Traditional IT teams are missing the boat on Social Analytics

Posted on December 14, 2010

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boatBeing a natural owl and not a lark, it takes something really important or deeply interesting to get me into the City for a 7.30 am breakfast meeting. Ed Thompson of Gartner speaking on how Sales, Marketing and Customer Services are making use of social media last week more than qualified.

 
The focus was not the usual ‘if facebook were a country’ hype but very much on how ordinary businesses are adapting to the world of social media and getting ahead through practical application of new and innovative solutions. Interestingly, the most common applications are brand monitoring and company watching in the form of B2B CRM and Competitive Intelligence. Sectors already adopting include Retail, Hi-Tech, Media and Consumer Goods businesses.
 
Insight came thick and fast but one thing that stood out was that IT are nowhere to be seen. This is, at least, partially because these are new solutions, usually cloud based and IT involvement isn’t mandatory. However, with the internal department involved in less than 2 out of 10 initiatives, they are getting left behind. It could be argued that they only have themselves to blame. When I work with my customers and they tell me that a new server will take 15 weeks to build or that it will be 8 weeks before a new report will run for the first time then I find it difficult to side with the ‘professionals’. Business cycles are getting shorter and shorter whilst IT surrounds themselves with processes and models designed to reduce risk, increase quality and security but that also kick delivery dates so far over the horizon that the business have stopped asking for help.
 
Those that are involved are busy defining standards, mandating architectures and generally slowing things down. My advice to IT departments, BI teams and competency centres involved in such activity is stop. Just stop.Things are moving quickly and by the time you have updated the version control on your feasibility study, it’s out of date. Now is the time for adoption and execution (Ed’s words not mine, btw) The business needs support in getting information on what their customers are saying about their products or the latest marketing campaign. The sales team want to identify reasons to pick up the phone and sell to their prospects and they want it embedded in their CRM systems and processes. Marketing want to understand what competitors are doing, if they are forming new partnerships, announcing new products and how the market is responding. All of this, delivered regularly and routinely, is becoming as critical as daily sales, fulfilment, basket analysis or the senior management team’s dashboards.
As information professionals we should be helping the business corral the world of social media and on-line content. We should be investing time in understanding the new challenges and opportunities that semantic and content analytics represent.  We should also be embracing, experimenting and learning from the emerging technologies that address them. Most of all we should be adopting and implementing.

The growth of SaaS means that the business has a choice now. When it comes to social analytics the early adopters are looking at a range of vendors with innovative solutions that require no more implementation than adding a new bookmark. Then they are looking at their IT teams who are offering them a four page ‘IT request approval’ form. Where would you go?

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