Six Conversations for the CIO around Social Business Strategy

Posted on August 22, 2011 by


My colleague, Dr. Jim McGee, and I have been working for a while on a project to understand the IT leaders role in social business strategy formulation. My earlier blogs share some of our thinking about discussing social business with IT leaders and the components of a social business strategy. Jim’s blog recently articulated our arguments for the hypothesis that “CIO represents the best choice if an organization wants to develop a social technology strategy”. In this blog, I want to share thoughts on what the CIO might do to help create the social business strategy.

If we agree for the moment that social business is more than just brand management, then we have a number of organizational goals for which social technologies may offer some solutions. Social business strategy is the vision and plan around social media, social networking, social support, social innovation, and the infrastructure components of social technologies and social liabilities. My previous blog goes into more detail on these components.

So the CIO’s role is to be the leader in insuring all of these components are included in the enterprise’s social business strategy. How might he/she do that? I suggest the CIO have six conversations:

Conversation 1: Social Media– this is the conversation with the leaders in marketing, PR and sales. The object of this conversation is to map out the goals, objectives, and plans for new, social ways to do brand management, customer management and customer engagement. Things like blogs of by customers who like the company’s products and services, tweeting programs that engage customers in discussions around the brand and the products and services and facebook fan pages are all examples of applications that would be part of this conversation.

Conversation 2: Social Networking– this is the conversation around new ways for collaboration and knowledge sharing. Many leaders are candidates for this conversation, starting with HR and executives in sales and operations. This is the conversation around collaboration both inside and outside the company. These are the applications that help individuals find gurus and expertise, share experiences, and get to know each other. These are things like facebook and linked in, as well as internal social networks and knowledge management sites.

Conversation 3: Social Support– this is the conversation around new social ways of providing customers with support services. Executives who own the support processes and resources are the ones to be invited into this conversation to map out a vision of support. For example, companies offer websites where peer to peer support is moderated by company experts. Support personnel monitor Twitter for customer issues. Google Alerts are set to locate any mention of support problems.

Conversation 4: Social Innovation– this is the conversation with leaders in R&D around using social methods for sourcing, testing, and refining new ideas. Organizations are finding that individuals outside their corporate boundaries have ideas and solutions to problems inside the boundaries. Using social technologies to systematically generate and harness these ideas is the goal of this conversation.

Conversation 5: Social Technologies– this is the conversation about the platforms and tools to be used in implementing the applications. Typically this is a technical conversation among the IT leaders about architecture, infrastructure and sourcing options. But with many of these tools available ‘for free’ on the web, this conversation is a much broader discussion including many of the business leaders who have a passionate interest in seeing certain tools (like Twitter, Facebook, etc) used.

Conversation 6: Social Liability– this is the often dreaded conversation with the legal, regulatory and security experts about these necessary components of the strategy. Typically the Chief Security Officer, chief regulatory officer, Corporate Counselor and other officers are participants in this conversation.

These conversations are not one-time, over lunch conversations. They are in-depth strategy discussions, which are revisited periodically.

The social business strategy doesn’t just “happen” in well-managed environments. It’s a clearly thought out discussion with key leaders and constituencies. The CIO and senior IT leadership are well positioned to set up these conversations. While we don’t suggest the CIO lead the brand management strategy, or the knowledge management strategy or any of the specific components, the nature of the social business strategy is it’s cross-functional implementation. Marketing may lead the social media strategy but who should make sure it’s consistent with support, innovation, and networking?

Here is an opportunity for the CIO to take a leadership role in developing the social business strategy and make this enterprise-wide strategy a reality.