CIOs need to begin exploiting the potential of social networking technology this year, or risk losing the initiative to other parts of the business, analyst company Gartner warned today.
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IT departments face an unprecedented opportunity in 2011 to take ownership of social media, said Ken McGee, vice president and research analyst at Gartner.
"The last time an opportunity like this came up was the arrival of the web. That traded away from IT to sales and marketing. Our advice to IT is don't blow it this time," he said.
CIOs will need to understand topics such as cognitive psychology and sentiment analysis, in addition to their traditional technical skills, as social media becomes ubiquitous, Gartner claims.
"There is no greater force on the planet to consumers than the input of people they know or those that are their peers. That cannot be ignored," said McGee.
Social media is only one of a number of technologies that are beginning to transform the IT department from a cost centre into a revenue-generating part of the business.
CIOs will be able to take advantage of context aware computing, pattern recognition technologies and other innovative IT projects, if they want to drive revenue for the business.
"In the past, IT has been a cost centre that helps reduce costs and increase productivity. We have never seen a period where there are as many IT-enabling business drivers that are revenue drivers." he said.
"This is a clarion call to say you better get on board or see the train go by."
McGee advises CIOs to audit their company's top performing products and services, to identify which can benefit from social networking and other revenue-generating technologies.
"This is the year to make a decision whether this applies to you or not. And if it does, you need to start on the path. Apply 50% of your training budget to acquire some of the social science skills needed. Start this year," he said.
By the middle of the decade, companies will be hiring CIOs as much for their ability to generate revenue for the business as for their project skills.
"It is an evolution. As people leave their slots, the CEOs and the boards will say more often than not, we need someone unlike the person who has just left," McGee said.
However, he warns that many CIOs could miss the chance.
"Given the current course and speed, it could go the way of the missed opportunity we saw in the early days of the web. That is why we are offering no apology for getting on the rooftops saying here is an opportunity," he said.
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