CxO Talk: Gartner says 'provide and pray' collaboration won't work

In episode 5 of CxO Talk, Gartner analyst, Mark P. McDonald, presents a compelling and insightful view of social collaboration and relationships between IT, the chief marketing officer, and lines of business.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

On CxO Talk this week (episode five), co-host Vala Afshar and I talk with Mark P. McDonald, who is group vice president and a Fellow at research firm, Gartner. The conversation ranges from merely fascinating to fully electric, so I urge you to the watch the entire video.

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CxO Talk episode five is a powerhouse of information on enterprise social media and strategic advice for chief information officers.

Social collaboration beyond "provide and pray"

The conversation begins with a discussion of the social media maturity model that Mark presents in his book, The Social Organization, which presents a straightforward, business-oriented view of collaboration technology. Here is a diagram of the model:

Mark McDonald, Gartner - social media maturity

Mark, and co-author, Anthony J. Bradley, designed the maturity model to help organizations move beyond a "provide and pray" mentality, in which management provides social media technology and prays that something good will happen. Watch the CxO Talk video, embedded above, to hear his in-depth comments.

Mark says that collaborative communities can tap the power of employees across the organization, reduce siloes, and encourage employees to prioritize organizational goals over personal or departmental agendas. He continues that implementing social collaboration successfully requires establishing a goal or purpose, along with "just enough structure" to make the program work. In other words, management should create rules of engagement and get out of the way, avoiding too many guidelines and mandates.

Mark introduces the concept of "relationship leverage" to help employees understand cultural expectations and encourage them to adopt social collaboration for business purposes. For example, senior executives can blog about their expectations and goals, while demonstrating what appropriate online social behavior looks like. Mark describes it the minimal structure needed to "create the informal value that comes from better communication."

Management should not push social media with generic goals, such as, "We will be more collaborative." Instead, Mark recommends establishing a meaningful purpose to magnetize participation and encourage employees to volunteer their "time, attention, purpose, and interest." He advises management to build a coordinated monitoring body that will support grassroots growth while maintaining formal executive support. In this context, traditional, top-down demands are less effective than encouraging group participation to create community growth collaboratively and organically.

CIO / CMO wars: "Technology is not a zero-sum game"

We asked Mark to explain a recent Gartner report that predicts CMOs will eventually control a larger share of technology budgets than the CIO. It's an important issue because large and small software vendors quote this number frequently.

Mark puts the issue into context with two points:

  1. Distinctions between "IT" and "technology." The concept of technology is far broader than the platforms IT provides; for example, some companies place Google advertising investment into their technology budget. Although spending on core applications, infrastructure, and analytics will not migrate away from IT into the business, it is true that front office activities touching technology are likely to grow over time.
  2. Increasing technology spend outside of IT is not a zero-sum game. Cost savings have become a focus point for IT, which ultimately devalues both the CIO and IT, despite reasonable business rationale for wanting to reduce costs. Therefore, Mark says conversation must shift from, "How IT will control costs?" to "How will technology support growth?".  These questions can precipitate a strategic change that drives a shift in the relationship between IT and the business.

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