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Are government agencies still in denial about social media?

by Andrea Di Maio  |  May 23, 2011  |  6 Comments

Last week I met the CIO of a government agency and we discussed about their current plans for internal collaboration, based on the deployment of a particular commercial solution. He seemed to have quite clear ideas about investment, deployment and sustainability of that initiative, for which he said he had users queuing for over 50 collaboration projects they want to set up.

In the past I have had similar conversations, where clients had been disappointed by the uneven uptake of those tools often due to the fact that man were already using consumer solutions like Google Docs, LinkedIn or Facebook to support internal collaboration. Therefore I asked him whether he had conducted any internal research or survey to figure out how employees were using those consumer tools, since he admitted that none of those is blocked on the corporate network. He exuded confidence in his enterprise collaboration strategy, and I kind of expected his dismissive answer to my insinuation that the consumerization of collaboration may be an issue in his agency.

I assumed that access to social media was a marginal phenomenon, but I asked anyhow if he had any statistics about access. I almost balked when he said that little over 50% of their bandwidth was consumed by social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn). He regularly reports to the different business unit managers the relevant stats, and he correctly pointed out that it is up to them to determine whether the use of social media is justified.

However what struck me was his assumption that employee access social media for personal use only, or at most to engage with external stakeholders. It did not occur to him that with such a pervasive use there may be a non-negligible use for internal collaboration purposes, and that some employees may now been relying on mixed internal-external communities for some aspects of their work. As a consequence the enterprise collaboration platform may not be fit for their purposes and the uptake may be disappointing.

The bottom line is that many people do not get yet that the impact of consumer social media inside the organization is going to be as significant as the external impact, if not more.

Category: social-networks-in-government  

Tags: collaboration  government-20  social-media  


Thoughts on Are government agencies still in denial about social media?


  1. Jeff Braybrook says:

    Andrea,
    From my experience your insight is quite accurate. I was fortunate to have been involved in the creation of Canadian government-wide internal collaboration platforms known as GCpedia and GCconnex. Although they are highly successful, there is a whole network of public servants that have embraced the use of Twitter as well. Part of the reason is simple. Personal devices (iPhone, Android, home computer) don’t connect inside the government firewall and collaboration happens everywhere all the time, not just from work computers.

  2. Bob Goh says:

    I am quite doubtful that social media is going to work for internal collaboration. I work in one of the local government agencies in NZ. A year ago, external consultant told us socia media is the future for internal collaboration, we followed the advice and implemented it (it was a very expensive investment!) . We have a couple hundreds of internal users but today we only have a handful of people using it. It is slowly turning into white elephant.

  3. I made it work while I was at the US EPA in spite of considerable skepticism and opposition and am now reaping the benefits because I have a growing knowledge-base for collaboration with many!
    See http://semanticommunity.info/ and http://semanticommunity.info/A_Gov_2.0_spin_on_archiving_2.0_data

    When they do get it, they feel so threatened by it because they realize that someone moved their cheese right under their nose and they have been left behind.

  4. Hi Andrea,

    I agree consumer social media can benefit public agencies, in certain areas. It can power any public awareness and outreach program, enable citizen engagement, and gather feedback for policy making. The use of social media will perhaps continue to grow in such areas.

    However, use of consumer / mainstream social media for internal-collaboration at public agencies may be a concern. I refer to internal-collaboration at public agency, as sharing of operational info or data among staff, on a media platform.

    Most public agencies deal with varying degrees of classified or sensitive data. In order to protect this controlled data, several structural measures are put in place, at IT departments. These structural measures typically are data-handling policies, security-standards, network & infra guidelines, security-audits, etc.

    A public agency is able to comply with such requirements, if they use locally-hosted or custom-build enterprise collaboration solution, because they have full ownership & control over it. However, it’s hard to say the same for externally-hosted or 3rd party social media platforms, where an agency cannot enforce a security/data compliance or guidelines.

    Regards,
    Shafique Razzaque
    http://www.shafique.sg

  5. @Bob, I am surprised that the consultant suggested to deploy social media internally without suggesting to try out with consumer platforms. I suspect he had an hidden agenda. Give us a call next time.

  6. @Shafique, Indeed that would be ideal. However the train has already left the station, with some employees who want to use tools that put there in control of what communities they participate in.



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