How To Spot a Fake: Know Your Business
By Louis Richardson, Worldwide IBM Social Business Evangelist
I've been told that when US Department of Treasury agents are being trained to spot counterfeit currency, they don't spend time looking at fake money. Instead they spend days getting to know real, genuine currency. So when a fake is presented to them, it's obvious.
If you're considering a social business strategy for your organization, or maybe you already have some social software being used, I'd like to challenge you to take a look at what you are considering (or doing). Is it a genuine social business offering or is it a counterfeit?
The social market is hot and there are a lot of fakes out there...solutions that just don't measure up to the requirements of an enterprise. During any given week, I hear of teams of people spending hours in competitive evaluation and building of comparison charts to find a solution that fits their need. I've seen feature comparison spreadsheets created that are meant to help identify which solution is best. The problem is that when you spend a lot of time focused on counterfeits you can lose sight of the genuine. That's why your first step is to know what a real enterprise social solution looks like.
I'm fortunate because I have the privilege of serving in a company committed to becoming a social business. And a big part of that is our use of IBM Connections as our social solution. Because I use this on a daily basis and it has reinvented the way I work, I am very familiar with the genuine article...so fakes are easy to spot.
Allow me get back to the treasury agents and share with you how this works for me and many of our customers who use IBM Connections.
"TOUCH, TILT, LOOK THROUGH, LOOK AT"
Agents spend hours handling the bills to become intimately familiar with the weight and touch of the rag paper on which they are printed. Currency has a unique feel. My wife once worked at a bank. They had a teller that was so good at identifying counterfeit bills; she could just take a stack of bills, turn her head away and count them off...one by one and very quickly. In the process, if she handled a counterfeit, she would quickly place it aside and keep counting. Her "touch" was so tuned to real bills that fake bills, in her words, "just felt odd".
Your Challenge: Get access to IBM Connections and spend time using it. Look for ways to leverage it in your daily work. I make every effort to use it instead of email. It's liberating and saves me hours a week. Like others, I know the real benefit. I no longer have any problem finding the right people or experts that I need. Because we post our knowledge in Connections, I usually self-serve and find the information and documents required without having to ask around and wait for replies. If the social system you're considering doesn't feel right (or complete), you might be looking at a fake.
Agents look at the currency from different angles. Many bills contain a holograph that when tilted will show all the colors of the rainbow. From some angles this isn't obvious.
Your Challenge: The benefit of Connections might not be obvious at first. From a certain perspective, the fake looks just as good. Allow me to use a competitive example: A prospect using Yammer will often see the value of micro-blogging (after all that's primarily what Yammer does). But if you tilt it a bit, you'll see that a focus on the conversation thread is NOT enough for a social business strategy. IBM Connections has micro-blogging as well (status updates), but when you tilt our solution, the customer will see the value of Profiles (people-centric solution), blogs, wikis, activities, etc...all the colors of the social enterprise rainbow. If you just hold up our genuine solution next to the counterfeit...from one side...from one perspective (think feature comparison matrix), you can still be fooled.
Currency often has "ghost" watermarks embedded in the paper. Some bills carry a bit of gold or colored thread woven into the rag cotton paper itself. One needs to hold the bill up to a light source to best see these details.
Your Challenge: Does the fake social solution provide for social analytics, recommendations, compliance, Enterprise Content Management integration, accessibility, language support, mobility, etc.? These are items that are often overlooked by counterfeiters...because they're hard to do. IBM Connections not only does them, it does them well. Consider the solution in the light of your entire enterprise needs. Look through the surface of the fake and consider the richness needed in a genuine enterprise social solution.
The actual printed images on currency are complex and filled with rich detail and unique markings. Genuine currency is printed on offset presses. I started my career as a graphic artist in a print shop and I can tell you there is nothing as impressive as watching a 4-color Heidelberg press in operation. These machines are complex and require great skill in operation...but the results are crisp lines, fine detail and superior color. Most counterfeiters use cheaper digital reproduction which cannot produce the same results. On US bills, there is a seal that has very fine saw-tooth edges. These should be sharp and well defined. On a digitally reproduced counterfeit these will be blurred.
Your Challenge: There are many vendors who are interested in selling only a part of a social solution...but that doesn't keep them from pretending to be the full genuine article. They may use shortcuts and quick methods to get something to market. They don't think about how their products might need to be integrated with business applications (open standards and rich APIs). They may not support more than a couple of languages (not enough for most global thinking companies). They may overlook the ecosystem of a skilled business partner and support community. Remember to look at the fine details that are important to you and your business. With the myriad of social offerings you have to question how long the vendor been around? And more importantly, how likely are they to be around? Because this isn't a transaction, it's a journey.
So next time you’re looking at a social business system, “Touch, Tilt, Look Through and Look At”. And if you have any comments, questions or interest in genuine social business solutions, please comment below. I'd love to hear from you.