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Measure your company's social technology maturity

For something as new and as nebulous as the application of social media to the enterprise, measuring a company’s social technology maturity — and what IT can do about it — seems like a dicey business. But that is what Forrester Research analyst Nigel Fenwick has intrepidly set out to do with a Social Business Strategy Maturity Model, published this month.

First, Fenwick and his team assume that the business adoption of social media and collaboration technologies will only accelerate. CIOs can sit back and watch while their business peers forge ahead — or they can position IT as a player in their organizations’ social business strategy.

According to Fenwick and his team, businesses tend to develop social tech maturity in one of two areas: They are internally mature — that is, they are adept at using social technologies that support collaboration and communication among employees. Or they are externally mature — in other words, adept at using social technologies to reach out to and support their customers. The challenge for companies is to develop social maturity in the area where they are weak. And this is where CIOs can help.

Here are Fenwick’s yardsticks for measuring an organization’s maturity in social technologies — and suggestions for how IT should respond in each case.

Social technology laggards

At the bottom of the social tech maturity model are what Fenwick has labeled the social laggards. These organizations are not piloting social technologies, internally or externally. When it comes to social media technologies, their yardstick for success is avoiding litigation. Their legal departments rule the roost regarding social media, and IT basically is charged with preventing access to social technologies. The strategic paradigm at these companies is risk avoidance.

CIO’s course of action: Experiment with social technologies that boost IT productivity or efficiency, while you look for opportunities to support a business-driven social media project. You might try using Yammer, for example, as a platform for requesting IT’s help in answering a tech question. IT gets to experiment with social technology while you foster social media experience in the enterprise.

Internal social technology maturity

Companies that have internal maturity in social technologies have piloted projects that improve employee communication and promote collaboration. The typical measure of success at these organizations is employee participation. The strategic paradigm at work here is increased productivity. (For a case in point, read our profile of Vanguard Group.) IT is often heavily involved. In fact, the business sponsor usually is IT or HR. The teams coordinating projects typically oversee governance. Typical technologies include such social collaboration platforms as Microsoft SharePoint, Jive and Yammer.

CIO’s course of action: The aim is to help develop external maturity in social technologies. CIOs should work with their peers in HR, sales and marketing to help employees explore how social technologies might support customer-centric goals, such as improved customer service or better brand awareness. An example would be to empower staff to use Facebook or Twitter to engage customers.

External social technology maturity

Companies that possess external maturity in social technologies have engaged customers through social media as a way of improving marketing efforts and brand awareness. Measures of success include page impressions and traffic volume. The marketing department is the boss here. Sales, sales and more sales is the strategic paradigm at work here. (Read our story on the connection between social media and a “third wave” of capitalism for some prime examples.) IT’s job is limited to providing technical support to marketing or to integrating data. Marketing’s go-to social platforms include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Lithium and Radian6.

CIO’s course of action: Support marketing while you figure out how to help increase employees’ adoption of social technologies. One path to maturity, Fenwick suggests, is “to integrate collaboration platforms and social networks that extend between employees and customers, such as social CRM.

Put your social technology house in order

And in the short term? Fenwick et al. remind CIOs that social virtue begins at home. Here are three to-dos:

  1. Establish an IT social business council of IT leaders and social advocates to strategize and drive adoption of social technologies within IT.
  2. Hold social technology workshops for IT.
  3. Start an IT leadership blog.

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