IBM's future - Mobile & Social Business

Earlier this week IBM reported their fourth quarter results and beat market expectations.  The company that was an IT powerhouse, then wasn’t, and is again, pulled in $29.3 billion in the quarter — certainly an impressive amount.  IBM’s numbers look very solid for this quarter and they’re offering some very good future expectations — and that bodes well for the economic recovery. 

But that’s not what this article is about.  This article is all about where IBM is telling us they’ll go.  If you read the commentary that goes with the results you’ll see this quote by Ginny Rometty, IBM CEO: “Looking ahead, we continue to invest to deliver innovations for the enterprise in key areas such as big data, mobile solutions, social business and security.” 

Wait.  What?
I get the big data piece — this is IBM after all and they’ve moved more bytes around than we can count and then stuffed them all into Watson, the supercomputer that won Jeopardy.  (By the way, if you want a quick laugh - check out this Fortune article on how Watson learned, and then was made to forget how to use profane language in its answers.)  But back to the point, I get big data and I get security.  Sure, those are IT/Enterprise staples.  IBM will be selling those two solutions until … well, you get the point.  But innovating in Mobile and Social Business?  That’s not the IBM we’ve known for years… is it?

Mobile and Social have come of age
It's true – that’s not the IBM that we know.  We don’t expect IBM to focus on two pillars that didn’t even exist 10 years ago, but there you have it — the tea leaves are read and the crystal ball is clear.  It’s time we stopped thinking of mobile solutions and social business as Gen Y tools or advertising vehicles.  Mobile and Social are now as much a part of the enterprise solution space as security, big data, and severs. 

What does IBM say about social business?  Read this quote:

“Businesses move from liking to leading when they look beyond social media to see how social technologies drive real business value. From marketing and sales to product and service innovation, social is changing the way people connect and the way organizations succeed.”

Going beyond the basic business social network
Most of us are already familiar with the basic business social network solutions like Yammer, Jive and Chatter.  The notion of “Facebook for your business” has been done and redone for some time now.  But IBM is looking beyond that, as evidenced by their $1.3B purchase of Kenexa, a Social HR software and services firm.  IBM’s solution for social business includes talent management, better employee and customer experiences and social CRM.

Making it all work in the cloud

So we have some understanding about why social is one of the two pillars in their release, but what about the mobile pillar?  That one is much easier to grok.  The best social business solution in the world is not going to deliver results (or sales for IBM!) if no one uses it.  Putting the solution in the cloud and giving it a strong mobile access portal allows today’s enterprise workforce to leverage the value of a solution wherever they are and whenever they want.  And with mobile device sales outpacing computer sales it’s only a matter of time before 50% or more of the workforce has a smartphone they can use (I’ll look for some data around that and bring that to a future blog). 

The future is now
IBM is changing and evolving.  They are no longer focused on the past and instead are looking to the future. They’ve come out and said that two of their major innovation pillars are social business and mobile. 

What does it mean for the rest of us? 
If you’re a customer then you’d be well served to look beyond Yammer, Jive and Chatter and think about other types of social business solutions and which vendors can provide them to you.

Here are some interesting questions to ask:

  •  Do your social business plans go beyond the basic collaborative social network?
  •  Are you evaluating HR, Marketing and Sales specific social business solutions?
  •  Are you empowering your teams to do their jobs any time, any place?
  •  Are you looking at vendors who know how to deliver next generation social business solutions over  mobile?

These questions will help you leap frog competitors and see the same future IBM is seeing.  A future dominated by mobile powered social businesses.