Over the last couple months, I’ve noticed quite a few articles outlining CIO concerns over the rise of social networking in the enterprise. To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything new here. These were many of the same concerns we dealt with in the late 90’s as hosted applications came online. Some of us spent a lot of time in front of customers trying to convince them that it was safe to go in the water, that the online paradigm was coming. These days, whether an application is on-premise or hosted offsite or in the cloud is almost inconsequential – just give me the features/storage/performance I need, and get out of the way. That’s where we’re headed.
Having lived through these battles more than a decade ago, it’s interesting to read articles, such as Nigel Fenwick’s piece on the Forrester Blog, or Kristin Burnham over on CIO, that illustrate the sluggish response to social media by many CIOs. Do you find yourself stuck with your own organization, trying to make the case for expanding your collaboration capability? Is your CIO blocking your every move? What are the issues? Should your management team be concerned about these new technologies?
To help you understand the CIO point of view, I’ve put together a quick list of the major CIO concerns that I’ve seen – and tried to manage around – in my various roles in online and collaboration technologies (most recently SharePoint), that seem to be spot on with the rise of social media tools in the enterprise:
First and foremost in any CIO’s mind is security of existing systems and applications. Will enabling these new tools create backdoors and open the company up to issues? What does this do to access controls and permissions management? You need to understand the network, identity, and device-specific requirements of these tools before you consider deploying.
- Intellectual Property / Competition
While we’ve seen news of inconsiderate employees losing their jobs over loose talk on unmonitored social media sites, there just hasn’t been the wave of IP issues predicted in the early days of these tools. Part of this is because many companies closely monitor their brands and trade secrets (some great links here on brand monitoring), but the real reason is that the way we work has changed. People inherently understand what can and can’t be talked about in these forums. Having said that, you need to be aware of the capabilities (and limits) of these tools to provide security trimming, in-use monitoring, and custom permissions so that your intellectual property is not put at risk by a cheap tool. Yes, there is overlap with the previous item, and with the next.
At the root of every compliance rule is a creative lawsuit claim. Somebody, somewhere was sued for leaking the kind of data floating around in your internal social media hub. So how do you capture that IM conversation, the web conference whiteboard markup, the teleconference chatter? The problem with many of the common platforms is that they are limited in their ability to capture and store historical data. Of course, in most cases, pay a little bit of money, and anything is possible. You can monitor, capture, and archive just about anything, and some companies are doing just that….in case they’re asked for the conference call logs the next time they’re in court. You need to know the capabilities of the tools you’re proposing to deploy.
Are you scanning your Friend lists, checking on the status of your college buddy to see if he was able to catch Avatar in 3D last weekend, or are you actually doing something “work-related?” To be honest, this is one of the most difficult issues to overcome with a CIO who insists that social media = unproductive employees. It’s hard to sell effectiveness and efficiency, the intangible fruits of social media. Senior managers who see everything as quantitative have a hard time understanding qualitative arguments. You’ll need to be clear on the benefits, show them as much data as possible, and get other senior managers on your side.
- Support Issues
What is the server footprint? Is it freeware or a supported product? What are the support options? What are the priority and severity levels? What is the mean time to resolution of any issue you might find? Are there SLAs? How much visibility do you have into the types of supports issues you can expect, or that other enterprise customers are experiencing? Any company claiming to be enterprise-ready should have an enterprise-class support system in place, otherwise you are at risk.
A legitimate concern. There’s the cost of the software, the hardware it requires, the external maintenance and support, the internal maintenance and support, the overhead to manage the technology – such as regular security and compliance audits, support metrics, and other critical business intelligence reporting and status meetings. You’re adding a new transactional system to the mix. Yes, these tools can make the team more collaborative and productive, but they also spit out a lot of data that you may want to / need to mine.
- Lack of Visibility / Transparency
Truth be told, this is just another flavor of the security, IP, and compliance concerns above. If I were a psychologist (I’m not, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night) I would say that this concern has more to do with control than anything else. One way around this is to provide as much data as possible, until their comfort level increases. Of course, this raises the issue of quantitative value versus qualitative.
Really? Is this still an issue? Possibly. Just be aware of the resource-hog-iness of the tools. Every vendor under the sun has this question answered, so just be prepared with the data.
You crazy kids. How long is this social media stuff going to last? Get a haircut.
- Ignorance / Apathy
The good thing about a CIO who doesn’t seem to care about the latest, greatest technology is that they don’t last long. Your best approach to this issue is to show your CIO why they should care, such as productivity or happy end users. Or maybe you just wait them out…
Hopefully you’ve found this list to be helpful, and it helps you better understand your CIO’s hesitations around social media. Don’t be deterred. The first step for you is to understand their concerns. The second step is to answer those concerns. Do your homework, and be prepared. Good luck.