During my last days at IBM, I was very busy writing.  I was fortunate to work on some exciting publications that have recently become available.

The first of these is an article entitled What it takes to drive IBM Lotus Connections Adoption in the Enterprise.  It was published on the IBM developerWorks site on June 30.  For this article, I interviewed 4 different IBM customers who are currently using Lotus Connections at their companies. I wanted to go beyond the generally recommended adoption guidelines and find out what had really worked in motivating the general population of a company to use social software.  I took the most valuable nuggets of information and looked for the common threads to produce a list of recommendations that can be used by anyone planning a rollout of social software in an internal environment. 

The social factor

The Social Factor, by Maria Azua

The next project I worked on was as a contributing author and reviewer of The Social Factor.  I was very excited and honored to be asked by the author, Maria Azua, to work on this project.  I was given a list of twelve points to discuss about the business implications and transformational opportunities that social networking can bring to companies and their employees. 

To tackle this challenge, I wanted to share not just my experiences and knowledge, but that of individuals I felt were using social networking tools for maximum business results.  I interviewed different people both inside and outside of IBM who I found either through their blog, tweets, or LinkedIn profiles.  I also used Twitter for real time research in answering some of the questions.

I handed over my 8,000 word draft to the editor in mid-January.  He did an excellent job of performing an “extreme makeover” on my work, so much so that I couldn’t believe I had actually written those words!  A few months later, I was asked to review two of the chapters before final publication.  I did find a funny error, where a photo of one person was labled with the wrong name.  Fortunately, I  knew both of the individuals in question and I was able to catch the error. 

The editor had told me the book would be ready in October, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it on Amazon last week.  So go ahead and order or download a copy!  I would love to hear your thoughts.

A few months ago,  I blogged about the positive side of a layoff. After being laid off from IBM in November 08, I managed to find another position in the company right before my 30 day window was up.  I was excited about the new position as a Lotus Telesales Rep and looking forward to starting after the New Year.

empty-phonesUnfortunately, lightning struck again on January 21st.  After being on the job in my new position for about 2 weeks, the entire department was eliminated.  I was given until February 23rd to find a new position.  Wow!  That was a shock.  Even though I had heard all the rumors about more impending layoffs, I thought that since I had just been effected, I would have some kind of “immunity”.  I mean, how could they do this to me again so soon? It took everything I had in me to find that position, and now it was being eliminated.

I gathered up my things (I didn’t have much, since I’d only been in the office for 2 weeks) and went home to think.  I knew that I didn’t want to go through another frantic search in a company that had most of their open positions frozen.  The time and energy I put into the last search left me mentally exhausted.  Not to mention the tremendous amount of competition there would be for any open seat, given that thousands of other employees received the same news that I did that day.

It didn’t take me long to conclude that my IBM career was over.  Over the past 13 years, I had some great times, worked with some amazing people, and got the chance to grow my horizons in ways that I didn’t know were possible when I joined as a college graduate.  I was given a fair severance package that would allow me some time to reflect on what my next move should be.  I started my external job search and kept an open mind and positive attitude.  Even thought the media was reporting on the terrible odds for job seekers, I knew I would find something perfect for me.

When I walked out of IBM on February 23rd, I had a job offer with an IBM Business Partner.  They wanted me to start immediately, but I needed to take some time off to spend with my family and recover from the stressful period we had survived.  That’s part of the reason why I hadn’t blogged in a while.  I needed to step back and focus on things that had nothing to do with work.

I am very greatful for the way things turned out.  To everyone else out there who is coping with a job loss, I know how difficult it can be.  Keep a positive attitude, ask everyone you know for help, and don’t be afraid to take a risk and try something completely different.

Coming up next:  What I did on my unemployement vacation🙂

A couple of months ago, I was asked to contribute to an upcoming book being written by a team of really smart people inside of IBM.  Since I like being in the company of really smart IBM people, I accepted!

