Global research also reveals that SMBs more receptive to social tools for work than enterprises
21% of Asia Pacific employees have ignored their organisation’s IT policy to install social tools
ACCORDING to a recent Microsoft research study, 58% of Asia Pacific employees feel that social tools at work help increase their productivity, yet 37% feel that their companies underestimate the value of the tools, often restricting their use.
The survey, conducted for Microsoft by research firm Ipsos among 2,132 information workers across Asia Pacific, also found that 41% of employees feel there isn’t enough collaboration in their workplaces and that social tools could foster better teamwork (click pic to download complete 1.14MB infographic).
This survey is part of a larger global survey involving 9,908 information workers across 32 countries, Microsoft said in a statement. Information workers are defined as employed adults working at a company with at least 100 employees who use a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone for at least 75% of their job function.
The online survey was conducted from March 25 to April 24, 2013. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error, Microsoft noted.
According to the survey findings, 54% of employees in the Asia Pacific region would like to be more involved in the decisions to add new technologies and tools at their workplaces, and 41% of survey employees would be willing to spend their own money on social tools to drive company efficiencies.
“Employees are already bringing their own devices into their workplaces but now are increasingly bringing their own services as well,” said Charlene Li, founder and analyst at Altimeter Group, a firm that studies social media and other technology trends.
“Employees expect to work differently, with tools that feel more modern and connected but are also reflective of how they interact in their personal lives. Enterprise social represents a new way to work, and organisations that are embracing these tools are improving collaboration, speeding customer responses and creating competitive advantage,” she said.
However, some employees are facing challenges, as their companies are hesitant to implement social tools.
Of the survey respondents, 40% said their IT departments can be a barrier to using new tools, with 74% naming security concerns and 50% citing the fear of productivity loss as the top obstacles in their organisations.
Even as they face these challenges, 21% of employees in the Asia Pacific region say they have ignored their organisation’s IT policy to install social tools, and 31% say they know someone who has.
SMBs more receptive
Globally, employees in SMBs (small and medium businesses) were generally more receptive to social tools in a professional environment than large enterprises. The survey found that 48% of SMBs feel that their productivity has increased because of the use of social tools in the workplace, compared with 45% in larger organisations.
Predictably, large enterprises tend to have more restrictions on usage of social tools than SMBs, Microsoft said.
About 34% of large enterprises have restrictions on external social networks, compared with 25% of SMBs. Some 33% of large enterprises restrict micro-blogging activities [such as Twitter], compared with 24% of SMBs.
The survey also unearthed notable differences in the usage of social tools between SMBs and enterprises.
For example, 37% of SMB respondents use public FTP/ cloud services such as Microsoft SkyDrive, compared with 30% of enterprise respondents. About 35% of SMB employees were also more prolific users of external social networks such as Facebook or renren.com, compared to only 29% of enterprise employees.
On the other hand, 61% of enterprise respondents were more likely to rely on team sites and intranets, as opposed to only 51% of SMB respondents.
The potential of social tools
Done right, enterprise social can drive significant business value by improving how employees connect, share information, and work across teams and geographies, as well as beyond the organisation walls to customers, vendors and other key relationships, Microsoft said.
“Just as email accelerated the pace of business in the 1990s, enterprise social will be the driver of greater agility and transformation in the 21st century workplace,” said Raveesh Gupta (pic), regional director, Enterprise Social & Business Productivity, Microsoft Asia Pacific.
“As we look ahead at how collaboration and communications continue to evolve, we believe that the tools people use today – email, IM (instant messaging), voice, videoconferencing and social – will come together and be deeply integrated into apps in ways that will speed collaboration and truly transform the way people work,” he added.
Microsoft said it envisions enterprise social as a ‘fibre’ connecting all collaboration tools within an enterprise, not as a separate website or app that must be added into employees’ daily mix of activities.
The US tech giant claimed that companies stand to benefit as they start to use social tools such as Yammer – and embedded social capabilities within Office 365, Lync and Microsoft Dynamics CRM – for collaboration, sharing, and communicating outside and inside their organisations.
Advantages include an increase in team collaboration, employee engagement, organisational connectedness, and the flexibility required to react nimbly and quickly to business changes and demands, Microsoft said.
“Just like the ‘bring your own devices’ (BYOD) movement, information workers in Asia Pacific are increasingly taking action in their own hands by bringing enterprise social tools into the workplace,” said Raveesh.
It is clear from this survey that the major hurdle to enterprise social adoption is one of perception by business leaders rather than technology limitations, he added.
Microsoft acquired enterprise social network service Yammer for US$1.2 billion in cash in June last year. In the one year since the acquisition, registered users on Yammer have grown by 55% to nearly eight million, and paid networks increased more than 200% year over year, Microsoft claimed.
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