Jim Klein and his IT team recently rolled out social networking tools, including blogs, to the faculty, students and staff in California's Saugus Union School District.
But Klein, who is director of information services and technology, didn't want IT to become the blog police. To avoid that, he put controls in place so that both IT and the school district are protected from users running amok. "The way we handle it is that if a business unit wants to start blogging, then a leader has to manage those blogs," he says.
For instance, if a teacher wants his students to communicate via the school's website, then that teacher has to approve all the content being posted. That way, Klein says: "IT does not get put in the line of fire."
Klein's precautions are right on target, say experts in social networking technology. For the tools to be successful, they say, the buck has to stop somewhere other than IT. "Social networking is more than just operations; it's community development. Therefore, IT should not be in charge of it," says Rachel Happe, an analyst at market research firm IDC.
Happe says that as companies latch on to social networking tools such as blogs, wikis and user-driven content sites, they must allocate human as well as IT resources to manage this new frontier.
"There is tremendous value to be gained from social networking tools," she says. "But you need to make sure that there are people responsible." Failure to do so puts the organisation at risk of being held responsible for malicious behaviour and even vulnerable to lawsuits. "Organisations have to manage the technology or it will come back to hurt them," Happe warns.
Many companies implement social networking technology without much planning, says Klein. "Someone says, 'Hey, let's do a wiki.' Then something goes wrong, and they say, 'We should have thought about that,'" he says.