My task is to describe the cultural impacts of social networking in business, both inside and outside the firewall.  The catch is that it all has to be original and unpublished material.  I only know so much, so of course, I want to talk to YOU!  I am especially interested in getting international (non-US) experiences and learning about different tools or sites that may be prevalent in different countries.  The idea is to describe the business implications and transformational opportunities that Social Networking can bring to  companies and their employees.

I have been tasked with answering the following twelve questions:

  1. What Social Networking tools are available for business people? (eg.  LinkedIn, Covestor, Stockpickr, Vestopia, TED, Xing, etc. )
  2. What is the value of Social Networking tools?
  3. Why do people use these sites (for example  LinkedIn)?
  4. Why tools like Facebook that started as a college tool are gaining popularity with business people?
  5. How social tools impact companies at the business level?
  6. What is the value of adding Social Networking and communities tools or services to a companies web site?
  7. Are Social Networking communities becoming stronger influencers than traditional “loyalty programs”?
  8. What companies are loosing for not embracing Social Networking?
  9. How employees can benefit from Social Networking tools?
  10. Can social tools help create a sense of teaming and camaraderie that sometimes business lack?
  11. Why employees should be encouraged to use Social Networking tools inside and outside of the enterprises?
  12. What employers have to gain from Social tools?

If you have a unique perspective, funny experience, or great story that would fit under this topic and would be willing to be interviewed for the book, please leave a comment.  I’m looking forward to hearing from everyone!

I was laid off from a 13 year career at IBM on October 31st.  I wasn’t able to write about it until now, because I needed some time to sort out my feelings.  Mostly, I haven’t had time to write because I’ve been frantically looking for a new job.  Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I realize that there are some positives in being laid off.  Here is my story:

On the evening of October 30th, I had just returned from an award trip in Europe with some of the most brilliant Web 2.0 minds in IBM.  When I landed in the US, my Blackberry inbox told me several colleagues had been affected by this latest round of “resource actions”.   I went to bed that night unsure of my fate.

The next morning, Friday, I called my manager to inquire on my status.  He told me he had a trip planned to see me on Monday.  I immediately knew there could be only one reason for him to do that, so I requested to be informed on the phone.  Things were a blur from there.  I listened to the standard HR speech as to why I was being resourced.  Documents would be sent overnight to my home.  I had 30 days to find another position in IBM.  My departure date would be December 2nd.

In the month and a few days since then, I have realized that this resource action wasn’t all bad.  In retrospect, I think the universe had been trying to tell me I needed a major change it my professional life.  I hadn’t been the same Laurisa for sometime, yet I wasn’t being aggressive enough to take charge of my own destiny.  Since I didn’t listen to the small hints, something drastic had to happen.

So overall, I am going to say the resource action has been a positive in my life for the following reasons:

  • It was time to move on:  The group where I was at for the last few years had recently started going in a direction that I didn’t feel best suited my strengths.  Work was getting increasingly competitive.  I was being asked to do things I didn’t have the skills or interest to pursue.  All the signs were there for me to move on yet, somehow, I thought it would get better.  I had just begun to look for a new position inside the company and I had a few options I was going to pursue after first of the year.  The resource action made me put my job search in high gear.
  • Amazing out pour of support: My network of contacts inside and outside of IBM have been tremendously supportive of my job search.  I wrote an internal blog post explaining my situation and asking for help.  Within hours, I was contacted by IBMers from every corner of the globe offering assistance, support, and kind words.  People sent me job leads, wrote recommendations for me on LinkedIn, and sent me messages of encouragement.  That type of support made me feel valuable at a time when my professional self-esteem needed a boost.
  • Great social software use case: Not that I wanted to be a guinea pig for this use case, but I feel that this journey has demonstrated the power of social software both inside and outside the firewall.  So many people, (that I never even knew existed!) contacted me to say how sorry they would be if I left because they had been consumers of the content I contributed to our internal blogs, social bookmarking, and social file sharing repositories.  These individuals never had never posted a comment, nor had ever contacted me in any way, yet they were benefiting from my social capital.  Wish I could calculate the ROI on that!Also, through my contributions throughout the years to social repositories and social networking sites, I had built up a strong reputation and personal brand.  People knew exactly what I did, my style, my personality, and the quality of my work.  This made it easier for me to get my name out there and for people to feel comfortable recommending me for a position.

