CIOs Clueless About Social? Maybe Not - InformationWeek
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Tony Byrne
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CIOs Clueless About Social? Maybe Not

One survey does not prove CIOs underestimate the importance of social business. There might be other reasons social ranks low on CIO to-do lists.

A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal cited a Gartner survey where CIOs ranked "social" as their 13th priority for 2013, and declared in a headline, CIOS Ignoring Impact Of Social.

As you can imagine, Twitter lit up with approbation. Those clueless CIOs!

Actually, They Might Have Good Reasons

I'm a big believer in the promise of social capabilities in the enterprise -- though primarily in the context of collaborative work -- but let's not rush to judgment here. Consider that the rankings might actually reveal any number of plausible alternative conclusions, such as these:

-- CIOs' hype cycles are necessarily shorter than those of E2.0 evangelists.

-- CIOs already have blessed social initiatives, likely with full awareness of the longish impact of horizons typical of projects that require major change management.

-- CIOs quite properly understand social as a feature and not a technology in itself.

-- CIOs previously deployed social technology that didn't scale well at enterprise levels, and they're taking an investment break.

-- Other projects in their portfolios are even more transformational than social – sacre bleu!

I don't know if any of those are true in your enterprise, but they are just as plausible as accusing CIOs of "ignoring social."

By the way, note that Gartner's own press release didn't criticize the CIOs' self-reported priorities. Revealingly, Gartner's survey shows CIOs ranking collaboration as their fourth highest technology priority. To people who promote Enterprise 2.0 this should augur good tidings. It suggests the industry is growing up.

Data Comes First

The survey results might also suggest that -- unlike many industry pundits -- CIOs possess a keen understanding of the difference between internal social initiatives and external social engagement. There's a very good chance that your CIO sees great promise in external social media initiatives, but calls them by different names, such as Analytics (#1 in the Journal survey), SaaS (#3) or CRM (#7), quite reasonably leaving the business end of it to CMOs.

Based on conversations with our own advisory subscribers around the world, we've certainly seen that those enterprises who've developed some maturity around social media analytics and engagement quickly find that data management and integration can pose critical bottlenecks.

So if your CIO is working on improving enterprise capacities around data, while leaving Facebook campaigns to someone else, your CMO might want to count her blessings.

Of course, you can find clueless people everywhere, so by the law of averages, some of them will be CIOs. But no one wins by knee-jerk accusations of IT Ludditism.

Show business value, and most CIOs will notice.

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Bill Greeves
Bill Greeves,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2013 | 9:12:40 PM
re: CIOs Clueless About Social? Maybe Not
I think Deb is dead-on with her analogy that social will become a given - it is a integral component of so many other things - be they systems, services or technologies. As Tony says, social a feature, not a technology in and of itself. But I would actually suggest that social is also heavily influenced and co-mingled with organizational culture, which of course is traditionally sluggish in change. The impact of Social on culture is well represented in the CIO priorities list albeit perhaps not as its own independent function (which truly it shouldn't be anyway). Consider the cultural impact (and social as a component) of:

#2 - Delivering operational results
#4 - Attracting and retaining new customers
#6 - Creating new products and services (innovation)
and 7 and 8 and 9, etc.

In my opinion, those that consider "social" a priority in and of itself don't really get the potential value it has to offer as a component of our other core priorities as CIOs.
Tony Byrne
Tony Byrne,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2013 | 6:27:15 PM
re: CIOs Clueless About Social? Maybe Not
@Deb I think you're right. The problem we'll face is does social-as-a-feature lead to a cacophony of profiles and user experiences. I hope not.

@Mike. Many thanks for writing in. I don't think the main challenge of social is an absence of pre-existing data. It's an absence of business-process context. Having said that, many enterprises have made good progress, even with social-as-a-silo, so the trajectory is in the right direction.

@Fritz, you make some excellent points. It could be that CIOs simply tolerated social initiatives, rather than pushed them. I'm not sure it matters, since many successful efforts start at sub-C-levels. I do believe that IT has an important role to play in most social/collab initiatives, but maybe the lesson is that they don't need the CIO to get there.

Thanks again, all for commenting!
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2013 | 4:17:37 AM
re: CIOs Clueless About Social? Maybe Not
Really good insight, Tony. In many ways, "social" ceases to be a destination and becomes habit, or better yet, it gives way to business outcomes. I just wonder if that's a conscious evolution in thinking by CIOs, or whether they never really gave it that much serious thought at all. For example, I'm not sure I agree with your second bullet point -- or maybe they have, indeed, "blessed" these initiatives, but haven't necessarily "embraced" them, made them a priority, or believed the technology could unlock true business value. Part of me thinks many just went along, for fear of missing out. Either way, the end result may be the positive one you surmise.
Erik Michielsen
Erik Michielsen,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2013 | 8:51:31 PM
re: CIOs Clueless About Social? Maybe Not
Social media and social tools are fundamental to the future of business collaboration, both internally and externally. As part of our career documentary interview series with rising leaders, we interview Marc Ferrentino, who previously was Chief Technology Architect at and CTO of cloud computing at BMC Software. In our interviews he has shared the value of social networking and collaborative networks in an enterprise environment and why it is important and fundamental to the future of business. In this interview, Ferrentino shares how he and his team at Salesforce built Chatter and why it is important:
Talent Analytics
Talent Analytics,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2013 | 8:30:56 PM
re: CIOs Clueless About Social? Maybe Not
Good piece Tony. Social will have "arrived" in the eyes of CIOs when the company culture is social and reward outweighs the risk of purchasing an enterprise social solution. It's not at all surprising that social is 13th on the agenda considering the fact it's a CIO's job is to keep the lights on and make technology decisions with the lowest possible TCO and highest value to the business.

The problem with enterprise social technologies to date is they ship as an empty system that requires manual data entry by everyone in the company if it's going to yield any value. This takes time and effort (at cost) and is outside the every day business process of line managers. This gets back to my point about the culture - if you don't have your line managers on board with the value of social first, any social initiative will not pass go and rot on the shelf unused. See NASA. CIOs know this hence why it's not a big priority right now.

When enterprise social platforms ship with data that adds value by baking collaboration in to every day business processes, things will begin to change. Social needs to enhance day-to-day business and yield value in the shortest possible time in order to be more broadly adopted by CIOs.

Mike Kennedy
Tech Evangelist & Dir. Marketing
Talent Analytics, Corp.
Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2013 | 3:25:55 PM
re: CIOs Clueless About Social? Maybe Not
This is a great column, Tony. I think we are getting to the point where social is like the Web. When applications that utilized the Web first appeared, everything was "Web-based." Now, there is an expectation that applications will have some integration with the Web. We're not quite at that point with social, but I don't think it will be too long before there is an expectation that any app with a collaboration component will have some kind of social capability. As you say, social will be a feature, not the technology--or the product--itself.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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