Q&A: Social-driven IT

Social media isn't just a marketing channel you bolt on to your current plans. You need to understand its true business-wide impact. How should your IT organization prepare to embrace social media over the next 12 months?

Social media isn't just a marketing channel you bolt on to your current plans. You need to understand its true business-wide impact. To learn what preparations your IT organization needs to make to embrace social media over the next 12 months, we contacted Gavin Michael (Twitter: @gavinmichael), chief technology innovation officer at Accenture.

Enterprise Strategies: What social media are you including in our discussion and why?

Gavin Michael: To start, it's not about selecting one platform to integrate. It's about what types of interactions are right for your enterprise across your customer-centric functions and making sure that those channel(s) are socialized. Social media has changed the way we communicate and the way we expect to communicate, so the systems we have need to change to accommodate multiple social platforms for business opportunities such as social commerce and social collaboration.

Organizations are moving from looking at the business with individuals from a single transactional instance to a more holistic view of the customer across multiple interactions.

Where, exactly, is the impact of social media on IT you're speaking of?

We'll no longer have a siloed view of the customer. CRM, e-commerce, and marketing will be integrated for better service and insight. It's about moving beyond communications to where IT systems will be more about optimizing the value of customer relationships by leveraging social channels.

A good example of this is Burberry. Burberry's social business story was famously highlighted during last year's Dreamforce event, where their CEO Angela Ahrendts explained how they strategically partnered with Salesforce to create a true social enterprise. In their social business effort, Burberry was clearly thinking big -- a true digital company must use digital channels through and through for all interaction.

Commenting on their customer-centric vision, Ahrendts said, "The experience would be that a customer would have total access to Burberry, across any device, anywhere, and they would get exactly the same feeling of the brand, feeling of the culture, regardless of when, where, how they were accessing the brand. Everyone now can come into Burberry World and understand the journey and mission that Burberry is on. For any CEO who is skeptical at all: You have to create a social enterprise today. You have to be totally connected with everyone that touches your brand. If you don't do that, I don't know what your business model is in five years."

The message for Burberry's effort was clear: The future of business is "borderless, agnostic, and it's in the new universal language: social media." Media reports are giving Burberry's social business strategy a good chunk of the credit for a 21 percent jump in profits in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Burberry has been extremely effective at building a social customer experience and has over 10 million Facebook fans as they've situated Chatter and other technologies such as IM for workers to engage with each other and customers to drive better results. As their CEO says: "The social enterprise has got to drive economic value." If early results are any indication, that is starting to happen for them.

What should organization do over the next 12 months to prepare?

IT organizations should consider the following steps:

  • Engage in social listening to ingest and understand the social conversations that affect the enterprise.

  • Establish a core IT team to design and pilot cross-functional social media platforms.

  • Work with individual business units to help them layer their social strategies on top of IT's enterprise-wide strategy for social, with the goal of moving beyond the listening phase to managing social interactions with consumers.

  • Put in place the technology to support the business's need to monetize its social interactions rather than simply communicating via social media.

  • Identify the metrics that matter for tracking the success of social and ensure that the technologies used actually deliver those metrics.

  • Evaluate the impact of social on the organization's roadmap for investment in collaboration.

  • Determine how interactions among the organization's employees might change by using social.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (esj.com).

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