I am happy to report that on my final day of employment, December 2nd, and after a 3rd and final reschedule of my exit interview, I received a job offer to stay within IBM.  It really came down to the last minute!  I am very grateful to the many people who worked to keep me inside the company, and I hope this new position is exactly what the universe had in mind for me.

I’ve been asked to provide input to a presentation that will be going in front of very senior IBM management sometime in December on how social software can help IBM with Mergers and Acquisitions.

I spoke with a Lotus Connections customer recently in a company that had just been acquired.  They were planning to have, “How will [acquiring company name] know who you are?”, sessions where they would demonstrate the value of having an updated profile with descriptions of their education, projects and contributions to the company.  I think social software has huge potential to help in M&A’s.  Let’s consider some scenarios.

Scenario 1:  You’ve just been acquired by IBM.  You have no idea who to work with, or look for, or who knows what in this vast new company.  Where to start?  (This is the classic seeker scenario.)  Of course you have Bluepages to find out who people are, but what if you want to get beyond that?  There are multiple paths to take, all of them beneficial.  Use Dogear to search for keywords, then find specialists who are the top bookmarkers in those areas.  Or do a keyword search on Profiles to find people with particular expertise.  Or do an expertise search in Small Blue  (IBM Atlas).  Or search Communities for a particular topic or interest.  Or search Quickr for documents with specific keywords.  Any of these methods will give you people and information.  Ideally, they should give similar results.

Scenario 2: You’ve just been acquired and want to let everyone in IBM know who you are and what you do.  Do the inverse of scenario 1.  (This is the classic contributor scenario.)  Make sure your Profile is up to date.  Contribute your bookmarks to dogear.  Create a blog where you share your work experiences. Share your presentations on Quickr.  Join communities, or create your own if one doesn’t exist for your particular needs.

Scenario 3: You want to grow your network in the new company.  Both scenarios 1 and 2 will help you to do this.  Take it a step further and invite the people you find, or who find you, to join your network on Profiles, Fringe, or BeehiveBeehive provides a unique opportunity to get to know people based on common interests both personal and professional.

Scenario 4: IBM wants to know the internal structure of the acquired company.  This can be accomplished with a Social Network Analysis (SNA).  This is a small survey, usually of no more than 3 questions, sent out to determine the communication patterns, knowledge holders, and relationships in an organization. You can involve the SNA Community in this process.  These knowledge holders can be targeted to contribute their knowledge to the greater IBM community by performing some of the activities in scenario 2.  This would help IBM leverage their knowledge more quickly.

My recommendations for M&A:

  • Include Small Blue (IBM Atlas) on the standard build given to all new hires, and show them how and why to use it
  • Provide Firefox browser with browser plugins and buttons already configured for Dogear and Small Blue on the standard build.  This will help them start contributing social capital from Day 1.
  • Provide training during the on boarding process on IBM’s vast selection of social software tools.  Share success stories of how these tools have been used in to provide true business value.
  • Ask employees to earn a social software merit badge within 30 days of joining IBM.
  • Ask key connectors, as identified in the SNA, from acquired companies to blog about their experience coming into IBM.  This will give valuable feedback to the M&A team, and give newly acquired employees a way to make themselves known to the greater IBM community.
  • Establish an onboarding community for newly acquired employees
  • Get the M&A team involved with the social software community to provide ambassadors assigned to familiarize recently acquired employees with the social software options available in IBM, and continue to provide mentorship to these employees
  • Don’t worry about doing the right or wrong thing with social software!  No two groups or individuals will adopt in exactly the same way.  That is to be expected and welcomed.

