I read them with interest, because I've a high interest in a social business and I've always struggled with the role of IT. A while back when I regularly did presentations to evangelize social computing in a business environment I always used the phrase: Doing business is essentially another form of social interaction.
I used this sentence to summarize the importance and need for a social component in business processes. In a social business the back office processes are fully integrated with social, technology supported, processes. Unfortunately today reality is often different with many islands of automation and technology managed by various owners. IT often managed on costs and is not really seen as a strategic driver of the business, while the social activities are driven from marketing and poorly integrated with the back office processes. Thus creating silos in an organization, the presentation below (here if it isn't visible) gives a nice overview.
For a business driving solely on e-commerce (e.g. amazon.com) IT, most of the time, has a much more strategic role. It's one of the cornerstones of the business, what is understandable, because without IT there would be no revenue driver. This is also the reason why these businesses are front runners in deploying new technology and are able to recrute the best people. Allmost everyone in IT wants to work for the most advanced and progressive companies. A social business, or even any business, can learn from the strategic position of IT.
For a social business the first step is to make IT a strategic discipline driven on results instead of costs. This will be a challenge for todays IT managers, because they need to create proper business plans, complete with return on investments, to sell their investment proposals. It requires the IT manages to tightly align with the operational units and form a bridge between any of the existing silos. IT and the operational units need to work together to jointly enable social interaction highly integrated with the internal back office processes. The most likely requires a technical foundation owned by IT that can be used by all operational units to build their social interaction with all stakeholders. This all requires IT to become more agile, market focussed and have goals to drive the business based on customer satisfaction and sales targets. IT needs to learn from e-commerce organizations and adapt their role into the new world.
Image: Colin Harris
Image: Colin Harris