My next chapter

February 9 2018

February 9, 2018: I'm leaving IBM at the end of next week. I'll have more to say on LinkedIn etc about my next chapter, later this month. But here's a thank you and a look back:

I dreamed of being an IBM executive.

A seed was planted during a family vacation at age 12, where I met an IBMer who had great stories of success. But when I graduated college, IBM was doing its first-ever layoffs and had nothing available. My mentor said, "You didn't want to work for those blue-suited bureaucrats anyway!" Actually, I really did, regardless of wardrobe.

I went into IT and ended up being recruited to Lotus Development. It seemed like the perfect place to work, and it only got better when IBM bought the company 12 months into my tenure. Finally, I worked for IBM and was set up for the dream career.

And it has been. I’ve had 14 different roles, taking advantage of a rotational culture that provided opportunities in product management, sales, marketing, strategy, and CIO/transformation. I’ve visited clients in over 40 countries. I’ve led or contributed to multiple successes or turnarounds. I’ve worked with hundreds of the finest people, helped transform the company and its culture, and made friends all over the world.

Now is a good time to reflect back on the last nearly-quarter century of amazing experiences and outcomes.

  • In my first weeks of sales training in 1994, I asked Lotus CEO Jim Manzi, “what comes after Lotus Notes?” His answer – “More Notes.” And he was right. Who would have thought we would not only still be talking about that product in 2018, but celebrating its third turnaround of the last 15 years (Notes revenue grew all four quarters of 2017, the first time since 2011). Simply amazing. I owe my career to this product, and my gratitude to the founders, leaders, and smart engineers who have helped the product innovate and evolve.
  • The years when Lotus still operated as an IBM subsidiary were filled with many wonderful and sometimes crazy memories. Passionate clients, coworkers, and partners. Lotusphere conferences of 10,000 people with rock stars and celebrities. Billboards and TV ads. Champagne and ship parties. Relatively few expense controls :)
  • In 1998, I moved to Boston to join the Lotus Notes product management team because I wanted to be in the “room where it happens.” The PM team meetings seemed to me like the epicenter of the market, where the big decisions got made, ones that affected clients and our business, every single week. The people I worked with over the next few years have become lifelong friends. It was a special time and place.
  • One of the most enjoyable roles I had was running a competitive project office for Lotus in the early 2000’s. It wasn’t in IBM’s DNA to take punches at a competitor, but the Microsoft vs. Lotus battle demanded tough tactics. When we invented a fictional project codename just to generate some paranoia in the halls of Redmond (“Bluejay”), it was great fun to watch the trade press go crazy for the details.
  • Hands down my favorite role was launching the MobileFirst brand. It was the most intense 15 months of my career. The answer to any good idea was “do it”, and the payback nearly instantaneous.
  • Rolling out IBM Verse across the company was an amazing project where great people stepped up and made the impossible happen. We were successful primarily because of the partnership between my CIO team and internal comms. The internal comms team shepherds the critical work of employee engagement, a core use case of enterprise collaboration.
  • Best customer meeting ever? Invited to Santiago, Chile, to visit a major bank. The CEO of the bank was considering switching from Notes to Google. We met with him in his private dining room, drinking wine from his personal winery. The bank stayed with Notes, and to celebrate, the CEO then dispatched his family to arrange winery tours and ceviche dinners. Not bad!
  • Most amazing story: My only visit to India was in August, 2001. The local team had a very full schedule, but accommodated my request to see the Taj Mahal while in Delhi. It required a concession – I would leave the hotel at 2:30 AM to arrive in Agra just as the site opened, then return by early afternoon for more meetings. When I went to leave the hotel, the lobby was under lockdown with dozens of armed soldiers – a prominent world leader, Yasser Arafat, was about to arrive. I witnessed his motorcade and the rollout of the red carpet; my departure to Agra ten minutes later featured considerably less fanfare. Another adventure right up there: going to the Great Wall of China early in the morning before meetings, and being literally the only tourist leaving footprints in a light overnight snow dusting.
The memories could go on and on and on. I would love it if you would leave a comment sharing a favorite moment from our work together!

Whether through the growth periods or one of three turnarounds I helped lead, the challenges and opportunities in our collaboration business have made me who I am today. Additionally, participating in IBM’s shift to transparency, leveraging individual voices to build brand, image, and credibility was incredibly exciting and had a lasting impact on IBM’s presence in the market. The same tools also powered how we as a company innovate and learn from each other. We have made a difference with proven value for and with our clients, partners, and each other.  

Thank you for every moment of the last 23+ years. I am looking forward to many adventures in this next chapter and to connecting with you all again along the way. I wish you all the best, and know that in this industry, there is no such thing as saying "goodbye" - just "until next time." I can't wait for that.

It has only been eight months since we announced the rollout of IBM Verse inside IBM. In that time we have exceeded our initial target - over 416,000 mailboxes were moved to IBM Verse and cloud email in 2015. About 40,000 IBMers remain in queue. We expect to complete that group in January, 2016. While we aren't quite ready for a complete celebration, the project team has absolutely achieved success by surpassing our annual objective.

In this blog, which I also posted internally, I'd like to highlight some of our key learnings as part of the #NewWayToWork. Writing now is particularly timely as I will be delivering a presentation showcasing our rollout at the IBM Connect 2016 event in February. You can learn more about IBM Connect 2016 in a Blab hangout with Julian Rochichaux, Kathy Brown, and me on Monday, December 7.

The #NewWayToWork, delivered

We promised a new approach to IBMers in January -- moving to IBM's own social business cloud platform and deploying Verse, the new innovative email solution, starting the day it shipped. We promised to end "mail jail." We promised the exact same collaboration capabilities as our commercial customers leverage. We promised an integrated environment of Verse and Connections, accessible anytime, anywhere.

Deploying the solution across IBM required a coordinated, Agile approach. For IBMers, this rollout would be different: taking small, fast steps; failing quickly if needed; adjusting; and delivering a better solution in future iterations.

A key early decision was about attitude -- could we create an environment where the Verse rollout was more internal marketing launch, less IT forced rollout? That meant some radical shifts - in the form and channels of communication, the language of engagement, and accessibility of subject matter experts. We launched a Connections community -- Verse for IBMers -- as home base, making social the centerpiece of a social rollout, changing how IBMers engaged in the deployment.

