The Global Enterprise: Personal Branding Rules

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IBM has changed the rules for people working in cubes. This week, I’ve looked at the “global enterprise” approach that IBM is successfully executing and the impact that this approach to operations will have on all of us that work in cubes. The global enterprise approach radically changes how all of us in cubes will work.

When companies move their different functions to the cities and countries that best meet the company’s criteria for cost, talent, education, market proximity, and political stability, it means that people who are on teams will have team members across the globe.

Sure, the interactions between the team members will change. But a big question is this: how do you select team members for a project in the first place?

Well, IBM had the same issue and the result was creating new tools for employees and managers to use to help select the right person with the right skills for the work:

Big Blue is trying to bridge the gap with software that borrows heavily from social networking. A new program called Beehive is essentially a corporate version of Facebook. IBM employees create profiles and post photos, list their interests, and comment about company events or happenings in their private lives. Klaus Rindtorff, an engineer, lists his five favorite places to revisit, such as Death Valley, Calif., and includes photos of IBM colleagues in Germany, Italy, and the U.S.

Another program, called Small Blue, is a search engine for finding experts within the company. The software scans employees’ blogs, e-mail, instant messages, and reports, then draws conclusions about each participant’s skills and expertise. When other employees search by topic on Small Blue, the program scans its findings to get a list of experts. Currie Boyle, an IBM consultant in Vancouver, used Small Blue to find a specialist for a Canadian client. His initial search turned up people in the U.S. and Europe, who in turn led him to an IBM staffer in Haifa, Israel, who had just the information he needed to help his customer.

Last month, IBM introduced a version of Small Blue called IBM Atlas for sale to customers. The company is positioning itself as a helping hand to other corporations who are taking similar paths to globalization.

Yes — social networking software will be what drives how people perceive you and your work; how people will get to know and trust you in the absence of face-to-face communication.

In other words, what will secure the work for you will be your Personal Brand — your value proposition for being chosen to be on a team. It’s not just your resume and the work you’ve delivered — it’s your pictures, your interests, and your life that you present as your personal brand that will want people to work with you on their team.

One of the major challenges in this setup (global enterprise — Scot) is the difficulty of communicating by e-mail or even videoconferencing when programmers have never met one another. Strangers don’t readily share knowledge. “A big problem is trust,” says Dirk Wittkopp, director of IBM’s Boeblingen lab. “It works better if you can go out to dinner with somebody and have a beer. But we can’t put people on planes to visit each other all the time.”

Consequently, it’s our Personal Brand that will make the difference, helping us to stand out from others with similar skills so as to secure the work.

This global dimension of finding work inside your own company through social media and personal branding is a big departure from most company’s current tools of simple resumes for internal positions — if the resumes are looked at in the first place. As companies implement these tool changes, so will we need to adapt.

Personal Branding and handling the social media aspect of finding positions will be a demanding new skill for people working in cubes.

While I address both career management and personal branding on this blog, Dan Schawbel does a fantastic job specifically discussing personal branding on his blog and other social media. When I wrote this article I could think of only one place to refer people to about personal branding — which is the hallmark of personal branding.

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