Stay Under the Radar
Everyone likes to be associated with hot new things. However, given that it is difficult to provide quantitative explanations about how and where social media is going to deliver value, it is easy to have ideas shot down before they are even given a chance to develop. Consequently, it is important to be able to run some trials to gain experience and learn lessons without everyone watching. One strategy I’ve recently seen employed is experimenting with social media concepts and tools to improve internal service desk performance, where more effective cross-departmental collaboration could make a significant difference in client experience.
Implicit in an under-the-radar strategy is the prerequisite that the sponsor have some level of control over discretionary investment. In other words, he/she must be senior and politically secure enough to make some bets. These points are particularly important in an environment where revenue and margins are significantly challenged. In many financial services organizations, this means the sponsorship will have to come from the business side as opposed to IT, since many CIOs are increasingly having their hands tied by a relentless year-over-year focus on IT cost cutting. The alternative would be to fund increases in IT spend to generate much more substantial operational savings. However, these benefits can only be realized by applying IT in new ways that focus on enabling dynamic collaboration as opposed to enforcing rigid process and data codification.
Look Outside of Your Sector for New Ideas
The financial services sector isn’t the engine of innovation it once was, especially when it comes to uses of technology for operations. For the past several years, the industry has remained stuck in an industrial-age mindset of using technology to try to minimize the importance of staff rather than leverage them. The same is not true of other industries. For example, a logistics company recently implemented a private social platform to align communication of third parties to address exceptions related to international shipping transactions. Another example can be found in the pharmaceuticals industry, which has several initiatives under way to optimize the efficiency of data collection in clinical trails. The challenges in these situations are similar to those faced by financial services operation group -- knowledge-intensive work involving multiple participants and multiple data sources. Taking time to find the similarities between their needs and yours, and then extracting the lessons learned, could provide some valuable lessons that may help jumpstart an initiative.
Whatever you do, start learning from the pioneers now. Small differences in strategy can make a big difference in results when it comes to social media -- just ask MySpace and Yahoo.
Edward R. Merchant is Vice President of Consulting at Cognizant.