The summer of iterations

My team came together in May to hone our deployment strategy. At the time we were only boarding about 1000 users per week to Verse, facing some frustration and issues. We declared our mission to be:

Delivery of IBM's own best reference for IBM Verse and the Connections Cloud offering.

This goal helped with defining our focus areas:

      •        Communications: Emails, IT helpdesk content, and community postings were written in plain English, with minimal copy and the fewest instructions necessary to accomplish mailbox conversion to Verse. In return we received thousands of compliments from IBMers, like "First time I see something so well planned". We also proactively established a cadence of project updates via blog to keep IBMers informed of project status.
      •        Simplification: When the Verse rollout started, it took eleven steps for each IBMer to get their email reconfigured and operational on Verse and in the cloud. Feedback from the early adopters helped us simplify to four steps by the end of June. This agile process was the most important element to scaling up the rollout while decreasing helpdesk calls and defects. By the time rollout started in Japan, they were able to board over 30,000 IBMers with an astonishingly-low 0.01% defect rate.
      •        Access to humans: We quickly learned that feedback through the Verse community forums was our single best channel for learning what was working -- and what wasn't -- as the rollout accelerated. My team and I committed to engaging with IBMers directly in community forums, resulting in better big-picture and trend analysis of the rollout than we ever would have been able to obtain through help desk calls. By Q3, it became clear that the community support model (and our new community managers) increased IBMer satisfaction with the rollout. We are now doing the same with other IT rollouts at IBM.
      •        "White glove" treatment, workshops, and 1:1 assistance: When early adopters ran into roadblocks, IBMers stepped up to help. Our teams established an executive buddy system that ensured that senior leaders had a human face to the Verse rollout , and ran numerous on-site workshops open to all at IBM offices around the world. I personally had the opportunity to participate in several of these both in North America and in China/Japan/Australia, and it was great to experience the deployment first-hand and learn from the experience of others.

Lessons learned

The Verse rollout has provided some valuable lessons, for CIO and ESS organizations and for the commercial success of IBM Verse in the market. Some of those include:

      •        Transparency: We had issues. We made mistakes. Owning those, talking about them openly in this community, provided a level of trust and engagement that was unprecedented. No IT rollout is perfect, and if we had waited for perfection, the Verse rollout would have started in 2017. By taking collective risks, instead we completed the project at a pace faster than the IT industry has ever seen.
      •        Early adopters: Having feedback from a patient group of first movers made this project successful. Early adopter feedback on how it was going paved the way for acceleration and adoption. Early adopters showed that the solution and project were benefitting IBMers in the ways we had anticipated.  
We are now in the fun period of the lessons learned phase - sharing with clients, and thus this blog and my session at IBM Connect 2016. I've talked to over two dozen organizations  this year, sharing our experience and helping drive social adoption within their organizations. What I've found on this project is that our scale and speed far exceed customers' own expectations -- one client with 20,000+ mailboxes said they expected to take about six months to move to the cloud. When I told them we were able to do that pace on a weekly basis, their whole attitude about potential success accelerated.

It has been a wonderful opportunity to lead a team of talented IT professionals through this deployment. We are not done and there is more to do in 2016 as we move IBM to Connections Cloud. Still the promise of Verse has delivered, and the hundreds of likes and comments this blog received internally proved it. So so many of the comments highlighted IBMers who had moved to Verse and never looked back, finding the search and interface to be incredibly productive tools. It will be very exciting to join our Connections content together with Verse in the cloud, and truly have one integrated "New Way to Work."

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the MWLUG event in Atlanta. It was a very well-run event and a great opportunity to catch up with some friends and colleagues. Unfortunately, I was slotted in a Friday morning time up against some very popular topics (looking at you, Tony Holder!), and only a handful of the attendees were able to join the discussion. It might also be a mis-match, in that many of the MWLUG attendees are there for technical content vs business content. At any rate, the slides are posted on Slideshare, and I was able to use the same content for an internal presentation to 500+ people just after I left MWLUG anyway.

In this update, I cover our social business journey at IBM--focused on a culture of participation and driving business outcomes--and then move into a retrospective on how we've been doing with the rollout of IBM Verse within IBM. As of this post on August 27, we have moved 160,000 of our employee mailboxes to the cloud and IBM Verse. Whole countries are complete (Australia and Korea are notable examples) and others are closing in fast. Since we started rollout in April, we have learned a lot about how to effectively scale - both in terms of the tools used to move mailboxes and in the change management and documentation used to assist end-users with the transition.

The project is going well overall. Adoption of the Verse UI itself is about 40% - which is a good solid start after just a few months. We never expected every IBMer to change to using Verse full-time - I myself can't since I travel so much and am often offline. We'll get there. IBMers have expressed a lot of positives around the overall UI and dashboard look, the waiting for/needs action capability, the scrolling calendar bar, and faceted search. The typical user is converting from premises to cloud in a time window of 15-30 minutes, and we have better than a 90% boarding rate (no errors, no helpdesk calls). In some geographies, we are seeing a 98% success rate, which I consider very impressive considering the scale of the company overall. I often remind my team that at 150K users moved, most companies would be done with the conversion process by now. We are making good progress.

The slides tell the story of the communications side - we are living the social dream, supporting this rollout in Connections and providing full-time community manager support. We learn about issues through wisdom of the crowds first, helpdesk second. We are iterating with the product team around how to improve Verse through "out in the open" discussions of feature enhancements and functional improvements.

Starting next month, we are opening Connections Cloud usage to all of IBM. We've provisioned the accounts, turned on the features, and are ready to go. This enabled us to turn on the team analytics in Verse, part of my commitment to ensuring that IBMers have access to the same out of the box shipping product as our commercial clients. We are excited about new features that are coming into Verse and Connections Cloud at the end of this month, and iteratively in the weeks and months ahead. It's much faster than we ever got new features in premises-based rollouts.

