As an IT executive, you do not want to be on the outside looking in when it comes to any technology -- and that may go double for social, with its growing use in and importance to the enterprise. Here are five things IT executives can do to prove their social business mettle.
1. Leverage Your Bird's-Eye View. Social business isn't really a technology in and of itself -- social is a model that can be used in a variety of ways to boost existing business processes. But for this reason it's easy for social to create new silos within the company -- with a social stream for this app and another social stream for that business function, and so on.
With their big-picture knowledge of the technology in the organization, CIOs and IT execs can work with the business side to implement social business tools in a flexible yet concerted and integrated way. "IT plays a significant role here as it's the single group that goes horizontally across all functional units and can help lines of businesses identify which technology is best suited to integrate across existing content management, CRM, ERP, HCM investments," said Sameer Patel, SAP's senior VP and general manager of enterprise social software.
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2. Flex Your Marketing Muscle. Perhaps in no other department is social more important or more widely used than marketing, and marketing teams are hungry for people with the skills and expertise to effectively implement social business tools. Indeed, in many companies, marketing people are moving into IT and/or IT people are moving into marketing. "When the marketing person knocks on the door, open the door and let him in," said Jake Wengroff, founder and principal analyst with JXB1, a social media and social business consulting firm. Better yet, go knocking on the CMO's door yourself.
3. Express Yourself. Speaking of marketing, the folks in marketing are also hungry for content -- the fuel that stokes social fires. Content that brands the company as a leader in its industry is gold. CIOs and tech executives are well-positioned to produce content that promotes the company's effective use of technology, as well as to provide guidance on the technologies that are most meaningful to your industry. For example, a CIO at a healthcare institution might write a blog post about the ways in which mobile devices are affecting patients and healthcare providers. Being proactive about providing such content will go a long way toward increasing your social business cred.
4. Push Compliance Role. In highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance, technology must be very thoughtfully considered. This is an area in which CIOs and IT executives can play an especially important role. "If serious work is going to be done using social technologies, both the compliance officers and the lines of business will want to ensure that its collaboration is as airtight as the business or industry regulation might demand," said SAP's Patel.
5. Define Metrics of Success. There's an old saying that goes, "What's measured matters, and what matters is measured." That makes sense, but it can be easier said than done when it comes to social business initiatives. CIOs and IT executives can play a huge role in helping the business define what matters and how to measure it, based on the technology being used and for what purposes. "Define KPIs and success metrics for social enterprise platforms," recommends Russell Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of IT Central Station, a social network for IT professionals. "Social platforms such as Jive or Yammer have become a strategic or visionary project for many IT organizations, but don't forget to define success factors for the project and measure KPIs to ensure these platforms are delivering value." Social should not be an end in itself; it must tie back to quantifiable business value such as increased sales, improved customer support, reduced training costs, etc.
Above all, recommend experts, demonstrate flexibility and remove any stigma that still remains of the IT department being an immovable force that dictates, rather than collaborates on, technology.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.