This is the second part of my interview with Ethan McCarty, Senior Manager, Digital and Social Strategy at IBM. To read the first part of this interview, click here. After looking at IBM’s innovative Social Business @ IBM program in part one, we now turn our attention to IBM’s Expertise Locator initiative…
Rick Liebling: That perhaps is a great segue to talk about the Expertise Locator initiative. Tell me about that.
Ethan McCarty: Sure – we have deployed the first iteration of a webservice we call the Expertise Locator. The idea behind it is to have a system for identifying IBM experts on various topics and matching them up with the appropriate digital experiences. For example, if we have a mobile application or a web site that is all about cloud computing, then the IBM team that built that website could tap into the Expertise Locator web service to make the relevant experts show up in the context of that application or website based on business rules (such as the expert’s availability, languages spoken, location etc.)
In terms of engagement and results, we have more than 3,000 IBMers registered as experts within the system — the majority are being surfaced internally (on IBM’s intranet and within collaborative experiences) but a subset are being surfaced externally on ibm.com and on our centennial site. Through A/B testing we have found that pages with IBMers on them perform significantly better than those that do not have IBMers on them. For example, if we have a web page that is designed to get visitors to click deeper into our site, the presence of IBM experts on the page improves both the performance and the overall feedback we get about the page. It’s kind of no surprise — when we are transparent, people trust us and feel better about the experience. What was interesting to me is that this is even the case when they don’t interact directly with the IBMer on the page.
As I mentioned, the term “expert” itself can prove challenging but we’re evolving from providing an “IBM Digital Experience” to providing an “IBMer Digital Experience.” The Social Business @ IBM platform also allows us to say to our employees: “We see you engage with a lot of colleagues around topic ‘x’ or interact with a lot of documents covering topic ‘y.’ Are you an expert in that area?” This all occurs in an authenticated environment and allows us to then direct that expertise outwardly.
Rick Liebling: I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface here Ethan, but what would be the one take-away you’d want people to have regarding the idea of Social Business?
Ethan McCarty: Wow, there’s so much to say here…I guess to boil it down, social business is not just about participation in social media. It’s not just a matter of getting your company to have a
bunch of Twitter handles or Facebook pages. Rather, my point of view is that what has sprung up on the consumer side is just the tip of the iceberg. The real power to transform is on the business side. This is where a social framework can create new ways to enable sales forces, new ways to discover expertise, new ways to understand your organization’s culture, new ways to establish brand trust with your customers, and much more.