapons with readers (see Toolkits to the left; click on image to view page).

When you’re poking around for tools, remember that some have free and premium options, where you’ll have to pay for the upgraded service.

If you do your research, oftentimes you can find free tools that offer the same functionality that some of the other tools charge for.

As some tools gain popularity, we might see them beginning to charge for their services, so get in on the good apps while you can.

Begin Testing

Once you’ve found some Twitter tools that look good for your business, get in there and start experimenting with them. You’ll likely find out if the tool is working for you with a couple weeks of continued usage.

You may only need a tool that automated tweets for you, for example, or you might be the kind of business that is looking for analytics so you can take Twitter usage to the next level.

As I said before, some Twitter tools address many of these functions in one. HootSuite, for example, just won the Best Social Media Management Tool award from the 4th annual Mashable Awards at the beginning of January.

Hootsuite manages more than just Twitter though, it can also manage up to five social networks for free.

IBM Collaboration Solutions: Driving Innovation and Productivity at Colgate-Palmolive, by Richard MacManus  —  Forrester released a report today about the ‘community platforms’ market. They evaluated nine vendors, concluding that Jive Software and Telligent Systems “lead the pack because of their strong administrative and platform features.” KickApps and Pluck were also commended, for enabling large Web sites to scale quickly with social features. Awareness, Lithium Technologies, and Mzinga were other products that Forrester liked, for enabling companies to build branded communities. We summarize the report below and highlight our own past coverage of Jive Software and Telligent.

Communities have been a staple of the web 2.0 era and over the past few years a lot of enterprise community products have come onto the market. The Forrester report, authored by Jeremiah Owyang, notes that even in this down economy there is still demand for online community platforms – because they are a cost-effective way for companies to market their products and reduce support costs. Overall, Forrester identified more than 90 vendors who offer community platforms and services – although Owyang notes that it’s “still a very young market”. 9 of the 90-odd were profiled in the report. They were: Awareness, Jive, KickApps, Leverage, Lithium, LiveWorld, Mzinga, Pluck, and Telligent.

Forrester singled out 2 vendors that are particularly strong: Jive Software and Telligent. The report noted that both have platforms that are easy to deploy and use.

Jive Software

Jive Software has a large customer base of more than 2,500 customers, including brands like Intel, Kraft Foods, and Nike. The report noted that Jive’s user interface was “intuitive”.

ReadWriteWeb has profiled Portland-based Jive Software a couple of times recently. Last April we reported on Jive’s enterprise collaboration suite Clearspace. We noted that the service takes on Microsoft’s Sharepoint with a feature set that looks like something many consumer software users would be envious of. At the time we thought that a USAToday quote was particularly apt: “Jive Software wants to be the Apple Computer of corporate social networks.” In July 2008, we reported on ClearStep – an online community for businesses that we thought could deliver very real value to potential Jive customers.

We’ve also commented favorably in the recent past about Jive’s promotion of XMPP (called Jabber in IM) – for powering communication services hosted in the cloud. The company included the first XMPP-powered document sharing and collaboration tool in the 2.0 release of its Clearspace.


Dallas-based Telligent was commended by Forrester for its analytics features, because they “empower marketers to understand what’s going on in their branded communities.” Back in June, ReadWriteWeb noted that Telligent was one of a number of companies to offer integration with Microsoft SharePoint – perhaps the most-used collaboration platform in the enterprise. We noted that Telligent’s Community Server Evolution platform uses its REST API, mail gateway, shared authentication and single sign-on, to integrate with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft Active Directory.

Over on Jobwire, ReadWriteWeb’s channel dedicated to news about job hires in the tech and media industry, we’ve also picked up on a couple of recent hires at Telligent. In November it hired former Microsoft Senior Research Sociologist Marc Smith, then in December it appointed former Palm CEO Carl Yankowski to its board of directors. So things appear to be going well for Telligent, even in the current economy.


One of the report’s findings is that community platform providers must do more than offer a technology platform. Indeed Jeremiah Owyang says that “the technology is a commodity.” The top providers, according to Forrester, “not only offer a strong technology platform but also provide services, support, and analytics offerings.” Owyang elaborated that companies want “a solutions vendor that delivers strategy, education, services, community management, analytics and support – beyond just rss and discussion boards.”

What the report didn’t address was how relatively small vendors such as Jive and Telligent are competing against the likes of Microsoft SharePoint, IBM’s Lotus SameTime and Lotus Connections, and even the open source software Drupal – which is very popular with developers in the enterprise. Check out Dion Hinchcliffe’s top 10 list of community platforms for other options.