As companies adopt new tools to help turn themselves into social businesses, why not build on the digital tool everyone already uses -- email? That’s the question IBM must have been asking, and this week it announced “the industry’s first fully integrated social mail solution.” 

The idea is to wrap the social experience around emailing, so that email becomes a core component of the IBM social business platform, along with knowledge sharing and teamwork tools. The additional capabilities are delivered through IBM Notes and Domino Social Edition 9, either on-premises, in the IBM SmartCloud or through a hybrid deployment.

Activity Streams, File Sharing

IBM gave the example use case of an employee who, in the course of working on a new marketing project can check email and then, in the same space, see activity streams from each team member, share files or view news project-related blogs -- all from any computer or mobile device, including the iPhone, or devices running Windows Phone, Android or BlackBerry 10.

The social business platform also includes analytics and social content management. A social connector to IBM’s platform can provide companies using Microsoft Outlook with the ability to share files, participate in communities and employ other social capabilities.

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From the IBM Social Business site

In its announcement, IBM cited the experience of Chicago-based exhibit marketer Czarnowski. That company’s IT director, John Roling, said in a statement that “the ability to integrate our critical business processes directly into our email platform can allow users to be more productive in the one tool where they spend a majority of their day.”

Learning Opportunities

He added that email is not dead, but is the preferred way for communication between Czarnowski and its customers.

Building the Groundwork for the Social Enterprise

IBM’s new email-oriented social business platform is the latest in the company’s considerable and venerable enterprise-oriented social enterprise efforts that extend back two decades. Big Blue notes that over 50 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have licensed its social software.

In November, IBM released a report, “The Business of Social Business: What Works and How It’s Done,” that found 46 percent of organizations surveyed had increased their spending on social technologies -- but only 22 percent thought their management was prepared to use the tools.

To stimulate greater adoption, the report urged a cultural shift inside organizations that is built from “basic groundwork” involving a social infrastructure of forums, teamrooms and collaborative spaces that are integrated into daily work. But, by building social functions around the most heavily used tool, email, IBM could be laying its own groundwork for a cultural shift.