Information Week: SJSU & IBM Provide Students Real World Social Business Experience

IBM, San Jose State Team On Social Business 101

IBM-sponsored program lets San Jose State University students practice social software strategy.

Posted by Information Week Jan. 11, 2012.

By David F. Carr

San Jose State University students are getting a crash course in social business, thanks to a partnership with IBM.

The program is part of IBM’s “The Great Mind Challenge,” a global academic initiative focused on providing students with an opportunity to develop their collaboration and problem-solving skills while working on real-world business challenges.

In this case, the challenge was provided by GBS, an IBM business partner that has traditionally focused on Lotus Notes applications consulting, with a growing social business practice. GBS presented a social business framework it had developed and asked the students to critique and refine it.

Professor Larry Gee, who teaches in the Management Information Systems program of the College of Business, put together a group of 76 students, who broke into 24 teams, each of which was responsible for developing a feasibility study and presenting it to the consulting firm by the end of the Fall semester. In addition to students from his own MIS strategic management course, Gee involved graduate students from the school’s biotechnology program to provide “cross-pollination” between business, science, and computer science.

“The challenge was creating a framework to utilize various social media tools out there so the organization can use them effectively,” Gee said.

“In 2012, I’m planning to do something very similar–a practicum, where students are doing something of value, not reading a 30-page case study,” Gee added. GBS has agreed to keep working with the school because “they liked what they saw,” he said.

IBM says the program is designed to help students:

— understand the tenets of a smarter social business through the use of social networking software.

— build business skills and real-world experience by assessing the social business capabilities and business challenges of an IBM partner organization.

— develop teamwork and collaboration skills.

The IBM developerWorks community website served as the social collaboration environment for the project.

Gee said students tend to come into the program thinking “we’re doing this already,” because of their experience with consumer social networks, and must learn that “these are separate entities, social tools for business.”

In a video testimonial for the program, one student expresses surprise at learning that social media could function as a business tool. “Really, this is a complete blind spot,” he said. Another added, “I always thought it was more of an entertainment kind of tool, but now I’m strategizing for how businesses can use it productively.”

One student, who recently secured a job, reports, “I applied some of the things I learned in this class to the interview, and I think that’s what really landed me the job.” She also complains about the number of emails she receives that consist of one sentence or one word–messages that could be more easily managed in a social activity stream.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard