Social Media for the Collaborative Enterprise

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  • CIO COrner

    64 IT Pro July/August 2011 P u b l i s h e d b y t h e I E E E C o m p u t e r S o c i e t y 1520-9202/11/$26.00 2011 IEEE

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    Social Media for the Collaborative EnterpriseBeverly Prohaska, West Pharmaceutical Services

    The millennial genera-tion is coming into the workforce with a prefer-ence for using technol-

    ogy to collaborate. Having come of age in the social era, most use social media sites such as Face-book, Twitter, and YouTube to blend their personal and private lives and expect to use this media in the workplace. The challenges and opportunities that this brings to shaping the evolution of the workplacein terms of methods, tools, culture, and technologiesare only now starting to surface. The most prevalent impact of this workplace evolution can be seen in how organizations interactboth in terms of internal communica-tion between employees and exter-nal interactions with customers.

    This evolution is a transforma-tional collision of technology with a multigenerational workforce and a business appetite for ex-tending the enterprise by enabling employees to have a dialog with customers, business partners, and each other.

    Here, I provide a CIOs perspec-tive on the key aspects to consider

    in developing a strategy for so-cial mediathat is, for exploiting Web-based and mobile technolo-gies to make your enterprise com-munications more interactive. I also present the steps necessary to evaluate, implement, and lever-age the appropriate tools to derive business value from social media for your organization.

    Weave Together Major TrendsIn the coming decade, CIOs will need to develop strategies for implementing four key technolo-gies: cloud computing, context-based computing, pattern-based computing, and social computing. Although some might view these technologies independently, its important for CIOs to recog-nize how they weave together as part of a social media strategic plan.

    In developing your strategy, you first must appreciate the sheer magnitude of computing power that the cloud offers so you can fully exploit cloud-based resources. End users (includ-ing customers, partners, vendors,

    and employees) are using an ever- widening array of mobile devices to access external applications and services. CIOs will soon be tasked with modifying key internal ap-plications to be more than just accessible to users; applications will have to be context-aware to respond to the appropriate de-vice. To analyze and leverage this data, organizations will need pattern-based computing. Cloud service providers understand this and are poised to answer the call by making their offerings more context-aware and data-volume hardened.

    By tightly connecting these technologies, a CIO can create an environment that can provide economic value to the organiza-tion while enabling meaningful collaboration with customers and business partners. Through device- aware applications, your orga-nizations business partners can interact with you any time, any-where. Furthermore, they can ac-cess the appropriate information for their work, which helps them build a stronger relationship with

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    your organization. More interac-tion leads to more data patterns about what they need or are using from your company. Therefore, stronger analytics can leverage that data to drive more nimble (and profitable) responses to cus-tomer needs.

    Understand the ChallengesIn 2001, only 27 percent of ex-ecutives reported using email.1 By 2006, that percentage had risen to 70 percent.1 Similarly, in 2006, social media wasnt even in the vocabulary of corporate ex-ecutives. Today, over 50 percent of executives participate in three to five social networking sites, and 40 percent are checking such sites more than once a day.2

    However, less than 2 percent of customer service is performed through social media tools.3 Although some companies be-lieve they have a social presence, very few of Forbes Global 2000 companies have embraced social media as an acceptable business channel.

    Early adopters of social me-dia have focused on marketing opportunities and are trying to create a presence in key social en-vironments, but this isnt enough. This strategy is much like the ini-tial stages of the Web, when com-panies thought it was sufficient to simply have a website. This was the build it and they will come strat-egy. Companies soon learned that building a Web presence requires a lot of work (and were still evolv-ing on that front), but building

    a social media presence will re-quire even more work. The Web offered one-way communication; social networking is a dialog that requires an interactive, valid, useful exchange of ideas and information.

    Creating an engaging dialog with users will require resources from many functional teamsincluding marketing, sales, and manufacturingand IT teams must be staffed appropriately over the long haul to support this on-going and growing need. In other words, IT teams will require capi-tal investment in new tools, and operational budgets will have to maintain sufficient staffing (in-house or through partners) and investment levels to maintain and evolve these new tools.

    Every organization will differ in how and where it starts its so-cial media strategy in terms of the array of social networking tools it employs, its pace of adoption, the extent to which it engages the social community, and its invest-ment in and ability to leverage the information gleaned. Many or-ganizations will make mistakes; theyll fail to execute their plan, will use the wrong tools, or will interact poorly and damage their reputation. This will cause many organizations to slow or halt alto-gether their move to social media. Shama Kabanis The Zen of Social Media Marketing (BenBella Books, 2010) is a solid overview that out-lines some of the mechanics and key considerations of a business social media strategy. Kabani

    also details the dos and donts of each recommended tool, which can help you create key talking points when constructing your enterprise strategy for using these tools.

    Construct a TimelineWhether youre standing on the sidelines waiting for the sign that social media is here to stay or are already immersed in social me-dia in either a planned or reac-tive way, every CIO should have a social media plan on his or her to-do list. Furthermore, dont as-sume that the enterprise will wait for you to lead the charge. Its quite likely theres already a hid-den, grass-roots effort in play in your organization. So even if you dont know where you want to be, you definitely need to get en-gaged before social media evolves to a point where you dont want to be. For example, you might be bypassed in favor of an external service provider who can provide the tools, technology, and skills to get a social media platform up and running quickly if you havent engaged with key stakeholders in marketing, corporate communi-cations, human resources, and others early on in your organiza-tions social media journey.

    In constructing your plan, you should presume that the typi-cal enterprise will move through three phases (see Table 1).

    InnovationDuring the innovation phase, companies must def ine what

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    Table 1. A timeline for implementing social media.

