This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

IBM Bids to Formalize the Social Business Market

Consulting, training, and services bring the lessons learned internally out to customers.

Becoming more social inside and out is near the top of many agile corporations' to-do lists for 2012 and beyond. IBM has introduced services and training to kickstart the transformation.

Tom Murphy's blog post yesterday set the stage for the announcements IBM made today. Tom spoke with IBM's social business evangelist Sandy Carter, who emphasizes the importance of looking at company culture first in the process of going social. "Culture trumps technology" is the way the aphorism is often phrased.

The scale of the momentum towards social business is suggested by estimates out of Forrester that the market for social enterprise applications will grow at 61 percent per year for the next five years, from $600 million in 2011 to $6.4 billion by 2016.

IBM (which sponsors this site) is the acknowledged leader in social media software, having been among the first to promote and encourage social media use internally. The company used social collaboration (via a wiki) to develop social media policies and guidelines as early as 2005. Now they are moving the lessons learned internally out to customers as they attempt to formalize the social business market.

The new initiative features services to help customers develop skills and technical support for social networking. IBM will offer strategic consulting, live support, online courses, and meetings with social business experts. The five components of the initiative are:

The first, second, and last items on this list, in particular, aim to address the cultural issues companies must face as they move in the direction of greater social engagement and transparency.

Looking to the long term, IBM also announced a partnership with San Jose State University to help students apply what they know about social media to the world of business. Here is a YouTube video in which students who took part in the pilot course "Get Social, Do Business," taught by IBM staffers, reflect on what they learned. Expect more university partnerships like this, and expect to see colleges developing their own social business curricula as the demand for socially clued-in workers explodes in the coming years.