Friday, September 14, 2012

IBM Connections Merges Social Business w/ Big Data Analytics

by Darryl K. Taft
Originally published at on September 13th, 2012

IBM has announced a new version of its IBM Connections software, the company’s enterprise social networking platform—with support for iPhone 5.

As part of the announcement, IBM unveiled new software and services that bring the power of big data analytics into the hands of today's social-savvy workforce any time, any place. Now, organizations can apply analytics to their social business initiatives, allowing them to gain actionable insight on information generated on networks and put it to work in real-time, IBM said.

IBM announced the availability of IBM Connections 4, which incorporates analytics capabilities, real-time data monitoring, and faster collaborative networks both inside and outside the organization, whether on premise, in the IBM SmartCloud or using a broad range of mobile devices, including the new iPhone 5.

IBM also announced that leading companies around the globe, including Bayer MaterialScience, Colgate-Palmolive Company, LeasePlan, Primerica and Teach for America, are using its social software to achieve returns on their social business investments.

Big Blue officials said for three consecutive years, IDC ranked IBM No. 1 in enterprise social software. And more than 60 percent of the Fortune 100 companies have licensed IBM social software. IBM says its position in analytics has been established through a strategy that required the expansion of R&D, acquisition, and business initiatives across its hardware software and services portfolio.

The rise of social media is prompting business leaders, from the chief marketing officer to the chief HR officer to the CIO, to evaluate how to create opportunities that drive business transformation through the use of social technology, creating real business value, IBM said. According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for social enterprise apps is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016.

At the same time, business leaders lack the tools to gain insight into the enormous stream of information and use it in a meaningful way, IBM says. According to IBM's CEO Study, today only 16 percent of CEOs are using social business platforms to connect with customers, but that number is poised to spike to 57 percent within the next three to five years. A recent IBM study of more than 1,700 chief marketing officers reveals 82 percent plan to increase their use of social media in the next three to five years.

"To truly realize the full potential of a social business, leaders need to empower a company's most vital asset—the information being generated from its people," said Alistair Rennie, general manager of social business at IBM, in a statement. "Now is the time for business leaders to embed social into their key business processes to shift their business from the era of 'liking' to 'leading.'"

IBM Connections integrates activity streams, calendaring, wikis, blogs, a new email capability and more, and flags relevant data for action. It allows for instant collaboration with one click and the ability to build social, secure communities both inside and outside the organization to increase customer loyalty and speed business results. The new Connections mail capability provides simplified access to email within the context of the social networking environment.

The new software enables users to integrate and analyze massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors, and more easily align these insights to business processes to make faster, more accurate business decisions, IBM said. By gaining deeper insights in customer and market trends and employees' sentiment, businesses can uncover patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions, IBM argues.

"I am thoroughly enjoying the ability to engage with a variety of employees through micro-blogging," said Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience, in a statement. "I can get information out quickly, but even more importantly, I can encourage two-way communication and stimulate an open-communication culture by breaking through barriers."

The new capabilities in IBM Connections empower employees from every line of business, such as marketing, human resources and development, to gain actionable insight into the information being generated in their social networks.

For example, the Connections landing page features a single location that allows users to view and interact with content from any third-party solution through a social interface, right alongside their company's content, including email and calendar. The embedded experience of the news feed, also known as an activity stream, allows employees from any department inside an organization to explore structured and unstructured data such as Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, weather data, videos, log files, SAP applications; electronically sign documents; and quickly act on the data as part of their everyday work experience.

IBM Looks to Differentiate Itself From Others in Social Media 

With its recent $1 billion acquisition of Kenexa, market leadership and thousands of customers, IBM is aggressively going after the emerging social business market to differentiate itself from others in this space. This is another example of how IBM is identifying higher-value growth opportunities, such as business analytics and Smarter Commerce, and building and acquiring capabilities across the company to go after them. IBM officials said they believe the rise of enterprise social networking is becoming the next IT battleground. And IBM is fielding competition from the likes of Microsoft, Oracle,, Google and others that are currently tapping this market or beginning to creep into it.

Meanwhile, IBM said there is strong demand for Big Blue’s social business platform in regulated industries, with 41 percent of Connections 4 beta participants in banking, finance and health care institutions.

For example, Primerica, a leading distributor of financial products in North America, will use Connections and WebSphere Portal, to transform how its agents engage with its 2.3 million policy holders on the fly, to provide increased value for its customers. The company plans to use social business software to improve the overall client experience, drive competitive edge and stay on the forefront of innovation in the financial services industry.

LeasePlan, a leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company, is using IBM's social software platform across the organization's 40 subsidiaries, in 30 countries and over 6,000 employees. With nearly 800 communities formed, 400 blogs and more than 800 forums, the platform has become an integral component to business operations for the organization, increasing efficiency, enhancing knowledge retention, increasing innovation, and helping to improve customer care and insight.

"By collaborating with IBM, we've been able to transform our business processes,” said Wim de Gier, senior global project manager for corporate strategy and development at LeasePlan, in a statement. “Our internal social network allows employees to find experts faster, leading to better customer service, superior workforce effectiveness, and enhanced product and service innovation. It's allowing us to transform our organization into a social business."

To support the burgeoning demand for social business solutions in growth markets, in the fourth quarter of 2012, IBM will open two social business customer support centers to serve its Asia-Pacific and Latin American clients: one in Manila, the Philippines, and one in Sao Paolo, Brazil, to support the rapid adoption of social business tools in these growth markets. The Philippines and Brazil centers join a roster of IBM social business centers in North America, Dublin, Japan, China and India.

IBM's growing business partner network of more than 39,000 business partners is bringing new capabilities to IBM's social platform every day in areas including gamification, video, compliance, project management and mobility. For example, Actiance provides compliance capabilities to thousands of organizations globally, SugarCRM helps sellers use social networking and analytics for effective selling, and Bunchball provides gamification capabilities to IBM Connections.

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