At the keynote session on Feb 1, Mike Rhodin, SVP, IBM Software Solutions Group, made a critical distinction about social businesses. He said, “consumers have unprecedented power over your brand. Social businesses embrace this.” ... This is the key to the culture change necessary in a company that wants to be a social business. They have to cede control of the business ecosystem to the customer. That doesn’t mean that we are going to have a fascist takeover of corporate HQs worldwide by customer mobs and petty dictators who a week before were shopping mavens. It means that the customer can impact your brand and even, at times, directly impact your revenue, whether or not you want them to or not. AND that they do it in channels that you don’t control. What this means to IBM is that there is a business model, outlined on the stage today that has measurable returns that you can apply to this scenario – well, not really scenario, but reality. There is empirical value that a social business provides.
In order to truly understand what is most important here, its not that IBM is turning Lotus from a development platform to a collaboration development platform to a social business vendor. You HAVE to get out of that head. This is IBM as a Fortune 500 company making a transformation from a traditional business to a social business – and with that goes all the difficulties of a company that made roughly $100 billion in revenue on its 100th birthday (hope I can do that on my 100th) attempting to make this change will engender.
This is an earth-shaking move because no company on the planet is trying to change this quickly at this magnitude.
IBM’s messaging justifies their move in technological terms with three Is:
- Instrumented: Smartphone shipments will outpace PCs by 2012.
- Interconnected: Social networking now accounts for 22% of all online time.
- Intelligent: The age of the zettabyte is upon us.
They see this in terms of what it means for workplace performance, customer interaction (yes even here) and product/service delivery. They see that these numbers – all supplied by IDC by the way – mean that the world is moving to an untethered form of social connectedness that is not only a revolution in how we communicate but also is unleashing a vast amount of “natural” (unstructured) data in the form of conversations among other things into the ecosphere – so much that we have to figure out not just how to store it but how to use it in ways that are productive in business.