Hi Richard, I'm Kathryn Everest, a Strategic Consultant at Jive focused on the business side of Social Business Software implementations. Your question is an interesting one - one I get asked a lot. I've been in this space for a long time, and have had a variety of "sponsors" who bring me in.
The answer is, in my experience, it depends (I know - typical consultant answer). The variable is what the "program" is and what the platform is expected to deliver.
In a case where it has a specific application (such as enabling Support organizations, or Sales and Marketing) it is easier to distinguish (sponsored by Support, Marketing or Sales). Or Innovation - coming from a Chief Innovation Officer. But "Employee Engagement" type of initiatives, like you are describing, have a few common trends.
If the platform is being introduced as part of a 'transformational' strategic initiative, the sponsor is typically a subset of HR, such as Organization Development, or Internal Communications who are responsible not only for the collaborative infrastructure, but also the Organization Change programs around it. The platform of course is still managed by IT, who are a key stakeholder, but are not ultimately responsible for the business results.
If the platform is a response to 'rogue' technologies seeping into the organization, then the sponsor is often IT. However, unless they are able to get sufficient business support (such as through a cross functional Steering Committee), it may take time for it to become accepted by the business as a tool to do work.
Sometimes, it is brought in to take collaboration to the next level, which has been the role of a Knowledge Management, or Learning and Development initiative. My sponsors have been the Chief Learning Officer or VP of HR.
Sometimes it is brought in by a particular group to support a particular community, who finds an executive sponsor that has budget and "who believes" regardless of their mandate in the organization. That person then becomes the champion - not from mandate but from passion. These are often my favourites to work with.
But the big owners, typically are HR variants (Internal Comm, L&D, OD) and IT. That however should not undermine the need for a cross function Hope that helps.
Thanks, Kathryn! I'll be working with Richard in person in a couple of weeks, and this will help identify critical participants in that work effort.
In our company, the mandate came from the CEO and he charged the EVP of People and Culture (aka, HR) with making it happen. At the same time, the EVP of IT was charged with selecting the software we would use and making the actual implementation of it happen. A new position of Community Manager was posted -- a role I was hired for and now occupy.
For the first six months, I reported directly to the EVP of IT and we focussed on the technology, since there was so much work to be done there. But the three of us -- community manager, EVP of IT and EVP of P&C -- had weekly meetings to coordinate our efforts and plan the implementation. After about six months, I switched to report directly to the EVP of P&C and we changed our weekly calls among the three of us to bi-weekly.
But I would say a fundamental, critical success factor for us has been the loud and clear advocacy from the CEO. Our implementation has never been viewed as driven by one department. It's consistently been portrayed as an enterprise-wide initiative, and everyone can literally see the CEO's commitment because he participates frequently in the community himself.