Monday, 25 March 2013

Social businesses

What is a social business? Wikipedia tells me that a social business was first defined by Prof Muhammad Yunus as a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within the highly regulated marketplace of today. A wider definition includes any business having a social rather than financial objective. Or a social enterprise can be defined as a commercial activity by socially minded organizations. Perhaps a better definition these days is a business that has adopted social networking tools and practices for internal and external functions across their organization.

The IBM Web site tells us that: “Social business technologies help people connect, communicate, and share information. Becoming a leader in your marketplace means using social solutions to transform how business gets done – driving cost savings, increasing revenue, and cultivating competitive advantages.” That definitely sounds like a good thing.

In a report from Altimeter entitled The Evolution of Social Business: Six Stages of Social Business Transformation, it’s suggested that many social strategies are not linked to business goals, but are instead often driven by a “social for social’s sake” orientation. The report notes that, even when goals are aligned, social initiatives frequently must deal with a lack of defined strategy, governance, or funding. The report suggest six stages a company has to go through to become a social business:

  • Planning – understand how customers use social channels and prioritize strategic goals where social can have the most impact.
  • Presence – amplify existing marketing efforts and encourage sharing
  • Engagement – drive considerations to purchase and provide direct support with internal employee engagement.
  • Formalized – set governance for social, create discipline and process, and have strategic business goals.
  • Strategic – scale across business units and move into HR, sales, finance, and supply chain.
  • Converged – social drives transformation and integrates social philosophy into all aspects of the enterprise.
Becoming a social business is not something that can be left for tomorrow, organizations need to act now. They need to identify what it is they do well, and they need to get the message out there. And that last part comes with two health warnings! You need to be using the same social media as your clients and potential clients. If they don’t use the same media, they won’t see the message. Secondly, keep your eye on new media. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, Google plus may not always be kings of the heap. Pinterest is currently very popular. Watch out for trends – so you don’t lose that link with clients and potential clients. Maybe you should be looking at smartphone apps that will make it easy for people to come to you for whatever it is you supply.

Interestingly, there are products like Yammer (, which Microsoft bought last year, Chatter, and others, that offer private social networks for organizations.

IBM VPs Jeff Schick and Sandy Carter were on stage at IBM Connect 2013 showing off the capabilities in IBM’s social business platform. It seems that companies are combining social technologies, the cloud, mobile, and analytics to create a flexible, intelligent framework for making the most of social connections. In an IBM survey of CEOs, 57% picked social business as a top priority and nearly three quarters (73%) are making significant investments in analysing data.

According to Jeff Schick: “A disconnect between how we live our lives
through digital connections and sharing – and how we work isn’t sustainable. Particularly since the new generation of workers who will fill companies’ ranks don’t know any other way of interacting and working than social media. The rate of productivity, innovation, and employee retention will increasingly depend on who can master this coming age of social business.”

For an organization to just have a social media strategy isn’t enough. The organization must transform itself into a social business to ensure its continued success.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Trevor Eddolls - IBM Champion 2013

iTech-Ed Ltd is pleased to announce that Trevor Eddolls, its CEO, has again been recognized by IBM as an IBM Champion for Information Management for the fifth year running. Trevor was first made an IBM Champion in 2009.

Trevor Eddolls, CEO of iTech-Ed Ltd said: “I am really proud to get this award again this year. There may not be a financial benefit to being an IBM Champion, but it’s a positive way for IBM to recognize people around the world who are helping to promote IBM’s products and help share information about those products amongst their users”.

But what does it mean? According to IBM: “An IBM Champion is someone who makes exceptional contributions to the technical community.

Contributions can come in a variety of forms, and popular contributions include blogging, speaking at conferences or events, moderating forums, leading user groups, and authoring books or magazines. Educators can also become IBM Champions; for example, academic faculty may become IBM Champions by including IBM products and technologies in course curricula and encouraging students to build skills and expertise in these areas.
“An IBM Champion is not an IBMer, and can live in any country. IBM Champions share their accomplishments and activities in their public profiles on IBM developerWorks, making it easy for the IT professional community to learn more about them and their contributions, and engage with them.”

So why is iTech-Ed Ltd’s Trevor Eddolls an IBM Champion? Well, he doesn’t work for IBM, but he does write about mainframe hardware and software. You can read his blog at and He also blogs once a month on the Destination z Web site ( He’s Editorial Director for the well-respected Arcati Mainframe Yearbook. He’s also written technical articles that have been published in a variety of journals including here in Enterprise Tech Journal and its predecessor, z/Journal. And Trevor Eddolls is the chair of the Virtual IMS user group and the Virtual CICS user group. He also looks after their social networking – you can find information about the groups on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

IBM Champions receive the title for one year, during which they can enjoy the benefits associated with the program – rather than any direct payment from IBM. Existing Champions are eligible to renew their status for the following year, as long as they can demonstrate that they have made significant contributions to the community over the previous 12 months.

