IBM Connections and Social Business – Interview with Ed Brill

Ed Brill - Lotus ConnectionsEd Brill who is Director of Messaging and Collaboration at IBM was in İstanbul to attend LUGTR2011 Conference which is orginized by Turkish Lotus User Group last week. He is also known as a strategist about social media and business intelligence.

I had a chance to talk with him and he shared valuable ideas about being a part of social media for businesses.

Firat Demirel: Hi Ed, can you introduce yourself and give a short brief about IBM Lotus Connections? How do you help companies through social media?

Ed Brill: I’m the Director of Messaging and Collaboration for IBM, responsible for our solutions in these functional areas. IBM Connections is social software for business. It helps organizations leverage expertise to be faster and more responsive, to flatten process and hierarchy, and to discover information.

FD: What kind of changes did you make on IBM Lotus to create a social software?

EB: For 15 years, IBM employees have used social software to foster collaboration among our dispersed 400,000 person team — long before Generation Y became fixated with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. You could even say that IBM’s social media activity dates back to the 1970’s when its mainframe programmers started online discussion forums on the System 370 consoles. Today, IBM views itself as one of the most prolific users of social networking in the industry. For example, IBM Connections has its origins as an IBM Research project that we developed and tested internally with IBM employees before taking it to the market in 2007. We also wrote a set of blogging, now social media, guidelines in 2005, that empowered individual IBMers to engage in the conversation online regarding IBM products, services, and solutions.

FD: How do you define social media for companies, is it evolution or a revolution?

EB: It is an evolution of customer interaction. Social media empowers customers to talk to each other about a company’s products and services for the first time. As a result, all companies need to become social businesses — either you participate in the conversation or not, but the social interaction about those products and services *will* take place in social media.

FD: Does your new tools are dedicated to increase sales or focused to optimize employes’s in-house communication? Or both.

EB: Both. IBM is especially focused on extended-enterprise collaboration, helping organizations share and leverage customers, partners, and suppliers. The result will be increased customer satisfaction and interaction.

FD: What about the mobile side of IBM’s new products? What do you expect for mobile internet usage and mobile applications in the future?

EB: Social networking has had a profound effect on society, couple this with the explosion of mobile devices and new Cloud delivery models, a perfect storm of industry trends is merging that makes this the right time to move from the hands of teens to business. The burgeoning mobile workforce is expected to reach more than 1.19 billion by 2013, nearly 1 trillion Internet-connected devices will be in market by next year, generating 20 times more mobile data by 2015.

We consider mobile devices to have evolved into primary interfaces today. In two to three years, they may be the only interface for a typical knowledge worker, especially in tablet form. As such, we are designing for web and mobile first, and building rich/installed clients when appropriate to add value atop web and mobile apps.

FD: Companies and brands become more social and there is a social monitoring hype. What is the importance of analyzing social media, what do you offer for companies?

EB: Despite the prediction that social analytics will take off this year, only baby steps have been taken by most companies in this area. However, because of the growth of the Social Business it is recommended that organizations globally embrace Social Analytics right now.

Harvard Business Review Analytics Services released a survey of 2,100 companies, entitled “ Taking Social Media from Talk to Action.”(download report) Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they are either currently using social media channels or have social media plans in the works. However, only 12% of companies surveyed felt they were effective users of social media. And three-quarters (75%) of the companies in the survey said they did not know where their most valuable customers were talking about them. So it is not surprising that less than one-quarter (23%) are using social media analytic tools, with only 5% using some form of customer sentiment analysis.

A variety of social analytics tools are available from IBM to significantly boost an organization’s marketing results. These tools can deliver insight on visitor marketing and purchasing behavior. They can also help organizations personalize the online environment for each customer, create a “multichannel” environment, justify social media as a marketing tool, and influence browsers. Social analytics can also accelerate the rate of innovation and ideation by continuously recommending potential experts, based on the content generated by either internal, for example, by a coworker, an external social contact or both. This is where IBM Connections fits in.

IBM’s Center for Social Software has embarked on many projects to analyze social media, but today our focus is on developing social software for business. This includes tools for visualization such as Atlas for IBM Lotus Connections,  it is also worth checking out the IBM Center for Social Software.

FD: What are your thoughts on business intelligence with social interactions?

EB: A key intersection of technologies. The analytics tools discover what is already known and who knows it, and surfaces that information at just the right moment. IBM believes analytics is a major market ripe for expansion beyond traditional database analysis, and we are investing heavily in this area.

FD: Is corporate culture conflict with social products? As an experienced professional, have you ever though that employes can waste their work times with them?

EB: For sure. You have to have a cultural change element to any successful adoption of social software. Employees need to know what the company expectations are of how to engage and where it will be valuable.

FD: Ed, thanks for sharing time. I hope that businesses start to understand and use social media effectively.

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