CW500: How can social networking be an integral part of a company’s IT strategy?

Social media is revolutionising the way people interact online, and as such presents many opportunities for IT leaders to help their organisations engage with customers, to improve internal collaboration, and to develop their own profile to help boost their career. But how should CIOs makes the most of those opportunities?

Computer Weekly editor in chief Bryan Glick talked to BT chief scientist JP Rangaswami, formerly global CIO at Dresdner Kleinwort and CIO of BT Global Services. JP talked about how social networking can become an integral part of a company’s IT strategy, how these tools can help acquire and engage customers, and how IT leaders can use them to build their “personal brand” and contact network.


Read the full transcript from this video below:  

CW500: How can social networking be an integral part of a company’s IT strategy?

Bryan Glick: Hello. Welcome to the CW500 Club. I am here tonight with JP
Rangaswami who is the chief scientist at BT, and JP has been talking
to our audience of IT leaders about social media and how CIOs should
be using social media as part of their IT strategy. JP, welcome to CW
500. Thank you very much for coming on, much appreciated.

A lot of people in professional IT, if you like, still look at social
media and think it is all Facebook, Twitter, kids, and posting up
photos of university students when they have had a few to drink. What
should CIOs look to social media for? What roles can social media play
in helping IT leaders?

JP Rangaswami: I think most CIOs would want to have a serious conversation with
their customers. You have three or four key topics you want to talk to
customers about: What are the business issues they are facing? What
kind of solutions they would like to those problems. What kind of time
and cost is associated with getting them? When they see something,
feedback on how good it is, in the fit with the particular problem.
Throughout history, whatever I have known about IT in the last 30
years, doing that part of the work, engaging with the customer,
gathering the requirements, and the context in which they are done,
building things to time, quality and price, and then making sure you
understand the feedback loops, has been a core part of the CIO's job.
I think one way of looking at what is happening with social media is
your customer has already gone there. Your customers are on Twitter,
on Facebook, have blogs and market-facing social media activity
already. Strangely, the CIO is one of the last of the breed to try and
adopt it when actually I feel we should have led it. This is a
communications environment primarily; it involves content management,
network communications and bringing in the right kind of rules for
privacy and confidentiality. More than anything else, the opening
reason is if you want to talk to your customers, you should be where
they are. As an increasing number of people, Facebook has 425 million
people and none of them are your customers; fine. If Twitter has 90
million and none of them are your customers, also fine. Think hard
before you make that statement as to whether no part of your customer
base is there. I think that's the primary reason.

Bryan Glick: Can you give us some examples perhaps, of how you, as a CIO,
have used social media, both where you are now at BT or in other roles
you have been in?

JP Rangaswami: Sure. When I was at Dresdner Kleinwort, we were very early with the
implementation of blogs and wikis; things like Twitter did not exist.
We knew that there were places in the marketplace where our customers
were congregating, and we wanted to talk. We saw some of that as just
an open sourcing of ideas, a way to get conversations done. We saw
some of these things as work flow. We also adopted instant messaging
quite quickly. I think the most important thing we were learning is
that the conversation is only valuable if it extends beyond the
barrier of the firm. If you are just talking to yourself, you are not
actually gaining any new knowledge as a firm. If you want to create
knowledge capital, part of the process is to have interactions with
the market. At BT, we have the most exciting developments I am seeing.
We have many engagements, and YouTube videos with over 2 million page
views. We have a Twitter presence for BT Cares, which is one of the
first in this part of the world, which I think is leading with over
37,000 messages and 4,500 customer visits per month, in terms of
messages coming in to us and our responding.

The kinds of things I see are the customer does not have to navigate
her way through the complexity that is the organization. When you are
dealing with the synchronous complaining, creating, or any form of
activity, then three minutes can feel a long time when you are upset.
Somehow, when you switch that from a telephone world to a Twitter
world, then a 15 minute reply seems very quick. The ability for the
customer to do other things while that process is there hanging on.
There are so many ways the edgy customer, the one who is more willing
to take risks, starts dealing with the new medium. All our experience
has been that the medium is challenging because you do not control the
course of the conversation. The customer does. You do get beaten up
over there, so it is not a place to be believing that you can dominate
and control as in the historical paradigm. But if you really listen to
the customer, and you convert that energy, because they are passionate
about whatever it is they want to talk about there, into something
constructive for the firm, then that customer becomes an ambassador.
People have turned on and said, 'You know what, I am really upset
about this,' are also the first to come along and say what the firm
really delivered.

I think the biggest single experience we have had is in using a
digital care environment. We had to learn that you have to be not 9-to-
5 about it, but 24/7. There is no weekend, and there is no shutdown
time because customers can be, it is like a hospital. You have to be
there, you have to be proactive; they may not contact you directly, so
you have to have the tools in place to look out for them, and you have
to be pretty quick in responding because once someone has lit a fire,
it grows, and people retweet it, etc. It is a medium which is
explicitly not in your control, and therefore, one that explicitly
needs a more stringent form of attention than others. The payback,
when you can convert a critic into an ambassador, is very powerful.

Bryan Glick: That is fantastic JP. As anyone knows, who does
follow you on Twitter, or read your blog, you have always been a very
passionate advocate for a lot of these technologies, so it is great to
get your advice to our audience here at CW500 tonight. Thank you for

JP Rangaswami: My pleasure, Bryan. Thank you very much.

Bryan Glick: Thank you. Thank you for watching, and look out for another
CW500 video very soon. Bye.

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