Are IBM Champions compensated for their role? No. Do IBM Champions have any obligations to IBM? Again the answer is no. The title recognizes their past contributions to the community only over the previous 12 months. Do IBM Champions have any formal relationship with IBM? No. IBM Champions don’t formally represent IBM nor do they speak on behalf of IBM.

But it’s not all one-sided! IBM Champions receive merchandise customized with the IBM Champion logo. And IBM Champions receive: visibility, recognition, and networking opportunities at IBM events and conferences; and special access to product development teams, and invitations and discounts to events and conference.
You can see Trevor’s profile here.

On a completely different note... you can ‘Like’ iTech-Ed Ltd on Facebook. You can find it here. Thanks.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

IBM and social media

Let me turn time back to the very early 1980s. IBM are feeling fairly secure with their mainframe business and have just made the decision to own the small and exciting personal computer business. I’m imaging the Execs talking about the hardware standards they will set and maintain. Then perhaps someone asks about the operating system, but they’re immediately dismissed – operating systems on PCs are two a penny, we can just buy one and use that. They’ll have to do what we tell them!

And in the real world, a small start-up company made a version of DOS (Disk Operating System) their own – MS-DOS. And that little company grew and grew into the Microsoft we know and love today. And IBM? Well, it eventually sold its PC hardware business to Lenovo.

Now some of the youngsters at that imaginary meeting back in 1980 might still be turning up for work, only now they’re hearing about the ‘third platform’, and warning bells are beginning to sound! No-one at IBM wants a repeat of what happened with the second platform, so they are very keen that IBM will keep control of this third platform – even though there are plenty of other players out there already. As an aside, mainframes were the first platform, PCs are the second platform, and this new ‘third platform’ comprises cloud services, mobile computing, social networking, and big data analytics.

My scenarios above may only exist in my head, but we’ve seen IBM embrace other technologies before. Look at how it made Linux run so much better on a big box than on multiple little ones. And now Doug Balog, general manager of IBM’s System z mainframe business, is telling us that IBM is making it easier for customers to run mobile and social networking applications on mainframes.

There’s a couple of easy wins here. For example a bank – and banks are users of mainframe technology – could provide an app for smartphones and tablets that gave secure access to users’ account information. But more likely, the low-hanging fruit will be big data. Big data generally describes large amounts of unstructured and semi-structured data that organizations generate. It might come from CCTV footage, recording telephone calls, or just logging the position of company vans throughout the day. It’s just big unwieldy data. Having some way to analyse it so you could derive useful information would be something businesses are likely to embrace. One piece of big data analytics that might draw large organizations in is the ability to identify fraud. Others might be more interested in the purchasing patterns of their customers.

Mobile phones and mainframes aren’t strangers. There are plenty of software vendors that are making the results of their mainframe software available to users working with browsers on smartphone and tablet devices. IBM itself has brought out an aggregation of mobile tools to combine big-data analytics and cloud computing under its MobileFirst heading.

In terms of cloud computing, we’ve seen IBM Docs announcements and, perhaps more significantly, SmartCloud, its storage access product for implementing private cloud storage.

In addition, IBM has demonstrated its Social Media Aggregator (SMA) at IOD, Pulse, and other events. It provides a consolidated view of real-time social activity on specific topics or events, based on hashtags and keywords.

And at the back of IBM’s collective mind – certainly in my imagination – must be the desire to sell mainframes to customers who need these facilities and are currently using alternative platforms. So keeping control of this third platform gives their sales staff a way in to potential customers’ offices.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Top-to-bottom social media strategy

At its IBM Connect 2013 social business event, IBM announced new software and cloud-based services to help transform organizations into social businesses.

The new social software offerings are meant to help companies gain deeper insights into big data generated through the use of social networks. Organizations applying analytics to their data for competitive advantage are more likely to substantially outperform their industry peers, is the IBM line on this. Apparently, 61 percent of the Fortune 100, are licensed to use IBM’s social business technologies.

IBM’s new software and cloud-based services include a new Web-based social networking environment that provides HR leaders with a better way to recruit and bring new employees onboard, while giving employees access to digital media and data in real time, enabling faster decision making.

