Social Web tools and services are now entering business at every level, from back-office IT communications to top-floor business collaboration, partner-connected workflow, and public-facing customer support. As the complexity of social business grows, companies need specialists to make it all work.
Social media no longer means just Facebook and Twitter. IBM, Jive, and Yammer are now the companies to watch, offering social tools for public and private clouds that redefine the role of social media for business. This creates a demand for IT pros with the specialized knowledge to build secure communities within a business network and between businesses and customers.
"In 2010, we saw the growth of a new middleware layer to protect intellectual property while opening things up with social tools," says IDC analyst Michael Fauscette, who researches social business trends. "You're starting to see that kind of thing because companies want the benefits of the social Web without the risks of putting their business in the hands of [Facebook and Twitter]."
In the enterprise, says Fauscette, social tools need to work together securely while offering transparency to the business. The clickstream data and other user intelligence that these tools produce need to be accessible and searchable inside the business, yet impenetrable from outside the business.
In large companies, a given company's social infrastructure tends to include multiple social platforms. Designing an infrastructure in which all these apps can work together will require IT pros focused explicitly on social business.
Because social business is still in its infancy, the range of emerging job titles varies widely, but at least they've matured beyond the generalized, marketing-centered monikers like "social media strategist" and "social media manager" that first appeared. In our conversations with analysts, leaders at IT job sites, and socially driven companies, we've seen an array of more specialized titles, ranging from director of social business technology to director of enterprise collaboration strategy to, most commonly, social media architect.
What these titles have in common is an emphasis on the technology itself, as distinct from the purely strategic business concentration common to social media titles of the past. These are roles that report under the CIO's org chart and bring practical IT expertise to bear on tangible business functions. Regardless of the precise title, says IDC's Fauscette, "There will be more demand over the next 18 to 24 months or so, as more systems are deployed."
"Mobile is the biggest factor changing IT right now," says Stewart Tan, vice president of information risk management and security at Accretive Solutions. "Building mobile apps, architecting mobile strategies, and securing those devices" are the top concerns facing the enterprise today.
Based on the listings showing up on IT employment sites, Tan's words sound almost like an understatement. One of the most common new titles we've run across on IT job sites sounds more like a general cry for help than an actual job listing. In response to the flood of new mobile devices, companies are desperately seeking "mobile technology experts" to bring order to the chaos.