We need Social CIOs to drive the Social Business

Today’s forward thinking businesses –  the HP’s, Thomson Reuters and KPMGs) of this world  – are evolving on social both in terms of their communications, but also in terms of the way they do business fundamentally. Yes, they engage with customers, prospects, partners, advocates and their internal communities, but by treating social as a business critical piece of infrastructure, these companies gain the opportunity to use unstructured social data and analytics to understand the conversations the move their markets.

One of the prominent examples of a company that is living out the vision of a social business for instance, is IBM – whose employees, partners, consultants and advocates are legion on Twitter and the blogosphere , and have an established position on social business. Business initiatives of this nature are simply not possible without the support of the C-suite – and especially, the CIO as the driver of an information strategy that encompasses our evolving digital world. The IBM interactive offering represents a new development in terms of enterprise software companies moving into markets that are new to them, leveraging big data to help companies like Coca Cola and Air Canada optimise their digital activities.

For those that may be yet to fully embrace these ideas, it might seem like a tall order; the question  “where to start”may arise – I joined the Business Value Exchange’s CIO social media Twitter Chat in December 2013 and noticed that as well as some bullish advocates for the Social CIO there were also more reserved voices.

Even if the culture of your business does not support such activity at this time, the simplest way to start acting as a social business is to start finding, following interacting with potential valuable prospects on various professional social platforms, as well as speaking with them in person – mixing the private conversations that take place offline with the more general professional chatter that can take place online, thus increasing the touch points between both businesses. As the individuals that often ultimately sign off on social media policies CIOs are well positioned to be knowledgeable about the parameters.

CIOs can take inspiration from markets where the Social CIO message is more mature –  such as the United States. There are already a number in higher education and understandably tech that they can also connect with and learn from.

Depending on the nature of any given business, there can be a strong case for being given the opportunity to make the technological infrastructure of the business flexible enough to enable more social interaction. A good example comes from a prediction that for many businesses has come true – back in 2012 Carol Rozwell, a Gartner analyst suggested that failing to respond to customer issues on social media will carry the same stigma as “ignoring” customer calls and emails – today an active social CRM system is something that many companies today take for granted, as a way to help drive loyalty. Social business evangelist Brian Solis also marks this year as the one where social becomes mainstream in business for other functions such as internal comms, stakeholder collaboration and recruitment.

Social infrastructure providers and consultants are well positioned to support CIOs to help their enterprise make the transition effectively – it needn’t (and shouldn’t try to) be an overnight process. The cultural change processes and training provided will inevitably take time – and can take place at a pace that respects risk management issues, compliance and other sector trends particular to any given sector.

Despite the concerns that may exist it is essential to be aware of the fact that social business isn’t going away –  and a more mobile, BYOD-driven working world may only facilitate this development further. As a result, it’s better to have a framework in place proactively, than to have to react to the trend as it evolves later.

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