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Social networking: Not just for kids anymore

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The IBM division at Workgroup has announced the general availability of IBM’s Lotus Connections 2, a social software option that enables enterprises to tap into the collective potential of employees, partners and customers enabling better, more productive business practices.

“MySpace boasts around 155-million users, Facebook, 16-million and LinkedIn, over 9-million members with these figures rising on a daily basis,” says Warren Larkan, IBM general manager at Workgroup. “Social software isn’t going anywhere and it’s not just a way for college kids to make new friends or for those in the business world to build professional relationships either.
“The fact is, the vast benefits of social networking reach into every aspect of the business – from customer driven product development and employee collaboration to community driven customer service and more.”
Larkan says that when business is faced with mergers, reorganisations, global locations and telecommuting, connecting the right people at the right time can be a challenge.
Social software can address that challenge by helping people locate expertise, share information and expand their professional networks to accomplish more in less time. In fact, these tools are so effective that some employees are using external social networking sites for work related tasks, potentially putting corporate information at risk outside the firewall.
IBM Lotus Connections social software is designed to empower people to be more effective and innovative by building professional networks of co-worker, partners and customers. With this software, users can find and collaborate with experts; easily locate people and information; build closer partner and customer relationships; and foster bottom up, community-based innovation.
“Normal document management strategies are rarely embraced by employees, yet we are seeing a voluntary sharing of knowledge and networking using online social networking tools,” says Larkan. “The power behind programs like Lotus Connections is that users are not able to bring this into an enterprise and capture it in a secure environment.”
Created for business, Lotus Connections social software provides an integrated Web 2.0 user experience and can be used with the email, instant messaging and portal software that users already deploy.
Lotus Connections incorporates and exploits five key components designed to work together to create an integrated, collaborative environment that is both secure and scalable:
* Profiles – enhancing the company’s directory structure creating a rich online persona of employees by adding elements like photos, interests, skills, work associates and even reporting structures.
* Blogging – a handy way for matter experts to share their project and work experience using forums frequented by other employees. Searchable blogs ensure the expert information is readily available to anyone across the enterprise. Blogging enables knowledge transfer and collaboration within the enterprise, and is a means for an enterprise to harness and archive the collective employee knowledge base.
* Dogear/Social Bookmarking – provides a means for subject matter experts to share their prequalified internal and external tags, which are searchable by person or subject.
* Communities – provides a way for employees and external people to become part of a community that shares similar interests. A secure platform enables these groups/communities to collaborate around these interests. The power of this tool is that it is owned, defined and managed by the collective experience of the community members.
* Activities – During the course of a business activity, information is accrued in many forms – email, instant messaging, presentations, documents and other means. Activities is the central conduit to present, in an orderly manner, this information to the participants for their shared use.