I recently attended an IBM media event where they conveyed a number of their recent efforts in social software. I was pleased to get this invitation as I have been covering IBM efforts in the space for a while (see for example my 2005 post – IBM’s Social Software Initiatives: Blogs, Wikis, Tagging, and More – Part One). I think they are innovators in the social software space, both for enterprise and Web use.
Alistair Rennie, general manager collaboration software, began and gave some examples about how social “software” is becoming mainstream. I put software in quotes as he just used the term “social” and I can agree with this as it is more than software but rather a more open approach to communication and conversations.
Someone made the point that much of the IBM focus has been on internal social media rather than external social media. Being a consultant and writer in the enterprise 2.0 space I see this as a good thing. A lot of the enterprise 2.0 tools came from the consumer Web. IBM was an early leader in internal uses and this has given them a head start in the enterprise 2.0 space.
Jeff Schick, VP social software, answered this comment. He said that IBM started with internal usage of social software because of their large internal needs but what they have done can be applied externally This is an reversal of the trend as I noted above. He gave the example of continuing education for attorneys. An association is doing this and has created communities around legal topics for pre and post class interactions to build greater connection with their students. IBM has long been involved in technology enabled education. I was involved in developing a multi-media tool for their marketing instructors in the mid 80s.
Jeff offered another example. Teach for America uses social media. This is a great program that I recently heard about on NPR. They place future leaders in teaching roles within areas of great need. Some continue in education but all are exposed to real lives of those in need. It is now the top job application in schools like Yale and Duke and has only about a 10% acceptance rate.
Teachers in the program can log into the portal and have communities of practice, for example, other 8th grade math teachers. They can do collaborative lesson plans through wikis and look for people in different parts of country and teaching certain subjects, etc. There are also blogs, discussion forums, file sharing, and other capabilities. This social media support allows for broader group support from people in similar situations across the country. This is a great alignment of organizational goals and audience needs.
The Salvation Army has an extranet with bi-directional connection to their Facebook site and connects to other Facebook sites that might be related so both outward and inward connections are made.
Alistair said that firms will now look at outcomes more than structure, technology and channels. The consumer world is influencing enterprise IT. Business people are reaching out to firms like IBM to talk as their own IT people do not want to address social media issues. There is a lot of experimentation. Policies are being developed, in part, by looking at similar tools to determine policy issues like access control and moderation
Jeff Schick said that IBM has developed an adoption methodology – Business Value Assessment – to quantify business results from social software developed through IBM internal experiences.
Jeff said it used to that they would say that technology was so easy a young person can use it. Now the term is “Technology so easy even an old person can use it.” I like this as i used to say technology so easy even I can do it.
Someone asked for the five big myths that IBM faces with social software. The answers were:
- people will waste time
- people may say things that company will not like
- security concerns coming from looking at open Web tools
- no ROI
- if you build it they will come – but really need a business goal to aim the tool at
There are answers to each of these as they are truly myths.
Dr. Francine Jacobson from Brigham and Women’s Hospital next spoke about her work in radiology research using IBM technology. Her team of radiologists does work in lung cancer screening and are using social software now for collaboration. They are looking at larger data sets for other related diseases and are able to cast a wider net. They have created the Radiology Theater to support this effort and here is the Radiology Theater on YouTube.
They are bringing together visual and non-visual data in a major COPD gene trial and making visual information more accessible. This is allowing for more comprehensive analysis that looks across data sets and types for patterns and provides for greater collaboration for interpretation. Now they can focus more on the meaning of the data and spend less time on just getting it
Two major issues are security and patient privacy. Data is aggregated to look for patterns rather than individuals. Data will be made available for other researchers because the research is publically funded. The work combines metadata with tagging and this is part of the social part.
Francine said there are two camps within the researchers – those who contribute and share and those who just take and do not give. However, the COPD gene research is not so affected by those dynamics, in part, because of the leader who promotes a sharing culture.
The virtual Radiology theater.com acts like a physical theater for collaboration. Docs are generally hesitant to do social networking but they feel this is safe because it is their community. There is also protection from a HIPPA perspective as patients are not identified.
ReadWriteWeb had covered this effort and here is a bit of their coverage. “IBM has announced an online “radiology theatre” product, currently at the prototype stage, which allows teams of medical experts to “simultaneously discuss and review patients’ medical test data using a Web browser.” The project … is built on IBM’s next-generation browser platform Blue Spruce…IBM also used the WebKit Open Source Browser Engine. The app runs on the Linux or MacOS X operating systems and the browser may be Safari or Internet Explorer.”
“According to IBM, it has created a secure Web site that allows select medical experts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to access and collaborate on data such as CT scans, MRIs, EKGs and other medical tests. Each medical expert can “talk and be seen through live streaming audio/video through their standard web connection, and have the ability to whiteboard over the Web page as well as input information to the patient’s record.” Basically it is a secure multimedia experience running inside a single browser window, using Blue Spruce as the platform.”
I will pick up with more from the event in part two of the series that appears tomorrow.