The Social CIO: Who owns the social strategy?

Our company has decided it needs to develop a social media strategy to attract more customers and I’m not sure how much I want to be involved, given my workload. How much do CIOs need to participate in these kinds of projects?

A CIO’s key role in social media strategy formulation needs to be squarely involved in these key areas: governance, technology architecture, operational excellence (solution identification and deployment), and security compliance. Social Media brings its own unique set of challenges, like every new form of technology that enters the enterprise. Key decisions need to be made in terms of:

• which Social Media tools should be used for business use or for personal use only?

• how do the social media tools integrate with internal collaboration platforms
(like: SharePoint, Lotus
Connections, Jive Igloo, Social Text, etc),

• what security standards and controls do we need to ensure if social media tools are used for business to comply with regulatory requirements for privacy and archiving requirements, etc?

• what business analytics and BI requirements are needed to support these environments to ensure value is realized?

These are just some of the many questions that CIOs need to have a clear position on working with the business users to formulate a quality governance process with diverse stakeholder views. More formalized governance structures are needed with CIO participation in larger multi-national companies, while in SMBs, the same questions need to be answered but the degree of complexity in execution is less onerous in resourcing.

If you look at the role from an IT manager’s perspective, the technologies of social media and social networking are not complex in comparison to the complexities of a global ERP system with complex business processes and escalation processes. Social media solutions are either Web services hosted outside the firewall or are hosted on internal servers and integrated into collaboration platforms (generally internal social tools). The accountability for a CIO is on the masses of data that social networking toolkits generate. Managing data to scale and helping to select social media intelligence and analytical toolkits to derive insight is a formalized role that CIOs need to ensure they are engaged in. The other reality is social media tools are very much enablers and can be easily integrated into business processes to create a means for shared conversations, etc. As social media continues to grow in scale in usage across an enterprise, IT professionals have a responsibility to ensure ease of use, integrity, security, reliability, and integration ease are robust operating practices.

On the flip side, the business users have a responsibility to define their requirements clearly, ensuring the right toolkit will meet their business needs, and to partner effectively with the CIO and IT professionals to ensure governance and operational excellence is sustained. Asking for access to Facebook or Twitter without conveying a clear undersanding of the business application and their value in the business environment makes it impossible for CIOs to respond and manage effectively. As organizations develop their competencies in using the toolkits become second nature, we will enter the maturity phase. We are just not there yet, which is a good reason to enrol in our new Social Media Training program with IT World Canada.

Our firm is more interested in monitoring conversations on social media that could turn into business opportunities. How do we see social media data integrating with business intelligence and other high-end software analysis systems?

If your organization is caught in the data analysis paralysis death trap, squandering precious time collecting data which does not translate into business value or opportunities that are targeted, then the real question is where is leadership?

Social Media analytics have a purpose but they need to be outcome-oriented in terms of what you are trying to achieve. We have a very extensive module on Social Media Measurement in our social media training course (introductory and advanced) that can help put in perspective the life cycle view of monitoring social media investments effectively. There is a wealth of software analytic solutions already available in the market, but never forget the subjective human element to monitoring as well.

Is it wise for companies to use all forms of social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, or is it better to focus on one depending on your business problems? How do you prioritize?

The tools that you list serve different functions and purposes. The real question always has to go back to what are you trying to accomplish first, vs worrying about the toolkits. The “Keep IT Simple, Stupid,” principle is key, as it is very easy to get confused with the diversity of toolkits and the confusing messages vendors and consultants are often sending out to customers in the social media jungle. When you have lived through different technology innovation waves, you realize some things really have not changed. Social media has tremendous reach and impact and value, but the fundamentals of realizing outcomes that add value needs to always be top of mind.

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