Automation World

Automation World Nov 2011

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Social media isn't just for personal use any more. Businesses of all kinds, particularly manufacturers, are looking to leverage social media types of connections for easier access to needed expertise, business intelligence insights and new product ideas. By David Greenfield, Media & Events Director As the use of social media applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter become more preva- lent, the business world is furiously trying to figure out ways to leverage the interpersonal connections inherent in social media. The problem with joining these two worlds is that most people prefer to keep their social media lives separate from their business exploits. But, as people spend more and more time with social media as part of their regular online activities, the wall separating our business and personal lives is disintegrating. Evidence of increased business interest in this disintermediation can be seen in IBM's focus on social business. IBM recently started adding IBM experts to various Web pages on its site to bolster interaction. According to IBM in a recent this addition of experts to its Web site has "dramatically improved page performance and revealed increased confidence and trust in IBM in focus groups." IBM is looking to leverage social media interaction into its busi- ness process because it sees the use of e-mail chains decreasing. Ethan McCarty, senior manager of digital and social strategy at IBM, contends that email is "anti-social" and that a social busi- ness "needs to employ more collaborative digital work tools that are asynchronous, enabling a geographically dispersed team to do great work together." Business benefits For manufacturers, the principal driver behind the move toward greater incorporation of social media for collaborative business processes is access to expertise. The need for information, and people's general willingness to share it with those to whom they are connected, are behind three major trends driving the use of social media for business benefit. Those three trends are: l Ease of connection with experts who can answer difficult questions when needed; l Added layer of expertise for business intelligence; and l Connections with end users as sources of new product/process ideas. For several years now, manufacturers have been lamenting the ongoing brain drain of engineering expertise as older engineers retire and fewer new engineers are adequately mentored to take on the roles held by their predecessors. To help bridge this knowledge blog post, gap, some industrial companies are beginning to leverage social media approaches to connect their scattered resources. The need for easy access to experienced expertise is especially acute in the energy industries. According to Booz Allen Hamilton, there are only 1,700 people studying petroleum engineering in 17 U.S. universities, compared with more than 11,000 in 34 universi- ties in 1993. To understand how this is impacting energy compa- nies, consider Saudi Aramco, the state-owned national oil company of Saudi Arabia. Half of Saudi Aramco's workforce is less than 30 years of age and more than 60 percent of its engineers have fewer than 10 years of experience. Oil industry out front One example of an energy company using new connection tech- nologies to alleviate this issue is Baker Hughes, a Houston, Tex.- based company that provides reservoir consulting, drilling, pressure pumping, formation evaluation, completion, and production prod- ucts and services to the global oil and gas industry. The company has started using Cisco Pulse from San Jose, Calif. networking products manufacturer Cisco Systems to connect its experts with its well sites around the world. Unlike traditional business directories and expert locators that require manual updates, Cisco Pulse includes tagging features, enabling it to automatically collect key terms and analyze busi- ness content shared across a company's intranet. This system can dynamically rank users and the information they contribute for each tag, and even suggest updates for users' profiles. Information on someone in the system can also be linked to social media sites such as LinkedIn to further enhance the data on that individual. Leveraging this tagging capability, Pulse provides a combination of human expertise identification, knowledge capture and locator services. Users can share their backgrounds, highlight areas of experience, and provide contact information through their pro- files. The system imports role and contact data from the corporate e-mail database. To find an expert in the system, users can search by keywords to retrieve a list of relevant experts. These searches can also be refined by role, group or location to see who is currently available to engage with on a particular issue. When integrated with Cisco's connec- tion technologies such as Unified Communications, TelePresence November 2011 l Automation World 43 F ast Co mpan y

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