The Challenges of Social Media in the Enterprise, why Business and IT need to align

Last night I was one of the panelists discussing Social Media in the enterprise (some may refer to this as Enterprise 2.0. but the savvy know it’s so much more). Shel Israel always does a great job of leading panels in an unorthodox manner by encouraging panelists to give about a 6 minute doctrine before getting into question and answer. Here’s loosely the points I made last night:

[The notion of Enterprise 2.0 entices us of open communications, collaboration, in a connected world. Before we adopt these cheap and free tools have we must stop to consider the dangers when IT and Business departments don’t adapt at the same speed]

Web Strategy in the Enterprise
Many people consider me a marketer, yet I have a long background in intranets and the enterprise. I’ve served in both IT and software engineering departments. I’ve worked on four enterprise intranets and was the business manager for the global enterprise intranet at Hitachi Data Systems, mainly focused on the marketing and sales side. I was on the Board of Advisors for two enterprise 2.0 companies, ConnectBeam and Worksona (which has morphed to a new company) and have written a white paper with Dennis McDonald on the topic (we started it in 2005, before the term ‘social media’ came about). For what it’s worth I prefer to be called a “web professional” not segmented to IT, Media, or Marketing, there’s many facets to the web.

The Shine of Enterprise 2.0
The promise of “Enterprise 2.O” to deliver open communications, collaboraiton, and social connections for a faster and more fluid business there are several concerns to consider. Even simply blogging tools like Six Apart’s Typepad is an example. We’re all excited about how disparate individuals and groups will be able to find each other, connect, and collaborate in new ways in the company, have we stopped to consider some of the pitfalls?

Then the dullness sets in Dangers of dispersion
Unfortunately for many IT departments, they focus on the programs they are budgeted to maintain. Sometimes they are not given the freedom or resources to innovate outside of the current enterprise architecture, “Must stay J2EE” or “This is a MS shop only”, or the worse one “Not built here? then we don’t want it”. This slowness gives business units with eyes wide open from business pains three options: 1) Ask IT for help, and hope their request for new communication and collaboration tools to be granted 2) Do nothing 3) Do something on their own.

Access to tools is simple, it’s called the “internet”

If business units adopt these tools without IT providing a technology and communications strategy the enterprise may suffer from a disjointed experience –regardless of individual successes. Out of necessity, the business unit turns to the web as they develop a program on their own. What exactly will they do? Access the variety of free tools, or cheap ones to meet their needs.

I’m guilty and you may be too
I’m somewhat guilty of this problem, I’ve deployed tools without contacting my IT department. Why? because I was afraid they would slow and eventually stop any innovative programs I would lead on the business side. It’s so simple to download, or use web based collaboration tools (in fact I have a list of nearly 80 white label social networks, and dozen of collaboraiton tools) that can be used at any given time.

Thinking through the impacts
Fast forward a few months, if not weeks. What happens when individual business units develop and deploy these tools? The immediate business problems are met, although the longer, and larger information landscape is forever changed. Enterprises may see ill effects such as:

  • Disparate user experiences to customers and employees
  • Information spread off the firewall, some potentially sensitive
  • Risk of enterprise 2.0 vendors being acquired by a competitor
  • Real time information being spread at the “edges” of the company, where there was one before corporate communications
  • Multiple login systems
  • Multiple identity systems spread from system to systems
  • Systems that may not talk to each other, now or in the future.
  • Business program managers that leave the company or position, orphaning any technology deployment deployed at the business level
  • Business groups paying for web programs in different locations, different budgets
  • Lack of a cohesive web strategy

  • The fix? IT moving at the speed of business

    Business units, IT groups, and Enterprise 2.0 vendors need to work closely together to deploy programs across the enterprise. I, we, you, would love to see IT to rise to the occassion and get ahead of the demand curve. Get aware of what’s happening, build connections internally. Get educated, attend enterprise 2.0 conferences and events. Initiate a dialogue with business units fast and early. Your business analysts can stay close to the groups, gather information and help drive a real strategy. Experiment with new technology (give time and resources to those wide eyed employees in IT you see who may adopt these tools) and deploy quickly. Be flexible as business and technology changes over time. Sure, there are going to be changes at the speed of business, but that’s far better than doing nothing.

    Chime in with your suggestions and experiences in the comments below, please.

    In a few days I’ll be speaking at Visible Path’s event in San Francisco, Ross Mayfield and others will be on my panel. What’s Visible Path? They offer solutions to map out the “Social Graph” of an enterprise by sifting and organizing unstructured data in Outlook and other repositories. Why is this important? The most important knowledge in many orginizations (HR, Sales, Support, Management) can be relationships, and often in other organizations. Corporations are not islands, but are connected with interstate freeways extending at all edges of the border. You may also want to check out the free white paper Dennis McDonald and I wrote “Business and I.T. Must Work Together to Manage New “Web 2.0” Tools

    Links from the Social Media Club event at Intel last night “Social Media in the Enterprise”

  • Stuart was there Update: and has blogged the session notes, and Chris (who said his URL enough times for me to remember to check it out SocialTNT), and he also summarized the event, fantastic capture.

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