We are still on track to move all IBMers to Verse by end of 2015. There is a lot more to be done, but using an agile approach we have been able to accomplish this significant project at scale, and continue to learn and adjust and explore. I hope to be sharing an updated version of this presentation - under a checked finish line flag - at IBM Connect 2016.

About three months ago, my role within the IBM organization morphed from being focused on driving social business adoption internally, to an IT leadership role where I now also own the responsibility to deploy the social business platform. In our case, we are well underway with a major initiative to move all of IBM's email and collaboration to IBM Verse and Connections Cloud. Attendees at Social Connections 8 in Boston got to hear this story first (and my slides are on Slideshare), but even now just six weeks later, there is a lot more progress to report.

This is a significant project and a great opportunity. For years, IBMers have occasionally felt like the proverbial "shoemaker's children" who got to use our technology well after it is established, sometimes years after release. For IBM Verse, a push all the way from the top levels of the organization changed that equation. The objective I've been given is to run hard at getting Verse deployed to all of IBM in 2015, as both a way of establishing a great reference story and providing IBMers with innovative new capabilities as they are released to market. That means we set a very aggressive schedule, which at velocity will endeavor to board about in the range of 10,000 to 15,000 employees per week into the cloud mail environment (my competitive spirit lingers long after it was my job, and I have read that Microsoft only did about 1500 a day).

We had 3000 people in an initial pilot group of cloud mail users that was created in 2014. Once Verse shipped in early April, we finished preparations over the next few weeks - work around security, organizational change management and documentation, helpdesk readiness, and several other areas. We announced an early adopter program, allowing anyone opting in to jump the queue and be among the first to experience Verse. 40,000 chose to do so. We created a Connections community and filled it up with videos, presentations, how-tos, and a set of forums to discuss the Verse rollout journey.

In late April, we started rolling out in earnest for IBMers in North America, knowing that there were still many unknowns. We are using Agile as as a methodology and a mindset at IBM, and the direction was to push hard, fail fast, and adjust. That meant pain for some of the IBMers that we initially deployed to the service. A few components weren't quite ready for the volume and scale -- which was precisely why we were running at them. Over a 40 day period, we were able to make adjustments to the boarding and deployment architecture such that we sit here today on the cusp of full velocity conversion. Our geography teams are ramping up as well, and this week while I am in Australia we will begin early deployment here. Other countries are committed to 1000+ users this week as well.

I want to share a series of blogs about our learnings and innovation on this deployment. Clearly, in the 90 days I've been in this job, things have been way to busy to stop and write up what has happened. We do retrospectives regularly, and internally I've been writing in our Verse community about the project status. Still the public nature of writing here gives me a chance to reflect on what we are doing right, and perhaps learn from others who have transitioned their mail and social environments to cloud. At the start of the project I did a series of benchmarking calls with friends who have had this experience (and thank you to those who know who you are), but expanding my network of peers is always a good thing.

It's fun to be back in the technology as well as the adoption around email, collaboration, and social. My first real job was doing cc:Mail administration at US Robotics over two decades ago. There I also deployed Lotus Organizer and Notes, and this is what lead me to a career at Lotus and then IBM. I've come full circle, though with a much bigger scope and fancier title. At least this time, I'm not spending weekends doing chkstat/reclaims.

We still have a lot of work ahead - even with 20,000 IBMers now using IBM Verse and mail in the cloud, that means we are only part of the way there. In Q3, we will kick off a formal effort to transition our premises IBM Connections environment to Connections Cloud. Some 20% of IBM has been using Connections Cloud for collaboration, and 100% for e-meetings, so a lot of the plumbing is there. Verse makes the integration with Connections Cloud a requirement and a benefit, so we want to move the whole workload there over the next 12 months. And of course there will be new features and innovations in both Verse and Connections, which will mark a major improvement for IBMers - innovation available when ready, not waiting for a rollout.

In coming blogs, some topics I would like to write about include user experience/acceptance, change management, cloud deployment challenges (yes we have some like everyone else), integration, and all the other things that go along with this project. If you have topics you'd like to hear about, please let me know in the comments. Of course if you are in Australia, we can chat about it later this week - at INFORM 2015, where I will be speaking on this topic on Thursday morning.

I just returned from my 19th IBM-related January trip to Orlando in the last 20 years. Was this trip to IBM ConnectED 2015 the last one? I don't know. I'm no longer in the product organization connected to the event; this year, now that I report to the IBM CIO office, I was more client than vendor. It was nice to have my brand everywhere:
Image:IBM ConnectED 2015 recap and recollection

During the week, I delivered an updated version of my IBM Social Business Transformation presentation. (Slideshare won't let me upload it right now) I also had the chance to attend sessions, something of a rarity for me over the year. I was very encouraged by the Connections "Next" information, the IBM Verse sessions, and had some great interactions hanging out in a small separate CIO track. I did some press interviews as well, and caught up with a number of business partners and vendors to learn of their wares. It was a productive week; I only wish my facial pattern recognition algorithm had functioned better. It's hard to remember every name after two decades.

In my session, I was bluntly asked to restart my external blog. Over the last six months, while I have been focused on social adoption inside IBM, it's been challenging to have the bandwidth to write for both external and internal channels. Yet I learned that there is an appetite for the kinds of stories that I shared in my presentation to be published externally. Message received. The session was also notable because we recognized the first winners of the IBM Social Business Transformation Impact Award. I'll try to get those stories published here. Each of them recognized real, measurable business outcomes that resulted from moving processes and conversations into the open in our internal deployment of IBM Connections. We are, as I say, moving beyond "holding hands and sharing files" into these real outcomes for the IBM business.

I've read a lot of great summary IBM ConnecctED 2015 blogs in the last few days, including some that have nostalgically looked back at 20 years of events in Orlando. I've never done anything else in my life as long as this event - my first trip was in 1996 as an information desk staffer. I've spoken at the last 17 Orlando Lotuspheres, perhaps a record? It's been a great run.

Over the last few days, I wanted to do something like John Roling - post some of my top Lotusphere memories. I'm sure I'll miss some incredible things, and like everyone there are also a few that are best not put on the blog :-) so let's try. Admittedly, some of these bullets will mean something only to a few people. Even better, if we share a memory I've forgotten, please feel free to comment - 20 years is a long time!!!

