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CIOs must face these facts to go social

This piece, penned by Hearsay Social CIO in Residence Jim Lee, was originally posted on Internet Evolution. With experience as CIO at Marsh & McLennan and other Fortune 500 companies, Jim speaks with authority to a couple obstacles that today’s CIO must address in going social:

It’s a harsh truth: Most enterprise CIOs do not know how social media can benefit their organizations. One significant factor is the pressure placed on CIOs to keep the shop running and ensure the IT agenda is aligned with business objectives. IT needs to deliver on the priorities of the business, and if the business does not see or understand the benefits of social media, such initiatives are unlikely to get funded.
However, that should not prevent the CIO from developing the foundational knowledge not only for him/herself, but, more importantly, to help educate the business constituents on how social media can bring immense value to the organization.
CIOs who recognize the importance of innovation, of helping organizations think outside the box, and of ensuring competitive position through the use of technology need to bring innovation to the organization — particularly now. It is essential for IT leadership to collaborate with business stakeholders to leverage social media as a competitive advantage.
Social media are part of the technology evolution that began with the mainframe (which let organizations process massive amount of data) and moved to personal computers (to help distribute and empower end users) and then to the Internet (which enabled global connectivity and commerce).
Simply having a presence on Twitter or a business page on Facebook does not qualify as innovation with social media. I see those actions as table stakes and fundamental for any organization entering the social media arena.
In addition to essentially developing a social media strategy with the business, CIOs need to prepare their organizations for the implementation of a social media solution. This is where major challenges will emerge for the IT organization. Most social media platforms are cloud-based (SaaS), which raises a number of issues about data security and operational readiness.
For instance, here are two main issues CIOs will need to address in implementing cloud-based social software:

  • Data security: The consistent challenge being posed by chief information security officers is that data in the cloud is not secure, and the organization cannot afford the risks of data being compromised. All aspects of applications, data, infrastructure, provisioning, and the like need to be 100 percent locked down, and a rigorous process must be developed for any “exceptions.” It is incumbent on the SaaS provider to work with the client to ensure the concerns are addressed through a thorough review of the infrastructure, including security guidelines and protocols that have been implemented to protect the client’s information.
  • Operational readiness: Both the SaaS service provider and the client must develop a framework to accommodate the nuances of how solutions are deployed within each environment. You have one extreme where solutions are developed and deployed using waterfall development methodologies (a traditional enterprise approach driven by tollgates, milestones, etc.) and another extreme where solutions are developed and deployed on a daily basis. The paradigms do not mix well, and it is essential for the enterprise to be able to work with the SaaS provider on a plan for integration.

The call to action is for CIOs: Get educated on the social media domain, partner with business stakeholders on the development of a social media strategy, and work within the IT organization to ensure it is operationally ready for any level of integration with SaaS providers.

Why enterprise CIOs need to go social

When looking at the evolution of the CIO role within the enterprise, you need to consider what drives the scope of responsibilities and skills required to manage the environment, the experience necessary to drive innovation, and the competencies required to support the needs of the business in correlation to the technologies. When you examine the evolution of technology, you will see that every decade has brought about a major shift that has profoundly impacted the business in one way or another.

Bringing social media to the enterprise is akin to the technology integration problems of the past.

