Gartner Blames IT Managers for Failed Communities?

In a recent press release from Gartner, the headline states that “many social software projects fail due to IT managers not having a well-defined purpose to succeed”.

Now that’s seems a little harsh to the IT world. Unless Gartner is just trying to be controversial or come up with an angle that will attract attention to their upcoming conference, IT managers are being unfairly blamed.

I would place the blame for failed social software projects squarely on the shoulders of the business unit managers and senior executives responsible for overall corporate strategy.  These executives are the ones who ultimately control the destiny of social media ‘experiments’ and it is critical that they understand and embrace social media or it will not be successful.  While the IT guys are just following orders, they do need to have confidence to raise the red flags when they see any IT projects that are not properly supported or have strategies that are not clear.

Anthony Bradley, managing vp at Gartner goes on to say in the release that:

Contrary to the common perception that vibrant communities arise spontaneously, starting with a carefully chosen purpose does not limit participants. It gives them the direction they need to form a productive community.

I do agree with Gartner’s assertion that users need a “well-defined purpose of appropriate scope” to mobilize around for any community effort (although their verbiage and word choice is a little stilted).

Gartner also defined seven characteristics of a “good purpose” which seems to me like a poorly organized list of descriptives and phrases:

  1. Magnetic
  2. Aligned
  3. Low risk
  4. Properly scoped
  5. Facilitates evolution
  6. Measurable
  7. Community-driven

In any case, Gartner fails to mention the most obvious reason for social software failures.  In my mind, strong community strategy and management is key to any successful community.  In fact, I wrote a blog post on this topic recently (“Community Managers and Quarterbacks“).  In short:

  • good (and passionate, committed) community managers –> thriving community
  • bad or non-existent community managers –> stagnant or dying community.

Of course, we may need to take Gartner’s social media advice with a grain of salt.  I don’t know much about Anthony Bradley and couldn’t locate much about him in a Google or Twitter search.  Personally, I don’t trust anyone in social media who doesn’t twitter and who has been actively blogging for less than a year.

Does anyone have any additional comments?


2 thoughts on “Gartner Blames IT Managers for Failed Communities?

  1. Following orders? What a crock. Businesses need people who can think outside of their own pair of socks. Sure they’ll put up a fuss and a fight, but if I’ve been faced over and over again with the sort of mindless, thoughtlessness that I’ve seen coming out of IT groups, I’d be putting up a fight to. It’s time for everyone to kick it up a notch.

  2. Agree strongly about the need for a really committed lead to make any online community work. I’m a long time (>15 years) user of CiX (now at – ok I don’t tweet, but being long in the tooth does mean you’ve seen a lot of it before. I differ on one thing: the leader doesn’t have to have formal authority in the group, but that means the “official” manager has to be able to find the natural leader and have the nous to stand aside.

    In the (global) company I used to work for, the natural drive for social media was allowed to have its head to a reasonable extent, while we figured out what the various styles were good for and what not. Sure, the other attitude was around too but – for example – we opened up the firewall to SecondLife. Not many companies are prepared to do that.

    It does tend to be IT that leads off on this stuff; we’re the geeks after all. But find a few business side allies – probably in corporate communications or marketing, or among the senior execs (yes I mean it – a lot of them get it, especially as the younger generation come through) and you have some good levers.

    If you want good analysis on this topic, go to Forrester even though Erica Driver and Charlene Li have both gone independent (ThinkBalm and The Altimeter). Or Leading Edge Forum who just published a workbook, that I was involved in creating, on the broader Web 2.0 issues. LEF’s Doug Neal (who’s older than I am, even) is a great advocate. Categorised analyst blog links on

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