The online effort attempts to fine-tune the entire "customer experience lifecycle," including being where current and prospective clients are, such as in search results and social media channels, and delivering a "virtual" sales representative experience that manages "to make tractors sexy online," he said.
Caterpillar is also sharpening its online support capabilities and launching a new e-commerce platform that makes it faster and easier to purchase parts online, Bowman said.
Meanwhile, Ross Grossman, vice president of human resources at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, said the company has been using Kenexa software and services since 2007 to improve recruitment, training and hiring, and increase employee engagement and retention, all of which have played a big part in the company's ability to grow fast and compete against bigger rivals.
"In HR, we want to have a meaningful impact on the business," he said, adding that his department now plays a critically important role in the company's operations and performance.
At a press conference after the session, Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM's Software Solutions Group, said that the impact of enterprise social technologies in collaboration and front-office business processes like HR and marketing amounts to a "generational shift" that is transforming how companies function, and will do so for the next two decades.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.