Business view: From weak social networks to real social system power

Joachim Heinz


A system is a great thing. I love to think in systems. Systems can be small – for example a coffee-machine. You put water and coffee-powder in. Some seconds later fresh coffee comes out. Systems can be huge – the weather is a system too. Well there are many more inputs than a coffee machine needs, but there is also an output – rain, sunshine, fog, storm.

Companies are a system too. There is a lot of input (customer demands, markets, raw material etc). Then the company is adding value (hopefully…). The output of the company is a great product or service that customers can buy. If the customer does not buy the stuff, the system dies and will be replaced by another system. Simple but true this theory is.

Let´s stay with the business perspective. There is a big challenge upcoming for every business: The world changes faster than ever, driven by global networks and global communication. The result is a business environment that is something like a brain. So companies now need to connect with that brain. That is very difficult if your company is set up as hierarchical machine. Or even worse: If your company is set up as a command-and-control like “stone”. This structure cannot be connected with a brain – neither on input- nor on output-side.

Männer im ZahnradSo the question is – how can you transform your machine-like setup of your company into a vibrating brain-like network, which is able to react very fast to “input” from the fast-changing markets and build output, that makes your connected customers cheer out loud?

So your company is a machine, and this is as said a system. Your company is made of your associates, managers, processes, guidelines, organization and technology. Maybe there are some more parts of the machine, but these are the main building blocks. And the oil for this machine is communication – restrictive top-down, with the function of oil where needed on the machine and hidden in millions of emails and documents on restricted and thus useless (internal!) shares.

In order to change and improve things, for the last 10 years more and more companies invested a lot of money in social networks to improve their internal collaboration. Companies tried to achieve more transparency and very often failed. They asked for internal crowd sourcing, but internal structures blocked good ideas. Today it seems that technology won´t help alone.


Business TechnologyLet´s have a again a look at the system. IT technology is only one out of six building blocks of your company. You need to transform the other five building blocks too; otherwise the power of the social network just has no chance to raise. As we talk of the six building blocks associates, managers, guidelines, organization, processes and IT – you now understand, why it is so hard and challenging to become a real social, connected company. Because you need to address all the other parts, too. We talk of an operation on the open heart.

So what are the advantages in case you achieve to transform your company into a modern, networked and social organization? The biggest advantage: Your company will survive. Don´t laugh at me – heavyweights like Kodak and Nokia did not transform and now they are gone – in no time!

But there are much more advantages of becoming a connected company: Associates with responsibilities will show a greater engagement. Transparent communication enables transparent knowledge access. Self-organizing teams speed up collaboration. And guidelines which foster trust shorten decision times. Isn´t that a terrific place to work at? Yes! So start today to build your social system and release the power of networks in your company.

About technology, socbiz trends and a dream – my summary of the IBM Connect 2014

Joachim Heinz


Again I am travelling to Orlando. Again IBM runs the big conference on social business and related stuff. And again I learned a lot about new technologies, built new contacts and worked on new ideas. But something made me think. It is about the dream that I work for. So let´s jump into the plane and lift off to Florida.


Before we dive into the learning of this year’s conference, let´s have a look on the general opening session. With this session in the early morning, IBM kicks off the conference. The American Authors – a young but already famous group in US – rocked the stage at eight o´clock in the morning. I wonder whether those guys were booked with an early bird discount.


One of the first eye catchers was the conference slogan itself. It was interesting to see how IBM begins to move away from the term “social business”. Maybe they have seen too that this term is also used in a completely different way? Or they see that “social” is connected with “Facebook” in too many top manager brains due to the early days where “social” was the idea of using Web2.0 technology which was misunderstood as “Facebook to run the company”? So IBM called the conference vision “Energizing life´s work” and I like this sentence. It is more focused on people and about the power and business value of “social” and does not touch the “Facebook” button inside top managers’ heads.

So for 2014 I had three big to-dos on my conference activity list:

  • Learn about social technology news and strategies
  • Connect to other companies which go social
  • Run my presentation

News about technology

What have I learned about IBMs strategy for social technologies in the next years? Two activities are interesting.

The core idea of IBM for future social tools from users point of view seems to melt down the information overload by bringing together main communication paths like mail and social together on one dashboard. And to achieve this, IBM announced whith this core capability of the dashboard. The blog entries from digitalnaiv and CMSwire dive deeper into that topic.

Second one is the long-term view of analytics and the new Watson foundations. There was a slide (also can seen in the blog post of digitalnaiv) where big-data services may be run by Watson foundation. So I am not an expert here but Watson is the “computer” who is able to win Jeopardy and chess games because he works “cognitive”. That´s quite interesting and looking on the entire stack in that blog post, it seems as IBM builds something like an operating system for networked companies.

What do the others do?

The second big to-do was to meet many other leaders of social business (ehm?) programs of other companies and exchange with their activities and challenges. And I did my best to talk to as many as possible people. Well, many of them asked me to keep their exchange confidential, so I am not able to spread my learnings here transparently. But trying to summarize the activities I think I can see the following trends:

  • All companies who are in a “mature” stage meaning using social networks for +2-3 years are now in front of a big challenge: What is the business case of this activity? And with business case I mean business case. Which additional earnings or savings does a company have by becoming social? I see that the answer to this question will be one of the big challenges the next years.
  • Most of the companies I spoke at least understood that becoming “social” is way more than rolling out technology. There are already many companies that run activites to shift their leadership or even tune their company values.
  • On technology side more and more companies focus more on IT integration of the social platform. That is good news, because a good IT integration is a prerequisite to a good user adoption.

All-in-all I saw a growing awareness in the fact that “going social” is not a funky idea any more but becomes a serious business driver. But the question of the business case needs to be answered, otherwise this topic may get in trouble.

