How best to join the online conversation?

Yesterday’s seminar organised by the BCS Consultancy SG and the BCS ELITE Group on ‘Customer Engagement’ was in the prestigious Victorian setting of the English-Speaking Union, a fine location. The two presenters, David Butler and Alistair Russell, introduced to the collected CIOs from businesses and organisations ranging from Shell to the NHS Care Quality Commission (& check out their new website design), the value of ‘joining the conversation’ – listening and responding to customer conversations. One facet I found useful was the discussion about how CIOs could better involvement themselves in such initiatives, working with marketing directors (CMOs) to make sure great ideas for engagement deliver on a practical as well as conceptual level.

For my part  as a freelance consultant I was fortunate to talk to a senior manager from Shell who reminded me about the value of communities of practice for global companies looking to give their people on the ground access to the wisdom of their crowd, coming up with solutions based on tried and tested approaches to  problems from other teams, rather than re-inventing the wheel. The short video I posted on the SiftGroups site back in August about the experience of Rio Tinto is  a nice introduction, providing a practical example of how this works, as well as some ideas about communities of practice.

[Update: 26 Jan] Of course I was aware that many influential social media gurus regard IT managers as significant obstacles to the uptake of these tools, as the quote from ex-BBC staffer Euan Semple nicely encapsulates in his ten definitive social media tips for 2010, which just popped into my inbox:

IT is the single biggest block to getting social media going. IT staff could be such enablers but they’ve largely been employed to replicate the hierarchical command and control structure that most organizations pretend is actually running them.

I see a big potential opportunity for the BCS in leading on ways to educate all sides in this debate on the positive role for IT managers in helping facilitate change within organisations from the NHS to Shell.