IT departments need “calculated approach” to Web 2.0

According to an Information Age article, corporate IT departments will struggle to successfully deploy Web 2.0 until they develop a more “calculated approach”, says Gartner.

It predicts that over 70% of IT-led social media initiatives in the enterprise over the next two years will fail, while organisations that allow business, rather than IT, to lead the way in social media implementations will achieve a success rate of around 50%. Beyond 2012, positive results will become more commonplace as IT departments take a “calculated approach” to technology.

I have written before (eg: Ban social media …) about how IT departments can block effective adoption of Web 2.0, often prompting employees to find work-arounds or to use non-corporate IT devices. Numerous architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) organisations have social media footprints of which their managers and directors are unaware. I demonstrated this last year, and I’ve heard repeated examples of it, including one just last week.

At my London Constructing Excellence Club talk (post), one questioner said his organisation (an internationally-renowned engineering consultancy) had blocked all social networking sites (or so he thought). I subsequently received an email from him:

… since the event I have bitten the bullet and joined LinkedIn as well as also looked into my company’s presence on Facebook. Despite it being one of the sites that we are prevented from accessing as part of our computer policy, we would seem to have three business groupings on FB! I will have to investigate further how this squares with our policy together with our social media web policy/guidance.

The horse has already bolted; it’s no good bolting the stable door. The directors and IT department need to take a “calculated” and constructive approach, encouraging their Facebook-using employees to adopt a responsible approach to their use of the site and of other social platforms. Let’s face(book) it: trying to ban people talking about their work online is like trying to stop employees discussing work in the pub: it’s almost impossible.


  1. It’s unfortunate that IT departments are still compelled to block social media. Granted, as an IT Manager, I see more abuse of Social Networking than making great use of it. Management historically decided this was IT’s problem to fix (block it instead of dealing with the problem individuals). It’s not an IT issue of course, it’s an issue of poor management. We’ve since learned that most managers are still having a hard time with managing their own email, let along understanding anything Web 2.0. We’ve left all but a few notoriously useless/dangerous (i.e. MySpace) web 2.0 sites available and even gone so far as to kick-start Web 2.0 utilization by creating a Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In page for our firm. The trouble is, now nobody is very interested in it and feels it’s merely a “fad” that will pass. The marketing team is now in charge of keeping up with the social media sites, and they are largely neglecting them. Certainly, the younger staff have taken to social media for personal communications purposes. As a business tool, it’s not seen as terribly useful. I am working to change this, as an IT department. Challenging trying to sell the idea of Social Media and the Cloud while I’m spending large amounts of time and money managing our internal infrastructure. If what you’re saying is true (which I would like to believe it is) that Social Media must be championed outside of IT, what is one to do when there is little interest outside of IT? Should IT take the initiative on or should we work to sell the idea to other stake holders in the organization? Keep up the grand work on your blog. It’s nice to see AEC professionals with a good grip on technology.

  2. Thanks, Greg. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: deal with the problem individuals – “It’s not an IT issue…, it’s an issue of poor management.”

    I am not surprised that a marketing team neglects social media; in my experience, many AEC marketing teams lag behind other industry sectors in their embrace of new tools and techniques, and Web 2.0 is probably just another example of such laggards.

    What I am trying to do is raise awareness of this issue so that it is championed outside IT, and not just via marketing – the potential issues stretch way beyond marketing (into operations, HR, customer service, etc) and need to considered in a much broader corporate context.

  3. As I read your initial post Paul, I kept thinking this really has nothing to do with IT. Greg has picked up on this as indeed you have, but I think it is worth reinforcing.

    Web 2, social media and that includes collaborative web tools needs to be part of the organisations ICT strategy and vision.

    This in turn needs to be aligned to all parts of the business, ie people and supplier development, budgets, and processes. But most important of course is the ‘role model’ leadership and management that understands the importance of web2 and drives the organisation forward.

    Without this IT departments, and indeed marketing teams, will struggle to add any value to the organisation.

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