Social Business & the CIO

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 4/3/2012 | 3 comments

David Wagner
CIOs are being tasked with providing more social business tools -- from CRM to Wikis to social media management tools like Hootsuite. They’re also being asked to make traditional tools like simple email, IM, and productivity software more social and more collaborative. They’re told constantly by places like E2 that business is becoming more social, and that they have to provide for that. The only problem is that no one else seems to think these things are all that important -- at least not yet.

Nevertheless, smart CIOs will ramp up their efforts to get ready, because things are changing. A survey by Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review shows that companies aren’t really all that interested right now in social business, but they have it on their radar.

Executives in multiple industries were asked to rate social business as “unimportant,” “somewhat unimportant,” “neutral,” “somewhat important,” or “important” to their business. No sector had more than 37.4 percent saying it was important. And that figure came from the media and publishing sector, where Twitter feeds are the norm. IT and education, where you’d expect early adoption, were both below 30 percent. Only 7 percent of executives in energy and utilities said it was important, and the figure for the manufacturing sector was barely above that.

One of the most interesting findings: The majority of executives said social business would be important in three years. Even 40 percent of utility executives said social business would be important in three years. Nearly 80 percent of media and publishing executives said it would. Across all sectors, at least double the number of people who said it was important now said it would be important within three years.

Time isn’t the only issue. Company size was also a factor -- 21.2 percent of executives at companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, regardless of sector, called social business important. And 21.2 percent of executives at companies with more than 100,000 employees said it was important. But at companies between those sizes, the figures ranged from 12.1 percent to 13.6 percent. What accounts for the dip among midsized companies? Deloitte speculated that social business tools made small companies seem much bigger and big companies seem much smaller.

When I asked Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble, about these findings, he said a company’s size also reflects its culture and resources:

I believe that the reason why small businesses do so well with social adoption is they have less cultural change that needs to occur. There are many cultural and management impediments to implementing internal and external social practices, least of which is fear of change and concern of additional work. Small companies can feel and see immediate effects to any change in leads and traffic caused by social engagement, which encourages more involvement. Big business can afford the people, policy, process, and tools necessary to implement social business. Medium-sized business are unfortunately in the middle. They are too big to be nimble and not big enough to take the risk to invest and make the changes required to become an effective social business.

All this presents quite a challenge to CIOs, especially those at midsized firms. How can you get the enterprise ready for social business before the enterprise is ready to do so? The resources and the commitment won’t be there from upper management. But if you wait until upper management is ready, you’re going to lose three years. And three years in this business will get a CIO fired.

The best plan is to take your cue from the front-line employees, who know the tools they want and need. According to a survey conducted for Jive Software, simple social networking and collaboration tools helped knowledge workers find a piece of information 32 percent faster. These tools can also increase employee retention and engagement. And engagement has an ROI of its own. Best Buy discovered that increasing engagement by 0.1 percent at a store increased sales by $100,000 per year. Obviously, depending on your company, ROI from engagement is more or less difficult to define, but it is no less important.

When procuring software or considering new tools, put social business into the equation before your executive team tells you to put it in. You’ll look like a genius. You’ll serve the business. And you’ll get a head start on their demands.

View Comments: Threaded | Newest First | Oldest First
Sara Peters   Social Business & the CIO   4/4/2012 12:29:08 PM
Well said!
"Deloitte speculated that social business tools made small companies seem much bigger and big companies seem much smaller."  This sums it up beautifully, doesn't it? It expresses the two main purposes of social networking -- increasing exposure and increasing community.

I wonder though... do mid-sized companies undervalue social networks?

David Wagner   Social Business & the CIO   4/4/2012 1:02:59 PM
Re: Well said!
@Sara- I think they undervalue them because they have the biggest trouble using them. i think Jon's comment that medium sized companies have the biggest trouble putting the resources together to track the benefits of social business. And they have difficulty implementing it into their culture.

I suspect the companies who value it were ahead of the curve or companies that have had recent growth from smaller companies.
CurtisFranklin   Social Business & the CIO   4/5/2012 9:38:07 AM
Re: Well said!
@Sara, I'll agree with @David: mid-sized companies would seem to be in the most difficult position to take advantage of social networks. They aren't large enough to have a marketing group devoted to social networks, and they're too large to have the sort of very personal, very nimble culture that will simple bring social networking to the company without considering the possibility of no Facebook.

I think this means that mid-size companies will have to put the most "formal" thinking into the process -- paradoxically, they're the companies that might well benefit the most from solid social networking integration.

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