Vinnie Mirchandani, in his patented ‘what’s really happening’ style of analysis pens an insightful post on his impressions of Lotusphere 2011.
“Doug did not use the word “Grand Challenges” but he might as well have because in IBM’s vision a “social business” rethinks traditional CRM, HRM, PLM, SCM – almost every area of business where in Doug’s view you can “optimize workforce efficiency”. Indeed, IBM in another session identified it as its “$100B social business marketplace” opportunity. It calls it the “fifth shift in business technology” – from the Mainframe to Departmental computing to the PC to the Internet and now to Social Business.
If the vision was Grand, the event seemed too tactical for it. In the Monday keynote, the audience increasingly grew restless with the concepts, and wanted to see product demos. During a customer panel, someone from the audience tweeted.
“Wish the panelists were being asked how IBM/Lotus software was helping them, rather than vague #socbiz questions”
Elsewhere on the left coast, I stopped by IBMs 100 year celebratory event last night in San Francisco for an hour. I had a chance to spend time with Craig Stevenson – Global Portfolio Leader for Consumer Experience. In plain English, that means Craig runs the retail portfolio of products and services at IBM. We spent a good 20 minutes talking about his impressions of the retail business in general and how technology investment has been back loaded on supply chain and operational efficiency side. Specifically we exchanged views on a number of things: a) less emphasis to date on the consumer experience in the store and the tie in of that valuable data into traditional customer experience management, b) fluid point of sales (not at the counter but on the customers phone when they are in the store), and c) the power of real-time customer intelligence. Net net, the front office has really been ignored and there’s lots of untapped value there to tie in people interaction into stogy data crunching of yore, to come up with better customer experience optimization.
Contrast this with Vinnie’s points as well as the comments made by my dear friend Paul Greenberg who was at Lotusphere:
“But even if Lotus had been vibrant, the move to social CRM, HRM, SCM, PLM etc. will need substantially more extensions, new types of services and partnerships. Paul Greenberg, who knows a thing or two about SCRM, told me at lunch and later tweeted
“They are still weak in #scrm. Haven’t figured that out & though its right in front of them w/their entry points.”
Ditto for social HRM, PLM, SCM.
To be fair, in this post by Dennis Howlett, Paul Greenberg was impressed by a particular case study on “how the government of Trinidad spends about $10 per head with IBM to deliver government outreach services to all its citizens. He thinks this was the best social use case he had heard.”
I don’t mean to take away from the tons of value for existing information management customers of IBM. And to some, the layering in of Social Business as the new hipper incarnation of information management will be a welcome injection of energy and hope. The banter on Twitter and overall excitement from employees confirms this. Something that’s invaluable as the organization gets behind what they consider to be a $100B market.
But based on what were seeing in our work and other executive I engage with, the opportunity lost in my opinion was that those very folks at IBM who are dealing with gnarly business problems with customers in retail, in health care or financial services should have been framing the value proposition for IBMs social business focus. These folks don’t have the luxury of using a glossy to market a new way of work – they need to provide proof points along the way before they earn the currency to even suggest large scale transformation to the end customer that buys IBM products and services.
I realize that the event is called “Lotusphere” for a reason. Its about Lotus products. But lets get one thing straight: Looking at social business, the theme of this event, as a fix to knowledge management, collaboration, portals, document management alone will be a colossal undersell of the overall promise of enterprise social computing. The problems that need fixing lie at the points of revenue (sales), operational efficiency (margins), innovation (the offer) and of course, risk management (predictability). And that’s the framework needed to realize business potential from the promise of social business.
Vinnie ends with a strong assessment, not requiring me to come up with a punchy closer to this post:
“And therein lie IBM’s Grand Challenges. Talk to customers about impact on their industries and their processes. And don’t just talk “vision” – bring the solutions to facilitate their becoming Social Businesses. “
I’ve stuck to this particular point as opposed to trying to review an event that I did not attend. For more overarching accounts from folks that were on the ground, take a look at what Bill Ives and Alex Williams have to say.