Blog post

When social media reveal IT’s soft belly

By Andrea Di Maio | October 12, 2010 | 0 Comments

web 2.0 in government

When I was in Canada last week, I visited two provincial government organizations that offered two intriguing examples of how social media are challenging their IT organizations.

The first organization comes from the merger of two previously distinct organizations. We were discussing the concept of employee-centricity and the role that employees can play on social networks. We went through a number of examples in their domain from other jurisdictions. Of course what is essential for those virtuous examples is that employees are allowed to access social media from their workplace.

I could sense some level of embarrassment in the room, to then realize that the two legacy organizations that had been merged were applying different policies, one more tolerant and the other more restrictive, and in spite of a merger happened some time ago, nobody in IT had thought that harmonizing the policy (either way) was a priority. This says a lot about how far government 2.0 is from being prime time for many IT organizations, but also how detached IT is from some of the core issues that the business has to face.

The second conversation was with the CIO of another provincial agency, with whom I was discussing the case of “rogue” 2.0 development by some users. One particular example was the decision by an individual to start using an external wiki to support the need for collaboration that he felt inside his department. The CIO told me that they had to shut it down, since internal policies prevent people from discussing work-related matters on external platforms.

When I asked him whether IT was offering a corporate wiki platform of sort and he said no, I disappointed him by saying that I thought the user was right and IT was wrong. Unless information had been made available in the public domain (and this was not the case) the user had simply taken advantage of an accessible tool that would allow him and his team to be more effective.

Imagine how many such situations will arise with more people addicted to platforms like Facebook or Linkedin and used to establish collaboration in closed groups there.

Both examples show how IT risks being left behind by business users who look for and find external solutions to their problems.

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