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5 Ways Social Will Change The IT Profession

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I recently wrote about how social networking is poised to change the customer service/help desk role. After the article was published, I spoke with Ari Lightman, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the CIO Institute there. Lightman teaches a course in which graduate students and companies such as Microsoft, RIM, and Pepsi come together to apply measurement schemes around different social tools, applications, and techniques. Our conversation led to a discussion about how social networking will change the very nature of the IT profession. Here are some initial thoughts, and I look forward to hearing your own in the comments section below.

1. It will remove power from the social technology department. Businesses' public social networking presence has become the domain mainly of the marketing department, with many of the policies and practices around the company's use of social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, bubbling up from therein. There's no need to get IT involved in setting up a company's presence on these and other social networks, and savvy marketing folks have become pretty good developers as they mine the many ways that social media can be extended. Indeed, you could say that social has (so far) been the biggest business technology story that the IT department is barely involved in.

2. It will give power to the social technology department. Just as the Web breathed new life into and created new roles for the IT department, so, too, will social networking provide new pathways and opportunities for IT professionals who are willing and able to think outside the box in terms of how social capabilities can be integrated into existing applications and leveraged to deliver value to the business.

3. It will expand social technology professionals' data analytics role. Lightman believes that IT can and should play a big role in parsing the data generated from social networking apps in ways that will benefit and provide clarity to the business. "The IT folks are so integral in terms of the equation," he said. "Yes, I can have a conversation with one person. I can collect it, I can record it, I can remember that person. But you put 10,000 people out there, and that becomes a bit of a problem. Ten thousand people make it hard for me to make connections. So that's where the IT people come in and say, 'We can grab all of this rich data and show you how to segment out this specific group, and then look at the effectiveness of how different campaigns work for them.' They're the ones measuring the value dynamic."

4. It will make security more difficult. Security has never been easy, but social networking makes it that much more complex--mostly because of the human factor. There have been several reports that have come out lately noting the increase in phishing attacks using information gleaned from users' public social network pages. Unsuspecting--or, perhaps more to the point, poorly trained--users have been known to give up everything from passwords to company secrets. IT departments will have ensure that they have the latest and greatest in technologies such as data loss prevention, but will also need to train end users on an ongoing basis in the risks involved with social networking and how to avoid them.

5. It will change how help is delivered and managed. As I said in my earlier article, companies can leverage social networking capabilities to help customers and employees, and the open platforms provide a forum for anyone with expertise to weigh in--and anyone with a similar issue to gain knowledge. That's the good news. The bad news is that not all advice is valid, and the IT department will need to be monitoring internal and external sites to ensure that information being shared is accurate--and to fix thinking when it is not.

Lightman believes that social is driving a new breed of IT professional. "I really think that the next generation of IT managers will be more strategically oriented," Lightman said. "It's going to be more about innovation and working with various different functional groups across organizations to meet specific needs. When you combine these people together, that's where you get some really interesting ideation. Social is breaking down those barriers."

How has--and will--social change the IT profession in your experience? Let us know in the comments section below.

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