'Working Hours' to 'Working Moments'

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'Working Hours' to 'Working Moments' (The Week Series 1)

V C Gopalratnam, VP IT and CIO, Globalisation, Cisco

Technology is evolving at a fast pace and is dramatically changing the way people interact with each other at work, at home, and on the move. As the boundaries between work and personal lives blur, people expect to access networks, applications, and information anywhere, at any time, on any device.

Bringing an end to the PC era as it were, network-based collaboration is helping people share information by phone, voicemail, and email, while tools such as unified messaging, presence, mobility, and remote services enable working from any physical location. Computing devices such as smartphones and Tablets, which come with video and social capabilities, are providing rich, "connected" experiences for people to communicate through multiple streams.

A Forrester report indicates that by 2013, 80 percent of the world's businesses will support a workforce using Tablets. This has exponentially augmented the utilization of mobile devices and the concept of BYOD (bring your own device) is gaining traction. An IDG report says that as many as three quarters of the workforce in Asia is already engaged in some form of BYOD, with 66 percent of Asians owning at least one smart device.

The desire to be connected and use social media, mobile devices, and the Internet more freely in the workplace is so ingrained in young professionals that according to the 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report (CCWTR) it will influence their future job choices, sometimes even more than salary does. According to the report, between 29-47 percent of respondents across India, China, Japan, and Australia prefer to be able to bring and use their own devices in the workplace.

Implications for Business

The influx of Tablets and other mobile devices in the workplace poses numerous security challenges for enterprises. Unmanaged devices are inherently risky and should be carefully screened, authenticated, and assigned policies to determine levels of access granted. Furthermore, IT must determine how to protect devices from connecting to unsecured networks, or how to handle sensitive data when family members or friends use non-corporate assets on corporate networks. IT departments must balance the need to provide easy access to information while protecting the information itself.

Another major concern is for the security of intellectual property (IP), especially with the increased use of social media in the workplace. The impact of social media can be major because information sharing can be indiscriminate - with little or no concern for intellectual property rights and discretion. If enterprises provide many powerful social media tools to people who might not know how to use them wisely, the potential for collateral damage is high.

Organizations must put into place policies and best practices that help people use new communication tools more discretely. Good acceptable-user policies can guide employees in how to use social media without jeopardizing their companies.

Employees must also deal with a variety of frustrations when using collaboration technologies in the workplace. These frustrations include restrictions on the types of technologies that are permitted, a lack of application integration, non-compatible formats, for example, video, data, or voice, and a limited number of collaboration tools at their disposal.

Change of Tactics

Organizations understand that ignoring social media won't make it go away. Employees will continue to use social media for personal and company purposes. As employees use their personal devices to access social media at work, it is important for companies to safeguard proper use of these tools. A clear architectural approach that begins with the network and IT systems design is required along with well-defined usage guidelines. And employee engagement is critical to accelerate transformation of the workplace and promote operational excellence.

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