Social networks in the corporate world involve very different dynamics, and scientists at IBM Research's Collaborative User Div. in Cambridge, Mass., are learning all about them. Over the past two years, IBM has been busily launching in-house versions of Web 2.0 hits. "We're trying to see how things that are hot elsewhere can be fit for business," says Irene Greif, an IBM Fellow who heads up Collaborative User Experience.
So far, IBM has Dogear, a community-tagging system based on Del.icio.us, Blue Twit, and a rendition of the microblogging sensation, Twitter. It also has a Web page called Many Eyes that permits anyone (including outsiders, at many-eyes.com) to upload any kind of data, visualize it, and then launch discussions about it on blogs and social networks. The biggest success is the nine-month-old social network, Beehive, which is based on the premise of Facebook. It has already attracted 30,000 users, including top executives.Why would Big Blue want to promote such behavior inside the company?
A couple of reasons. First, in a global company with nearly 400,000 employees, most people are too far away to plop down in a teammate's cubicle or grab a cup of coffee. These social tools, IBM hopes, will provide a substitute for personal connections that flew away with globalization—and help to build and strengthen far-flung teams. "People are putting up pictures of their family, the same way they'd put them up in the cubicle," says Joan DiMicco, one of the research scientists.Adapting these tools, according to IBM, is also important for recruiting. Hotshots coming out of universities are accustomed to working across these new networks—and are likely to look at a company that still relies on the standard '90s fare of e-mail and the phone as slow and backward.
Isn't that cool? IBM is really keen on discovering whether knowledge access is faster via social media than traditional KM efforts. In fact one of my online buddies, Luis Suarez, is a community builder in IBM. Check his presentation that he made to Next08 on More Collaboration through less email. On a related note, on my post on HR and web 2.0 someone else from IBM left a comment:
Gautam, Excellent thoughts. We at IBM have done a good amount of work to address the need to manage, innovation, the changing workforce, the globally integrated enterprise, matrixed organizations of work through social networking and other tools.