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CIOs: What is Your 'Social Relevance' Grade?

Sept. 27, 2012
How well CIOs leverage social media will have a significant impact on their grade in the next two years. If you are a CIO, how do you get that ‘A’ grade in the future?

When it comes to evaluating and implementing systems such as ERP, CRM and HR, CIOs have a fairly good handle on what works and what doesn't for their internal customers. Most CIOs will get a very good grade in that category, say a B+ or an A.

However social media is fast becoming a vital mechanism for keeping a finger on the pulse of the customers, engaging them and influencing their purchase decisions. As a result, how well CIOs leverage social media will have a significant impact on their grade in two years. If you are a CIO, how do you get that ‘A’ grade in the future?

First and foremost, as a CIO, you have to be socially active yourself. It is difficult to lead unless you are part of the ecosystem.

Even if you are not yet ready to take a plunge in public social media, corporate social networks within your firewalls are a good start. Your employees may already be communicating on Jive, Yammer, Chatter and other social platforms you may have within your environment. It is important that you personally participate actively in relevant discussion threads in corporate social networks.

Secondly, you need to have a good understanding of the relevance of ‘social data’ for each of the functions within the company, especially the department head. After all, you are the keeper of the keys to the most important assets of your business -- the data about your customers, suppliers, operations and employees.

I highly recommend that you form teams of innovation within IT to actively understand the relevance of social media data on each of the business lines and implement pilots. Block your calendar to work with the teams and be engaged

Making an Impact with Social Media

The following are just a few examples of how you can create an impact in your business using social media:


Social media is critical to successful marketing activities. Let your innovation team identify a functional area within marketing that is near and dear to your CMO’s heart and then create a pilot to show how social media can improve that functional area.

An example is integrating social media feeds (from Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc.) with key marketing metrics to help marketing answer questions such as what segments of the customer base are socially active and who among them are the influencers that need to be courted? How can specific customer insights from social media affect pricing strategy or messaging? Can social media customer analytics help you make changes to improve customer loyalty? How are your competitors using social media?

If you are proactive in creating such pilots to showcase the value of social media to the marketing organization, you will not only get their support for a full blown project, you will also get a seat the table where strategic marketing decisions are made.


The sales organization spends a large part of their time identifying people within the company who can influence a deal and then proactively working with them to buy into a vision that naturally leads them to your products. Show the sales organization how they can leverage social media to close more deals faster. They already have all the historical trends and buying attributes from the CRM system.

By combining this CRM data with data from social media and leveraging sophisticated algorithms to identify patterns and analyze them, you can provide sales reps better visibility into potential issues/apprehension about buying your solutions. Such buyer propensity models allows the sales managers to filter out noise and visualize patterns to make insightful decisions.

Your VP of Sales will be your champion even if you only offer a slight improvement in close rate by leveraging social data.

Human Resources:

Your global HR head is worried about employee satisfaction and its impact on retention. Let your innovation team analyze data from external employee feedback sites such as Glassdoor and other social forums and combine with data from internal surveys to suggest new hypotheses on employee satisfaction, corporate communication and retention. Run experiments to verify them with your HR data and build a probability model. Your VP of HR will be very keen to incorporate such an initiative in their plans next year.

Audit & Risk Officers:

Your Internal Audit and Risk Officers have no easy way to understand the impact of social media risks from both regulatory and non-regulatory perspectives. What is the ‘tone’ of conversations among employees, customers and partners on your corporate ethical values? Is there chatter about some systemic fraud in your product warranty returns or claims processing? The traditional GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance) systems do not incorporate social feedback.

The internal audit teams have neither the skills nor resources to understand this Big Data tsunami from social media that will hit them. You can show them a path here to reduce risk by tapping into conversations and chatter.

Vendor Management Officers:

Your vendor management officers are working with several vendors -- both onshore and offshore. Do the social media give them any additional insights into your vendors? For example; do their manufacturing practices follow the same ethical model you have built for your company? Are there any hidden risks in using those vendors for your business?

Focused search and analysis of social media can give you leading indicators about your critical partners. By providing such inputs in a systemic way to your vendor management teams, you can help them with better sourcing strategies.

Investing in Social Media

When you actively engage and show LOB heads how they can take advantage of social media, you will see a different level of partnership developing with them.

Today, you may not have the skilled resources, such as data scientists to do these tasks. You need people with knowledge in sampling methodologies, working with large data sets, conducting experiments and correlating with business questions. You need advanced tools for performing these experiments. But unless you invest today and help create these systems of differentiation for your LOBs, they would be looking elsewhere for direction. And you will lose an important opportunity to engage them.

Once you identify such initiatives, the actual implementation is not that difficult. But the most difficult part is getting started. And if you do this right, your future grade may end up being an A+.

Sagar Anisingaraju is the Chief Strategy Officer at Saama Technologies, a leading consulting firm in deploying business analytics, social media analytics and big data solutions for their clients.

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