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Can IT Be More Effective by Being More Social?

An ‘anonymous’ CIO suggests that there are some IT issues that can best be addressed by gathering input from employees using social media.  Is this something that would work within the insurance community?

What’s this about?  First, let’s introduce the newest buzzword:  ‘Socialize’. Our real-life CIO,  writing under the pseudonym John McGreavy in Information Week, defines it as follows:

Socializing generally involves communicating from one to many and, more important, encouraging much more feedback from and interaction among that many. For example, you might socialize your plan to replace Office 2010 with Office 365 by posting this information on the company blog and asking employees to weigh in with comments and suggestions, even alternatives.

McGreavy is planning to use socialization in addressing the particularly touchy subject of introducing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy within his company.  He notes that in this case, employees have strong feelings about and, possibly, more experience with certain devices than his  IT staff. So, why not tap into that expertise?

Obviously, some problems (e.g., security levels) are not suited to a democratic solution.  Further, there should be a clear process involved that ensures decision making in a timely fashion and clear communications to all concerned.  However, it does allow IT to get a broad view of the issues from the user perspective and tease out alternatives that might not be considered in the normal course of events.

McGreavy is not alone.  It seems that the US government has set up mechanisms for what they refer to as ‘Ideation’.  The General Services Administration has established the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, whose mandate includes “identifying and applying new technologies to effective government operations and excellence in customer service in the government.”

On its HowTo.gov page the Office has published steps to establish Employee Ideation Programs (EIPs).  The purpose of these programs is to “use social media tools to harness the innovation and wisdom of employees. Increasingly, EIPs are replacing traditional ‘suggestion boxes’ to gather employee input on how to streamline operations, or customer input on how to improve products and services.”

The article lists many of the benefits tht McGreavy mentions, and also articulates some important caveats.  It says that EIPs cannot help you:

  • If you already know the answer to your question
  • If you aren’t willing to dedicate resources to review and respond to suggestions
  • If senior leadership isn’t invested in the program or potential outcomes
  • If you don’t recognize participation and reward winning ideas

We think that Socialization or Ideation might be particularly useful for elements of insurance systems design and development.  For example, in developing requirements for new business intelligence systems targeting knowledge workers.

We’d like your thoughts.  Would socialization work in Insurance IT?  What are good or not good applications?

Be social.  Leave us a comment below.

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