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Commentary

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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