In a strange parallel with the launch of the blockbuster film ‘The Social Network’, a story emerged in the German media recently which developed into epic proportions. In the ensuing days, coverage appeared around the world on account of several large DAX companies are blocking access to social media websites because of security and productivity concerns as well as the risk of industrial espionage.
This goes directly against the massive adoption of social media in Germany more broadly, and also suggests that many companies must re-examine their approach to Web 2.0.
The current stop and block approach highlighted in this German example is understandable to a certain extent for several reasons: Complex legislation in Germany means companies face a number of risks when allowing uncontrolled private social media usage at work. Furthermore, current surveys show that industrial espionage is today a huge problem in Germany (http://www.kpmg.de/Presse/21498.htm and http://www.kpmg.de/Presse/17447.htm).
However, avoiding these risks by blocking social media is not a realistic approach, in Germany or in any other country. Call it enterprise 2.0, social media tools are an integrated part of businesses today and applications will continue to grow: for R&D, marketing, partner communication, IT departments, human resources etc. Furthermore, with the current talent shortage in Germany and more broadly across Europe, it is essential for companies to present themselves as modern and forward-thinking in order to attract a new generation of employees.
In one or two years the world will not be the same as today. We will move towards an environment where social media applications will be common communication tools, integrated across our private and business lives. Therefore the key question is how to use such applications intelligently. Employee education and training, clear company rules and standards combined with suitable security technology are vital.
Safely allowing Web 2.0 usage in the workplace is a process that is more complex and sophisticated than simply blocking tools such as facebook, Twitter. Current security projects show that a healthy mix of technology, company policy and employee guidance lead to a corporate environment that motivates people, accelerates processes and opens up new business opportunities.
The perspective is changing: the role of IT security is to enable not to block interaction. And the role of business management is to enable the development of talent and not to block their communication tools, whatever they might be.