The online office transition

Tim Berners-Lee had no idea how huge his concoction was going to be when he unleashed the Web on the world.

All he wanted to do was make it possible for researchers to share/update information.

Somewhere along the way, it got “a little” outta’ hand!

The Web has produced a chasm between boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers, Gen Cers … a chasm between C-level execs, marketing/communications and workers.

But it wiped out the chasm between work and home.

In “the company:”

–        95 per cent own a cellphone, compared to 78 per cent of industrial country adults.

–        85 per cent have a desktop computer, compared to 65 per cent of all adults.

–        70 per cent own a laptop, compared to 39 per cent of all adults.

–        98 per cent of cell phone or smartphone, compared to 45 per cent of all adults.

–        72 per cent own a tablet, compared to 28 per cent of all adults.

All generations agree that the technologies have improved their productivity.

Yeah But… Today’s technologies – portable computers, smartphones, Internet, Web – have helped speed the spread of accurate information and expedited decisions.  Many acknowledge though that as a result, there has been a major impact on their personal lives because business continues around the clock, around the calendar.

Of course, there are some differences as a LexisNexis survey showed:

–     66 per cent of boomers feel smartphones contribute to a breakdown in workplace etiquette and using a tablet/laptop in a meeting is distracting (only half of Gen Yers agree)

–     17 per cent of boomers believe using a tablet, laptop, smartphone in personal meetings is efficient (1/3 of Gen Yers agree)

–     28 per cent of boomers think blogging, social media activity about work is O.K. (40 per cent of Gen Yers agree).

With all the noise surrounding social network activities, C-level executives view them as new, better marketing/sales opportunities.

Social Business

C-levelers see the social net as useful for:

–        acquiring new customers

–        increasing customer retention

–        increasing customer lifetime value

–        launching new products/services

–        increasing brand awareness

–        expanding in new market areas

But it’s not for use by everyone.

While PC/CE companies are more heavily involved in social media than all other businesses, C-level executives are dashing to the social networks.

According to a study by Deloitte:

–        31 per cent of CEOs are on Facebook (69 per cent aren’t!)

–        30 per cent use social networking as part of their business, operations strategy

–        23 per cent use social networking as an internal communications tool

–        18 per cent have an employee-created Facebook group

–        14 per cent of CEOs have a Twitter profile

–        13 per cent post corporate videos on YouTube

–        11 per cent have a company-sponsored Facebook group

As for social net activities, most companies have only put their toe in the water.

Trying But… Companies have approached the Web 2.0 social media opportunities with caution because of concerns over data security,  malware and cybertheft and lack of  a complete understanding.  Unfortunately, few firms have formal employee guidelines in the new area.

Social netophiles claim that all of the new tools are the wave of the future … the way business will be run.

These forward-looking, click-savvy folks envision social nets as the means by which organizations and customers will communicate, interact, collaborate, create, inform themselves, prioritize, organize, buy, sell.

Ask them (and their VCs) and they’ll say it is happening now!

The problem is that over half of the executives surveyed by Deloitte said they have no official policy regarding social networks.

Even more don’t have a clue what it is.

Not Your Boss

Deloitte research found:

–        10 of Fortune 100 CEOs have Twitter accounts (one has 7,000 followers, none follow each other)

–        None have personal blogs.

–        24 have LinkedIn profiles – all were PC/CE bosses, two listed their old titles, most had fewer than 50 connections.

–        32 have personal Facebook pages- 80+ per cent don’t have personal Facebook pages, few have many “friends,” majority have little/no information on their pages.

–        The majority are listed on Wikipedia even though info is old or lacking.

Business Tool – While social media and online social opportunities are growing, most business users find that email continues to be the most effective productivity tool for them and their business partners.

Of course, they’re spending 90+ per cent of their time just trying to keep their business running “smoothly,” keeping the board/stockholders off their backs,  juggling the “gotta’ haves” of the new generation of employees, getting customers to pay for what was delivered!!!!

Chat sites are a really a low priority for them.

Despite all the new, fantastic options, email is the way business gets done.

Unlike the news of all the business potential of the social net, there are a lot of places professionals don’t go.

Don’t Know, Don’t Go – If professionals wonder what all the noise and fuss is about when it comes to social media, it is understandable since few take advantage of the rich sources.

That may be why some firms actually block users from using the social net.

According to a study by the AMA (American Management Association), 40 per cent of the firms ban visits to social net sites.

Seems kinda’ dumb with so many people having a smartphone.

Staying in Touch – Today’s smartphones enable professionals to stay in touch any time, anywhere.  And they do, in meetings, conferences, on the road, at home they can stay in touch and surf the Web.

Don’t they know folks are able to do a phone “work around?”

Guess it makes HR feel a little more comfortable…

Reminds us of Dwight Schrute’s observation on interoffice communications in The Office…“Studies show that more information is passed through water cooler gossip than through official memos, which puts me at a disadvantage because…”

Regarding the online transition, Mary Madden (Pew Internet & American Life Project said, “The tools will be incorporated into the work environment but it will be an “awkward hug.”

Productivity Plus

It will happen, not just because it can’t be stopped; but it will be because it will ultimately leverage employees’ productivity.

While a few firms have opened the social net to everyone (along with sanity training), it’s the marketing and communications people who want to stake their ownership on the rich social network frontier.

They see the cloud as something they can “own,” “manage.”

Sure, it may take them three days to answer an email, but give ‘em a break.

They’re busy doing what really counts, really matters … they’re Tweeting!!!!

Sometimes, you want to repeat to them what Jan Levinson-Gould said…“listen to me very carefully: you are not a manager of anything. Understand?”

Despite the security and employee productivity concerns, management has to view social media as one of their key strategies going forward.

It’s the way for the company to build a stronger relationship with the customer, build brand reputation, launch new products/services, develop new markets.

The Dark Side

The challenge is that social networking is a consumer technology that business is aggressively trying to monetize.

Cyberbadfolks love the new stalking grounds.

Malware is available from almost every site/every service.

And most of us agree that the free-for-all locations can tarnish a company’s/product’s image in 140 characters (or less).

Dangerous Ground – Most employees feel that using social media – and identifying yourself as a company employee – can damage a firm’s or product’s reputation.   It’s too easy for innocent comments/statements to be misinterpreted.

But for the dedicated folks and social netophiles who venture into the social net world, you have to remember one cardinal rule when answering a question … you respond, you own the question until the problem is solved, an adequate answer is provided, a workaround delivered.

Passing the buck isn’t part of the equation!

You have to take the good with the bad…

Fearless Webster – Some firms prohibit/block Web site visits and online activities, but few organizations have formal Web 2.0 guidelines for employees.  So…the fearless Gen Yers who have grown up with the Web jump on and do what they did while in college or as they do when they’re home.   Cool.

Before you jump onto the social net, remember it’s a two-way conversation.  If that conversation goes bad, guess who takes the heat?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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