IBM’s first steps into “social” software writes about IBM waking up to “social” software. Signs are that the company’s got it right. Here are exerpts:

Another major benefit of the systems will be to help people find topical experts more quickly, a major headache in companies the size of IBM, which had just under 370,000 workers in 2004.


By creating a centralized online resource where anyone in the company can contribute to the quandaries the firm said it not only finds answers faster, but also allows employees to find out who among them has experience on a particular topic, or which workers they might collaborate with for other projects.

“We knew that the ability to better network individuals could provide immediate benefits and help move the company to real time, to shift how people collaborate,” Sparkes said.

This is what marks the difference between “old wave” communucation software and the “new wave” social software. Focus on the individual, and real-time collaboration using open standards.

Another effect of “focus on the individual”:

In addition to helping companies organize, retain and share information more intelligently, experts said that social networking tools will also help businesses focus on the quality of individuals’ unique contributions to their employers.

By gathering evidence of workers’ specific contributions, businesses will be able to give credit to people who come up with truly innovative ideas, rather than hand down praise through levels of corporate hierarchy, said Dr. Bill Ives, an author and independent consultant focused on the arena of social networking.

Perhaps the surest sign that IBM truly “gets” the power of community content, comes from an article on itself:

“The proliferation of blogs, news feeds, consumer review sites, newsgroups and articles published daily on the Web has created a phenomenon where public opinion about an organization spreads worldwide, faster than ever before. These sources are filled with insight from consumers, experts and competitors that can be analyzed and used by businesses to make better decisions on products, services and business strategies. This creates a tremendous opportunity for organizations to carefully monitor their image and more quickly address business opportunities, threats, quality concerns or changing public perception.”