  • Bringing Ray Ozzie to Lotusphere 2005 is still my event highlight over all these years. Ray was extremely generous with his time and energy; that we were also able to team him up with Esther Dyson for a session was magical. That was also the one and only time I managed to get the "voice of god" to introduce me at the start of a session!
  • Lotusphere IDOL. Hosting this session for several years was incredibly fun, and created a pipeline of wonderful speakers for future conferences. We had a ton of fun and didn't overstay our welcome. Gab Davis, Rocky Oliver, Susan Bulloch, Kristin Keene all made this thing work, and work it did.
  • Ask the Product Managers. Not sure why we didn't do that session sooner, but I'm glad we did. Also it was my idea to combine it with Ask the Developers last week; Lotusphere behind the scenes is like Hotel California, you can never leave!
  • 8-Trax at Disney's Pleasure Island - in our younger days, we were there until 2 AM closing dancing and laughing. You can have your Copa-Banana, but 8-Trax was it for me.
  • I suppose Kimono's wasn't so bad either, but Hoobastank isn't really the right karaoke set for the Lotusphere crowd. Or any crowd. I wish they had had more contemporary tunes, but it was fun for what it was.
  • Winning the Penumbra Prism award. 2003. Not previously revealed, Rob Novak had to implore me to be at the dinner that night; my then-wife was in town and wasn't ready for me to get into work mode on Saturday night.
  • Sandra Marcus. Not there this year, but the reason this event was so incredibly successful and flawless in years past. Were mistakes ever made? Of course, but Sandra knew how to do things right, first class, and without drama. Missed you Sandra.
  • Jim Gaffigan laughing with then marketing-VP Surjit Chana about watching a particular kind of video. I became a huge Jim Gaffigan fan after that closing session ("hot pockets!").
  • Benjamin Zander phonetically teaching us to sing in German. Talk about collaboration.
  • Having to walk to sessions at the Boardwalk conference center - I bet a lot of people don't even know that the Boardwalk has a conference center. Or as someone reminded me last week, having a dining tent badge for the Swan when staying at the Y&B. Sometimes the logistics were challenging.
  • The cookie.
  • Nuttin' but stringz. That was a way to wake up on a Monday morning.
  • The Turtle. Scott, I know you're still out there. Thank you for everything you did to bring the community together before blogging.
  • The R5 Guy.
  • Skipping the Wednesday night park, ordering in Thai food. Multiple years. :)
  • The year I tried to make it through the week while fighting an allergic reaction to the antibiotic I was taking. By Friday I was broken out in a skin rash and fever, far worse than the infection I first was trying to treat. I think we all got sick at Lotusphere, numerous times. Maybe not Julian Robichaux.
  • Not remembered: Sleep. In my normal life I am exhausted by 10 PM, somehow at Lotusphere 4-5 hours of sleep was always fine. Huh?
  • The Boss Loves Microsoft: Where does that leave Lotus? I never really expected to give that session for five years running (or was it more)? The cat and mouse game of whether legal would approve the slides was always the most fun; followed by the second most fun:
  • Spot the Microsofties - we don't do this anymore, but in our collective younger days, we used to give the Microsoft employees bright red badges when they attended Lotusphere. SO then they started registering under fake company names - but we'd out them anyway.
  • It wasn't so great when they called their competitive project "Red Bull" and I chose to show the entire session what I thought of that by discarding a can of Red Bull in dramatic fashion. Only problem was that Red Bull as a company was a Notes customer - and sitting in the room at the time!
  • Project "Bluejay" - Jeanette Barlow and I totally made that up in 2000 to have something to talk about with the press.
  • Bringing rollerblades and skating around the MGM Studios parking lot before the park opened in the mornings. It's been a long time.
  • Bruce Elgort, Nathan Freeman, NotesOSS and OpenNTF. These guys put more into the community than any ten people and I am so grateful for that energy.
  • The 20 year history of Notes session with Scott Souder - and being able to actually give away Notes V1-V4 around the same time. Still not sure how I got away with that one either.
  • Making a thousand friends or more. Seriously, many of you who are connected to me one way or another likely came from this community. Family, in every sense of the word.
  • Not to mention Lotusphere Europe in Berlin - that's a whole other amazing set of memories.
  • Alan Lepofsky. OK, I'll admit it, we really are brothers.
  • Blogger VIPs, especially the year they got dedicated internet and bright yellow beanbags to sit in during the general session :)
  • When there were dedicated Notes-related magazines - DominoPro/e-Pro, DominoPower, Advisor - and the journalists were always friendly but always looking to scoop each other. :)
  • Being part of the content team for eight years - that's a lot of fruit baskets. We always had 5-10x more session proposals than speaking slots, which means (mostly) only the best stuff made it on the agenda. The way to do it.
  • The book. When I was pitched to write Opting In, they said "the manuscript has to be done in 100 days in order to sell it at Lotusphere." Talk about motivating.
  • IBM Champions. We actually wanted to do a program like this about five years before we actually did. It was great when the IBM machine brought us the opportunity to do it formally, and every one of the people that have earned the IBM Champions for Lotus/Collab Solutions label did so justifiably.
  • Friday night midnight press release reviews, with pizza. This was like a rite of passage for new GMs and new PR managers over the years.
  • My first trip, 1996 I was a newbie and only able to stay at the Disney All Star Sports resort. For those who haven't been, it's like a Red Roof Inn in primary colors. The doors to the rooms open to the outside. I went back to my room to take a nap one afternoon and managed to sleep for 20 minutes before being awoken by noise outside my door. I peeked and saw a whole bunch of the hotel staff congregated outside my room - waiting for their transport back to the main building. They were loud! I wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon, and I was angry for being awoken despite the "do not disturb" sign. So I opened my door in a groggy state and yelled "would you all please shut ____ up!" and slammed the door. It surely got quiet after that.

IBM Verse: A New Way to Work

November 18 2014

Image:IBM Verse: A New Way to Work

Today in New York, IBM is launching A New Way To Work, featuring IBM Verse, the next generation of enterprise email. The announcement of IBM Verse is the culmination of a significant amount of IBM research, design, and client and marketplace understanding that answers the question - what if we could reinvent the way that people interact with other people in the enterprise?

