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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The State of Social Business with Jeff Schick, Vice President of Social Software at IBM

October 9, 2013 No Comments

Over the past several years, we’ve witnessed a significant shift in the way business is conducted. Just as the Internet changed the economics of information and business models, a new shift has occurred as the social networking phenomena has penetrated into global business.

The arrival of Social Business has created an emerging battleground for IT vendors. For example, financial analyst firm CLSA recently cited enterprise social software as one of the top tech trends, and Forrester Research reports that the market opportunity for social software will exceed $6 billion by 2016.

Now, the potential of adopting social is being amplified by innovative technologies like big data, analytics, mobility and delivery models like cloud computing.

In the below interview, Jeff Schick, Vice President of Social Business at IBM discusses the advances in social business, the power social has when combined with analytics, mobility and cloud computing and how organizations are using the combination to re-engineer the way they work.

  • Q: Let’s start with social business. What it is all about, what are some of the advantages of integrating social into traditional business processes?

A. Harnessing connections is what defines the age of social business.  And navigating this change and the impact it’s having on every aspect of a company is becoming the next big challenge for businesses, and an emerging battleground for IT.

Right now, social adoption is on the rise and today, many companies are combining social technologies with cloud, mobile and analytics to create a flexible, intelligent framework for making the most of social connections. In fact, according to IBM’s most recent survey of CEOs, 57 percent picked social business as a top priority and some 73 percent are making significant investments in analyzing data.

With these elements in place, organizations all over the world can integrate social into critical lines of business. For example, CMOs are working to gain insights from the updates people share with each other on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to react more quickly to trends and create exceptional customer experiences that inspire brand loyalty. Human resource gurus are building communities for prospective, current, and even retired employees that help improve recruiting and talent management services. They are adopting social technologies to create stronger, more productive links among their workforce, so they can share knowledge and creativity, no matter where they are, what device they use, or what time zone they’re in.

  • Q: What are the challenges of becoming a social business? How can companies overcome them?

A. As with any new technology, adoption can always be a challenge. For social business to be truly effective, all employees, from the C-Suite to those in the field, need to be on board. Organizations need to align their culture and strategy to embrace social business by creating an open environment where knowledge sharing is encouraged and trust and transparency among all employees is a priority. It’s also critical that you show employees that by integrating social into their work it’s not creating extra steps, but in fact simplifying things to help them do their jobs more effectively. Lastly, choosing a technology partner who understands your business needs and goals and can help guide you through the social business transformation is extremely important.

  • Q. What are some of the new social business trends and offerings available to enterprises today?

A. In the past year, big data and analytics emerged as must-haves in the context of social business. We continue to see the real winners in social harnessing the ability to capture and analyze the knowledge shared over their social network, and then extending that information throughout the business to accelerate innovation, out-market competitors and remove boundaries internally and externally.

While analytics will remain critical, moving into 2014, at IBM, we see mobility and cloud computing taking center stage. The reality in today’s global business environment is that we’re increasingly expected to be connected 24/7, from anywhere in the world and on any device. This means that our social business platforms must allow our employees to access their work in the way that’s best for them seamlessly, without interruption.

Mobility and cloud computing are addressing these market demands. By bringing social and mobile devices into the cloud, businesses have the opportunity to empower employees to work more effectively, collaboratively and securely from any location in order to create larger, more effective global workforces. The cloud’s continuous design model is significant for organizations adopting social and mobile. New features and functionality are introduced on an ongoing basis with no interruption to collaboration or innovation, meaning organizations can stay focused on the task at hand, driving business value.

At IBM, we recently added over 100 new social capabilities combined with mobile accessibility to our SmartCloud environment to radically transform how an organization operates. For example, we’ve added mobile file synch capabilities to the IBM SmartCloud. With this new feature, sales leaders can update a customer presentation on their iPad in real-time, incorporating feedback from a meeting that just ended. They can then synch the newest version into the cloud to ensure the entire sales team has access to the latest document. At the same time, customer service leaders can launch audio and video based desktop and mobile conferences to review the latest training materials with their global team in order to improve service to customers. This type of social, mobile functionality in the cloud is driving significant business value for organizations.

  • Q. How are these new features adding value to businesses?

A. Most significantly, the combination of social and mobile delivered in the cloud is allowing organizations and their employees to focus on getting work done and driving innovation instead of trying to figure out the technical requirements they need to do their job.

Specifically, we’re seeing clients improve productivity and engagement across their enterprises. They’re sharing ideas and best practices seamlessly which is helping to improve customer service and enabling them to reach new markets. The potential of social, mobile and cloud is really endless.

Consider how two global organizations, SafeGuard World International and Sika AG, are taking advantage of the combination.

Today, SafeGuard employees in product management are responding faster to potential issues that might arise during client implementations or product development and marketing processes using a social platform in the cloud. The company can mitigate risk and improve accountability and communications between departments and employees who are using the integrated solution. The solution is a strong factor in decreasing Safeguard’s time to revenue through a 20 percent reduction in implementation time.

Similarly, Sika AG, a specialty chemicals company based in Switzerland, was looking for a way to share information faster among its employees across more than 80 countries as well as with its suppliers and customers. With IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, SikaAG can give 11,500 users across all lines of business operations an easy way to share ideas, improve productivity, fuel business innovation and more effectively reach customers and suppliers to boost sales, all while substantially lowering IT costs.

  • Q: What can we expect to see from social business in 2014? What are the up-and-coming trends, market demands?

A. As I mentioned before, analytics will continue to remain a critical component to an organizations social business transformation. Taking advantage of all the data that’s being shared over your network to drive decision making, improve customer service, out-innovative the competition –  it’s not going anywhere. However, I think in 2014 and beyond, mobility and the cloud will be top of mind.

A recent Forrester Research survey reports that 48 percent of workers use smartphones for business each week and 21 percent do the same with tablets. Enabling these workers to be effective, to have the ability to collaborate and innovate from anywhere is a major business imperative. Organizations will have to take a Mobile First approach to any technology implementation, especially social business.

Likewise, over the next three years, the number of enterprises embracing cloud computing will more than double, while the social business software market will grow 61 percent through 2016, again, according to Forrester Research. Organizations in all industries will begin to adopt social networking in the cloud to provide a seamless and uninterrupted environment for their workforce to improve productivity, drive innovation and re-engineer the way they work.

Jeff Schick is IBM’s Vice President of Social Software and has overall responsibility for IBM’s industry leading social business platform. Jeff has been with IBM for 25 years and has held various roles in development, field operations and as general manager of several of IBM’s business segments.


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