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?