During the livestream of the event from New York, IBM's Jeff Schick demonstrated Verse, which integrates the many ways employees interact every day - email, meetings, calendars, file sharing, instant messaging, social updates, video chats and more. Using analytics, Verse intelligently surfaces the most relevant information - content related to a meeting just before a meeting, context for an important message, visibility of and to the whole team collaborating on a project.

Watching this project take shape has been an exciting process. The IBM Design Lab in Austin, Texas has contributed a significant amount of innovation for the IBM Verse user experience. Over 230 people participated in the Design Thinking process, looking at nearly 500 research data points around how users expect to interact within a people-centric collaboration environment. The result is more than just modern and innovative -- it provokes, as was evident in the event broadcast, an "I want that!" reaction.

In my role as VP of Social Business Transformation at IBM, I believe IBM Verse is a significant innovation that will accelerate our social business journey. Our goal is to make IBM the preeminent social business. But even as far as we have progressed, there are still times when IBMers revert to "bad habits" - sending attachments in email, "copy the world" cc lists, forgetting to involve stakeholders in projects or activities. IBM Verse represents an opportunity to turn the corner, to make all of our interactions centered around the people, rather than the data. I believe this technology, which will be deployed internally starting in the first part of 2015, enables the culture of participation we are driving at IBM, providing a new way to work - even for those for whom "social" has not yet become an effective tool.

Further, I think this launch underscores one of the arguments that I, and others in this space such as my friend Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky, have argued for some time:
social is not an either/or with email. Email is part of the fabric of social.
Personal communication begets interpersonal communication begets human to human begets social.

Three themes are emerging from today's introduction of IBM Verse.

  • Mail that understands you
  • Less clutter, more clarity
  • Connecting me to we
For my work, the third is most important. IBM Verse integrates enterprise social networking in ways that are completely intuitive, where being social no longer requires conscious decision-making. For those for whom social is not an intuitive behavior, this is the request I hear most often - make it relevant and I will use it. OK, now it's contextual and relevant, plus easily accessible both on desktop and mobile devices. Result: down comes another barrier to social adoption.

Links to useful information about IBM Verse and the New Way to Work:
Link: >
Link: IBM Social Business on YouTube | IBM Verse playlist >
Link: IBM: Reimagine work website >

It wouldn't be January without Orlando, the WDW Swan Hotel, and hundreds of my favorite geeks all in one place.

IBM ConnectED 2015 will take place January 25 to 28 in Orlando at the WDW Swan. This is a more-technical conference than it has been in the recent past; an opportunity to refocus on practitioners and practical advice. Note: There is no truth to the rumor that I asked for the conference to be renamed.

A few of the sessions have been announced; the "meat and potatoes" sessions in infrastructure and best practices have been selected by long-time conference veteran track managers Susan Bulloch and Wes Morgan. It's going to be smaller, more-focused, practical information from the day you leave.

At IBM ConnectED 2015, I will be speaking in the context of my new role, covering IBM's own social business journey. I'm not pitching product features, but instead focused on how we, like any progressive company, are driving adoption of social business tools. My session will feature some key case studies from IBM's internal adoption - in fact, we are running a program right now to help identify IBM stories that have specific, measurable business outcomes. (If you are an IBMer and are interested in learning more, pop a note on my Connections wall and I'll hook you up!). I hope to show how we've moved beyond "holding hands and sharing files" into the realm of real impact to client satisfaction, efficiency, speed, employee engagement, and most importantly, innovation.

We're not saving it all for IBM ConnectED, though. There's some exciting news on the IBM collaboration and social front coming in the next week or two. Be sure to check out this webcast on November 20, featuring IBM's Jeff Schick, Phil Gilbert, and Constellation Research's Alan Lepofsky. There will also be a series of regional events in the next few weeks on this "New way to work" theme, and I'll pop up at a few of them in Germany/Switzerland next week, as well as Charlotte/Chicago/Boston the week after US Thanksgiving (2-4 December). Watch my Twitter feed for info on these events if you are interested, or leave a comment or a Tweet and I'll follow up.

Trip report: TED@IBM

September 24 2014

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the first-ever TED@IBM event at the San Francisco SF JAZZ center. I've watched a few TED talks, but it's far different being there in person with those big red TED letters sitting on the stage. About 500 people attended, a mix of IBM clients, partners, industry figures, visionaries, and IBMers. We heard about a dozen different talks - half from IBMers and half from industry voices. There was some entertainment, some intrigue, and some Twitter trending topics (#TEDatIBM and #SharingInspires).

The talks were interesting. Some were validating, such as social business experts Charlene Li and Bryan Kramer. Charlene talked about several principles of a social business:

  • Create a culture of sharing (I prefer to say a culture of "participation" but clearly we are on the same page)
  • Practice followership
  • User networks to make meaningful decisions
  • Get decision-makers involved
These are very aligned to the goals and guidelines that my team has set out for IBM's own social business journey, so it was good reinforcement for me (and my colleagues!) to hear these from a strong industry voice like Li. Bryan Kramer talked about "H2H" - human to human interaction, or as I described in my book Opting In, "humans want to buy from humans." It's a key guiding principle and often is the turning point between social media and social business.

Another speaker on the social meme was Kare Anderson, who talked about how it is important to choose the right people to be in your personal networks. "If you are the smartest person in the room," she said, "you need a new room." She talked about what happens when people in your network have similar goals... "when you connect with people around a shared action, serendipitous things happen in the future."

Other speakers were more diverse, covering topics like monitoring brain waves, harnessing solar energy in remote locations, and big data. We also had the wonderful opportunity to hear from Academy Award-winning director Brad Bird, talking about shared experiences and what the movie industry is about in 2014.

The IBM speakers represented very diverse parts of our business. We had the company's most prolific inventor, Lisa Seacat DeLuca, talk about her inspirations. We had my colleague Marie Wallace, who focuses on social analytics, talking about privacy and data concerns of the future. Erick Brethenoux demonstrated the notion of "emotional analytics". Florian Pinel talked about "Chef Watson," and how the real-world application of Watson in the production of food is that today, about 1/3 of all prepared food is wasted...Watson can help reduce that waste and make food more accessible to more people.

