Web 2.0 Control Moves from Marketing to IT

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-07-17

Web 2.0 Control Moves from Marketing to IT

You would think that blogs, wikis and social networks launched by businesses to engage with customers in product and brand development scenarios would be commanded by IT people.

Not so, according to a "2008 Tribalization of Business Survey," conducted by Deloitte Services and released July 16. The survey, which included 140 various companies, found that 42 percent of the respondents granted the CMO (chief marketing officer) reign over these networks.
Thirty-nine percent of the companies that participated cited idea generation as the purpose of their blogs, wikis and social networks, while 19 percent said they leverage these tools to drive new product development. These are largely overseen by marketing managers.

"You actually have marketing now running value creation for things like product development and customer care," which from an organizational perspective is probably not optimal, Deloitte Services Director of Product Innovation Ed Moran told me.

Probably not optimal? Marketing folks generally do a bang-up job of selling the idea of a product or brand. But do we want marketing folks lording over how software and services get built, or dealing with customers who buy the products? 

To wit, Moran said some CMOs at companies are so overwhelmed in the community-building capacity that the company leaders are creating positions such as a "chief community officer" who has the facility for moderating content from many people within an online forum.

Indeed, Moran pointed to SAP's Mark Yolton, senior vice president of the SAP Community Network, who oversees the numerous communities the company uses to interact with its customers. SAP installed Yolton because it realized its customers were best served by dealing with one contact instead of many.

SAP is hardly alone. Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang has posted a list of community managers from larger companies.

ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick turned up a ton of startups that have added what he calls "community managers" to their staffs.

The Bottom Line

So, clearly the community manager is here to stay, but it looks like these positions are increasingly becoming tech-savvy. A July 10 report from Forrester claims IT is taking those reins from the CMO.

Forrester analyst G. Oliver Young said marketing departments and corporate communications staffs led early enterprise Web 2.0 deployments, with IT departments along for the ride, if at all:

That dynamic is changing rapidly; our recent Web 2.0 survey shows IT departments taking a more active role in the acquisition and deployment of Web 2.0 technologies. Budgetary controls, the need for integration and technical skills, and the growing importance of Web 2.0 tools are all putting IT departments in the driver's seat. Technology product managers and marketers will need to not only deal with these departments but also appeal to them outright. Those that can do so most effectively stand to close more deals, shorten the sales cycle and grow deployments more easily.

Ahhhh, now we can sleep better at night. No longer will we have to worry about people with no technical background walking us through product deployments or bug fixes.

Young, who surveyed 262 IT professionals, goes on to report that IT shops are increasingly taking a leadership role in the adoption of Web 2.0 as they get more comfortable with the tools and deem them up to enterprise standards.

Importantly, these same IT people have ended the "cat-and-mouse game of locking out consumer-grade tools brought in by individual employees in favor of formal enterprise-class alternatives," Young said.

This is a sign that Facebook in the office, for better or worse, may be here to stay, unless companies have specific rules against the social network and other mainstream communities of its ilk.

The bottom line is: Why wouldn't IT organizations run Web 2. tools? Blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and the like are user-friendly for nontechies, but they are still Web-based tools open to exploits like anything else on the Web.

I say it's better to vet these tools through IT departments so they know exactly what they are dealing with in case a malicious attack is executed. Where technology is concerned, let IT be the gatekeeper and front line of defense.

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