How would you use social software to help in M&As?

Note: Originally published June 23 on IBM internal blog

A couple weeks ago, I traveled to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico to deliver a Lotus Connections adoption/user training workshop.  The customer currently has their PoC environment up and running, so the account team asked me to come in to teach their early adopters how to get the most out of Lotus Connections.  The customer selected 7 people to attend from various lines of business.  The plan is for these attendees to sow the seeds of social software adoption within their groups.

Penny eats sushi

I used the “Getting Started with Lotus Connections” presentation as a guide to take them through hints and tips for using each of the 5 services.  During the session, they used their PoC system to populate their profiles, create their own blogs, use an Activity, set up Communities, and import bookmarks from their browsers into Dogear.  Along the way, I shared with them my personal experiences using Lotus Connections and IBM’s history and success stories with Web 2.0.

I told them how well populated Profiles, with both professional and personal information, can help you advertise your expertise, and build connections with others in their organization.  Here are some things I learned about them from the information posted that day.

  • Josue – has children ages 2 and 5 (just like me)
  • Rocio – says people (outside of Mexico) sometimes assume she’s a man because her name ends in an “o”.  Having a profile with a picture will remove this awkwardness
  • Marimar – enjoys Lost and Hugh Grant movies (just like me), and is an Office expert
  • Alex and Wendy – both tagged themselves with “starbucks” (not like me, I never drink coffee)

A couple of the use cases the customer came up with during brainstorming:

  • Wendy currently sends out a high visibility monthly newsletter.  People respond to her with questions and comments via email, which she keeps track of, responds to, and incorporates into future issues.  This is a very static way of exchanging the information and they wanted something more interactive.  I explained to them how this could be accomplished more effectively with a blog.
  • The team in Monterrey frequently has visitors from around the world who need recommendations on where to stay, restaurants, directions to the offices, etc.  Of course, most of this information already exists on the Web and inside the company.  I recommended a Community to collect these links.  They can also use forums to ask questions and get personal responses from the Monterrey based staff.

So, how is social software like sushi?  For lunch, we ordered in from a local sushi restaurant.  One of the rolls had the following description:  Chicken, avocado, cream, jalapeno, breaded and fried.  I joked with the customers, “That sounds more like a taco than sushi.”  They went on to tell me that the sushi in Mexico is very, well… Mexican.  The sushi was served with jalapeno salsa, salsa de chile verde.  The soy sauce came in 2 types:  regular, and with lime juice.  Mexicans eat most everything (tacos, fruit, drinks) with lime and chile, so I shouldn’t be surprised that sushi has been Mexican-ized.

Ok, getting back to social software adoption – the same way that sushi has been transformed, made unique, taken its own form and identity depending on the culture of the people serving and eating it, so too with social software adoption.  I don’t think any two companies, or even people within those companies will use social software in exactly the same way.  Each individual can use it according to their own needs, requirements, and comfort level.  People add their own unique perspectives and talents (flavors) to the business use cases or applications in order to make it more easily adopted by the larger population.

Next steps for this customer is to continue moving forward with Connections, Quickr, and a Notes 8 upgrade.  (And consuming more sushi and Starbucks too!)

I’ve been blogging internally at IBM since early 2007.  Its given me the opportunity to get familiar and comfortable with blogging – sharing my ideas and opinions instantaneously with an audience of thousands all around the world.

So why go external now?

  • I’ve seen other IBMers extend their reach outside the firewall and go on to fame and fortune🙂
  • I’m about to go to the Web 2.0 conference in Berlin and I want a place I can point new acquaintances to, in much the same way I do with my IBM colleague
  • I really want to share my ideas and experiences with our customers and partners.

I plan to blog on my favorite topics of Lotus Connections, enterprise social software, how to drive adoption in the enterprise, and general adventures as an IBM Tech Sales Specialist and working mother of 2 trying to meet all the constant demands on my time.