At mid-day, I was able to host a CrowdChat on Twitter for the TED@IBM event. We had about 150 active participants and millions of impressions on the Tweetchat. Thanks to all who participated.

Overall, it was a very useful day. It was one of my first opportunities to talk with a broad audience about my new role, and also to hear others preach what we practice. I saw many long-time friends and colleagues, and got the chance to build relationships with newer network members. I applaud my colleagues in the social business marketing team for conceiving and executing this event - it was very "un-IBM-like", in a very good way. I hope we'll do it again someday.

It has been a busy three months since my new position as Vice President, IBM Social Business Transformation was announced. Immediately after starting my new role, I left for Taiwan for a three-week assignment on an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge project team. The philanthropic experience was everything I expected and then some. I returned to the US at a new address - my family had moved to a new home across town, just before my flight to Taipei. The next few weeks were an adjustment - new home, new job, and making up for the loss of several weeks of summer cycling.

When Tim Clark contacted me a short time later, and asked if I would like to be part of the agenda at the 2014 ICON UK user group meeting, it took me about ten seconds to say "yes." Deadlines are often important forcing functions, and I felt that if I was committed to delivering an external presentation on IBM's social business transformation six weeks into the new job, it would align all sorts of activities during that time.

The last five days in London have definitely been worth that effort. Tim, along with Tony Holder and a supporting cast, ran a great user group event which drew about 125 people to sunny IBM Southbank in London. Everything went extremely smoothly. It was impressive to see the delegates from all over Europe, along with speakers and sponsors who had literally come from all over the world.

The ICON keynote was presented by my friend and colleague Scott Souder, who spent the entire hour discussing IBM's "Mail Next" project. Mail Next is an incredible evolution of the collaboration and social user experience. Finally we are moving away from the inbox and folders metaphor for mail, while bringing mail and social tools together in a way that will be extremely relevant to my new responsibility of driving adoption of social inside of IBM. It's incredible to see the focus on user experience and IBM Design Thinking. This is the kind of product where people say "I want that" at first exposure, and I can't wait to get there myself as part of our internal rollout.

My own session, "IBM's Social Business Transformation," focused on our social business journey at IBM. As much as we invented the market space of groupware/collaboration/social software, and have been leading the market in social since its inception, our internal use is an ongoing evolution. We are in a stage now of moving beyond holding hands and sharing files to an environment where being social is having a material impact on the company's bottom line - through innovation, speed, efficiency, employee satisfaction/talent management, and increased customer satisfaction. This is what I have been focused on in my initial 45 days in role - learning what has been working (and of course, what hasn't) in our internal adoption, and identifying the opportunities to accelerate.

The slideshare below is what I presented at ICON UK. I had hoped to get into some of the specific examples in backup or do some demos of IBM apps from my iPhone, but I simply ran out of time.

This presentation was my first opportunity to discuss what I do with a community of people I've known for a long time. My intent was to garner feedback that will go into making this presentation more useful and focused - not just for me, of course, but for anyone looking to share the IBM social business story. A couple of points that emerged from the audience discussion - 1) the cultural change to support working in the open is really hard and 2) metrics, while clearly important to garnering organizational support, can drive the wrong behaviors. I'm very conscious of both of these - the first is why my new team is comprised primarily of change management consultants who have been producing coaching programs, reference blueprints, example use cases, and more foundational business tools; the second is why I am proceeding methodically through the process of determining what metrics matter in terms of internal adoption. You'll see a few slides in the presentation with examples of ways to measure social business success. We have some great stories internally, but many are not quantified nor even as well-documented as I would like; in the coming weeks I am adding staff to help with this aspect of our journey.

I expect that this presentation will evolve rapidly; I'm still meeting key people relevant to my new job and establishing our team activities for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015. I'll be presenting regular updates externally, leading up to IBM ConnectED 2015, which is not named after me, but is an event I will indeed be participating at. It's different not to be "selling" a product or service anymore, though obviously my entire mission is about "drinking our own champagne." In case it isn't clear, I'm very excited to be back in the social arena, back among people I've worked with and respected for a long time, and focused on a transformative part of IBM. Looking forward to getting back into external blogging as well - thank you to those this week who have encouraged me to find my way back here.

Earlier today, it was announced internally at IBM that I have taken on a new role. I am moving into our corporate organization as Vice President, Social Business Transformation. In this position, my team and I are responsible for advancing IBM's maturity as a social business, and continuing the development of a culture of participation.

My predecessor in this role, Bethann Cregg, has left some pretty large shoes to fill. Several programs and tools are in place in IBM today to help our employees reach the right experts, engage more directly with our clients, and convert knowledge into action. IBM is viewed by many as a benchmark for organizational change, presenting an exciting yet challenging opportunity. My goal is to move us ahead quickly on the maturity curve--from social business foundations to an environment where use of social business principles and tools becomes part of the daily fabric of the company, at all levels and job functions.

The last 18 months have been a period of fantastic growth and development as marketing director for IBM MobileFirst. Building IBM's position in the mobile enterprise market from a small collection of products and services into an integrated, market-leading solutions portfolio has been successful for the company, and also personally rewarding. I am eternally grateful to Kristen Lauria for bringing me into the marketing organization and having the confidence that my previous experience would translate into this success. Moving on today is the first time in 20 years at IBM that I feel like I am leaving a job in some ways unfinished -- having just hired the last addition to my team. While we have accomplished much together, there is still more to be done around creating mindshare for IBM, integrated solution portfolios, and developing an ecosystem around IBM's mobile technologies. I am very proud of the team that I am leaving behind, many of them friends as well as colleagues, and hope that they will continue on the road to market dominance.

Though I am just getting started, several aspects of my new role are particularly exciting. Clearly, I am coming back to my roots, in a job that is all about helping people collaborate. My calendar is already filling up with external speaking engagements, opportunities to demonstrate that a social business is about more than canned tweets and having a Facebook page. This is also my first role that has company-wide responsibility within IBM, and I am looking forward to learning more about the various divisions, functions, and geographies I've never encountered before. Many of the people I will be working with in this position have likewise been pioneers or early adopters of social business tools -- some of them coming out of Lotus heritage like me. It is good to have a team with shared ideals and objectives from the start.

