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!)