    Timeframe Phase Description

    2011 Innovation Define social, identify the business benefits, determine how to measure such benefits, and map out how long it will take to realize them.

    2013 Strategy and implementation

    Develop a detailed strategy that integrates with the organizations strategy and operating plan.

    20132015 Business as usual Social media becomes a part of everyday business operations, and the public sector and governments invest in social media to obtain citizen feedback.

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  • 62 IT Pro July/August 2011

    CIO COrner

    exactly social media means. What are its business benefits and how can we measure them? How long will it take to realize these benefits? Is the overall enterprise going to take a coordi-nated, cross-functional team ap-proach, or will silos be allowed? At what point in the future will there be a convergence or uni-fied solution (if at all)? Will the IT budget be aligned with the business team goals, or will the CIO bear the brunt of that difference?

    Enterprises will ultimately face a continuum that ranges from ei-ther temporarily ignoring social media to developing a detailed strategy fully integrated with the organizations corporate strategy and operating plan. Few organi-zations will do either of these two

    extremes; most are dipping their toes into social media while they wait to see how the tools mature and review documented success stories in their industry segment.

    Before moving to the next phase, firms will have to commit to funding the necessary staff, tools, and vendors.

    Strategy and ImplementationThis phase entails developing an executable plan and then deliver-ing it. This is when the CIO must answer questions about if, how, and when to integrate the four key trends noted earlier into their en-terprise and IT plans.

    To some extent, the practi-calities of other corporate IT ini-tiatives will dictate the budget and time allocated to social me-dia, thus determining the extent to which you can weave the four

    technology trends together. This balancing act isnt new to the CIO role, but social media presents a larger risk because business adop-tion can happen quickly. CIOs might suddenly find themselves under a tsunami of requests to integrate and leverage more toolsand then be unable to respond. To avoid this, CIOs must carefully manage social media implementa-tion as a program, ensuring that the IT department can fully sup-port the business and achieve the initiatives goals.

    Business as UsualIn the end, social media will be-come part of the everyday enter-prise operations. Much like the Web, this doesnt mean there wont be additional investments required or a shortage of social

    tools hitting the market. It sim-ply means that the level of capital spending will decrease and the level of operational spending will increase and then level out.

    During this phase, social media will become more pervasive in ev-eryday life. Organizations should be prepared to support new social media tools as they emerge in the market, and CIOs will be tasked with deriving more value from existing technology and available data.

    Find the Business ValueEvery organization Ive dealt with has typically started by asking some of the following questions: Will we directly sell more products or simply influence buying behav-ior? Will we improve our ability to respond to customer ques-tions and problems? Will social

    media require an increase in in-ternal costs, or can we become more efficient with what we have? Will customer loyalty increase? Will we drive more revenue and reduce costs? Will we become easier to do business with?

    The sooner you realize that social computing is about a dialog and thus implies more listening than speaking, the sooner youll identify where theres business value. Thinking about what you can learn from your custom-ers will reveal opportunities for implementing social comput-ing, but to realize the benefits, your team must know what to do with the customer feedback it receives.

    For example, if the dialog with your customer requires an in-crease in staffing but results in higher per-transaction or annual spending by that customer, then you can determine your cost- benefit. If the dialog teaches you more about product needs so you can better invest in innovative ideas and beat a competitor to market, you can measure the ben-efits. If your customers just ap-preciate that youre listening when none of your competitors are, you could derive more intangible ben-efits that might be challenging to quantify.

    Ultimately, to determine the business value, youll have to de-velop a series of questions: What are we going to measure and when? Who will determine this, and how will they do it? How will investments be treatedwill they fall under the operations or inno-vation budget? How will they be linked to the total cost of owner-ship and return on investment? How will we treat ROI? How will we staff the effort? What skill set is required, and where can we find qualified candidates? Where does our approach fit within the organization (in the business

    CIOs might suddenly find themselves under a tsunami of requests to integrate and leverage more toolsand then be unable to respond.

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    department, with the IT team, or both)?

    Recognize the Important ToolsThe tools youll employ will vary depending on your audience, goals, and ability to manage the resulting dialog, but there are some interesting data points to consider. Although there are a myriad of technologies and websites that legitimately play in the social computing space (not all of which will ultimately survive), there are several key players based on membership and activity.

    Socialnomics.net recently posted a list of the top social media sites, and six of the top 21 tools arent in English. The largest non-English social computing tool, tencent.com (third on the overall list) reaches 485 million users.4 To reach a global audience, CIOs will thus need to include emerg-ing social media tools in multiple languages.

    The key for many organizations will be integrating the three most discussed tools todayFacebook (with 515 million registered us-ers), Twitter (175 million users), and LinkedIn (80 million users) with their corporate website and evolving from there as needed.4

    Identify the OwnersMany CIOs assume theyll be the owner of social media in their or-ganization. Although many CIOs are responsible for their corpo-rate Web presence, very few (if any) own the content on those sites. When you realize that so-cial computing is about the dia-log and about listeningand that the selection of social comput-ing tools will be based on your audienceit becomes more dif-ficult for a CIO to own the array of capabilities necessary to build and operate an effective social me-dia program. However, because

    the norm for the business is based on how the Web presence is run, its safe to assume that the CIO will have a role in driving the early stages of social media in the enterprise.

    Herein lies the ultimate chal-lenge. If you initiate the effort without properly identifying how youll eventually transition the effort to the business department, and if the effort isnt sufficiently funded and staffed, the risk of failure is quite high, and youll bear the brunt of it. CIOs must do a substantial amount of poli-ticking both upward into the ex-ecutive ranks and outward across all business units to ensure the interim and long-term success of the program.

    C IOs will likely need to lead the effort to define their organizations social media...

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