Managing Social IT Channel: Look Before You Leap

As the business benefits of Social IT like better interdepartmental relationships or the opportunity for crowd sourcing knowledge to solve issues are better understood, more organizations are embracing its use in the workplace. With the right management, the advantages are clear. However, Social IT is a whole new communication channel, and as such, can be a minefield if not properly planned and implemented.

Before implementing Social IT tools, it’s important to be clear about your objectives or the problems that you are trying to solve. If interdepartmental communication, visibility of decisions or speed of response are the issues, then just implementing another tool will not solve the root of these problems. If hastily implemented and thrown out to employees without any visible management backing, it may actually worsen communications. For example, workloads could increase as employees keep an eye on yet another tool as no one is clear on when to use when and those that implemented the tool now have a growing mass of unconnected silo conversation threads.

Thankfully it’s easy to ensure your Social IT implementation is a smooth and productive. You can start by answering the seven questions below.

  1. What works for our team and our customers? There is a danger of jumping on the band wagon and implementing everything that others in your industry are using. But as with any customer/employee facing implementation, the first rule of thumb should be to find out what works best for your particular customers. Remember social is all about personal engagement.
  2. What resources are required for this new communication channel?  Social IT does not stop at the technology that is being introduced, the people and process planning need to be part of the mix. For example, how will social text chat be routed in support? What percentage of time should staff spend on this related to other communication channels?
  3. How will this new channel be staffed? The skills required to communicate in writing are different than taking a phone call. So consider additional training that might be required to handle this channel.
  4. What processes are required? At the end of a social interaction, what course of action is then required? For example, once a chat is completed about an issue how does that work with other support processes so that the customer has the same experience no matter which channel is used.
  5. What policies need to be developed regarding level of participation?  This one is closely tied to resources and process. Suppose support sets up a wall discussion area for employees to discuss IT software to share tips and tricks that they have picked up. Will support contribute to every discussion? Should they govern discussions or simply monitor and step in where necessary to correct misinformation? These questions should be answered to ensure a team understands what their role is.
  6. What guidelines and expectations are required? When should employees use social media to contact a service desk versus other means? Bearing in mind that SLA’s are key to a service desk, the right expectations about responsiveness must be clearly communicated.
  7. What roll out and education requirements are required? These days we often talk about the millennium generation and keeping up with their needs, but undoubtedly you will have a section of employees who are not social media savvy and may see social media as a waste of time. In addition, what tends to happen with new tool implementations, is that there is a flurry of activity in the first couple of weeks as employees investigate this new novelty but unless the process, usage guidelines, and continual promotion and communication regarding progress and benefits are part of the plan then adoption, it will never take off. I know of some IT organizations that have actually switched off their email boxes to funnel communication, but that might be one step too far for your set of employees.

Because every organization has other considerations based on their customers’ requirements, the seven questions are a starting point on which to build. Indeed, some of you may have already implemented tools and have your own best practises and tips. Blogging itself is one form of social media that enables sharing and collaboration, so please feel free to share your stories or comment below.