The IT landscape is undergoing some of the most significant changes in decades. The growth of cloud-based and virtualised IT systems and services has been widely documented as on the rise and showing no sign of slowing. In addition, increasing numbers of Generation Y employees are reaching senior positions within companies, bringing with them more modern attitudes towards the use of the IT within business. Clearswift recently decided to commission a major piece of research on the topic to examine the scope of these changes within business and the impact they are having on businesses’ approach to security. The results have been extremely enlightening for me personally, and I feel will be of equal interest to our clients, partners and affiliates also.
Web 2.0 – what’s all the fuss about?
Why are businesses utilising Web 2.0? It’s a good question, particularly seeing as the term Web 2.0 isn’t exactly new on the agenda. The term Web 2.0 is widely acknowledged as having being coined in 2004 and the technologies have been around for even longer. 92% of respondents to our survey stated that technology and new ways of working are ‘important’ to their company. Web technologies are at the heart of this for many companies, and are seen as having multiple applications in business, with both external and internal benefits, such as increased productivity and cost-efficiencies. More than half of managers think web collaboration is critical for the future success of the company. Web 2.0 is seen as feeding into numerous aspects of business success, including increasing brand awareness, generating new business and even improving employee productivity.While many companies are quick to highlight the benefits of social media in terms of external client relations, employers also recognise the benefits Web 2.0 tools can have for improving employee relations.
Give and take
Another dynamic which the survey unveiled is the way in which access to web and social media technologies are being used as a bargaining tool by employers. With the traditional 9-5 day having almost completely disappeared, many employees are seeing the boundaries between work and home lives blurred as never before.In return for their increased contributions to work outside contracted hours, employees expect to be given the freedom to manage their time during their contracted hours. One of the most popular responses to the question of what is key to job satisfaction was having the freedom to use social networking sites at my discretion’. Employers have responded well: out of the 1011 employees surveyed, the vast majority (62%) are accessing personal email accounts from work most days. 42% are accessing social networking sites from work most days.
Employers are increasingly harnessing the positives of Web 2.0, recognising the benefits to corporate image, client relations and staff morale, but there do remain some key concerns, not least, that of security.Perhaps surprisingly, concerns by businesses regarding loss of employee productivity have now been overtaken by another key issue when it comes to Web 2.0. Security is the biggest Web 2.0 concern, with 61% of companies having voiced concerns about security as a result of social media.
A happy medium?
For the moment at least, there seems to be a happy balance in employees’ use of social media at work with a corresponding increase in commitment to working outside normal hours. Employers are keen to reap the benefits of increased morale and corporate image as a result of pro-social media policies. However, concerns still remain over the security of communication through these channels, especially when concerning sensitive work-related data. More than four in ten employees are happy to discuss work-related issues on social networking sites, and a quarter have regretted sending content via email or social networking sites, leaving the door open for leaks of potentially sensitive or damaging information. Despite the mutual benefits created for employers and their staff by social media tools, there is clearly a need to take a step forward in order to shore up defences while not losing the benefits of the current situation. 68% of managers agree that maintaining a balance between policing and empowering usage in order to benefit the organisation is key to future success.
A new approach to security
What is increasingly apparent to me – and which this series of reports reinforces – is the vast numbers of businesses that are so afraid of the perceived risks when it comes to collaborative and social media technologies, that they are virtually paralysed as a result. This is a real concern when over half of businesses now accept that these sorts of collaborative technologies are critical to the future success of their company. The vast benefits of collaborative and social technologies are clearly apparent, and many businesses are now realising their potential to create better communication channels with customers and helping to create more flexible environments where staff feel more valued and motivated.
About the Clearswift ‘Web 2.0 in the Workplace’ 2010 report
Survey conducted in January/February 2010. Sample size: 1,629 managers and employees in UK, USA, Germany and Australia