Social Media: Why it’s an essential tool

When I first became interested in the power of social media for companies, I was something of a lone wolf.

A 2012 study found that only one in four Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in the Fortune 250 had an active blog, only 10% had a Twitter account, and a third had either no LinkedIn profile or a profile with minimal connections. Since then the situation has improved greatly as more and more C-level executives and organizations embrace these forms of communication internally and externally. That’s good news.

Why? Because I believe more strongly than ever that social media approaches are essential for organizations who want to stay competitive in today’s environment. Let me explain.

Getting down to work

Don’t be fooled by the name: social media is not just about having fun. The same communications principles and toolsets that people are used to using externally – blogs,  chats, social platforms – are powerful means of communication that can be employed internally to help people and organizations work better. Among other things they:

  • increase productivity, efficiency and employee engagement by fostering two-way and multi-threaded dialogues. That means better communication and knowledge-sharing among employees, making it easier for all to keep up-to-date, and be engaged.
  • improve effectiveness of management communications by replacing typical top-down communications, which are increasingly ill-suited to the way people think and work today, with more dynamic, targeted approach.
  • help you take the pulse of the organization: by giving you a clear view of what the hot topics are, what people are excited about or afraid of, and even where pockets of hidden creativity and good ideas may be lurking unrecognized.
  • let you engage with clients and the public in an immediate, contemporary way, with the same advantages of dialogue, knowledge exchange and “pulse taking” you get internally.

Do it right

To get the most out of these tools, organizations need an effective approach. My experience spearheading efforts to introduce and encourage the use of social media tools as CIO at both SAP and UBS taught me a few things. I believe the following points are key:

  • See Social Media as a must-have component: Your social media effort should not be an add-on but a core element of your internal and external communications. and given that priority and resources.
  • Apply the same techniques internally as externally: Social media functions the same way internally and externally: you have to find your right network and establish yourself as an accepted and trusted player, involved in the give and take of information.
  • Keep the hurdle for use low: Make these tools available to as many people in the organization as possible.
  • Manage the line between internal and external. In today’s world you want to be as transparent as possible; the internal and external worlds are mixing more than ever. But depending on industry, you will draw the line at different places. Be as open as you can while maintaining a good risk control.


My interest in social media as a tool for work has paid off for me personally, helping me among other things be recognized with a Wall Street Technology Elite 8 award and be named by Forbes as the Most Social CIO. More importantly, it has I think paid off for the organizations I have been involved with, who have gained real benefits from using these tools. Based on my experience I can only continue to encourage C-level executives and management to go social. These are not nice-to-haves, but a mandatory management communication toolset.

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Wielding the baton: How CIOs can best orchestrate FinTech innovation

“How did you do that?” “What do you need to be successful?”

Since leaving UBS I have been hearing these questions often from people interested in my experiences orchestrating FinTech innovation. Typically the questioner is someone facing challenges similar to the ones I have faced in my career as a Chief Information officer (CIO): not just innovation, but innovation in a complex, global organization, with multiple business lines and geographies.

My answer always runs along the same lines. As a CIO you must first keep in mind that business is in the driver’s seat: innovation is not a tech play, it’s a business model, product and service one. But in today’s tech-driven environment, the CIO generally has the conductor’s baton in his or her hand. That means it’s up to you to orchestrate the change. You need to do so from front-to-back, covering all aspects from generating ideas to going to market.

Having done this several times, I’ve thought a lot about the process. For me, the following stages are essential:

Illustration: Jon D. Harper – Strategy and Innovation Process Improvements


  • Find key trends: You need to know what is coming down the pike in tech, and how it may be used in the context of your organization.
  • Understand business priorities: You must thoroughly understand where the business is today and, more crucially, where it would like to be in three to five years.
  • Decide on the tech you would like to test like a VC fund: Now you can match what you know about technological developments with what you know about the business. Look for developments with the best potential in your context, be it new technologies, methodologies, software, approaches, whatever seems like it might fit and drive the business forward. Based on this, you can decide on a long list of ideas to be tested.
  • Validate your hypotheses: This is the key part: Get some funding and put a small team together, preferably outside normal business lines, and test the ideas in a sandboxed laboratory environment. Do it quickly but thoroughly, in a non-bureaucratic way, but always with the business and customers in mind.
  • Move validated ideas to the normal investment portfolio: A lot of your initial hypotheses may prove wrong. That’s fine. The ones that make it through the process are likely to be gems. If the expected benefits are indeed confirmed, then move those ideas to your normal investment portfolio, where they can be developed using your regular processes.

There are some other things to keep in mind. You will have to coordinate a number of support services. You need to manage your ecosystem, for instance, from startups and universities through to the regulator. The research, business case and use case selection processes need to be managed as well . You also need to manage and be active on the communications side. And finally, you need to ensure that once new capabilities are available, line managers can easily find out what they are and integrate them into their portfolios.

In other words, you will need a complete framework for your innovation efforts. And whether you work in a centralized way or take a more distributed, federalized approach, you will need teams to manage the overall process.

This process has worked well for me in the past. It’s one of the reasons I was lucky enough to be named among the Financial News’s FinTech Top 40 for the last two years and City AM FinTech Powerlist. While this is a satisfying confirmation of the work, there is really nothing here that anyone else couldn’t do. Just stick to the method, and the results will come.

Follow me on Twitter @obussmann.

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