IBM tool adds visualization to social networks at work

Atlas aims to help companies analyze, visualize content in social networks

IBM announced the availability Tuesday of a new corporate social networking visualization and analysis tool aimed at helping users better navigate their personal and corporate social networks.

IBM's Atlas for Lotus Connections will allow users to identify key experts in a company on specific topics, see how those people are connected and allow employees to seek new contacts through those they have already connected to in the Lotus Connections social networks, IBM said. Atlas is designed to work with Lotus Connections, a set of tools to build social networks that IBM launched in June.

"As people start using the social software and expanding out their networks ... there is a lot of value and information in the relationships between all that social data," said Chris Lamb, IBM's senior product manager of social software. "A good way to realize that value is to visualize it."

For example, a manager could use visualization to get a better view of the skills of employees, and a salesperson could use Atlas to quickly identify colleagues in a different division whose expertise or contacts could be useful for working with a customer.

One component, called Reach, is a social software dashboard that helps users navigate the "six degrees of separation" that divide them from a colleague, IBM noted. The dashboard will show users the shortest path to reach an expert based on the level of interaction across the network. An employee could easily surmise, for example, that a colleague with vital information on new product marketing is active in a marketing social community that also includes the first user's manager.

Another component of Atlas builds on the Connections corporate directory search function to include results based on social data like reporting structures, blogs and communities. Users can customize their searches based on location, corporate structure or degrees of separation.

"With Atlas now you can ... get a rank of those people based on the other social data they have put in the system," Lamb said. "This gives you a much higher level of trust that that is the right person to talk to."

Atlas is available now from IBM's services group.

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