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3/1/2012
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15 New Rules For IT To Live By

The old IT rulebook is obsolete, but the new one that accounts for the rise of mobile, social, and analytics hasn't been written. Consider this a first draft, so your revisions are welcome.

No. 14 | Blend video, messaging, data, and voice to improve collaboration

The hottest project in IT is improving employee collaboration; 39% of IT leaders in our Global CIO Survey say they have a major implementation planned this year. There's a growing sense that collaboration can be much better than it is, in two major ways. One, make it more social--mimic the energy and ease of use of Facebook. Two, pull together video, messaging, data, and voice with much less hassle, in a way that makes it a lot easier for employees to solve problems.

For its top executive council, Procter & Gamble combines analytics (more on that later) with video in a boardroom-sized environment it calls the Business Sphere. This past year, P&G built 50 scaled-down versions of that collaboration environment for conference rooms in its offices worldwide. Now, CIO Filippo Passerini plans to blend messaging, video, and analytics to provide something similar on a desktop level, what P&G is calling Business Sphere Office. Passerini says the technology pieces aren't new; what would be new is the combination of collaboration software, video, and data in an easier-to-use desktop tool, so it's simple to pull in colleagues, including those with analytics expertise, as needed to solve problems.

Jerry Johnson, CIO of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, also sees this convergence coming. It's why he made a tour last month of Google, Apple, Cisco, and Microsoft, to learn more about their latest ideas. PNNL has the pieces--video, voice over IP, instant messaging, and email--but Johnson wants to pull those together in a way that's as easy to use as an iPhone. After his vendor tour, Johnson still isn't convinced there's an easy, one-vendor platform for pulling all those pieces together. But he is convinced that the technology is headed that way. Scientists at PNNL, a U.S. Department of Energy Lab, work with universities, businesses, and other government agencies worldwide, so this kind of digital collaboration will be increasingly vital. For one thing, having this kind of intuitive collaboration suite will be the only way to recruit the next generation of scientists. Says Johnson: "This is simply the way they like to work."

No. 13 | Get socially savvy

IT organizations are often on the fringe of their companies' social networking activities. They need to get immersed--not take them over, but make IT an indispensable partner.

The good news is that most companies are still figuring out their social strategy, so IT has the opportunity to position itself as a resource. Just 14% of companies have done a major project that incorporates social networks into their company's IT infrastructure, our Global CIO Survey finds. But 23% plan a major implementation this year.

One way for IT to get involved is in monitoring what customers and partners are saying about their companies on social networks--so-called sentiment analysis. Such monitoring is a low priority today; just 37% of the IT leaders cite it as important. But it will grow in importance as more companies, even in business-to-business industries, use social networks as marketing and customer support channels. For example, business-to-business electronics distributor Avnet has a social media council where people across disciplines decide how best to use the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Sean Valcamp, the company's director of IT architecture, sits on that council.

Companies may be able to launch social efforts like sentiment analysis without IT's help. At Best Buy, sentiment analysis began in marketing research; Best Buy tapped IT when it saw opportunities to scale that analysis across the company. For companies without a clear social agenda, IT might need to be the catalyst: 34% of the leaders in our survey say their companies have no plans to make social networking part of their tech structure.

No. 12 | Make the CMO IT's new BFF

CIOs have long cozied up to the chief financial officer, and that's fine. But most CFOs will forever see IT as an expense line, a support function that's essential but not a true competitive differentiator. IT needs to be much more, especially as companies put technology directly in front of their customers, via mobile apps, e-commerce, and social networking, or actually embed technology in their products, from cars to soccer cleats. To truly make IT a revenue-driving force, CIOs need to make the chief marketing officer their new best friend.

But if IT organizations want to hang with the CMO, they need to think like CMOs. Most IT organizations still see themselves as cost cutters and process improvers first. When asked about their innovation plans this year, the IT leaders in our Global CIO Survey cite cutting costs (38%) and making business processes more efficient (37%) most often--important goals they need to keep. But only 32% cite introducing an IT-led product or service, and 30% cite creating a new revenue stream or business model. Those percentages need to be higher.

IT leaders have a ways to go to win over their marketing peers: 27% say their relationship with the marketing team is poor or neutral, compared with 22% who say that about their relationship with the finance team and 15% who say that about operations/manufacturing.

Data-driven marketing and social networking analytics are places where marketing and IT groups should have a natural bond, as well as in mobile apps and websites.

What factors hurt your IT Team's support of business goals?

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