Article written in June 2005

Watching all these discussions about Networking Online Communities vs. the future of work, I wonder if there´s space for a Chief Networking Officer (CNO) position inside the corporate world.

If so, I would like to count on our collective intelligence in order to address some questions I have in mind:

1. Job description ?
2. Activities and responsabilities ?
3. Qualifications / Requirements ?
4. How would this professional be accountable for ? How could his/her performance be measured ?
5. How could he/she add value to the existing organization ? How would he/she make a difference among existing positions ?
6. Any potential friction with some other positions ?

Please feel free to add some relevant points.

Feed-back received + my own opinion
I am a strong believer in the collective intelligence and would like to thank all those who contributed to this blog. It´s clear that there is a disconnection between small business networking skills and the need to extend the same faculties for effective corporate internal/external marketing and communication - and the enabling technology tools are available right now. After considering so many and rich standpoints below, I would like to address those questions myself encompassing many of your views. I will assume that this CNO position ,or equivalent one, would be created inside corporations. I hope that we can refine it and reach a fair definition on what this position should be like for those corporations who think it would be worth to implement it.

1. Job description
The CNO should report directly to the CEO. The CNO must be a competent relationship strategist whose first mission will be to build trust among peers, subordinates, and clients. This should help reduce the sense of competition or competitiveness. The Chief Networking Officer should also be the Chief Trust Officer - no trust - no network. It will be about getting out of the way and letting creativity flow among peers.

Internally: The CNO should liaise with all other departments being aware of macro lines and general challenges happening inside the organization. The CNO should also work with IT in order to use a unique platform or a combination of a number of them available in the market in order to build this internal networking methodology/tool. Then, the CNO would have to work close with HR in Coaching employees about Networking and implement this networking methodology thourghout the organization. CNO would focus on human and social capital based inititiatives.

Externally: he/she should work directly with PR, Communications, Marketing, Sales, Business Development, International Business, Corporate Governance, and Investors Relations to mention a few.

The core issue here is PEOPLE. Whenever you have the human factor and related issues such as relationships, trust, long-term commitment involved, the CNO should be there as well. The CNO does not compete with anybody else. Conversely, he teams-up with all departments helping them to maximize their results developing health and trustworthy relations

Keep track of all relationships inside the company and between the company and outside partners/clients etc. His/her job is to make sure that everyone communicates on a regular basis, and to motivate people. Every company needs someone with people skills who can bring conflicting parties together or make sure that all parties are happy and informed.

2.Activities and responsabilities
The CNO would identify (a) complementarities, (b) synergies, (c) resonance and (d) leverage among all stakeholders and all contacts known by all members of that community of that so called internal network. As a consequence, it would generate a huge number of opportunities which should (or not) be pursued at a time and by a specific task force inside the organization.

The CNO would provide networking facilitation - getting people to talk, organise internal networking meetings, facilitate mouth-to-mouth knowledge sharing and intranet networking. The CNO would develop core business relationships: creating them, nurturing them, and maintaining them. She/he could make sure that people from the different organizations connect/ talk and that integration processes does not stop.

Coaching & Trainning employees to become serial networkers, collecting more contacts to the company. Coach employees to consider themselves self employed with one customer rather than a traditional style of employee mentality. Teaching the skills that small business owners .

Meeting stakeholders at a time you know is mutually convenient and seeking not to sell your services but to facilitate some aspects of their business and personal lives in which they feel more could be done or achieved.

In case of M&A, the CNO could feed the rest of the management with impressions on how the people side is developing and be the driver of benchmarking processes inside the merged company.

3. Qualifications / Requirements
Mid-senior level, general management experience, Entre/Intrapreneurial mindset, team building management, Knowledge management, business accelerator, opportunities connector, clearly identified with corporation core values, match-maker, leading by serving, business coach with strong focus on leadership and team management.

Hybrid technologist (groupware, intranet, unified messaging, collaborative software, concurrent engineering, middleware, knowledge repository etc) and commercial person (evangelist, salesperson, public speaker, presenter, visionary)

The CNO must be passionate for the company, its products, services, and people. Passion is the thing that attracts people. The Chief Networking Officer's primary role is attracting people to stay within the network. What attracts better than passion. Passion may attract, but thoughtful strategies, empathetic strategies will be the only think to retain people once they've been attracted by the CNO'S corporate passion

4. Accountability 
There are many different ways to account a CNO per each specific action, event, campaign, public speech, you name it: new clients, shorten business cycles, clients retention rate, churn rate reduction, clients who were recovered from competitors.

5. CNO´s Unique Value Proposition 
Chief Networking Officer should be in the business of adding value to the existing organization by developing stronger bonds among individuals and departments within the organization. The Chief Networking Officer should build the organization's net. Actually, he is a Business Coach serving all other departments simply because his/her job is to get the best of all stakeholders for their own mutual benefit.

The Chief Networking Officer's first priority should be to preemptively write and implement a friction reducing networking strategy for the organization as a whole as well as for its core/key relationships. Provided (a) there´s a clear support from CEO, (b) wide communication about CNO´s role and (c) medium-long term understanding of this position and what is planned to achieve and accomplish with people, there is no potential friction at sight. The buy-in from others is crucial otherwise, the CNO must face a lot of internal challenges.

Needless to say that like many other positions, the professional is the one who makes the difference not the position itself or the job description. A corporation may hire a CNO and not achieve the expected performance, which does not mean that the position should be erased but perhaps a more suitable candidate should be recruited instead.

May you hear of any organization who created a CNO position, please let me know. I am extremely interested in knowing about their experiences, learning and outcomes.

Thanks in advance for your positive contribution in this regard.

Octavio Pitaluga