Despite Increased Adoption of Social Networking Tools, the Absence of Policies, Process and IT Architecture Puts Organizations at Risk
January 18, 2010 - Cisco today released the results of a third-party global study designed to assess how organizations use consumer social networking tools to collaborate externally, revealing the need for stronger governance and IT involvement. The research is the first of a two-part series that Cisco has commissioned to explore the impact of social networking and collaboration applications in the enterprise.
The new study is based on extensive interviews with 105 participants representing 97 organizations in 20 countries around the globe. Conducted between April and September 2009, the research was carried out by leading business schools in the United States and Europe: IESE Business School in Spain, E. Philip Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the U.S., and Henley Business School in the United Kingdom.
The use of consumer-based social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, as collaboration platforms, is connecting organizations with the external world in myriad ways. These tools bring technology and business together through innovative experiences, connect people and information, establish potential new routes to market, and enhance customer intimacy and brand awareness. The study findings indicate that the business world is at the early stages of adopting these tools and in the process of identifying key challenges, such as the need for increased governance and IT involvement, which may impact the integration and adoption of these new platforms and technologies.
- The Increased Use of Consumer-Based Social Networking Tools in the Enterprise
Of the organizations interviewed, 75 percent identified social networks as the consumer-based social media tools they primarily use, while roughly 50 percent of the group also identified extensive use of microblogging.
- Social networking tools are spreading into core areas of the value chain, including the marketing and communications, human relations, and customer service departments. Within marketing and communications, these tools have already become an integral part of the organizations' initiatives, as marcomm staff members have understood and acted on the shift from "broadcast" to "conversational" communications or rich interactions. Small and medium-sized businesses are actively using social networking channels to generate leads, but this remains a growth opportunity for larger companies.
The Need for More Governance and IT Involvement in Social Media Efforts
Only one in seven of the companies that participated in the research noted a formal process associated with adopting consumer-based social networking tools for business purposes, indicating that the potential risks associated with these tools in the enterprise are either overlooked or not well understood.
- Only one in five participants identified any policies in place concerning the use of consumer-based social networking technologies in the enterprise. Within the respondent base, social networking governance typically involves more stakeholders than standard corporate initiatives, as these organizations have yet to define who "owns" external social media strategies. Without a single point of ownership within organizations, these initiatives are extremely difficult to control and manage.
- Due to the unstructured nature of social networking, companies continue to struggle with policy creation and adoption, as copying an established governance process from other, more structured areas (for example, information technology) often doesn't work for social networking. Businesses also find difficulty in striking the right balance between the social and personal nature of these tools while maintaining some degree of corporate oversight.
- Only one in 10 respondents noted direct IT involvement in externally facing social networking initiatives. Although the IT department is typically not involved as a primary decision maker, respondents did recognize the need for these tools to scale and properly integrate with existing business processes to reap maximum benefits.
The Future of Social Networking and Collaboration Tools in the Enterprise
Across the board, respondents recognized that consumer-based social networking and collaboration tools will continue to evolve, as will their complexity, and that these tools will continue to influence the way business is conducted. The key for organizations will be the way they adopt and integrate these tools into the enterprise IT environment.
- The following issues need to be addressed regarding the adoption, deployment and governance of social networking in the enterprise: when, how and what initiatives are to be launched (and not launched); how the enabling technologies should be managed; and how employee use of these technologies should be managed.
- Evgeny Kaganer, Ph.D., lead researcher and assistant professor, IESE Business School
"The research findings spotlight an underestimation of the power and influence of social networks on businesses, and the transformation that companies need to make, not only to protect themselves, but also to encourage and benefit from the collaboration these social networks and tools afford them. Ignoring the increased usage and influence of social networking and Web 2.0 tools leaves organizations at the risk of misuse, potentially leading to the disclosure of information and misrepresentation of the company."
- Neil Hair, Ph.D., lead researcher and assistant professor of marketing, E. Philip Saunders College of Business, Rochester Institute of Technology
"Successful companies in the 2.0 world are those that are tying tools together, managing scalability issues, anticipating the continued evolution of platforms, and using the preferred tools of their stakeholders. These companies build social networking initiatives into their wider strategy and are able to create meaningful connections with their communities."
- Nick Earle, senior vice president, Cisco Services
"The rise of the connected consumer is driving a market shift in the enterprise, creating "people-powered business" where social networking tools and collaborative technologies are the propeller of the next-generation of productivity and bringing about a fundamentally different leadership model. Companies who will succeed in embracing the tremendous power of social networking will be those who design a collaborative IT architecture capable of supporting the use of these technologies and mitigating the risks they pose."
- Baz Khuti, study participant and chief architect, Information Technology, Emerson
"Collaboration tools allow Emerson to effectively improve the speed and agility by which we can make business decisions and interact with our partners. Additionally, they provide insight into what's going on within different parts of the organization, as well as customer usage of our products and market trends."
- Hugh Murphy, study participant and business manager, e-Channels, 3M U.K. and Ireland
"Businesses need to embrace social media not only to remain competitive, but also to continue to attract top talent. The next generation of leaders will be exceptionally savvy with these tools, so 3M is using social media externally to help us with recruiting. Several of the graduates we hired this year specifically told us that they hadn't considered 3M before they saw our employer profile on social media."
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