Employees dictate social networking policy as claims made that companies are not ready for this development

News by Dan Raywood

Organisations are facing the challenge of balancing a freedom of choice with Web 2.0 and being vulnerable to malware and data loss.

Organisations are facing the challenge of balancing a freedom of choice with Web 2.0 and being vulnerable to malware and data loss.

A new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit focuses on ‘managing technology democracy in the workplace'. It claimed that a technology revolution is taking place with individuals adopting applications and devices they use at home in the workplace.

The report claimed: “Employees are challenging the technology status quo in their organisation. Many are demanding ‘technology democracy' - greater freedom to use the information technology applications and devices of their choice in order to conduct their work more efficiently.”

It concludes that ‘companies are not entirely ready for this development', and claims that innovation and morale stand most to benefit from technology freedom and that the risks are real but can be managed.

Denis McCauley, director, global technology research at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said: “The impact of Web 2.0 on enterprises is to enable greater freedom of choice, it may not be a revolutionary thing but ‘generation Y' will make their way into the workplace and will demand choice and the implication will challenge the model of IT and how it is delivered in the enterprise.

“What benefits from those taking the risk do we see? We see different possibilities, innovation and morale and lacking collaborations with external partners.”

Featuring extensive survey results, McCauley flagged one result where 35 per cent of IT managers claimed that the loss of productivity is the chief risk when it comes to allowing social networking at the workplace. Leakage of confidential information was slightly lower with 32 per cent while increased network vulnerability to viruses was acknowledged by 24 per cent.

McCauley claimed that a lot of technology executives said that they would ban the availability of social networking tools, but he claimed that for most the consensus is creating guidelines to avoid falling into chaos.

“The most surprising thing for me is when we asked if they had developed guidelines, or do they offer training, only 17 per cent said yes, 76 per cent said no. When we asked the people who do not offer training if they had any plans to introduce any, the proportions were the same,” said McCauley.

Commenting, Rik Ferguson, senior security advisor at Trend Micro pointed at one set of results that deemed what should be banned from being used in the workplace for information security reasons.

Ferguson said: “Only 17 per cent said instant messaging while the largest proportion said file sharing was the largest risk. This illustrates the lack of awareness, and executives owe it to themselves to create a policy on the ground.

“When it comes to putting policies together, we need to move away from a prescriptive approach and apply from a risk management approach, look at the opportunity from a training perspective. It is about making policy more specific, and it needs to be specific, measurable and enforceable. You either manage transition or cope with the transition.”

Jon Collins, managing director of Freeform Dynamics, said: “Over the past 15 years we have seen a shift in attitude and practical components of training, and how it was caused by computers at home. Also within that, there is the 'always on' feeling, that feeling that people are always available.

“It is not about automation but creating policy, training and management structuring, taking the bull by the horns and taking the organisation forward.”

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