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What's trending inside the firewall? IBM Connections adds internal social analytics

IBM updates IBM Connections with internal social analytics capabilities, allowing enterprises to monitor trends in staff communication, collaboration.

Enterprises have known for years that social analytics and social media monitoring tools offer invaluable information on what's trending in the social media world, but enterprise executives are now beginning to wonder about internal feedback.

Just as monitoring consumer feedback on social media sites -- like Facebook and Twitter -- has been an important way for enterprises to stay on top of their customers' concerns, social analytics built into social business tools can help enterprises quickly react to information and data being generated internally. Enterprise social media platforms and applications have streamlined communication and collaboration among different groups of employees across geographically disparate offices. Now social analytics can streamline how enterprises monitor trends in that collaboration.

Social analytics bolster internal communication, collaboration

IBM Connections 4.0, the newest version of IBM's enterprise social networking platform, offers new mobile and social analytics capabilities.

"Customers want to know what is trending inside their business, what employees are talking about that may not have been anticipated, and what projects and activities are getting a lot of input," said Ed Brill, director of IBM collaboration solutions.

LeasePlan, a Dutch fleet management and leasing company, has been using IBM Connections across its global office locations for the past year, and relies heavily on social analytics capabilities, said Wim de Gier, senior global project manager for LeasePlan. By monitoring internal communication and collaboration, the platform has helped LeasePlan bring the right employees and expertise into projects and meetings.

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"Our corporate conversation department has a team that monitors what is going on and what's being discussed inside the platform using the social analytics piece," de Gier said.

"Our [employees] can post a project within [IBM Connections] and then other employees can weigh-in with their comments and start working together with the best ideas -- not just the ideas of individuals that the employee might think has the most expertise around that particular data," he said.

In today's distributed enterprise setting, finding the right data or expertise can be a challenge for employees.

"The right person to talk to for a project might be halfway across the world -- but that's where the communities, forums and wikis come into play," said Melanie Turek, vice president of research at San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc.

Keeping the right information and expertise across a distributed enterprise is crucial for internal collaboration efforts, and IBM Connections can bring pertinent information to the user in the moment in time they are working on a particular project, IBM's Brill noted.

"If [a user] is working on a file, they can quickly start a chat with the owner of the file and see [emails] related to [the] file," he said. At the same time, executives can see what communities or employees are paying attention to that file, he added.

Social analytics: Creating a self-aware enterprise

By tying social analytics capabilities for monitoring internal communications into IBM Connections, IBM offers enterprises something other social software competitors cannot, noted Jim Lundy, CEO and founder of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Aragon Research Inc.

"Social analytics is the holy grail for the enterprise," Lundy said. The feature provides not only valuable insight into how users are connecting with content, but also how employees are doing with their work.

Enterprises have traditionally focused on data quality, but very little emphasis is placed on the human aspect. The social analytics aspect built into IBM Connections can allow enterprises to identify both high-performing employees and those that may benefit from more guidance and training, he said.

While end users have an opportunity to become more productive with easier access to contextual information, business managers and executives can now easily slice out information pertinent to their communities or social networks.

Social analytics allows executives and managers to identify both opportunities and threats within their own departments -- from the employee sentiment to potentially profitable new project ideas generated by employees, said Brad Shimmin, principal analyst at Washington, D.C.-based Current Analysis Inc.

"There is a lot of lost knowledge within the enterprise that can be recaptured with social analytics -- like if there are grumblings among employees around a particular topic, it would be nice for HR to know," Shimmin said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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