Q&A with IBM on Social Collaboration Solutions

When we hear the company IBM, our next thought isn’t exactly social media. But, the computer conglomerate certainly offers social media communication solutions to small businesses. Smallbiztechnology.com sat down with Bethann Cregg, Vice President of IBM Collaboration Solutions, to answer a few questions about IBM and these services.

1. IBM (in my mind) does not intuitively come to mind for social media communication solutions. Can you tell me more about this?

2011 marks the second consecutive year that IBM was named by IDC the worldwide market share leader in social software for businesses. IBM understands the need for the integration of social networking in the workplace and recently announced the IBM Social Business Platform, which offers an integrated, extensible set of social capabilities that essentially allow you to mix-and-match to your specific business needs.

IBM social software provides business-grade tools to empower people with social networks, to engage with experts and clients, and to cultivate trust using people-centric experiences.  IBM Connections offers social software for business, and features what businesses and governments demand, including governance, security, privacy, the ability to integrate with existing IT investments, and the ability to monitor social content.

2. How has Lotuslive migrated from its history of years ago (Lotus Mail, etc) to now providing social media communication solutions?

For companies seeking a hosted messaging solution, LotusLive offers an enterprise grade, email solution. LotusLive today has evolved beyond email, into a rich family of cloud based tools to help businesses collaborate simply and effectively in a secure environment.  It also includes social networking and collaboration tools, online meetings to work with those inside and outside a business organization, and office productivity tools.  Customers can meet online, share files, chat, manage projects, network with potential clients and send and receive e-mail anywhere, anytime.

LotusLive services include the LotusLive collaboration suite; LotusLive Engage and LotusLive Connections for suites of collaboration tools; LotusLive Meetings and LotusLive Events for Web meetings; and LotusLive Notes and LotusLive iNotes for messaging.

3. Does Lotuslive compete with Hootsuite and other similar solutions? Is it more? Is it less? 

By their own definition, HootSuite is a vehicle that helps spread social media messages and track social media conversations. By comparison, LotusLive offers much more than microblog services.  It provides a complete end-to-end set of cloud collaboration services that can help organizations transform the way they do business.

LotusLive services, starting at $3 per user per month, deliver integrated collaboration tools, including social networking, eMeetings, file sharing, e-mail, and office productivity tools from a secure cloud. All of this is delivered via a platform that helps organizations leverage existing IT investments, offering security-rich features, governance, and availability trust levels essential to a business environment.

4. What types of businesses is LotusLive best for? What types might it not be a fit for?

It is true that all business do not function with the same “one size fits all” software.  LotusLive can be customized to fit specific business needs and is fully scalable.

Organizations are adopting LotusLive because of the cost savings, process improvements, and productivity gains from being able to securely collaborate with an extended value chain beyond a firewall.

For example:

  • The State of Vermont is using LotusLive collaboration services together with integrated digital signing technology from Silanis to reduce paper consumption and streamline its vendor contracts process in the cloud.
  • Retailer Russell’s Convenience is using LotusLive Engage to exchange information with store management, licensees, employees, vendors – outside of a firewall in the secure IBM Cloud.  Rather than digging through email or making time consuming phone calls, Russells’ can now use eMeetings and social Activity forums to solve problems and complete projects much more quickly than before.
  • Bumbu Desa, an Indonesia restaurant chain, is using LotusLive Engage for essential collaboration tools like file sharing and activity management. Employees across the franchises can now quickly share information regarding new menus, new ways to greet guests, and other restaurant related issues. For example, each Bumbu Desa franchise can now submit their daily sales reports to franchise headquarters via file sharing in LotusLive Engage, a method that was previously handled using fax or overnight mail. Bumbu Desa is also embracing LotusLive’s unique “guest account” model, which provides free-of-charge access of LotusLive to customers and other stakeholders.  The company expects to save time, streamline business processes and reduce costs using LotusLive.

According to IDC, there is still some lingering apprehension over issues like integration, availability, security, and costs, and how IT vendors address these concerns will continue to guide the adoption of cloud computing over the next several years. The LotusLive platform alleviates these concerns by enabling users to secure online meetings and broadcast in real-time to getting urgent messages out to the entire organization.

5. Does IBM have any research or further thoughts on businesses using social media to acquire more customers or keep the ones they have? 

IBM’s own C-level surveys (IBM.com/CEOstudy) show that 95% of stand-out organizations have made “getting closer” to their customers their highest priority.  They are finding new ways to communicate and interact with customers, partners, or citizens; and to evaluate feedback to leverage what they learn.   And they are using social and collaborative tools to do so.

McKinsey concurs.  In their recent global Web 2.0 survey, they show demonstrable benefits for organizations using social media not only with customers, but also with business partner and employee communications.

IBM believes that a social business doesn’t just mean connecting through customers via Facebook and Twitter.  Instead, a social business encourages and cultivates a spirit of collaboration and community throughout its organization—both internally and externally.  By maintaining this sense of collaboration/community outside of the company as well, it’s a natural way of engaging current customers, as well as having the means to engage new ones.

Sales and customer service representatives interact with potential and current customers each day. Through collaboration tools and enterprise social networking, these representatives can find subject matter experts in their network in a matter of seconds and close a sale.

Social platforms have emerged as one of the leading technology trends for organizations, based on the recognition that people – customers, employees, business partners, and suppliers – are looking for ways to more easily collaborate, interact and share data.

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About Allison Midori Reilly

Allison Midori Reilly is the CEO and Founder of Stirring Media, LLC. Stirring Media, LLC is a content marketing and news production firm that provides content marketing and business blogging services to the small business market. Prior to that, she was a freelance writer, who was published in over a dozen print and online publications, such as Smallbiztechnology.com, American City & County, Ideabing.com, Transport Topics and St. Louis Commerce Magazine. In her spare time, Reilly is an active member of Amnesty International as well as an avid poker player.