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Social media: An architect's friend or foe?

Social media isn’t just being viewed as a way to connect with others for fun, but as an integral part of an enterprise’s makeup, research indicates. Data from IT consulting firm Tata Consultancy Services shows that since 2010, 64% of enterprises have assigned at least one employee to man social media efforts. Given this trend, enterprise architecture needs to be able to support such business initiatives.

The adoption of social media and social media applications undoubtedly affects enterprise architecture. Matt Brasier, head of consulting at C2B2 Consulting Ltd., said social media can have a big impact on SOA architecture, workload in particular. “The workloads that these kind of applications deal with is quite heavy compared to more traditional mechanisms of interacting, communicating, even sort of going back to sort of Web forums and wikis,” he said.

In addition to coping with different workload sizes, architects have to keep in mind how social media is used. For an enterprise, the scope of potential social media problems encompasses not only integration, but employee use as well. There are numerous examples of people sharing personal or proprietary information on Facebook or Twitter, only to regret such actions.

The consequences of unsanctioned data being posted on a social media platform, where it can be easily viewed and shared, can be disastrous. Another downside to social media in the workforce is the additional layer of “office politics” it adds, said Michael Orgrinz, principal architect for global markets at Bank of America.

Experts have recommendations for reducing risks and applying policies to social media tools. Ogrinz said one way to appropriately integrate social media channels is to control the flow of information. “One of the challenges is keeping these business rules current along with maintaining up-to-date information on employees’ roles and responsibilities to feed into these check-valves,” he said. Of course, such control needs to be applied delicately or there is risk of employees becoming frustrated by management.

On the other hand, social media can be a helpful tool. “One of the positive aspects though is that social media can increase an employee’s perspective about their role,” Ogrinz said. “If they are in a position that lacks direct customer interaction, social media may fill the gap and give them a better understanding of how their work impacts the overall business.”

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