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Social Business on System z

Collaborative efforts can benefit greatly from mainframe strengths

7/10/2013 1:01:01 AM | A presentation at SHARE San Francisco earlier this year referred to Linux on System z as the biggest no brainer around, in part, because it would handle social business. Of course, the presentation called out a lot more than just social business, but social has to be one of the sleeper applications to run on the System z. For most mainframe data center managers, social business is barely on the radar screen. Yet, it offers a rich collaboration and social environment—combined with security and the other strengths of System z.

Central to the social business experience on System z is IBM Connections, which IBM touts as a leading social software platform. It promises to enable organizations to engage the right people, accelerate innovation and deliver actual business results. And running on System z brings an integrated, security-rich platform that helps people engage with networks of experts in the context of critical business processes, whether pitching new business or solving a customer service problem.

In case you hadn’t noticed recently, social business—at least the way IBM does it on System z with Lotus Domino, IBM Connections and WebSphere—has moved far beyond what teenagers do on Facebook. Increasingly, social business is becoming the way to engage customers as never before.

Lowe’s, the giant home improvement retailer became an early adopter of social business. According to Chris Cassell, the company’s director of future planning, Lowe’s opted for IBM Connections to facilitate collaboration among its thousands of employees. To Cassell’s surprise, “the CEO has been one of the most active participants in the collaboration platform,” he noted at a conference last year. And what the CEO encouraged the troops to do using social media he called, “thinking out loud.” The Lowe’s experience shows what’s possible with social business although the longtime mainframe shop hasn’t involved its System z environment at this point.

The company took the CEO’s admonition to heart and initiated a process it called planning out loud via social business. The first project involved the deployment of iPhones to Lowe’s workforce. By presenting the upcoming deployment to employees in advance, the team received thousands of suggestions, some of which were incorporated in the deployment.

Next up was thinking out loud. This came about when Lowe’s IT team was preparing to roll out a new portal. Rather than huddle inside IT as had been its usual practice, the team posted mockups via social business and collected ideas from the rank and file. “The ideas helped us improve the new portal before the rollout, and it enabled higher adoption,” Cassell reported. Deploying out loud became yet another Lowe’s social initiative to facilitate the sharing of tips and insights among the company’s many sales associates.

When Lowe’s started down the social business road, Cassell expected the headquarters staff to be the biggest users of the social business tool. Then the team fired up IBM Connections, and the most usage came from the field, not HQ.

Few data centers are as far along the social business path a Lowe’s, but it clearly delivers value for the innovative retailer.

IBM Connections offers:

• IBM Lotus Domino on Linux on System z, a powerful mail and collaboration platform
• High availability and scalability
• Solid security
• Single point of management
• IBM Connections social software
• IBM Lotus Quickr for management of team and company content
• IBM WebSphere Portal for delivering powerful Web content and applications

IBM WebSphere in all its various incarnations—WebSphere Application Server, Process Server, Commerce, Portal—may give the System z the biggest social boost of all. It facilitates a broad range of interactions.

Where the traditional mainframe data center focuses on systems of record—the database, CRM, ERP and HR systems that revolve around transactions—social business focuses on systems of engagement. These are the systems that enable collaboration, stimulate innovation, and encourage interaction with customers, partners, employees and other stakeholders.

And with IBM WebSphere also comes Java. The IBM CICS Transaction Server for z/OS Value Unit Edition V5.1 brings a high-performance enterprise application server that facilitates CICS and Java workloads together, enabling new combinations of traditional and social/mobile applications. For example, it enables the creation of new CICS Java applications, including Servlets/JSP’s, rules-based, modern batch, SOA and mobile, and it comes with 64-bit Java 7 for maximum scalability.

If social business for collaboration and customer engagement doesn’t bring mainframe data centers to social business, it may be the drive for analytics. For now, most data for analytics is being pulled out of traditional mainframe systems of record, but that may be changing. “We’re doing a lot of analytics around customer data, mainly through Coremetrics and other applications,” says the IT director of a large online retail mainframe shop that just upgraded to a zEnterprise EC12. As he explained in a recent interview, the data is coming through the organization’s transaction systems and clickstream data. Now, his team is trying to figure out what more might they learn if they analyzed social sentiment data, too. That debate has just started.
Alan Radding is a Newton, Mass.-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology. Over the years his writing has appeared in a wide range of publications including the New York Times, CFO Magazine, CIO Magazine and Information Week. He can be reached through his Web site, http://technologywriter.com. - See more at: http://destinationz.org/Mainframe-Solution/Trends/Mainframe-Meets-MobileFirst.aspx#sthash.kpRgkRZv.dpuf

Alan Radding is a Newton, Mass.-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology. Over the years his writing has appeared in a wide range of publications including the New York Times, CFO Magazine, CIO Magazine and Information Week. He can be reached through his Web site, http://technologywriter.com.

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