Unsurprisingly, I expect to increase activity here on my blog and other social channels. I'm not sure you'll see me donning a yellow sweater, but the uniform seems familiar. I won't be pitching a product or service, but clearly it is important for IBM's own story to continue to surface externally. I expect to be connecting/reconnecting with many of the IBM social thought leaders out here in the open, as well as many of you as clients or partners. I look forward to your participation, and thank you for your support.

One other point to note: Timing is everything. Just a few weeks from now, I will be part of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team in Tainan, Taiwan. This three week assignment is an exciting opportunity to contribute to a real-world municipal problem as part of a volunteer team of IBM experts. It's going to be a busy summer, and I hope you'll stay tuned in here, on Twitter, the Smarter Cities Challenge blog, and for IBMers on my internal profile and blog as well.

In my last blog entry, I covered the announcement of the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge. The Watson Mobile Developer Challenge is designed to catalyze mobile developers to explore the opportunity around mobile cognitive computing - bringing the power of Watson to a smartphone or other mobile device. Entrants submit proposals for mobile apps, and the finalists - to be announced at IBM Impact 2014 - will receive access to IBM Interactive Studios experts and Watson APIs in order to bring their vision to reality.

In the 30 days since the Challenge was announced, there has been tremendous interest. The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge website has had over 90,000 visits, leading to over 5000 clickthroughs to submit a proposal. Because of this level of interest, submissions are still coming in - with two weeks to the (revised) deadline of April 14.

What makes a good entry for the Challenge? Here are some ideas on the WatsonDev blog:

A good interaction pattern with Watson will exploit the volume, veracity and variety of content to leverage evidence based insights with weighted confidence.  A strong use case will take advantage of deep natural language processing and benefit from a continuously learning system, while providing transparency into the source of information.  Applications can transform the user experience with contextual relevance and active dialoging.

Submissions so far have come from everywhere - all over the world, and from a range of entities - individual developers, system integrators, venture capitalists, IBMers, and even corporations. But I only recognize one name in the whole list, which means regular blog readers haven't yet jumped on this opportunity. Hope you'll take a look and brainstorm some ideas - it would be great to have some familiar faces among the finalists.

Link: The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge >

Image:Time running out to enter the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty delivered the Wednesday keynote last week at Mobile World Congress. The speech was wide-ranging and covered a number of key thoughts around data, cloud, and engagement as the three major trends in enterprise technology that will change the way we work. At the conclusion of her speech, Rometty announced the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, and nominations are now open.

What is the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge?

The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge will encourage developers around the world to build sophisticated cognitive apps that can change the way consumers and businesses interact with data on their mobile devices. Through this initiative, mobile developers can take advantage of Watson’s ability to understand the complexities of human language, "read" millions of pages of data in seconds and improve its own performance by learning. 
Over the next three months, the global challenge invites mobile developers and entrepreneurs to share their best ideas to build and develop mobile apps into prototypes. Three winners will join the Watson Ecosystem Program.  The winners will work with IBM's recently launched global consulting practice, IBM Interactive Experience to receive design consulting and support from IBM experts to develop a viable commercial app.
Between now and March 31, developers and organizations that wish to compete can submit their proposals. In late April at IBM Impact 2014, we'll name finalists, and over the subsequent three weeks those finalists will get busy coding. The winner will be announced May 31.

Rometty's announcement received tons of press coverage around the world, recognizing the importance of her presence at Mobile World Congress 2014 and IBM's leadership in enterprise mobility:

BBC: IBM seeks app developers to harness Watson: "To date, more than 1,500 individuals and organisations have been in touch to suggest apps. Three intend to go to market this year, including an app to transform how consumers shop and one to help hospitals better procure devices. .... Other potential Watson-powered mobile apps could include medical ones to help doctors and patients sift through vast amounts of data. ... Already Watson is being used by doctors and nurses at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, to help make decisions about lung cancer treatment at the hospital.", MWC: IBM pushes Watson to mobile developers: "Rometty said companies will need the advanced analytics tools offered by Watson to deal with the disruptive effects of mobile, cloud and big data technologies. "We're currently going through an exciting but disruptive period within the enterprise and there are key shifts that are changing and reshaping the technology industry. To me data is the world's next natural resource. We will look back on this time and we will look at data as the resource that powered the twenty-first century," she said. "We at IBM look forward and see data will be the basis of competitive advantage for every company. It will decide the winners and the losers. Everyone can say they're a data business, but what will decide the future is how companies use data.""

Mobile World Congress 2014 was an exciting and successful week for IBM MobileFirst. We announced a mobile cloud platform, Codename: Bluemix; acquisition of Cloudant; the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, and several client testimonials. Our events and activities at the conference were well-received and we met a lot of quality clients and prospects. You can find highlights on our YouTube channel and website news page. Thanks to all of you who stopped by the IBM booth or our mini-conference to connect while in Barcelona. A very useful event indeed.


Today is a busy day for IBM MobileFirst.

We started the day here in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress, a conference with 80,000 attendees from all over the world. IBM's presence at Mobile World Congress (#IBMMWC) starts with a magnificent trade show booth, continues with hundreds of meetings, accelerates with a 1/2 day mini-conference Tuesday afternoon, and culminates with a keynote from CEO and Chairman Ginni Rometty on Wednesday evening.

I've heard all the stories about MWC, which is 2nd only to CeBIT in terms of size of a European technology show, but being here is a whole different thing. The Fira Barcelona is almost a mile long, and the show continues throughout every one of eight buildings. I logged nearly 20,000 FitBit steps yesterday without any workout, or even really any sightseeing. There appear to be over 200 IBMers here, plus some recent acquisitions like The Now Factory and MaaS360 by Fiberlink, and we have several speakers throughout the week including Andrew Grill and those in our own 1/2 day conference - IBM GM Marie Wieck, IBM GM Rich Esposito, IBM Global Business Services partner Kevin Custis, and Fiberlink CEO Jim Sheward.

