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CIOs must face these facts to go social

March 20, 2012

This piece, penned by Hearsay Social CIO in Residence Jim Lee, was originally posted on Internet Evolution. With experience as CIO at Marsh & McLennan and other Fortune 500 companies, Jim speaks with authority to a couple obstacles that today’s CIO must address in going social:

It’s a harsh truth: Most enterprise CIOs do not know how social media can benefit their organizations. One significant factor is the pressure placed on CIOs to keep the shop running and ensure the IT agenda is aligned with business objectives. IT needs to deliver on the priorities of the business, and if the business does not see or understand the benefits of social media, such initiatives are unlikely to get funded.

However, that should not prevent the CIO from developing the foundational knowledge not only for him/herself, but, more importantly, to help educate the business constituents on how social media can bring immense value to the organization.

CIOs who recognize the importance of innovation, of helping organizations think outside the box, and of ensuring competitive position through the use of technology need to bring innovation to the organization — particularly now. It is essential for IT leadership to collaborate with business stakeholders to leverage social media as a competitive advantage.

Social media are part of the technology evolution that began with the mainframe (which let organizations process massive amount of data) and moved to personal computers (to help distribute and empower end users) and then to the Internet (which enabled global connectivity and commerce).

Simply having a presence on Twitter or a business page on Facebook does not qualify as innovation with social media. I see those actions as table stakes and fundamental for any organization entering the social media arena.

In addition to essentially developing a social media strategy with the business, CIOs need to prepare their organizations for the implementation of a social media solution. This is where major challenges will emerge for the IT organization. Most social media platforms are cloud-based (SaaS), which raises a number of issues about data security and operational readiness.

For instance, here are two main issues CIOs will need to address in implementing cloud-based social software:

  • Data security: The consistent challenge being posed by chief information security officers is that data in the cloud is not secure, and the organization cannot afford the risks of data being compromised. All aspects of applications, data, infrastructure, provisioning, and the like need to be 100 percent locked down, and a rigorous process must be developed for any “exceptions.” It is incumbent on the SaaS provider to work with the client to ensure the concerns are addressed through a thorough review of the infrastructure, including security guidelines and protocols that have been implemented to protect the client’s information.
  • Operational readiness: Both the SaaS service provider and the client must develop a framework to accommodate the nuances of how solutions are deployed within each environment. You have one extreme where solutions are developed and deployed using waterfall development methodologies (a traditional enterprise approach driven by tollgates, milestones, etc.) and another extreme where solutions are developed and deployed on a daily basis. The paradigms do not mix well, and it is essential for the enterprise to be able to work with the SaaS provider on a plan for integration.

The call to action is for CIOs: Get educated on the social media domain, partner with business stakeholders on the development of a social media strategy, and work within the IT organization to ensure it is operationally ready for any level of integration with SaaS providers.

Ronny Kerr

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