Social Business Failure #5: Treat it Like an IT Project

There are a few fundemental things we must all learn.

  1. How to put on pants.
  2. The sun’ll come out, tomorrow.
  3. Social Technologies are 90% human and 10% IT.

Then why is it we so often default to treating social business initiatives like IT projects?  Here is my take: An IT project has clearly defined requirements.  We know exactly what needs to be done, how to do it and when the project will be complete.  But like economists, rarely are they correct.  The perfect path they think they will go down (according to all plans and indications) is rarely the one that reality shows us.  Why?  People.

Oh, you fickle and emotional beings.  People mess up all the best mathematical formulas.

I have watched many programs – not only social business endeavors – totally change course because people get in the way.  Many IT professionals have become so frustrated at users that I have seen them become irate because they don’t do what the programmers thought they should do.

And there are others who say that people are important, but when it comes down to it, they focus on that which they can control – and them there people ain’t one of them.  So their efforts naturally lean toward that which they can more easily control.  It is human nature.

And that is OK, unless it is to the exclusion of people.  We must remember to make this a people project with an IT element.

There was a Bar Camp at the E2.0 conference.  I led a discussion on where social business projects should live.  Should it be IT or HR or Marketing or…?  It started off slowly, but turned into a VERY lively discussion as each realized we all had different views and different remedies.  There isn’t one path to perfection.  It must be decided by the nature of the organization.  But one thing was clear: forget the people and you will fail.

Have you seen others focus too heavily on the IT side?  What happens?  How can we avoid this from happening?  What happens if the project is led by IT and they become tool focused?  How can you bring the human side into it to dominate?  Some good answers are waiting and I would love to hear from others!