Staff Ignoring Corporate Social Networking Restrictions

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A new study has found that half of organisations are still restricting the use of social media tools, but half of all staff are ignoring these rules

Medium to large businesses are increasingly using collaboration technology, but many staff are disregarding corporate policies, especially restrictions on social networking usage.

This was according to a new global survey titled “Collaboration Nations,” by the networking giant Cisco. The study surveyed 2,023 end users and 1,011 IT decision makers from 10 countries around the world, in medium to large enterprises (i.e. those with more than 250 employees).

Most IT directors plan to increase social network spend

It found that found that 77 percent of IT decision makers plan to increase their spending on collaboration tools this year, and 56 percent expect their spending on collaboration tools to increase by 10 percent or more.

But what exactly does Cisco mean by collaboration tools?

“Essentially, we defined collaboration as taking place when people from different departments or businesses work together on the same tasks,” explained Tim Stone, Cisco’s head of collaboration marketing for Europe. “This included tools that connect both inside and outside the organisation, such as telephones, emails, social networking sites, and then more advanced tools such as IM, video conferencing, mobile apps, and telepresence.”

Tim Stone of Cisco
Tim Stone of Cisco

“The results of the survey were very encouraging towards collaboration,” Stone told eWEEK Europe UK. “96 percent of IT decision makers recognised the importance of collaboration, and only 4 percent said they had limited use or no role for collaboration within their organisation.”

“The key reasons for end users to make use of these tools is productivity and efficiency, as well as problem solving,” said Stone. “For IT decision makers that are planning investment in  collaboration technology, the top ranked technology was video conferencing, followed by web conferencing, and then IP telephony and then mobility. Those are the technologies that IT is is looking to invest in.”

But the survey also highlighted that many staff feel frustrated by corporate policies regarding the use of collaboration technologies within their organisations. More than a quarter of those who work at organisations that prohibit the use of social media applications admitted to changing the settings on their corporate devices to gain access, claiming they “need the tools to get the job done.”

Indeed, the survey found that slightly more than half (52 percent) of organisations prohibit the use of social media applications or similar collaboration tools at work. Half (50 percent) of the end users admit to ignoring company policy prohibiting use of social media tools at least once a week, and 27 percent admit to changing the settings on corporate devices to get access to prohibited applications.

“That was one of the biggest shocks,” admitted Stone. “The number of staff that are ignoring corporate policies, it really surprised me how many (over half) were prepared to break corporate policy. Users really want to use these tools, and half of them admit to ignoring corporate policies at least once a week, and over a quarter change the settings on their corporate devices.”

“IT has concerns about security, but has recognised the benefits that some technologies such as telepresence can have in reducing travel costs etc,” Stone said.

“The major thing to remember is that technology is a great enabler, but you need the culture and processes that will allow your employees to use these tools,” said Stone. “In some companies people are not willing to share information as these people think that information is power. Organisations need to think about their corporate culture to enable collaboration, and move away from the traditional command and control infrastructure.”