IBM to Be Facebook, MySpace for the Enterprise?
These tools enable IBM customers to
create communities within a business, something that has become table stakes
for companies that want to ensure enterprisewide collaboration among customers,
partners and employees.
With the center, IBM shows signs of desiring to be the Facebook or MySpace of social software in the enterprise; Big Blue desires to rack up as many users for Connections and other technologies as possible.
Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters are the first companies to participate in the center's Corporate Residency program, which gives businesses hands-on access to IBM's social software research.
Organizations participating in the program will send employees to the center for three months. These volunteers will be matched up with a team of IBM researchers and university students to work on specific social computing projects.
Given the center's proximity to so many prestigious schools and scholastic talent, Greif said IBM will collaborate with students and faculty at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as with other researchers around the world.
IBM Research's internship program will be expanded to include the academic year so that university students can be matched with a project, client or area of research at the IBM Center for Social Software.
There can be no denying IBM's financial clout or glut of human and infrastructure resources to throw at social computing, but IBM also has competition in niche areas of the market. Many companies, such as InsideView, are popularizing social communities in sales forces and CRM.
In fact, Wi5Connect Sept. 17 launched CommSocial, which aims to add e-learning tools to social networks for businesses.
However, Gartner analysts such as Anthony Bradley love to offer cautionary tales on social software adoption. Bradley said in a new report that many social software projects fail because IT managers wrongly believe that successful communities form spontaneously after social software tools are installed.
Indeed, IT and business managers in charge of deploying social software must choose a core purpose for the community and arrange implementation to achieve that purpose.
Taking Bradley's warning into account with the seemingly widespread ban of social tools in the enterprise, IBM and these businesses must work harder than they expect to grow their user bases.