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Monthly Archives: September 2012

IT and the Social Enterprise – Becoming a Strategic Business Partner

Guest post by IDC Group Vice President Michael Fauscette

The discussion of how businesses can use the concepts, tools and processes that have emerged from the social web is getting louder, and it’s an important issue that many businesses are trying to sort out. Social business and particularly enterprise social networks (ESN), offer some important benefits and in fact, companies that are using ESN’s are reporting many diverse business benefits and advantages. For businesses that are using social technologies, many began as experiments with some grass roots efforts by a small part of the business, and were targeted at very specific needs / issues. More often than not, these early efforts are “under the radar”, and are not sanctioned by IT.  They’re started by employees trying to solve a problem in the best way they can, when the tools provided by the business are not sufficient for some reason. Employees feel empowered to take action (that’s a good thing), and often have unmet expectations around enterprise tools growing out of the “consumerization of IT” trend. The “bad” side of this though, is the potential risk for the business around security, compliance and intellectual property (IP) protection.

I’ve talked with many CIO’s and IT managers who feel like they are under attack by employees that are unhappy with enterprise systems and tools and who expect the world of work to mimic the online experiences of their personal interactions. They want tablet computing devices and smartphones that are currently not supported by IT, so they just “bring their own” and put the devices on the network themselves. Face it, this is a tech savvy workforce, and that savvy is growing every day. When they use software they expect the experience to be simple, straightforward and efficient. A lot of enterprise software is getting “long in the tooth” and the user experience (UX) is 20+ years old. The software still works and does a good enough job, but employees don’t want to use it. So what’s the IT organization to do?

IT has to be involved in assisting the business to get new social and collaborative tools in place, that much is absolutely clear. For businesses to be successful with social tools and the accompanying cultural change, IT needs to become a business partner to ensure that the tools that are put in place are secure, scalable, enterprise ready software and that the implementation of the tools, including change management, is successfully executed. The opportunity to be involved at both the strategic level and the tactical execution level of building a social business is very important for corporate IT. With IT involved the business can be sure that all of the important concerns around the selection and deployment of an ESN are considered. This includes:

  • Security and compliance
  • Integration
  • Mobile capabilities
  • Decision support / analytics
  • User experience
  • User adoption

The potential benefits of a fully deployed ESN are high and critical for businesses, but without IT involvement the risk is great. At the same time, IT can’t be seen as a roadblock to progress, particularly around ESN’s and collaboration. Many of the collaboration tools that were deployed by IT in the past were very file centric and all about controlling information. In the new paradigm the tools must be people-centric and facilitate knowledge sharing. If your collaboration tools are not built around the new approach they are not sufficient to meet todays business challenges and your employees are likely circumventing the tools and IT oversight to get their jobs done.

Blocking access to public social tools and networks also isn’t a viable option, even tough I see IT organizations try and enforce bans. In a world where almost every employee has a smartphone in his/her pocket, there’s really no way to shut off access. Instead IT should help the business develop reasonable policies, train employees and help sort out the real needs of the business around social.

IT can and should be an important partner to the business users in working out an enterprise social strategy. As a partner it’s much easier to solve the other risk issues while meeting the needs of the business.

*****

Michael Fauscette leads IDC’s Software Business Solutions Group, which encompasses research and consulting in enterprise software applications including ERP, SCM, CRM, PLM, collaboration and social applications, software partner and alliance ecosystems, open source software, software vendor business models, SaaS and cloud computing, and software pricing and licensing. He also provides thought leadership in the area of social applications and the transition to the social business.

Prior to joining IDC Mr. Fauscette held senior consulting and services roles with seven software vendors including Autodesk, Inc., PeopleSoft, Inc. and MRO, Inc. Mr. Fauscette graduated with special honors from Jacksonville State University with a BA in Sociology and History and with honors from Widener University with a MS in Business.

Follow Mike Fauscette on Twitter.