by Chris Andrews, Forrester Research

5 Ways Sourcing Pros Can Improve Enterprise Social Technology Plans

Oct 19, 2010
Social Networking Apps

In order to help sourcing professionals define their role in the social adoption process, Forrester has identified five problem areas that marketing and other business professionals commonly overlook. We've then considered how sourcing can play an enabling role in addressing these problems.

It’s no surprise that enterprise use of social technologies continues to grow rapidly. In fact, Recent Forrester data confirms what many business professionals already suspect: 32 percent of organization are now supporting social networking sites, and 28 percent of enterprise IT decision-makers use collaboration platforms for Web 2.0 functionality. But even as social in the enterprise grows, far too many sourcing professionals seem content to sit on the sidelines—letting individual social technology adoption grow organically within the company, showing minimal regard for long-term sourcing considerations.

This reactive approach sourcing professionals are taking toward social media is flawed. Experienced sourcing professionals should know that a strategy of inaction, particularly related to a significant technology trend, will most likely lead to significant problems. Forrester is already seeing examples of “organic” social technologies conflicting with organizational priorities. For example, a Fortune 500 company recently had hundreds of internal users sign up for Yammer—only to be shut down by legal teams concerned about security issues several months after adoption.

To avoid these types of conflicts and improve the potential for innovation, sourcing professionals need to play a proactive and value-add role in the social planning process. But it’s important to note that this role is a balancing act between playing a role that is flexible and adaptable enough to be a partner in the new technology adoption process, yet is still able to protect the long-term interests of the organization. In order to help sourcing professionals define their role in the social adoption process, Forrester has identified five problem areas that marketing and other business professionals commonly overlook. We’ve then considered how sourcing can play an enabling role in addressing these problems:

1. Help business users anticipate long-term social sourcing implications. Far too often, marketing professionals begin working with social tools for a very specific marketing purpose with little regard for how the tools will grow across the organization. Sourcing professionals can bring structure to this process and set the stage for long-term success. For example, stakeholder interviews with business, legal, finance, and IT are a critical first step in the platform adoption process that marketing professionals might skip over, but which could be a key part of vendor selection.

2. Guide requirements gathering and vendor selection. Given the diversity and complexity of the social media landscape, even knowledgeable marketing professional may be overwhelmed by the market players. Although it can be daunting, bringing discipline and structure to requirements gathering and vendor selection is a vital part of selecting a long-term partner. Sourcing and vendor management will add the most value by focusing efforts on larger platform initiatives and then moving into the niche markets.

3. Identify and mitigate key vendor risks. While marketing professionals are great at identifying the next “cool” technology, they’re less likely to have a nuanced understanding of organizational risk. Sourcing professionals who deal with risk on a daily basis can play a key role in helping their marketing counterparts explore the risks associated with social media, such as data protection, security, speech monitoring, and brand protection, by taking best practices from previous risk assessments.

4. Share knowledge of standard pricing and negotiation traps. By applying best practices and pricing benchmarks from previous software negotiations, SVM can help their counterparts identify pricing risks and benefits before contracts are signed. Even a sourcing professional unfamiliar with the social technology landscape can help the marketing team determine the strengths and weaknesses of common licensing models, and spot hidden costs such as fees for external software use, data recovery, and early termination.

5. Focus constituents’ attention on compliance best practices. Marketing professionals may have limited expertise with the governance requirements that support a long-term relationship with a social technology vendor. And the rapid evolution of the social technology landscape makes strong governance programs even more important. Sourcing professionals can improve contracts by applying some standard requirements such as SLA improvements, innovation workshops, and business outcome reviews. Setting up a formal social governance council to monitor vendor relationships can be a critical first step to establishing long-term relationships with these vendors, so they should be willing to participate.

For sourcing professionals who want to play a role in the organization’s social strategy, the key will be to connect with the different social stakeholders. There’s a good chance that they may have overlooked many of the areas where sourcing can provide value.

Chris Andrews is a senior analyst at Forrester Research where he serves sourcing & vendor management professionals. He will be speaking at Forrester’s Sourcing & Vendor Management Forum in Chicago, November 9-10.

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