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9/7/2012
01:03 PM
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5 Ways IT Can Stall Social

When it comes to social networking, IT departments can lead, follow, or get out of the way.

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The IT department can be instrumental in guiding and supporting the use of technology products and processes that move businesses toward their social business goals. It can also--even with the best of intentions--stall nascent social efforts.

It would be a huge understatement to say that the role of enterprise IT departments is changing. Cloud computing and the BYOD model are just two factors that have forever shifted what IT departments do and how they do it. Social networking has had at least the same impact. In fact, you could argue that it has had more of an impact. After all, social networking almost always includes elements of cloud and BYOD, and it involves a major shift in the way organizations collaborate and in the ways technology is evaluated (if it is at all), procured (many social platforms are free or cheap enough that the cost can fly under the radar), installed (easy enough for anyone to set up), and managed (again, if it is at all).

[ Turns out Facebook has nothing on the office water cooler. Read Social Media Vs. Water Cooler: Time Sink Showdown. ]

Enterprise IT departments are at a crossroads. IT managers must make some sometimes tough changes in order to be social business drivers and not social business speed bumps. Following are five surefire ways to stall social business efforts, as well as some recommendations for keeping things running smoothly.

1. Insist that things be done the way they have always been done.

This is no time to be set in your ways. Insisting that business managers jump through permission and procurement hoops that were set up back when versions were a "thing" will only get you figurative footprints on your back. Social business experts and IT professionals don’t recommend that IT sit back while users do what they want when they want. Rather, they advise, work closely with business managers to identify needs, identify tech products and processes that meet those needs, and examine the ways in which those products and processes could affect other parts of the business.

2. Refuse to support any unofficial technology.

Sure, you can continue to insist on the hoops and refuse to support technology whose owners did not jump through said hoops. But what you'll likely end up with is not duly chastened end users, but rather users who are setting up and using technology in a way that is less secure and efficient than it would be if you were involved. An IT exec at an academic institution told The BrainYard that his job has shifted to that of technology facilitator. He said it’s not his job to tell people what to use or how, but rather to make sure that the products being used are used safely and effectively.

3. Stick with what you know.

Fine, you might say. Let them set up their rogue social listening apps and their internal social collaboration platforms. You can just ignore all that technology and focus on securing the network or patching desktops or aligning with regulatory mandates or whatever your primary responsibility has been. But social networking is not going away. It will affect each of these areas and more. Experts recommend that IT professionals work alongside business managers to develop and maintain social business policy so that it puts social business goals and concerns into the context of existing policy and processes.

4. Show them how it's done.

Rather than insisting that social fit into existing norms or ignoring the technology completely, you could take the opposite tack: figure everything out on your own, and then tell business managers what social platforms to use and how to use them. But going in with guns blazing will likely backfire: There's no one-size-fits all solution, and without working closely with business managers to figure out what products will fit their needs, failure is almost guaranteed.

5. Think of IT as a department.

If you think of IT in the traditional sense--as an independent department that serves its organization in the evaluation, use, and management of technology--you're doing a disservice to both your organization and anyone on the IT staff. Instead, think of IT professionals developing areas of specialty around the business, and/or end users developing areas of expertise in IT. The BrainYard spoke with IT exec who is moving one of his staff from the IT department to marketing, which has historically been on the leading edge when it comes to social. The idea is that this person will take his technology skills with him, but will also learn the ins and outs of a communications department. This way, he develops specific expertise and can offer more valuable, purposeful insight and support in the implementation of social business technology.

Is your organization’s IT department a social driver or a social speed bump? We welcome your comments below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)

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Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2012 | 10:05:00 PM
re: 5 Ways IT Can Stall Social
Thanks for your comments, Erin. And I hope I didn't seem like I was hanging IT out to dry. I see the points you are making. I'm suggesting that it may be time to rethink what the IT department looks like. There is, I think, a lot of talent and insight and experience among IT professionals that is currently going untapped.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Ryan Rutan
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Ryan Rutan,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2012 | 7:33:31 PM
re: 5 Ways IT Can Stall Social
Per my comments above, I worked in an IT department that regularly looked for ways to innovate, and improve the operational efficiency of the enterprise. In short, be more than a traditional cost-center. In my use-case, a pitch was made for allocating global cost center funds (or distributed across multiple cost-centers) to acquire the social business platform, given it touched practically every area of the company (similar to email). This helped alleviate the single point of budgetary failure and gave people a reason to come to the table and discuss how to adopt it in their organization.

I also agree, that IT budget cuts are extremely tough to work with. This is one of the reasons I am excited about the possibilities of Enterprise App Integration. Being able to churn out real value in less time and smartly managing your work queue with quantifiable feedback points that gauge impact to the business. In a perfect world ... shedding the cost-center perception all together. =)
Erin White
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Erin White,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2012 | 5:47:58 AM
re: 5 Ways IT Can Stall Social
There is an efficiency aspect to IT support that needs to be considered before hanging them out to dry for not supporting social. The pressure to keep on doing more with less - less money, less resources - escalates yearly. The IT department may WANT to be able to play with an expanded array of cool new toys, but may not have the funds to do so. And since they are a cost center, not a profit center, whom should we really blame for the constant slashing of budgets?
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/12/2012 | 10:36:06 PM
re: 5 Ways IT Can Stall Social
Thank you for this extremely thoughtful and detailed comment! This perspective is fantastic. I would love to speak with you more about his. I can be contacted directly at debra.donstonmiller@gmail.com. I'll try to connect via Twitter as well.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/12/2012 | 12:56:15 AM
re: 5 Ways IT Can Stall Social
Thank you for the comment. I appreciate your insight about regulated industries, and I can see where there would be far less freedom and flexibility there. What about internal social networking platforms? Do you think regulated organizations will be/are open to them?

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
9/11/2012 | 8:05:42 AM
re: 5 Ways IT Can Stall Social
This all sounds nice for the users and the IT Dept where you can get away with it. i.e., you can't be so free wheeling at a financial institution or a government agency where legislation, security regulations, and auditors are involved in every tiny step you take. Many consumer products and software apps cannot be used due to privacy or security reasons. Remote or mobile access may have to be carefully planned and executed, or even denied. In many ways our own users are our greatest risk.
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