In early February 2011, following Lotusphere, IBM hosted an online conversation (called a “Jam”), bringing together over 2,700 participants—representing corporations, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies—to discuss social business and the ways in which it can redefine how we work in the years ahead. I was one of the participants.
For 72 hours, individuals from over 80 countries “jammed” on key issues and generated new ideas on the major themes:
• Building the social business of the future
• Developing participatory organizations through social adoption
• Using social media to understand and engage with customers
• Determining what social means for IT
• Identifying risks and establishing governance
IBM has now published a report synthesizing the 2,600 discussion posts and more than 600 tweets from the Jam. Some of the highlights include:
- Over 25 percent of (non-IBM) participants said their organizations have low to medium levels of adoption of social business practices, with a key concern being the pressure to quantify the ROI of social solutions. Many participants believe usage of social media is absolutely quantifiable and measurable, but it involves tracking a new set of metrics. While others noted that calculating ROI of social media is attacking the problem from wrong direction. “You can successfully measure the ROI of social media,” one participant wrote, “but you must first understand your audience’s needs and motivations for engaging with social media.”
- The role of middle managers is changing—or perhaps disappearing altogether. Many social business capabilities reduce the need for typical middle management tasks.
- One of the Jam quick polls was “What percentage of your online time do you spend on social networking?” and 25% answered “More than 50%.”
- Another Jam quick poll was “What is most likely to encourage you to use social software more often in your job?” While 24% said “Ease of use of the tools,” 47% said “Embedded in the applications I use to do my job.”
- The “building the social business of the future” forum was by far the most popular, perhaps because it covered a wide range of issues related to social business. Discussions touched upon the problems with email, how to create incentive for the sharing of knowledge, social networking’s involvement in government and much more.
- There will be an increased focus on integrating social activities and business processes, and there was quite a bit of discussion around how the culture of a company must shift to embrace social (for current employees and alumni who represent an organization’s brand.)
We have to remember that this is a biased sample toward early extensive adopters of social media. However, the results are still quite interesting.