Social Media and the CIO: Be the Gas Pedal, Not the Brake

By Vasudev Murthy  |  Posted 02-26-2012

Social Media and the CIO: Be the Gas Pedal, Not the Brake

Like it or not, your enterprise is now social.

You don't need a report from a research firm to tell you what you already know-that people don't leave their personal lives behind when they enter the workspace. Their mobile devices ensure that they can be reached at any time, and they expect to reach out to others on demand too. News they can use about friends and events reaches them in a flash, and that's the way they want it.

As the next generation enters the workplace, they will simply assume their access to the world of "tweets" and "likes" and status updates will continue at work as it does at home. Online petitions and campaigns, viral videos, tweets that gather their own unstoppable momentum-that's the world we live in.

Pity the poor CIO, trying your best to get your arms around threatening social media concerns such as data security and confidentiality as this new reality impinges upon enterprise technologies. Even as you're trying to bar the doors, you're being pushed by stakeholders from across your organization to create a social enterprise.

Department heads have their own perfectly reasonable agendas to engage in social media. Marketing wants to reach customers faster than ever with "content" and wants to improve its digital brand and extend its influence. Your CEO is concerned about reputation management -- of himself or herself as well as your company. Even your CFO is all for reaching out to investors via social media.

As for internal communication, you just can't beat the social media mantra of "communicate, be accessible, and constantly generate new content." I know a CEO who wants to use social media to rebrand himself within his organization to become accessible. His goal is to reduce employee attrition by creating an organization that is flat and based on ease of communication. Executives with whom I speak in the banking industry understand that social media has to be part of customer acquisition and retention, despite substantial technological and logistical challenges.

Some organizations are playing a game of catch-up. Others have realized that social media is a competitive differentiator that's diminishing rapidly as a growing number of companies embrace and exploit it. An organization's social media strategy is no longer simply about its marketing and branding; it's also about finance, human resources, and business operations. In short, social media should no longer be the sole province of your company's marketing department.

Social Media and the CIO: Five Key Recommendations


All of this means that today's CIO must embrace social media. To do so requires some practical adaptations. Here are five key recommendations for CIOs as you think about the Social Enterprise:

  1. Make social media an asset, not something to fight. The very qualities that have the potential to make social media a distraction for workers can also create advantages for your organization. Do make this a reality, you have to take ownership and work with your colleagues to discover the areas in your organization where social media can enhance your brand, your processes, your customer service, and your internal and external communications.

  2. Create and distribute a social media policy. The issues the policy should address include confidentiality, privacy, communications standards for engagement, personal versus business engagement, harassment, and other areas specific to the organization. Will violations happen? Certainly. But having a policy in place protects your employees, and your organization, by establishing the standards you expect everyone to meet.

  3. At the department level, ask employees to brainstorm ideas on how social media can enhance their work, business processes, and your company's brand in general. Your employees already are social media experts and good things will emerge. Trust them.

  4. Investigate technologies that will integrate social media with your business processes, including CRM, to create synergies across the board.

  5. Give your people the tools they need to be productive using social media. Make smartphones and iPads or other tablets an integral part of your business environment, and educate employees about privacy issues. You might be surprised that they are more sensitive about your company's data security and confidentiality concerns because they have already dealt with such challenges in their own lives.

None of this diminishes the expectation that CIOs must continue to keep business humming 24/7, secure the data that's central to the company's charter, and provide the highest level of IT service to the staff. Yet, this is an opportunity for a CIO to be more than the keeper of technology and, instead, become a strategic player within your organization. With this additional responsibility comes opportunity. The key is to be the gas pedal, and not the brake.

About the Author

Vasudev Murthy is Practice Partner, Functional Consulting, and head of the Social Media Practice for Wipro Consulting Services. He is based in Bangalore, India, and can be reached at vasudev.murthys@wipro.com.