It began with the mainframe, which enabled organizations to process massive amount of data; then personal computers, to help distribute and empower end users; then the Internet, which enabled global connectivity and commerce; and now we are in the midst of the next evolution: social media.
Having served in the workforce for the latter part of the PC era and as a relatively successful executive during the Internet era, I understand the need for organizations to draw upon innovation to drive growth, product enhancement, and competitive differentiation. As the industry moves to better understand and utilize social media, I also want to prepare myself from a thought leadership and competency perspective in this domain. It is critical for technology leaders like my peer CIOs to get involved in better understanding the value proposition social media can have for their respective organization.
It is clear to me that social media will have a continued impact on how organizations interact with their stakeholders, both internally and externally, when you consider the consumerization of IT and the expectations of the millennial generation. The interconnected individual has clear expectations around enablement and access to social media platforms. Organizations that block access to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ will be challenged with attrition.
It’s not just about preventing fires, however, because social also has the opportunity to contribute to Growth and Retention, Risk and Compliance, Efficiency and Expense Control, and Claims Indemnity Control of an organization’s external customers. A recent Celent Report, “Emerging Insurance Technologies – General (P&C) Insurance Industry Edition 2011,” published in December 2011, indicates that social media affects each one of the quadrants mentioned. If organizations do not get social, they will be at a competitive disadvantage on multiple dimensions.
The time for CIOs to engage in social media is now.
As I am a realist, I must admit that I have come across peers who are reluctant to engage in social media. Though they might already have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+ accounts, they might not see how social media can benefit their organization. Or maybe they feel there are too many unknowns and that, if the organization was to adopt social media, they would be putting the organization at risk from a data and security perspective.
But that doesn’t have to be the end.
To successfully engage social media, CIOs needs to recognize what they don’t know about the new technology. With that recognition, CIOs can start a dialogue with experts in this space and learn as much from them as possible. Once they’ve attained this knowledge, CIOs should engage with the business sponsors (CMO, Compliance, Sales, etc.) to establish a strategy around how to adopt social media. The role of the CIO is to help educate the business sponsor, drive enablement, and ultimately deliver innovation.
I know I will be ready to enable my organization – will you be?

The Social CIO: How I came to Hearsay Social

I recently left one of the top insurance brokers in the industry where I was the Chief Information Officer for the North America Region. I have been afforded the unique opportunity to take a breather from my professional career and perform a “reset.”
Over the past couple months, I have been able to reconnect with friends and former colleagues, spend quality time with my family and, even more inspiring, establish new relationships. Relationships that I would not have been able to develop if I was to have remained in my previous position.
I am a firm believer in faith and the situation I am about to describe is evidence that events and things happen for a reason. During my last week as CIO, I was scheduled to attend a conference summit in Miami. Given my situation, I was not planning on attending the conference. Long story short, I ended up attending the conference and, on the final evening, Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih presented the keynote. I was very impressed with Clara’s presentation and the value proposition of Hearsay Social.
After completing her presentation, Clara sat at my dinner table where I had been assigned a seat next to her. We had a very good conversation and connected from a purpose in life perspective. I was inspired by Clara’s journey to become the CEO of Hearsay Social.
Clara and I have kept in touch since the conference and she recently asked if I would consider being CIO in Residence for Hearsay Social. I joyfully accepted the assignment and am looking forward to my stay.
I’ll be writing regularly on the Hearsay Social Blog over the next few months about a CIO’s perspective on the explosion of social media and what it means for enterprises in 2012.
Click here to read an earlier post in which Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih introduces Jim Lee as our new CIO in Residence.

Introducing Jim Lee, Hearsay Social CIO in Residence

Please join me in welcoming Jim Lee to the Hearsay Social team. Jim comes to us after nearly a decade as CIO at leading financial firms Marsh & McLennan Insurance, UBS, and Morgan Stanley.
I met Jim after my keynote at the CDM CIO Summit in Miami back in November and was immediately impressed by what he had accomplished in his role as CIO of Marsh. Like all Fortune 500 CIOs, over the years Jim has had to balance a large and ever-growing applications portfolio with the increasing demands of today’s lines of business to support rapid innovation, multiple devices, mobility, cloud computing, and social media, not to mention the added regulatory hurdles of being at a financial firm.
Jim believes 2012 will be the year of the Social CIO — that all enterprise CIOs can and need to play a highly strategic role in bringing world-class security, reliability, scale, and compliance to social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. At Hearsay Social, we have cracked the code on an enterprise architecture that scales and integrates deeply with existing application portfolios and business processes, including single sign-on with enterprise identity systems. These are the kinds of issues Jim will delve more deeply into in his new Social CIO Blog.
We could not be more thrilled to have his technical expertise and vision on board to help shape our product and develop world-class thought leadership for the enterprise CIO community. We look forward to benefiting from Jim’s incredible industry leadership and to sharing those insights and learnings with all of you and your IT teams.