With business adoption rates already well above 70 percent, it seems clear that social media has well and truly become a must-have business capability.

However, many CIOs still seem to be struggling to turn what is primarily a consumer-focused tool into an enterprise-wide value generator for the business.

Understanding the risks
In truth, embedding social media into the business has in most cases led to a number of notable challenges for technology leaders.

According to a recent study by KPMG International, more than 40 percent of organisations that allow employee access to social media have seen dramatic rises in the consumption of bandwidth as a result.

Almost half have experienced increased exposure to malware.

But while these challenges should likely have been anticipated by the IT function, many organisations still seem to have been caught unprepared for the sudden shift that results from the increased use of social media within the workplace.

Turning social into business value
However, the bigger and more complex challenge now facing CIOs is how to create a technology environment that enables the business to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by social media. In this, there are no simple solutions.

At the root of the problem is that social media provides value in different ways across the various business functions.

Marketing is looking for an ability to rapidly deploy campaigns and immediately evaluate their results using analytical tracking capabilities.

Customer service teams need real-time surveillance of multiple social media channels in order to respond to individual and aggregate complaints.

Business development is looking to gather and analyse customer preferences and demands in order to develop new products and services.

And, atop all of these requirements are the board and risk management professionals who want to ensure that the risks involved in social media are being mitigated and managed.

Putting IT in control
As a result, there is significant pressure on the technology function to play a centralising role in the social media strategy to support the development and deployment of solutions that deliver value and reduce risk across the business. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

In our experience, there are four key areas that CIOs must prioritise in order to meet the demands of the business.

1 Understand your clients’ needs:
To gain real value from social media in the workplace, CIOs must develop a clear understanding of the needs of the business and then work to identify, develop and deploy solutions that meet those demands.

In most cases, this will require significant integration into the current IT environment to enable the business to overlay the data and functionality of social media into their regular business processes.

2 Model the ROI to focus on value generation:
Outside of marketing, many business functions struggle to articulate the top and bottom line value of social media.

IT must take the lead in developing ROI models to help the business focus their efforts onto those activities that deliver the most value while providing business-focused metrics against which to evaluate their programs.

Key to this will be the ability to articulate social media value in ways that the business can relate to.

3 Ensure you have the right tools and infrastructure:
Taking advantage of social media sources will often require the IT department to invest in a range of new tools and services such as enhanced data analytics, real-time tracking capabilities and bandwidth capacity.

And while some of this functionality can certainly be outsourced (or pushed into the cloud), CIOs will need to consider what services must remain in-house and what can be provided by third-parties in a way that ensures the business retains flexibility while maximising investment.

4 Develop proper security controls:
Likely the most important consideration when deploying social media solutions is security.

This not only means securing the business from the inevitable malware attacks that come from increased use of social media, it also requires CIOs to develop stronger controls around the use and protection of company and customer data.

And while increasing security settings is certainly part of the solution, CIOs will also need to work with the business to create a security-conscious culture that ensures employees understand the risks that social media presents.

The bottom line is that CIOs must work with all levels of the business to act as a centralising function that enables the formulation and execution of the business’ social media strategy.

So whilst IT may not always be in the lead on social media initiatives, CIOs must ensure that they are deeply involved in the planning and execution if the business expects to create the right environment for success.

By Bryan Cruickshank and Mark Guinibert, KPMG in the UK