Meanwhile half a world away, in Las Vegas, IBM is holding the annual Pulse conference, which has become our premier cloud event. And today at Pulse, we are announcing the public beta of Codename "Bluemix", the new IBM cloud developer platform. From the individual developer to the VP of apps, aBluemix is an ideal cloud platform-as-a-service environment for building, deploying, and managing web and mobile apps. Both IBM and our partners are delivering modular cloud services for typical app use cases of today: integration, data management, DevOps, analytics, and more.

If you're a developer, you will now have a hand in creating the future. Codename: BlueMix offers you all the instant services, runtimes, and infrastructure you need to push your ideas into the present.

"Bluemix" is one of the key remaining pieces of the equation for IBM's mobile enterprise story. In the year that I have been part of this organization, what I've heard is that IBM Worklight is the best Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) in the industry. That's ideal if you are in a position to be adopting a platform. But say you are a power user in line-of-business - can you adopt and deploy the Worklight environment? It's a bigger thing. This is where mobile cloud services come into play; a developer of one can get started in a matter of minutes with building an app, from predefined capabilities through to straight coding.

Our intent with "Bluemix" is to compete and win in the mobile app platform market in the broadest possible way. You'll see us do things different for "Bluemix" - very different - than the way IBM usually has approached developers. We anticipate you'll find out about "Bluemix" on StackOverflow or GitHub or meetups or atypical (e.g. non-IBM) conferences. Delivery is integrated into the service, hosted on IBM Softlayer, so local market hybrid cloud deployment is straightforward. And of course, it's an infinitely flexible environment, so new capabilities, services, and partners will continually be added.

There's lots more news from IBM Mobile coming this week; I'll be blogging and Tweeting along as additional announcements make their way into public visibility. There's something for everyone, so stay tuned :-)

I'm on my way home from my 18th trip to Orlando in January, leaving behind friends and memories from IBM Connect 2014. This was my first time at the event outside of the brand/division running it, and it definitely felt a little bit different. I didn't know what was being announced or previewed in the general sessions, had no dog of my own in the hunt. Of course, I continue to be enthusiastic about IBM's Collaboration Solutions, but I watched from the perspective more of an alumnus with far less of the emotional attachment. Thank you to those of you on Twitter and in hallways who wished for our collective prior experience, where I would blog about those announcements with summary and clarity. It's just not my expertise anymore. IBM "Mail next" looks pretty exciting, and I am pleased to see that what started in a small conference room in our labs back many months ago has taken shape rather nicely into a compelling design and user experience.

What I did do at this conference was speak, exhibit, and meet. IBM MobileFirst had a significant presence in the product showcase, with our product managers, marketing, and sales team staffing a quadrant of the social/mobile/cloud/big data strategic center of the show floor. Those that visited had the opportunity to speak to us about Worklight, Fiberlink MaaS360, Tealeaf CX Mobile, IBM Interactive, our Global Technology Services mobility offerings, and several other offerings. Right in the middle of the show floor was a Range Rover demonstrating the concept of the "Connected Car," featuring IBM MessageSight technology to provide instantaneous response to mobile device-based control of heating, entertainment, and other in-car features. Cool stuff.

David Marshak and I spoke yesterday at the conference, providing an overview of the IBM MobileFirst portfolio and solutions. I was pleased that I knew very few people in the room. The whole point of taking mobile to Connect was to reach new audiences, and it appears we were successful at that. There was also a Worklight + Domino/Notes session going on at the same time from Mat Newman, so attendees could get the strategic or tactical point of view.

Offline from the session and exhibition, my team and I participated in about a dozen meetings with clients and partners. These were good discussions that validated where we are at in the market with products like Worklight, and opportunities to continue to expand their reach in 2014 and beyond. We also seem to be progressing in awareness and consideration in the market, though the question "what does IBM do in mobile" is still fairly common. During 2014 we will continue to push MobileFirst in places where we aren't anticipated, growing overall awareness of our solutions on both the software and services side. We'll have some new announcements next month to help expand the reach of the technology, too.

Of course Connect is a conference on familiar turf, so it was great to spend time catching up with so many clients, partners, and IBMers who have been part of my journey. I made a few more Fitbit friends, and received so many kind words about what a difference a year makes. Thank you all for continuing to connect on the human level. That's what makes this conference unique.

I get to go home for about ten days then on to Las Vegas for IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2014, then another short break before Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. From there, I am hoping to get to Japan and help accelerate our mobile story in that market. Impact 2014 is around the corner at the end of April, too, and that conference will be heavily focused on IBM's mobile enterprise solutions. Good thing we have them - because I'm going to be mobile a lot in the next three months :-)

What a difference a year makes.

It's just over a week away from the start of IBM Connect 2014. Though this will be my 18th time in Orlando in January, my agenda is a bit different this time. My friend David Marshak and I are presenting SB303: The Mobile Enterprise: Business In Motion with IBM MobileFirst on Wednesday, January 29, at 3 PM in Dolphin S. Hemisphere III. It'll be a great session; our goal is to give an overview of all the mobile enterprise tools and capabilities available in the IBM portfolio. Basically, a peek into what I've been working on since I left Connect 2013's Ask the Product Managers session. Other than that, no sessions for me. I'll be in the product showcase at the MobileFirst stand from time to time; I have about a dozen partner meetings lined up as well and at this point my calendar is surprisingly full! Still, I am hopeful this Connect will be an opportunity for a different pace, some hallway conversations, and perhaps more than one round of sushi at Kimono's.

Two weeks after Connect is IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2014, February 10-13 in Las Vegas. My boss, some of my team and I will be there to talk MobileFirst with channel partners and prospects. If you are attending, please let me know so we can get together.

Then to round out an intense early year conference circuit, two weeks after that is the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona. This is the second-biggest technology trade show in Europe, and a very important event for IBM MobileFirst. IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty is a keynote speaker, and we will be sponsoring a half-day mini-conference during the week as well. Just starting to work on meeting plans for this event now.

I look forward to seeing many of my long-time contacts, colleagues, and friends at these events. IBM MobileFirst has established leadership in several segments of the mobile enterprise market, and at these events we will be discussing plans to continue this momentum in 2014. I hope to see you there, at least at one of these :-)