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How do CIOs deal with social software?

C.G. Lynch | June 1, 2008
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, two Forrester Research analysts, have a message for CIOs in their new book, "Groundswell," about social technologies: you can't control users looking to utilize Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis and social networks.

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, two Forrester Research analysts, have a message for CIOs in their new book, "Groundswell," about social technologies: you can't control users looking to utilize Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis and social networks.

In fact, even trying to control these users is a foolish strategy. Instead, they argue, CIOs and other business leaders must embrace these technologies in the enterprise, and enable their employees to share and work collectively with each other to foster new innovations. In addition, CIOs must track the business benefits of using them.

In an interview at Forrester's Foster City, Calif. office south of San Francisco, Li chatted about the implications of the ideas in "Groundswell," and what social networking means to IT leaders, their employees and customers.

CIO: So when you talked with CIOs about using social technologies while doing the research for this book, what was their reaction?

Li: Many were terrified. They had almost deer-in-the headlights reactions when it came to Web 2.0. I felt like I was describing an alien world to some companies. They looked at it with fascination, but also a lot of apprehension.

As a result, we wanted to write a book that, in one place, had all the frameworks and processes that a company would need to be able to not only understand and deal with Web 2.0, but also to thrive in it. In the book, we have data, case studies, recommendations and processes, but we wanted to give [readers] an idea of what the crucial business objectives of using Web 2.0 are, and what are the metrics they can use, to measure against it. We were very keen on using case studies that actually had a business objective behind it and that way we could measure it.

CIO: So a deer-in-the-headlights. What do they do when they realize they have to deal with these technologies? And how can they be open while protecting their company's assets?

Li: When I talk to CIO's, they're often like, 'how can I control this?' My point back to them is you can't. It's like air. You can't stop air from coming into your organization.

This is stuff that's actually helping people get their jobs done. It's often coming in the back door. So it comes down to what you see your role is as a CIO. Is it to control technology, to say who can use what? Or is to put technology in the hands of people so they can do their jobs better? You need to be really thinking about what business objective you want to achieve with these technologies.

Now, I had one CIO who said to me, "Then what's my purpose in life?" Because he perceived that he would not be in control of budget or approving large enterprise applications and making sure they roll out to the organization.

 

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