Social technology is coming into every organization whether IT wants it or not. The adoption of social technologies to support business and customer needs has been fastest outside of IT — often with IT playing catch-up and struggling to provide value. CIOs are at a crossroads where they can either choose to lead IT toward social business maturity or sit back and watch as the rest of the organization pushes ahead, leaving IT in social business obscurity. The choice is easy, but the execution is difficult. A new report — Social Business Strategy: An IT Execution Plan — suggests CIOs should assess the organization’s current social maturity and implement a plan that positions IT to successfully support a social business strategy.

Organizations are broadly categorized as social laggards, internally mature, externally mature or enterprise mature. The approach recommended for CIOs differs based on the maturity level. For example, CIOs in organizations with strong internal maturity should focus on developing a partnership with marketing in order to extend the use of social strategy out to customers and business partners.

Understand your social maturity

While very few organizations are already at the enterprise maturity level, CIOs in these organizations can take an active role in developing social business strategy by supporting the creation of a social business council and dedicating staff to support social strategy.

To help CIOs understand the social business maturity of their organization, we’ve also published a self-assessment tool (available to Forrester clients).

Unfortunately, without a proactive approach, IT risks falling behind the rest of the business when it comes to adopting social technologies. Unless CIOs can develop solid skill sets and experience in the IT team, IT will be unable to help the organization exploit the full potential of social technologies. This will open up opportunities for social technology vendors to bypass IT and push IT further into obscurity. Failing to grasp this opportunity now will result in further isolation of IT from the mainstream business and will add to the perception that the CIO and IT are out of touch with the needs of the business.

As a CIO, making the right choice now may define the rest of your career as a business leader. CIOs who successfully partner with the CMO, while also demonstrating leadership and promoting emerging technologies with measurable business impact, will earn the trust and respect of the C-suite. These CIOs are destined to become tomorrow’s digital business leaders.

CIOs who fail to make the transition will find themselves guardians of IT infrastructure, focused on running IT as cost effectively as possible. These CIOs will see new technology investments increasingly made without IT input and outside of the CIOs influence.

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