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CIOs need to actively foster synergy between IT and the business to ensure success in Web 2.0 projects.

I had an interesting realisation when reviewing the results of Gartner’s 2010 CIO Survey for Australia and New Zealand recently. I was preparing for a breakfast speaking engagement focusing on social networking and collaboration. Both global CIOs and ANZ CIOs ranked Web 2.0 similarly in terms of technology priorities for 2010 – number three and number four respectively. However, when it came to the CIOs’ view of how the business ranked “working collaboratively both internally and externally (with customers, suppliers, partners and so on) over the coming year”, results varied significantly. Global CIOs ranked this third in their top ten. This result accorded well with their ranking of Web 2.0 as a technology priority. However, ANZ CIOs ranked this business priority eighth – significantly lower than Web 2.0 as a technology priority.

At the breakfast session, the audience also found this interesting. Together we pondered the reason for the discrepancy. We conjectured that this may be due to any of the following: ANZ businesses not yet embracing Web 2.0 as a business tool, but CIOs wanting to be prepared for when this happens; ANZ CIOs simply being caught up in the hype of Web 2.0 – a solution in search of a problem; or, perhaps most alarmingly, CIOs really not being as close as they need to be to their business’s current undertakings or future plans for collaboration facilitated by Web 2.0.

There are many examples among our local CIO community of the business using social networking applications to solve business problems – and doing this without the involvement of the IT organisation. One example is a government health agency IT organisation that noticed a significant rise in network traffic. IT decided to investigate what was actually happening to cause this lift in traffic and discovered that a group of clinicians had been coordinating organ transplants, including potential donor organ locations, via Facebook. They had found Facebook better at meeting their requirements in this regard than the enterprise tools available to them.

I see three ways in which organisations are responding to the push to use social media within their workplaces.

Sadly, some are adopting the “three wise monkeys” approach. They cover their eyes, ears and mouth and pray that the big, bad social media monster will just go away. The second group dips their toe in the social media waters and allows some employees to use a selected application for a limited purpose only. And lastly, there are those organisations that embrace social media as an additional communication channel, a way to tap “the collective” for insight, and potentially a value-adding business tool.

As an example, a financial services client I was recently talking with has used social networking tools to enhance their business process management (BPM) efforts. Redesigning business processes has been a way to drive efficiency into operations within the organisation for some years now.

Recent requirements to reduce costs in the face of economic challenge saw a revived interested in this particular discipline. Interestingly, the introduction of social networking applications into BPM has now enabled not only improvements in efficiency – but in effectiveness also. Using “social BPM” to create processes that can detect and reflect current user experiences and preferences taps into the power of continuous learning from the collective.

Harnessing knowledge about how the process is experienced is a new frontier for BPM. The financial services client I mentioned made changes to its debit card policy as a result of social BPM. When the debit card owner no longer had any funds in the account, the system was changed from charging an overdraft fee to denying the transaction at the point of sale – based on customer feedback regarding preference. In this way social technologies have been combined into the execution of the process to ensure improved effectiveness.

The current Gartner Hype Cycle for Social Software lists 22 social software technologies that are likely to experience mainstream adoption over the next two to five years. Two of these are considered “transformational”, 14 are expected to be of “high” impact and six of “moderate” impact.

Even allowing for some eventual discrepancy between prediction and reality, the impact of social technologies on the workplace landscape will be immense. CIOs need to deliberately foster synergy between IT and the business to ensure success in social software projects. Enterprise IT must avoid a focus on technology and concentrate on engaging the business in formulating how social media can have a positive impact. Consider creating a team that spans IT and the business to oversee social media initiatives and thereby partner with the business to build organisational competency in social media solution delivery.

Linda Price is group vice-president of executive programmes, Gartner. Email comments to Linda.price@gartner.com

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Tags GartnerTech trendssocial softwareWeb 2.0social networkinganalystlinda price

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