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Web 2.0 Tools: Consumer Technologies Entering the Enterprise World
Frost & Sullivan, February 2010, Pages: 130
Social networking is relevant for business use as it enables employees to network with each other and exchange knowledge. This study gauges social networking usage trends in a business context, specifically, how social networking is being used in the corporate world, how often, and to what gains. Supporting these primary objectives, this research also measures:
- Main drivers of usage
- Corporate demographic profile of social network users
- Current applications used and experience
- Future implications (barriers or drivers to expanding or restricting further use)
Multi-pronged Benefits of Web 2.0 Tools Suggest Strong Uptake within the Enterprise Segment
In recent years, web 2.0 tools have percolated into the realm of business, adding a new dimension to business dynamics. The most popular web 2.0 tools used both personally and professionally are social networking sites. Nearly 72 percent of respondents to Frost & Sullivan’s web-based survey report using social networking sites personally within an organization, and 64 percent report employees using them within an organization. Like personal social networking, social networking sites are beginning to provide a sense of experience promotion and information sharing at the workplace. Deployment within enterprises is largely informal. "External usage may not be as prevalent, but employees are beginning to recognize the benefits that social networking can provide in building, maintaining, and strengthening relationships with clients/customers, vendors, and partners," notes the analyst of this research service. "Furthermore, the inexpensive public promotion of an enterprise through social networking is an advantage, especially for small and medium-size enterprises."
Although these tools can boost efficiency and provide new marketing channels, they also have some potential downsides. Businesses implementing web 2.0 tools for their own purposes are becoming increasingly aware of the associated risks. Enterprises may be wary of utilizing social networking and other web 2.0 tools due to the perception that employee productivity may be negatively impacted and that confidential information may be compromised. Apart from this, servers may be slowed down and there is the possibility that malware such as viruses could be introduced into their computer networks.
The survey reveals that medium-sized enterprises (100-999 employees) employ web 2.0 tools more than small (1-99 employees) or large (1000 or more employees) enterprises – except for team spaces, which are most-used by large enterprises. Small and medium-size enterprises make better use of social networking sites (as opposed to blogs and other tools) to extend their reach and promote their brands. These tools are being used in combination across organizations, as different tools add value in different ways. Personal use of web 2.0 tools has influenced utilization in enterprises, indicating that those who use web 2.0 tools personally are comfortable using them professionally as well. The data suggest that the people who most use web 2.0 tools within enterprise settings are not the "Millennials/Digital Natives." This is very surprising, and reveals that they may not have as much influence and power to change the organization as is often suggested. "More executive-level management, or current leaders, avail themselves of web 2.0 tools than do entry-level or mid-management employees," says the analyst. "Current leaders are more apt to use web 2.0 tools since their positions within their organizations give them more flexibility and freedom than their employees are allowed." In the future, as business leaders gain familiarity with web 2.0 tools, they are likely to focus on the upside rather than the concerns surrounding web 2.0 tools. Interest in web 2.0 tools is likely to gain momentum among early adopters and spread to more conservative organizations.
The following technologies are covered in this research:
- Social networking sites
1: Research Objectives/Method Details/Corporate Demographic Profile
2: Executive Summary
3: Current Usage of Social Networking and Web 2.0 Tools
4: Awareness and Usage of Web 2.0/Social Networking Sites
5: Professional Utilization of Social Networking/Web 2.0 Tools
6: Enterprise Promotions via Social Networking Sites
7: Building Staff Relations via Social Networking Sites
8: Perceived Benefits of Social Networking
9: Perceived Risks of Social Networking
10: The Future of Web 2.0 Tools
11: Social Networking Site Perspective
Summary of Policies Regarding Corporate Social Networking Sites:
- Fifty-nine percent of organizations have written policies regarding use of company computers/networks to access social networking sites. Of those, some allow unrestricted access to all employees, some allow access to some employees per stated policy, and some deny access to all employees, enforced through filtering software.
- Surprisingly, a certain percentage of organization without written policies permit access to social networking sites despite having no formal policies in place – with this occurring significantly more so in small and medium-size enterprises, compared to large-size enterprises.
- Small-size enterprises are the least restrictive in allowing employees unrestricted use of company computers/networks to access social networking sites. While in contrast, nearly three-fourths of large organization report use of written policies to manage use of company computers/networks to access social networking sites. Yet, this is no surprise, given that larger-size enterprises are likely to have more policies in general to secure and protect their networks, information, etc.
- Interestingly, roughly half of non-management/entry-level employees, or next generation leaders, report that there are written policies permitting access to social networking sites, while roughly two-thirds of future and current leaders state the same. Thus, there appears to be a disconnect of information to next generation leaders.
- Yet, among current leaders, there appears to be a more open view of access to social networking sites. For example, among those current leaders stating there is no written policy, a certain percentage reveal that access is allowed to social networking sites despite having no formal policy in place. Furthermore, even among those with a written policy, the largest proportion state that the written policy allows access to all employees (no restrictions), per stated policy. In comparison, next generation leaders appear to feel that restrictions exist regarding their use of social networking/web tools.
Analysts’ Comments: Policies Regarding Corporate Social Networking Sites
- Formal policies regarding social networking have been established, but are still being tweaked as enterprises navigate this realm. Most enterprises today allow access to social networking. To block access would be a disadvantage, but teaching employees online behavior is key. Yet, overall, organizations are giving access to those employees who have a need to access social networking sites (i.e., Marketing, PR, etc.).
- It will also be increasingly important to teach employees the importance of protecting closely-held corporate information as they use social networking sites, and the best way to leverage web tools for communications, collaboration and community building.
- Small-size enterprises still maintain more of an ad-hoc strategy as opposed to medium and large-size enterprises, but are realizing that it may be necessary to implement a more formal policy. While, large-size enterprises believe that limiting access to those departments who utilize social networking sites for business is important.
Summary of Organization’s Development of its Corporate Social Network
- Overall, the largest proportion state that their organizations are in the beginning stages of developing a corporate social network. Yet, nearly the same proportion report no development is planned.
- However, depending upon who you are within an organization may have significant impact on actually knowing an organization’s development of a corporate social network. Significantly more next generation leaders –non-management/entry-level employees –report that their organizations have no development plans, but this may be more indicative of their lack of decision making authority or influence within their organizations. Conversely, current leaders –executive-level managers –may be too optimistic in assessing their organization’s development of a corporate social network, as nearly one-third report they are leaders in developing corporate social networks. Thus, it interesting that future leaders –mid-level managers –fall to the middle of these groups, in that significantly more future leaders assess their organization as being in the beginning stages compared to their title counterparts.
- Furthermore, the size of an enterprise also appears to heavily influence the development of a corporate social network, as the largest proportion of small-size enterprises are less likely to pursue this endeavor, but medium and large-size enterprises have at least begun their development and are moving toward full development.
Analysts’ Comments: Organization’s Development of its Corporate Social Network
- Small businesses prefer to take advantage of public social networks versus internal social networking platform, but it is advantageous for globally dispersed organizations, regardless of size. Most enterprises, big, small, or medium, are beginning to use a private platform, behind firewalls, to collaborate internally. Large enterprises are furthest along, understanding that in order to create collaboration within a large organization requires web tools to make it more easy, effective, and efficient.
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