Just because cloud-based social networking technology such as Yammer and Chatter can be put into place without the IT department doesn't mean that should happen.
At Red Robin, Laping also holds the title of senior VP of business transformation, meaning that in addition to IT he oversees training and the operations support team responsible for implementing new processes, like the actual kitchen and server routines for cooking a new burger properly and presenting it to the customer.
When Laping joined Red Robin in 2007, he saw that IT needed to get beyond systems maintenance activities by working more closely with business units. If IT isn't in step with what groups such as marketing and operations need from technology, "it's because we ourselves are holding us back, not because 'the man' is holding us down," he says.
Laping has leaned on this "trust relationship" between marketing and IT to become actively involved in setting social media marketing strategy, as well as work on programs such as the restaurant's loyalty programs, where the participation of IT and marketing is required. Red Robin also has partnered with Plink, a social rewards program that doles out points as Facebook credits that customers can use to make purchases in online games such as FarmVille.
Indeed, more companies are embedding IT talent directly into departments such as marketing, something that should improve the use of social technology. This connection makes it more likely that companies will deploy social tools quickly as the business decides it needs them, but within a framework that considers data security, privacy policies, and integration with existing applications. The job of a social business leader is to find the right balance.
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