Sunday, November 29, 2009

Visualizing a social media strategy aligned with your business. How to use ITIL even if you're a blogger.

lottonumbers: Data Visualization of winning nu...
As the world of IT and social media marketing encroaches more on the executive suites, the plan of action is turning from a plan and deploy model of strategy to one of engage and collaborate. Before the world of social media, technology that upset business processes forced the leaders of the company to take in consultants, experts, and create their own executive role called the CIO. These IT leaders are on the edge of decision making which shapes the way a service strategy is formed. Companies not using a CIO are either trying to understand the information glut or looking to an expert to help them out with a strategy.

These new services employed in the realm of a social media strategy are ways that the corporation has a conversation with the market and can include
  • Twitter,
  • LinkedIn,
  • Facebook,
  • forums,
  • online PR releases,
  • games,
  • mobile apps,
  • and more.
Even if executives don't understand the right ways to implement their strategies, it's still up to the executives to make the right strategic decisions to increase the profitability of the company or improve the ability of the non-profit to deliver the right service to the public.Then it's up to management to implement them in the newest technology they can find.

If the executives are now working more in a team environment, then the information is not all going to flow in the down direction. According to Carly Fiorina, a past CEO of HP, listening has become a crucial executive capability. Communications are going to be scattered about going to where the message should best flow with some people listening and others talking. The methods of communication are also shaped by the needs of the moment and range from the momentary IM to the more archival e-mail. Communication by team is more like being a part of a large family rather than following the traditional military model of order transmittal. The end result of rethinking a traditional tree organizational chart is that it takes ten times as long to keep the new chart updated with dotted lines going everywhere matching how people communicate.

Success by influence

The success of the strategy in social media, which by nature is a service management strategy, is not going to be measured by profitability alone. The more significant measurement of this conversation that social media is having with the market is going to be based on the strength of the relationship that is built between the service provider, the company, and the customer. That strength is what social media public relations people are measuring as influence.

If you are a blogger, you are also a service provider, one that provides a knowledge service. So the closer you bind with your customers, or those people who read your blog, the better success you have. That is why so many people on Twitter are saying that your success is not about the numbers of followers you have, but with the influence that you have with them. If you would like to know the kind of influence you have with your followers, a good site that uses business metrics focused on public relations is Klout. There you'll find that people can be labeled as a kind of spammer even though they have thousands of followers.

Using ITIL

The guidance of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) usually overwhelms people when they see it. And the introduction people generally have with ITIL is a very sanitized version pieced together for Six Sigma geeks or process wonks. Most people are never aware that the publication is about current IT situations such as social media and so much more than just a business view of service oriented architecture (SOA). That's because people had used it to manage traditional IT problems such as a help desk, or a service desk as it is now called, in a less expanded version several years ago. They never get that it has been expanded into a full MBA business model for how we deal with any business that is taking on its fair share of technology including an individual blogger.

The blogger not only can't afford the five publications priced out at over $100 per book, but probably couldn't make heads or tails about how the recommended practices should be applied. Each paragraph is a distillation of a Drucker book or a timeless business concept put into context for IT folks. In that respect, the guidance is as bloated as the software development methodology called the Unified Process (UP) which spawned a great many tools and programs but eventually flew off like a gigantic albatross into the sunset a few years ago.

I really liked the UP and how it thought out what was important. It still works very well but people have been burned by trying to implement the entire thing when it's not supposed to be implemented. If you start off on the wrong foot carrying a really large load, you eventually fall down and hurt yourself. And the people that the UP targeted and hurt got angry and tore all of its specs into smaller pieces that they could deal with. But we won't go into the lightweight UP knockoffs, XP or Agile here.

So my main goal, is to tear up the ITIL guidance into little pieces that have some ability to be implemented. ITIL is just a set of business practices that other people thought were better than most. The implementation is just not there by design. And it's not all meant to be implemented at once which would crush any less than super powered company.

As I ramble through the various volumes of
  • Service Design,
  • Service Strategy,
  • Service Transition,
  • Service Operation, and
  • Continual Service Improvement
I'll spotlight social marketing in general but look at the expanding social category from the eyes of the service provider which I'm calling the knowledge service (KS). The sales, social marketing, and SEO activities that the KS performs are all appropriately talked about in all five volumes of ITIL. But not in those terms.
To me it's a suitable match because the reason that ITIL was formed was to have business manage the increasing unmanageability of the IT services necessary to maintain an edge in the marketplace. In a scaled-down way the individual also uses these same technologies and therefore is bound by the same good practices that ITIL describes. But without a prescription, people look elsewhere for advice.

Aligning the business

A professionally run business whether it's managing a blog service, a news service, a small marketing department going social, a message service like Twitter, or a social network service all are constrained to using the same business practices that work. That's because business doesn't change for a new crop of technology. And the web is now becoming less of a playground of web developers and more about creating a business. Technology people are faced with the business problem of aligning IT with the business which they never had to deal with before.

IT had been ruled only by the form of the technology that they worked with. If the technology permitted it, it was a good business decision in their minds. The business strategy was not much of a consideration. But now it's the business function that is ruling over the form. In business, distinct from art and architecure, function will always rule over form. Form dictated that we get the most work done with a command line but function said we want a GUI to make it easier. It's an artist's luxury to create a form predominant web site that doesn't really do much functionally for the user except entertain them like a Twitter data visualizations like Twistori or a Digg swarm visualization. These sites merely merge art principles with data and call it useful.

Maybe the data visualizations mimic the type of confusion we feel when we realize that we are in a very asynchronous communication world. I suppose that people think that if we are doing something useful when we talk a lot about business without a coordinating strategy then an artistic view of that same mesh of connections must have some useful value. What really has value is the strategy itself that drives the communication and the methods. The business strategy is what determines the conversation and its success is measured by the strength of the bond you have with your customers. Follow your customer and your business strategy, whether running a micro enterprise blog or a mega service Bloomberg, and you will be successful.

Image by seanomatopoeia via Flickr

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