Have CIOs Lost the Chance to Lead Social Media Revolution?

I may be making a very controversial statement but I can't resist saying that CIOs, despite being ahead on the technology quotient, can't exert their leadership in Social Media.


You may agree to disagree with me and why not! But the changing dynamics of business, excessive use of big data by the business functions like marketing and sales - all indicate not-so-great picture for the CIO vis a vis Social Media.


Why is it so?


I will highlight a very vital data point here and will refer to a Research Survey done by Protiviti. In this survey, the respondents (CIOs) were asked to assess, on a scale of one to five, their competency in 21 areas of technical knowledge in IT, with one being the lowest and five being the highest. For each area, they were then asked to indicate whether they believe their level of knowledge is adequate or requires improvement, taking into account the circumstances of their organization and industry. And the following table will show some facts:

"Need to Improve" Rank


Areas Evaluated by Respondents

Competency (5-pt. scale)



Social media security



Mobile commerce security



Mobile commerce policy



Mobile commerce integration



Social media integration


 Source: Protiviti Survey 2012

CIOs and their IT organizations are largely silent on the issues of Social Media both in open and internal forums and seemingly grappling with the integration of social media and the governance of these technologies and related activities, which include social media programs for employees, customers and other external stakeholders with the corporate IT.

Why are CIOs Losing the Social Battle, (If they are)?

I would like to place my bets on three key things:

1.     Lack of experience/knowledge: First is the lack of experience of CIOs in the social media. How many CIOs today are well versed with the social media platforms? Even if we talk about just the clichéd platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (leaving aside the other niche platforms) how many, would you think, are using them personally...it may reveal very uncomfortable facts. In my personal day-to-day experience I see very minimalistic number of CIOs using LinkedIn like a "Pro". Days, weeks, months go before I get reactions from CIOs on LinkedIn platforms. I don't see many CIOs tweet. Yes! There is a disconnect at the ground level. I am not talking about the Indian CIOs but this is probably a global phenomenon. There may not be many global CIOs who are heavily betting on social. Are they?


2.     Low on the priority list: Many CIOs may claim they are clued in to the contemporary technology and also well aligned with the business but this is far from real. As most market data points suggest, marketers are exploiting social and mobile technologies more than the CIOs and they are ahead of the curve. Marketers are increasingly exploiting the analytics, big data and IT consumerization. In some cases they are reportedly bypassing the CIO's office/IT to embrace IT. It seems social media is low on the CIO's priority list. This is where we can differentiate between the CIOs who work to "keep the lights on" and those who "enable business".


3.     Uncomfortable on Social Media Security: This is perhaps a very genuine business/corporate concern. A CMO many not worry about it but a CIO has to. But ironically here also CIOs and their teams are found incompetent or lacking. CIOs may not be totally clued in to the nuances of the security aspects of social media. They may be shooting in the dark when it comes to social media security policies in their respective organizations.

Apart from this, there may be a few more issues but those are not considered as key such as lack of budgetary support for things like social media. The stigma that social media is a wave and won't last for long etc... 

Have CIOs Lost it All?

The answer is no. Since this is still an emerging area and there is a lot to be seen in the future. Also, the social media can't be seen in isolation. There are other key aspects/trends that are emerging out of the new business dynamics and those are the likes of big data and consumerization of technology. These trends are bound to bring in certain changes in the internal dynamics of any organization and at the stage of evolution; a CIO can play a decisive role here. Since the technology needs to play a vital role, a proactive approach from CIOs can give them direction. Perhaps there is a need for CIOs to look at a role "beyond technology". Also, if the CIOs are willing to take the lead in the social media, its time to relook at their relationship with functions like marketing, sales and other key C-suite honchos.

But if you think Social Media is not your cup of tea, the world won't end for anyone. The IT infrastructure, data, info security and other related aspects will still be under your belt but these all put together won't make you a CIO. You can at best be the curator of technology infrastructure and not a CIO in true sense.

To create leadership in social media, a CIO has to become social first.

Image Courtesy: www.freedigitalphotos.net

Categories: Technology

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Rahul Neel Mani

Rahul Neel Mani is the Co-founder and Editor of Grey Head Media. Rahul has nearly 20 years of experience in ...

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