Social Media as the CIO’s Trojan Horse

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By Chris Curran and Rajesh Balaraman

Many senior IT leaders in the US believe that they are beyond the first level of business engagement.  They have established IT’s value in general and have regular ways to interact with other parts of the organization, both to establish strategic plans and for specific project design and requirements.  Unfortunately, other parts of the world are not this far along.

We recently spent some time with over 100 of the top CIOs in India at the 10th Annual CTO Forum.  While a wide spectrum of topics we discussed, social media was one that created a lot of discussion, but in which there is skepticism.  However, even in India, where IT still has a way to go in becoming a true cog in the business engine, there
are some great examples of how social media is adding real rupees to the bottom line.  During a panel discussion, Atul Luthra, who leads IT for the PVR theater chain, explained how they developed custom Facebook apps to link friends, movie schedules, ticket purchases and status/Wall updates.  On an enterprise level, Sumit Chowdhury, Reliance Communications CIO, described his organization’s extensive corporate use of blogs and other social media channels internally and Saraswati Sankar, the DGM – IT from Bank of India, described a simple but powerful use of shared support bulletin boards used during her core banking platform roll-out.

There is a real need to find something to get the India business leaders excited about the strategic prospects of IT (it’s clear that they get the operational value of it).  We’re not saying it’s a silver bullet, but maybe there is something in the social media space that could be used to take the business discussion up a few notches – a Trojan Horse of sorts.  Here are some ideas for positioning the social media discussion not as a LinkedIn or blogging discussion, but one based on problem solving.

Business Function Questions Social Media Potential
HR

How can we increase the pool of job candidates?

Use LinkedIn as an active recruiting channel.  Explore Twitter-based recruiting sources.

Sales

How can we offer time-sensitive promotions, discounts and deals?

Offer special discounts and promotions on a Twitter stream.  Consider Facebook applications for more sophistication.

Customer Service

How can we get more timely product feedback?

Third-party customer feedback platforms like GetSatisfaction provide quick, social feedback.

Business leaders are not the only ones making the business-technology discussion difficult.  In our discussions with the India CIOs, we also heard these concerns:

  1. security concerns
  2. damage to brand equity by individual opinions being expressed and viewed as corporate opinion
  3. productivity loss due to time spent at work on social media

Certainly, these discussion themes are not India-specific and could be used as conversation starters anywhere.  Let us know what you think.

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  • Interesting discussion. I agree that the use of social media presents a slew of issues for businesses. Most businesses are confused about how best to proceed to get true strategic value from it. Should the CIO be at the front leading the charge?

    I would recommend small steps to test the waters and answer some of the legitimate concerns executives have which you pointed out. Having the discussions and seeing examples of how others are doing it is great way to get businesses thinking about how to leverage social media.

  • Interesting discussion. I agree that the use of social media presents a slew of issues for businesses. Most businesses are confused about how best to proceed to get true strategic value from it. Should the CIO be at the front leading the charge?

    I would recommend small steps to test the waters and answer some of the legitimate concerns executives have which you pointed out. Having the discussions and seeing examples of how others are doing it is great way to get businesses thinking about how to leverage social media.

  • Todd Zebert

    Concern #3 solution – ENGAGED employees don’t suffer from productivity loss. Fix the root cause, not the symptom.

  • Todd Zebert

    Concern #3 solution – ENGAGED employees don’t suffer from productivity loss. Fix the root cause, not the symptom.

  • Great information Chris, thank you for sharing it.

    While I agree with Arun that senior technology leaders should take small steps initially it is critical that they begin to take these steps now. Here is why:

    – Social Media takes time and immersion to gain a true understanding of it’s potential.
    – The communication tools of today, and those of tomorrow, are interlacing social channels and a company’s head technologist must understand this. If you do not understand the technology you may be unable to recommend the right solutions to the business problems of tomorrow.

    In a time of rapid technological change it is disappointing to see many of my peers who simply do not understand the importance of the non-technical aspects of the business. If you want to have a seat at the executive tabe step out from behind that desk and join in the conversation. You might just learn something.

    John Moore

  • Great information Chris, thank you for sharing it.

    While I agree with Arun that senior technology leaders should take small steps initially it is critical that they begin to take these steps now. Here is why:

    – Social Media takes time and immersion to gain a true understanding of it’s potential.
    – The communication tools of today, and those of tomorrow, are interlacing social channels and a company’s head technologist must understand this. If you do not understand the technology you may be unable to recommend the right solutions to the business problems of tomorrow.

    In a time of rapid technological change it is disappointing to see many of my peers who simply do not understand the importance of the non-technical aspects of the business. If you want to have a seat at the executive tabe step out from behind that desk and join in the conversation. You might just learn something.

    John Moore

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  • Jeff Holmes

    Do you really have to worry about #2? Everybody does of course, but you can’t really do much about what employees say about your brand. Anonymous posting to Glassdoor, blogs, Twitter, etc make it far too easy to get the “inside scoop”. Engaged, productive, happy employees aren’t going to trash your brand. Yes there are always some disgruntled employees; just as there are disgruntled customers that should not be the concern. Inept leadership, shoddy manufacturing, lack of customer focus and poor business decisions historically do far more to damage brand equity than some employee’s Tweet, Facebook or blog positing ever will.

  • Jeff Holmes

    Do you really have to worry about #2? Everybody does of course, but you can’t really do much about what employees say about your brand. Anonymous posting to Glassdoor, blogs, Twitter, etc make it far too easy to get the “inside scoop”. Engaged, productive, happy employees aren’t going to trash your brand. Yes there are always some disgruntled employees; just as there are disgruntled customers that should not be the concern. Inept leadership, shoddy manufacturing, lack of customer focus and poor business decisions historically do far more to damage brand equity than some employee’s Tweet, Facebook or blog positing ever will.

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