Lotus Knows Social Media, But Do Customers?
We need to see more in the way of best practices and practical deployments that lead to rapid ROI to drive this industry past experimental adoption.
I attended this year's Lotusphere and, to no one,s surprise, one of the big themes of the show is social computing and its role in enterprise collaboration. IBM has been pushing the concept of what Lotus and social media can do through its "Lotus Knows" campaign, which I find to be fairly effective. The first time I saw the Lotus Knows campaign was when I was in a cab in NYC a few months ago, the ads were running on the little screen in the back of the cab and, for whatever reason, it caught my attention so my awareness of it had been raised quite some time ago.The concept of Lotus Knows is fairly simple--Use all of a company's collaboration and social networking tools to help users connect to the right information or person in as short a period of time as possible. These tools are traditional collaboration tools such as e-mail, chat but also social media tools like wikis and blogs and, under IBM's definition, extend to things like tagging of content in document sharing programs. In short, having a robust, human centric, collaboration strategy will help organizations "harness the power of the people".
Now, this all sounds great and pretty simple, but as I listened to all of the customers that came up and spoke, I realized just how far we are from mass adoption. From the presentations and subsequent interviews at Lotusphere, I can summarize the drivers for adoption as follows:
* There is a groundswell of demand from the younger and more tech savvy of users, making it important to have some kind of plan in place to attract workers
* It's an alternative way to reach customers that, if not available, will put the organization at a competitive disadvantage. Note that I didn't say it's a better way to reach customers, but an alternative for the customers that wish it. Better is a matter of preference.
* Collaboration is a key initiative for organizations. It's important to put more tools in workers' hands to enhance corporate collaboration.
The above drivers shouldn't be a big surprise to anyone but I don't feel these drivers alone are enough to achieve broader adoption. In fact, there seem to still be several factors that I feel could limit the size and the number of deployments over the next year.
* Deploying organizations aren't really sure how to drive adoption across the company. Through all the interviews and case studies, I kept hearing the terms "viral" and "organic" with the thought being that if you throw the tools out there, growth will happen organically. I partially agree with this statement. I think for functions such as customer support, where there is competitive pressure to use these tools, adoption will grow. Additionally, organizations and departments that are tech savvy will see increased adoption. However, I think for the rest of the workforce, adoption will be drawn across generational lines with older workers deferring to the phone and e-mail and younger workers using the newer tools. This could cause a much more complicated work environment for workers caught in the middle.
* There's a definite lack of a business case to prove the ROI of UC and social media. I think the best anecdotal comment regarding this came from Michiel Boreel, the CTO of consulting firm Sogeti. He stated that Sogeti looked at social media tools kind of like e-mail and CRM systems. No one in the organization really knew what the value is, however there are enough people internally that think there's value so they started a deployment. I asked if the Sogeti customers would accept that as enough of a value proposition to start deploying the technologies and he stated very quickly, a resounding no.
* Companies struggle with how "social" to make social networking. What I mean by this is that many of these tools, particularly Facebook and Twitter, truly blend our personal and professional lives. While this seems to make sense based on current technology trends, the questions being raised in many companies are things like what content is appropriate and how do you enforce this? One person (who I will leave nameless here) told me a situation of a sales person that was out with a client and then they went out later. Pictures that portrayed the sales person and the organization in an unprofessional light were uploaded on to Facebook by someone else who tagged the individual. So this is a case where even if the individual had their own standards, other people in the community were able to basically break the user's own personal standards. I'm not familiar with a lawsuit or regulatory infraction based on social networking content yet but I'm sure there will be one in the near future bringing this issue to light even more than it is today.
I think IBM did a great job of highlighting the value of social media at the 2010 edition of Lotusphere and I do think we'll see more of it at other shows this year like VoiceCon. However, we need to see more in the way of best practices and practical deployments that lead to rapid ROI to drive this industry past experimental adoption. So while Lotus may know a lot of things, it needs to translate what it knows into things businesses can grasp.We need to see more in the way of best practices and practical deployments that lead to rapid ROI to drive this industry past experimental adoption.