IBM Offers New Social Media Initiatives for Channel Partners, Businesses

By D.H. Kass

January 14, 2012

IBM Corp. said that it wants to help channel partners and businesses make better use of social media to boost sales opportunities, offering a set of consulting services, education, technical certifications, workshops and partnerships to promote widespread adoption of the technology.

The vendor offered what it called “social business initiatives,” comprised of skill-building, technical support, development resources, and industry expertise to help channel partners and businesses widen their social media capabilities and hasten adoption of the associated technologies.

Pointing to Forrester Research data pegging the market opportunity for social enterprise applications at some $6.4 billion by 2016, compared with $600 million in 2011, IBM said that its goal is for channel partners and customers to gain the necessary tools to use social media to transform their operations, official said.

"Social technologies, when combined with the right skills and culture, can truly unlock the potential of people within the organization to collaborate, innovate, make smarter business decisions and ultimately drive their bottom line," said Alistair Rennie, IBM General Manager, Social Business.

To help clients and channel partners assess their current social business tools and understand the benefits of the technology to drive sales and address certain challenges, IBM has tapped its Global Business Services unit to offer strategic consulting.

In addition, IBM said that it will provide education and mentoring programs for customers and channel partners on how to become better community managers, a fast growing field in social media. The vendor also is rolling out new technical certifications for channel partners and clients to gain the skills required to install, configure and perform tasks associated with social software solutions.

At its PartnerWorld web site, IBM is offering Social Business Agenda workshops highlighted by forums on the benefits of social media in businesses, case studies and tips to develop a plan to drive social media adoption. Accordingly, IBM has enlisted The Dachis Group, an Austin, TX-based specialist in measuring social performance, managing social brands and connecting social enterprises, to run a social business adoption workshop.

Dachis’ client list includes AT&T, Citibank, Disney, Estée Lauder, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Nestlé, Nokia, and Target . The company’s Social Business Index provides ongoing real-time ranking, analysis, and benchmarking of social business adoption and performance.

IBM said that it also is working with Group Business Software, one of its channel partners, to help customers convert IBM Lotus Notes applications into applications accessible on the Web or on mobile devices.

In constructing its set of services, resources and tools to help channel partners and business embrace social media, IBM cited a 2011 AIIM survey in which 50 percent of organizations regard adoption of social technologies as imperative or significant but struggle to effectively use the media.

University social business partnership.

IBM also said that it has partnered with San Jose State University on a new academic program, headed by Larry Gee, a professor in the College of Business, to help students expand and adapt their social media technical and business skills to real-world business challenges.

In the program, students assess the social networking capabilities of an IBM Business Partner’s organization to learn about the characteristics of a social business while helping to apply social networking technologies to business operations for more efficient collaboration and faster innovation.

As part of their coursework, the students are mentored by IBM experts and learn about internal and external use of social business solutions.

"Today's students are already social savvy in their personal lives," said Gee. "However, it's vital for them to be able to apply these skills to business and differentiate themselves as they enter a tough job market,” he said.

"IBM and San Jose State University have a long-standing relationship, founded on our deep commitment to preparing students with the skills needed to become successful business leaders," said

The program is part of IBM's Academic Initiative under which participating schools receive free access to IBM software, discounted hardware, course materials, training and curriculum development. About 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide maintain memberships in the program.

Jim Corgel, IBM general manager, Academic Programs, said that “there's no disputing that social business has become a necessary component in today's business strategy and the skills that go along with social business are in high demand.”