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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Maximizing the Benefits of Social Business with Rene Schimmer, IBM

October 24, 2012 No Comments

Social Business has increasingly become one of the driving forces behind enterprise growth today.

In the below interview, Renee Schimmer from IBM Social software discusses some of the recent trends emerging in the world of Social Business, and how mobile applications and document management continue to play a role in this evolution.

  • Q. In your opinion, what are some of the biggest trends that have emerged within Social Business over the last ten years?

A. Mobile and analytics are two major trends that come to mind.

Smartphone use has skyrocketed among consumers –and now these tools have become an enterprise staple, too. Lots of businesses have adopted a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach –research shows that nearly three-quarters of companies allow employee-owned smartphones and/or tablets in the workplace. By 2014, it’s estimated that 90 percent of organizations will support corporate applications on personal devices (Gartner). When it comes to social business, this means that social networking and technologies have to be accessible on various devices –businesses must be able to provide their employees with the “anywhere, anytime” access that they’ve come to expect.

Analytics is a somewhat newer phenomenon, and it’s really starting to pick up steam. Social Businesses need to contextualize the massive amounts of data streamed across social networks on a daily basis. This need has given rise with analytics capabilities like our IBM Cognos Consumer Insight or the built-in capabilities of IBM Connections, which not only identifies patterns in relevant data, but also provides insights into both customer and employee sentiments about that data. Analytics make it easier to identify related bits of information across multiple social networks –to ultimately transform the way information is discovered, correlated and consumed.

  • Q. How can companies today bring social business and document management together?

A. This is a really great question, because the document as we know it has completely changed. Static, one-sided documents are a thing of the past. The old model has been revamped to reflect the increasingly social nature of today’s business; companies need more fluid, dynamic, and collaborative document solutions that mirror the social shift. We cannot afford anymore to have redundant documents exist in multiple team spaces or content silos without hope of anyone finding them.

The new normal entails two things: the option to work in real-time, and the ability to be aware of updates as they’re made.

It can be challenging to weed through the alphabet soup of office productivity suites out there. A good strategy is to look for a cloud delivery model that’s mobile-compatible, will work well in a business environment, and comes without exorbitant costs or renewal fees. Document management in a social business context should offer collaborative editing, task assignment, management of comments and versions and the ability to share content as part of a social business platform to maximize the value of the actual content.

  • Q. What role does analytics play in all of this?

A. We’ve already talked a bit about how analytics is a major force in social business today, but it bears repeating: having the right information and expertise across the entire enterprise is absolutely crucial. At IBM we’re seeing customers actively combine social networking with sophisticated analytics to glean insights from activity streams and better drive financial results.

Analytics is a great way to gain competitive advantage –regardless of your industry –and is important both externally and internally. It’s not just about monitoring consumer feedback, executives want to know what is trending inside their business, what employees are talking about, and what projects and activities are getting a lot of input.

Social analytics streamlines how enterprises monitor collaboration trends. It’s a phenomenon that’s transforming business processes, helping build stronger relationships among employees, customers and business partners –and helping make better decisions, faster. This is, in essence, the definition of a social business: Embracing networks of people to drive business value and create new opportunities.

  • Q. How will the recent release of IBM Connections V4.0 help companies manage BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and begin to bridge the gap between risk and compliance?

A. IBM Connections 4.0 supports all the business processes we’ve just discussed. One of the great things about Connections is that it’s available on premise, in the cloud, and on the broadest range of mobile devices. This means that workers have access to activity streams, calendaring, wikis, blogs, email, and more –all from their smartphone or tablet. Based on the customer feedback we’ve received, it alleviates the BYOD burden for organizations tackling the challenge of “anywhere, anytime” social access.

As far as risk and compliance –this is something companies are increasingly becoming aware of as they bring social media into their organizations. It’s especially important in heavily regulated industries, such as banking, insurance, healthcare, etc. In these cases, industry regulators often require companies to retain massive amounts of data –up to a decade, in some cases.

There is a growing challenge to manage risk and compliance that comes with data generated by social networking. IBM Connections allows organizations to track and trace data on-the-fly so that it can be analyzed as it is posted. It’s the first social networking platform to deliver enterprise compliance capabilities by providing the ability to monitor conversations, posts and file uploads in real-time and react immediately if company policies or regulations are violated.

  • Q. How do you see IBM Connections Activities Stream benefitting businesses looking to work primarily through IBM Connections throughout the work day?

A. TD Bank is a great example of how IBM Connections can be used across a company to help transform it into a social business.

Within the first six months of the rollout, more than 85,000 users were participating in IBM Connections-driven social networking activity at TD Bank, making more than 1 million connections and forming 3,000 different communities, as well as countless blogs and wikis. The CIO of TD Bank has said that one of the most interesting developments in Connections 4 is its ability to embed applications in social media activity streams, which in TD’s case means both externally and internally. Using the community features, TD employees and executives participate in tightly focused group discussions. Queries and suggestions are more likely to lead to solutions than in a larger group, and there is less unrelated information through which to sift.

With activity streams, even forms of communication as basic as email can become infused with the needs of today’s social business. Imagine a socially integrated platform that includes all relevant updates from a user’s social environment, as well as one-to-one message exchanges. This could be a notification of new activity in your company’s enterprise social networking site, a recent comment on a blog post, a file sharing notification from your colleague in Europe, or a connection request from an external social network.

René Schimmer, Senior Product Manager, Social Software

In his current role as Senior Product Manager, René works closely with customers and partners on a worldwide basis to communicate IBM’s Social Software strategy as well as to engage in active dialogues on key business challenges. Another important aspect of his role is taking the resulting requirements back into the development stream and translating them into capabilities of future IBM Social Software.

Other responsibilities include investigating new markets for social, contributing to the overall efforts in marketing the product, being an advocate for customers and maintaining the external market facing aspects of Social.

René has more than 15 years of experience as a Product Manager for online business services and enterprise software solutions. Throughout his career he has managed a range of products from web hosting, B2B online marketing, to various software offerings including web content management, document management, enterprise content management, and business process management solutions.

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