IBM was keen to push the corporate benefits of social media at its Impact 2009 user conference, unveiling a new virtual learning product and training programmes around technologies such as Twitter, as well as making use of social tools throughout the event to share information.
The key social media product announcement at the Las Vegas show was the launch of Innov8 2.0, IBM's virtual training tool which forms part of the firm's 'serious game' portfolio.
The first release of Innov8 was aimed at universities wanting to train students in the disciplines of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM) technology, and was distributed via CD.
The new version, officially launched on Tuesday, is a web-based tool that has been opened up to IBM's business partners and customers who want to use it to train their staff in industry best practice.
"The number one inhibitor to SOA and BPM is skills, not the technology," said Sandy Carter, vice president for IBM SOA & WebSphere marketing, strategy and channels. "That's why we decided to educate the market, so Innov8 is free. We're taking a page out of Apple's book, when they put their computers in schools so people would be familiar with them."
Innov8 2.0 adds two new programmes. Along with the original Smart Customer Service module, users can now test their skills in Smart Supply Chain and Smart Traffic Flow. IBM has also added a leader board to highlight the top-scoring users.
So far, 100 universities are using Innov8 as their full curriculum, according to Carter, while a further 1,000 are using it within their courses. Current users include the University of Manchester and MIT. Global insurance provider Farmers Insurance was announced at Impact 2009 as one of the first business customers for the new version.
Certain elements are lacking in Innov8 2.0, however. These include additional language support, the ability for firms to add their own scenarios to the training programmes, and multi-player options. Carter said that all these areas are being looked at and should be included in a future Innov8 3.0 release.
Elsewhere at the show, IBM had sessions on offer to train delegates on using social media for business purposes, as well as offering incentives to encourage attendees to make use of the tools during the event.
"We're the first vendor to release social media training and tools to our partners to teach them how to leverage tools such as Flickr and blogging," said Carter. "We'll also cover search engine optimisation, helping them to get better hits."
IBM awarded delegates points for different social media activities, for example posting Impact photos online, publishing videos from the show on YouTube or Tweeting with an IBM Impact hash tag. The highest scorer will win a free ticket back to Impact next year.
Carter, who is clearly a major ambassador for all things social within IBM, was also excited to announce that 'IBM Impact' had broken into the top 10 Twitter hash tags, with 782 Tweets on Monday alone, while 750 event pictures had been posted on the web by Tuesday.
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