Being on stage

IBM_2014_speakerreadyMy third big activity was my presentation of the social business program of Bosch, the company that I work for. I was quite a little bit nervous because for this presentation I build an entire new slide deck. But all-in-all, it worked well and I had great fun with the audience (and hopefully the audience with me, too :-)).


The dream

IBM_Connect_2014_WorklifeSo times went by very fast. Many conversations done, great ideas collected. Then I had this one moment of AHA. It was short before I left the conference. I wondered the whole days what the slogan “Energizing life´s work” may mean to me. And then I stumbled upon this poster:

Ouch, this made me think – think very hard. And I thought about the dream that I work for. Since many years I dream of a company where people run processes, not the other way round. I dream of a company that sees the human as potential, not as a resource. I dream of a company that gives the associates the groundwork to develop themselves best. I am convinced that this is the meaning of “social business”. And this is my big dream.

Thanks, conference trip, to make me again aware of this.


Update: My summary on of this presentation is ready.

Why open communication is key success factor for social business

Joachim Heinz


Communication matters – seems to be a simple truth, but by entering social business communication is brought to a complete new level. Why?

Lets paint an easy picture to make clear where the point is.

ImaginDripping crude oile a traditional company with a traditional hierarchical setup. For communication you have eMail and, in case the company is an advanced one, something like an intranet. And of course a static internet websites. Driving internal communication follows a simple rule – comands are given top down via eMail, daily work is done in the same style. Thats it. Communication habits always follow company culture. In case of a traditional culture, communication is like oil for a machine – only put exactly there where neccessary. Normally this fits to a company culture where information often is locked away.


man pushing interface But with social business, the culture hopefully shifts towards a network. And so tools for communication and collaboration do, too. Now lets imagine a social business as being a     huge brain. Every employee and leader being a brain node. And communication being not sparsely used oil anymore – but highly used neurotransmitters. Simply: brain fuel. And for this brain fuel there needs to be a new principle in place – transparency. Without the clear statement towards more transparency from top management, the brain has no communication fuel.  But if teams learn to share information more open, the brain begins to works. Then a social network makes sense, otherwise not.


Pics: 1/© peshkova – 2/© valdis torms –


Heading for this years IBM Connect conference

Joachim Heinz


AirplanesWhat makes me traveling to US in January? Frank Sinatra telling me “Come fly with me”? Maybe the nice weather in Florida? Hmm, makes decision easier. But in fact, it is the annual conference from IBM on Social Business that makes me moving across the world. On the one side, it’s the topic social business that drives my job (link to, and on the other side, at Bosch we use IBM Connections as technical base for social business (German article available only).

This year, I used the first time the IBM social conference app on my Android to set up the agenda for the next 5 days. It´s a nice app that allowed me to scroll through all streams of the conference and pick out the topics I’m interested in. Here´s a small selection:


–       Safe Social: How to ensure governance, compliance and ediscovery (Track 1 Smarter Workforce)

–       Become a Social Business: Leverage user adoption though gamification (Track 7 Best Practise)

–       Adoption Success Factors: The middle managers dilemma (Track 1 Social Buiness insights and innovations

My complete agenda is being synchronized with their social networking platform, where I can easily see other attendees and connect to them.

Besides those topics there will be a party – ahem – meeting from all German-based conference attendees, it will be on Wednesday evening at the pool area. I hope that I can meet some interesting contacts there.

Of course, I’m looking forward for my personal highlight, the upcoming keynote session on Monday morning. You should tune in the webcast; I think there might be some surprises 🙂

There´s a cool blog-entry from Andy´s House-o-blog, who gives you the right hints to survive this week.

And on Friday, I fly home with Frank Sinatra, maybe then he tells me “Summer Wind” while leaving warm and nice Florida.

4 rumors that should make you move your business to social

Joachim Heinz


Croissance d'une pâquerette, fond nature et soleilHaving a look back to the past years, I tried to collect the typical rumors and signs that raise in a company regarding the request of internal social networks.I tried to make a small list. If you are a manager or leader in your company, try to listen and act fast.

Rumor 1 – Call for internal Facebook!

Listen carefully to your teams and associates. While Facebook has hundreds of millions of users, Facebook gets “normal”. More and more people get used to Facebook, some see the benefits and begin to ask inside the company for a solution “like Facebook”. But don´t walk the wrong path – The say Facebook but they mean networking, openeness and more transparency.

Rumor 2 – Web2.0 Submarines

Have a look into IT systems or watch for web2.0 submarines – if your company is not that small, I´m sure you will find a wiki-server or something else. Small and very effective powered by enthusiasts. Don´t kill those initiatives – take them serious and make them a company-wide solution.

Rumor 3 – Ideas, ideas, ideas

If your company has an idea management, just have a look into it. I´m very sure, that there will be ideas related to web2.0, wikis, blogs or social networks. Be aware – even a small idea may catch company-wide effects.

Rumor 4 – The eMail-flood and info overload

Just listen carefully to your associates – do they complain about the email-flood or information overload in your area? Then do not wait, act. Think about about a social solution and care for your team or company.

According to those rumors, I calculated a small social-alarm-o-meter:

  • If you identify 1 rumor, you may have some time to act. Location maybe your team. You need only a small budget.
  • If you identify 2 rumors, you should sit down and begin to make a plan for your branch. You might have a talk with your boss and begin to collect resources. Don´t wait!
  • If you identify 3 rumors, trigger official processes and have a call with your boss immediately – your company wants social, so hurry up!
  • If you identify all 4 rumors, skip your boss, call the CEO, and prepare for your next job – driving your company towards social!

You think I make just jokes? Then, begin to listen to your associates – I bet, you collect one rumor in less than 1 hour 🙂