IBM Kicks Off Lotusphere With a Focus on Social Business

IBM kicks off Lotusphere 2012 with a focus on social business, as actor Michael J. Fox tells the audience how important community and online collaboration have been for him.

ORLANDO, Fla. - IBM kicked off Lotusphere 2012 today, with a general session that demonstrated the many uses, benefits and faces of social business.

This year's Lotusphere and Connect conferences underscored the importance of socially-enabling business processes-from the three-song set by Ok Go-a band whose success was partially fueled by the popularity of its award-winning videos on YouTube-to actor Michael J. Fox and social media's ability to help him reach many who suffer from or have family inflicted by Parkinson's disease, as well as presentations from health care professionals who are using collaborative tools to save lives and improve patient care.

Through their investment in social-business technologies and culture-shifts, organizations reap benefits, such as improved customer service, faster time-to-market, the creation of new ideas and products, and the ability to share knowledge across workgroups, geographies and industries, said Alistair Rennie, general manager of IBM Collaboration Solutions.

"There's an endless list of really specific use-cases," he told the packed conference room at Walt Disney World's Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. "Social business is a competitive differentiator. In five years, will we still think social is new? It doesn't matter. We will be talking about, enjoying and delivering the benefits of completely new ways of working. At least the people that win will be. The winners don't just tend to win; they change the landscape along the way."

Some of those organizations already transforming their operations include Bayer Material Science, a global corporation that sometimes found separate teams working on the same challenges without any collaboration or shared insight, said Kurt De Ruwe, CIO.

"Different partners were sometimes working on the same problem across the world, with often duplicate efforts and no sharing," he said, noting this approach was expensive and, in a highly competitive industry where being first-to-market can have vast financial repercussions, extremely time-consuming.

Bayer Material Science implemented IBM's new IBM Connections platform, unveiled during this morning's presentation, to enable fast adoption of collaboration and social networking, said De Ruwe. With Connections, employees or participating partners can quickly locate subject-matter experts, team up on projects remotely, and improve Bayer Material Science's bottom line. The program has been so successful that Bayer plans to implement the software companywide, he said.

"We expect to see quick adoption across the whole of Bayer. Our people really like it: It's very easy to use and very intuitive so people can focus on collaboration rather than focusing on finding their way around the software. Without a simple and intuitive platform like Connections, we would not be on the path to sustainability and change."

A partnership made up of IBM Interactive Boston, Harvard and the Children's Hospital of Boston worked together to create a social-media solution that could help doctors share knowledge and treat patients remotely, said Dr. Jeffrey Burns, chief of critical care at the hospital. By imparting and sharing general intelligence using platform-independent tools, the hospital can team up with and help train physicians around the world, regardless of bandwidth issues or device, he said.

"There aren't enough doctors trained in the care of a critically ill child," said Dr. Burns. "This is an innovation to connect doctors across the globe. It is not a panacea, but it's an extraordinary start."

For its part, Premier Healthcare Alliance is using social media to strengthen communications among its 2,500-member hospitals, said Denise Hatzidakis, CTO. These tools also help members address and meet regulatory and compliance issues, she said.

"Connected health care is becoming the new normal," said Hatzidakis. "For patients, this means greater certainty that they will get the most effective treatment possible. For Premier, it means providing a platform that continues enabling our partners to be exceptional."

Actor Fox is using social media to raise awareness, funding and support for those affected by Parkinson's disease, he told the audience. Social media also gives individuals and organizations the opportunity to solve problems in different, new ways, he said.

That was the case at GAD, a German solution provider that serves financial institutions. Using IBM products, such as WebSphere, IMS and DB2, the company created wave, a cloud-based community for these clients.