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Want to manage social media? Don't look at IT

Despite all the hoopla, paying gigs in Enterprise 2.0 are few and far between. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be on the lookout for staffers with that expertise.

BOSTON -- All this excitable talk about a business tricked out with internal and external blogs, wikis, social software, Real Simple Syndication and other Enterprise 2.0 regalia is fun.

But it begs a question that might not have an answer just yet: Can you get paid to manage social media?

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference, wrapping up today in Boston, is, if nothing else, a good time. People are playing with business ideas that come from the consumer market and could transform the way we spend our workday.

But it also seems like a vacation that can't last. There are test cases under way -- here they include FedEx Corp., Sony Corp. and the CIA. But when we all go home, it will be the same old IT, won't it?

It may be only the largest, most forward-thinking of enterprises employing people solely to manage social media projects. And those people don't necessarily come from IT. After all, one of the best things about Enterprise 2.0 technologies is that they are user-friendly. Give a person with no programming experience a WordPress account, and he can figure it out well enough to blog. Most people won't need help desk to contribute to a wiki.

Consider, for example, the spate of Chief Bloggers popping up in large corporations. More a marketing position than an IT one.

It's not that there isn't work to be done -- someone had to develop FedEx's "Launch a Package" Facebook application -- but there doesn't appear to be a dedicated person to do the work.

Take the CIA. The U.S. intelligence community uses a wiki, known as Intellipedia, to collect and share information. It's pretty heady stuff, especially at the top-secret level. Surely IT is right in the middle of this, making sure it runs smoothly.


"These tools weren't provided by our CIO," said Sean Dennehy, Intellipedia Evangelist for the CIA. In fact, Dennehy and Intellipedia Doyen Don Burke said they've had a lot of resistance from all angles in building the wiki. They said people implementing innovative Enterprise 2.0 applications could be considered "lead users," or people a step ahead of the curve. Basically, this Enterprise 2.0 thing is picking up steam, but it's far from expected in business.

"When you have sort of this organic, viral growth, those efforts are started with very few dollar amounts, sometimes no dollars," Burke said. "I think it's a new area of study for the IT industry."

Neither Burke nor Dennehy are IT guys. And the people they've hired to lord over Intellipedia, who they refer to as "gardeners," aren't IT either.

Float over to the IT job boards at and get an idea of what's there right now for those who want to manage social media. Not much. A search for Enterprise 2.0 brings up two listings for software and application engineers. Both appear to be building applications to sell to someone else, not to use within a particular enterprise.

Broaden that search to Web 2.0 and you'll get a lot more. But that's what happens with major consumer buzzwords.

There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but they are unique situations in large enterprises. Simon Revell has snagged the manager of enterprise 2.0 technology development title at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. But it wasn't just handed to him.

"This wasn't my day job," Revell said. "It was purely speculative." It was only on a "gut feeling" that blogs and wikis would work for Pfizer that Revell got under way and eventually took his new title. But that's one guy in a nearly 100,000-employee company.

Ned Lerner, director of tools and technologies at Sony Computer Entertainment (re: video games) managed to snag a five-employee team that grew to about 10 to build his Enterprise 2.0 vision. But very few companies are going to take to, if not demand, the scale of Enterprise 2.0 work that a video game company will.

This wasn't
my day job.
It was purely speculative.

Simon Revell
manager of enterprise 2.0 technology developmentPfizer Inc.

Ask Rishi Chandra, product manager for Google Enterprise, if he thinks an IT job will exist to manage all the applications he predicts will be chucked into the cloud over the next decade or so. His answer, in a roundabout way, will be 'no.'

Chandra answers the question by saying that cloud computing -- and Enterprise 2.0, really -- will change the emphasis in IT and could actually show companies that IT has value beyond keeping the computers running.

"Instead of running servers, IT will be building applications," Chandra said. So: No Enterprise 2.0 job. But IT workers will get to spend more time on the tasks that can transform a business.

Both in a keynote and in a direct interview, Chandra talked about knowing cloud computing is taking us somewhere -- but not exactly where.

That can probably be said about Enterprise 2.0 and IT jobs. Will there be opportunities to manage social media in businesses? Doubtful, in the short run at least. More likely, these efforts will come in piecemeal, led by people willing to give something new a shot. That's an OK strategy, but don't expect to be paid for it.

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