IBM Pushes Partners, Students to Adopt Social Business Skills

At Lotusphere 2011, IBM announces several new programs for partners and students to take advantage of social business opportunities.

ORLANDO, Fla. - As part of its new Social Business initiative, IBM has announced new programs to help business partners embrace the growing social business market opportunity and to financially reward them for their value to clients.

Moreover, in addition to the new programs, IBM has announced new curricula and initiatives to help students prepare for jobs of the future using social business skills. One of the new programs announced at the Lotusphere 2011 conference here, is a new Social Business Authorization program from IBM, which provides IBM business partners that demonstrate a mastery of social business skill up to an additional 15 percent sales incentive, the company said.

According to IDC, over the next three years, the market for worldwide social platforms is expected to triple from $630 million in 2011 to $1.86 billion by 2014. IBM describes social business as the world of possibility that occurs when all of the energy and opportunities that have been generated around consumer models, such as Facebook and Twitter, are focused, and brought to bear on business challenges. Becoming a social business means an organization needs to change its culture and embrace the technology that integrates social collaboration into their business processes.

"Social business plays an instrumental role in building a smarter planet," said Sandy Carter, vice president, worldwide collaboration sales at IBM. "Our partner and developer communities along with the workforce of the future are crucial to driving client success. These new initiatives will help partners grow their businesses and profit as we prepare the next generation of social business leaders and entrepreneurs, ultimately fueling growth and innovation for our clients."

Meanwhile, IBM's new Industry Authorization program provides business partners access to industry-focused resources and incentives to help their clients transform into social businesses. A partner is awarded this authorization by showcasing their mastery of an industry such as retail, finance, transportation or health care, IBM said. Business partners with specific industry authorization can earn up to 15 percent more financial incentive, and gain access to industry assets such as IBM Cognos Dashboards, IBM Connections widgets and research analysis tools to track Web traffic and other key measurements, the company said.

In addition, IBM is offering new sales tools efforts and IBM software volume offerings. The new sales tools initiative provides assessment training and tools helping business partners express the value of social software. In addition, the tools include "day in the life" demos, presentations and sales material to assist with client engagements. And the IBM Software Volume Offerings program provides business partners marketing and sales tools for 35 software solutions to support deals under $50,000. The goal of the program is to provide the sales tools resellers need to shorten sales cycles and drive these deals in key growth markets such as social business, cloud and analytics, IBM said.

And, finally, the New Education project provides training to help business partners develop and integrate social business solutions for their clients. There are social business technical courses that are available at no charge through the 38 worldwide IBM Innovation Centers or by virtual sessions. In addition, a new series of getting-started guides and webinars are now available on IBM PartnerWorld to help business partners transform their organization into a social business.

Indeed, IBM officials said that from developers to business managers, social business skills are essential for future growth. Today's students - the entrepreneurs and leaders of the 21st century - must turn their personal understanding of social media into business-ready expertise. And to help ensure the future workforce is prepared for this new era of social business, IBM is delivering new enterprise social software courses free of charge to more than 30,000 professors at 6,000 universities participating in IBM's Academic Initiative around the world, the company said in a press release on the subject. The courses will introduce students to IBM social business technologies; help them gain a better understanding of the needs of a social business and the benefits of organizational change.

IBM is also announcing a new program with business partner Group Business Software to share knowledge around social media and help educate students on the role social business technologies play in companies. More than 500 business and computer science students from 10 Florida area universities will attend a day-long social business workshop. This first-of-its-kind program at Lotusphere is designed to expose students to the advancements in IBM social and collaboration technologies and help them identify the relevant skills for future employment.

Throughout the workshop, students will hear from industry leaders in social business, preview research projects and network with developers, business leaders and researchers. Recently, Group Business Software announced a programming contest for Florida area university students. As part of the competition, the students built an application using Web 2.0 technologies and IBM XPages software.