IT has assisted marketing, administration, and business operations with their implementations of social media and networking. Now, it has discovered some ways to make social-style communications deliver value to the IT department.
Major IT work challenges continue to revolve around project management, technical problem resolution and consultation, accuracy and timeliness of information, and the responsibility of running 24/7 operations. This is where social-style methodologies that incorporate peer-to-peer networking and information sharing are beginning to pay off. Here is a brief rundown on what's "socially" working in IT.
1: Collaborative project management in the cloud
Frustrated with desktop versions of project management software, more companies are moving to cloud-based PM that allows everyone to key in their tasks, due dates, and status. Project team members can also collaborate online to resolve project problems and roadblocks. Some companies are seeing a 2x improvement in the number of projects they can complete each year.
2: Scrum meetings
The weekly scrum meeting, in which all project team members gather, report status, identify problems, and then collectively resolve these issues as a group, is an in-person, low-tech implementation of social networking that accelerates projects to completion. Some companies are so gung-ho with the methodology that team members are allowed to quickly form spontaneous meetings in the hallways if necessary.
3: Mobile collaboration and problem resolution for the help desk in the field
For years, IT has wrestled with help desk and support personnel having to be out in the field, losing time on travel. Now, mobile technology equips them to log status of their calls instantaneously into the system, pick up help requests from the queue, and even collaborate with each other in group-solving a technical problem.
4: Using the cloud for R&D forums
As more sites opt for cloud-resident and third-party applications, it's equally important to ensure that vendors continue to evolve their solutions to meet the changing needs of their corporate clients. Social network forums on vendor products give enterprise IT an opportunity to weigh in on the next set of functions and features it would like to see in a vendor's offering.
5: Application prototyping and testing
Users (and various IT specialists) aren't always available at the same time to model a new application prototype or to kick the tires and perform testing on applications getting ready for production. By networking through a social media forum, they can leave their comments and test results on the network where everyone can view and act on them. The technique promotes 360-degree checkouts and signoffs on new applications without someone in IT administration trying to keep track of it all.
6: Collaboration with other companies on common IT problems
Although companies might compete on end products and services, their internal IT departments face many of the same problems. These issues include understanding how to implement a new industry regulation in enterprise code and how to meet certain IT "green" and sustainability standards. Social networking is a great avenue for organizational exchanges and committee work that helps IT'ers from many organizations join force to overcome a common challenge.
7: Access to public forums for technical problem resolution
Combination technical resources and social networking sites are now so good that most IT technical staff (especially in areas like network administration) go to these forums first to find answers to elusive technical problems. This pays off in a major way, as many vendor telephone help lines are actually orchestrated to discourage calls and sometimes don't work at all.
8: Instant messaging and impromptu meetings
With a social networking concept, techniques like instant messaging have grown into instant meetings. Experts from diverse IT disciplines can be brought together in real time to work out a real-time problem, thanks to the flexibility inherent in Internet-based apps and today's mobile communications.
9: 24/7 "follow the sun" IT
More enterprises are deploying IT experts in diverse geographical locations to solve the age-old problem of remote facilities having to wait until the corporate office opens to solve a production problem. Companies are not just spreading out their IT workforces. They are also using social networking principles, so that if a problem can't be solved in its entirely within a normal workday at one site, all the data, work, and communications that have gone into the problem are documented in a social networking work area so that the next "shift" of IT staff in a different geographical zone can take over the issue. The strategy speeds time to problem resolution.
10: Common data repositories and documentation pools
By maintaining a common data repository for a given project, problem, or other IT matter on a corporate social network that staff from anywhere at any time can contribute to and access, companies avoid confusion and misinformation because everyone is working from the same set of data. These social networking information repositories are usually implemented on corporate intranets or via Internet through a cloud services provider.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.