IBM also announced software to help marketing teams design sophisticated advertising campaigns and quickly publish those campaigns to leading social networks, resulting in a consistent customer experience through every online channel.

And, finally, IBM announced the next release of its social networking platform will further enable users to access and analyse big data from inside and outside the organization, including through Facebook, Twitter, audio and video. IBM also plans to release the industry’s first truly social e-mail client, incorporating file sharing, activity streams, and a simplified user interface. This will be a major release of Notes and Domino.

But if you’re just starting out as a very small business, you probably can’t even afford to pay for a domain name and a Web site let alone class software like IBM’s. So here are some suggestions about how to be found by clients on the Internet – starting very small and building on that.

Your first foot in the door to tell people about you and what you can do with your business, is to sign up for a free page at You end up with a page address such as You just need a large photo (1680 by 1050 pixels) or a logo, or whatever your creative instincts tell you. You will need some text but you can update it whenever you want. And you can be found on Google – so you could attract more clients.

If you don’t mind not having a unique domain name to start with, you can get free Web hosting at and similar companies. You can use Later you can pay for a domain name and hosting (see below).

If you think you know a bit about writing Web pages – HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), go to Mozilla (the Firefox people) Thimble makes it very easy to create your own Web pages. Write and edit HTML and CSS in your browser and preview your work. You can then host and share your finished pages.

Get a Twitter account by going to and signing up. Call yourself by your business name – there is a limit on the number of characters. And you can link the account to your Facebook page. Use hashtags (putting a ‘#’ in front of a noun) to link to things. Comment on news and developments in your industry and you area – you can build relationships with local organizations. Tweet positive messages – whatever feels right for you. And local businesses can tweet about you and hashtag your business name – helping you get more business.

In addition to your usual Facebook account, you need to set up a ‘page’ for your business. I’d use the same name you did for your Twitter account. Facebook pages can be found on Google – which means that your business can be found in searches and you’ll get more clients. You can put photos of your staff, offices, happy clients. You can put links to interesting news stories. You tell people about interesting or relevant news items. You can post similar information to Twitter – or you can link the two and post only once. You can find details of how to create a page by searching on Google. One useful page is at

Join LinkedIn ( You’ll then be able to connect to lots of other similar business and join groups. You could even start your own group. You can add your company to the company pages and post information about your company. You may get clients, but, importantly, you’ll make connections. And organizations and individuals who think they do business with you, may start to follow your business on LinkedIn.

And as you find you’ve got more to say about your business, you may want to start blogging. A short article of around 500 words is about the right size. It’s quick to read and you can convey some good information. If you have a Google account, then sign up with Blogger ( Your blog will be called Otherwise, Wordpress ( also provides free blogs. And once you’ve written a blog, you can link to it from Facebook and Twitter – which will increase the number of hits on your blog and generally make you easier to find by potential clients.

Once your business is looks like it will succeed and not wither on the vine, you can buy a domain name – (or a local variant, eg You can pay to have it hosted somewhere. You’ll need a conversation with someone who understands SEO (Search Engine Optimization). They will get you onto the first page of Google.

And you could create your own Web pages with Adobe Dreamweaver. Better still, you can get someone else to code a modern-looking Web site using Javascript. Using JQuery makes the site look very modern and interesting to visitors. Using a Content Management System (CMS) like Joomla makes it easy for you to use (and still very modern for visitors). Look out for those words if someone is offering to ‘do’ your site for you.

If you own your own domain name, you’ll probably have your own e-mail address – eg If you haven’t, then use a free e-mail like Gmail or Yahoo. If you have a hotmail or msn e-mail address, get a new one!
Lastly, get a modern-looking signature for your e-mail. Something like:

Fred Smith
CEO MyCompany Ltd
P: 01249 443256 | M: 07901 505 609 | E-mail | Web site | Twitter | Facebook | G+ | LinkedIn

Now there’s a trick to this! Create the address in Word, select a word (eg Web site), and press the ctrl and k keys at the same time. You’ll be able to link the word to a Web address. In this case the address of your Web site. You’ll also see a button called ‘ScreenTip’. Click on that and write something about the link, eg MyCompany’s Web site. Copy and paste it into an e-mail. That way, when you send an e-mail, all your contact information is included in an attractive and short few lines. When people move their mouse over one of your new links, the ScreenTip will appear, so they can see something about the link – helping them decide whether to click on it. And they can forward it to more potential clients.

Nowadays, most people search the Internet rather than look through phone books. So it becomes very important to be ‘found’ by potential clients. And when your company is big enough, you can start to use IBM’s products.