Facebook and Twitter use in enterprises require much greater governance and oversight than is currently practiced in most businesses, according to a new study sponsored by Cisco's services group. Of almost 100 companies surveyed, 75 percent admitted to using Facebook and other consumer-facing social networks, while 50 percent of respondents admitted to using Twitter extensively in the workplace. The results come two months after Cisco began its first official foray into enterprise social networking with Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform, Show and Share video application and Pulse network tagging software.
The use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter
in enterprises require much greater governance and oversight than is currently
practiced, according to a new study
sponsored by Cisco's services group.
Cisco commissioned three business schools, the 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, to assess how companies use consumer-facing social
networking tools to share information.
Researchers from the schools conducted interviews with
105 participants from 97 organizations in 20 countries between April and
September 2009. Participating companies included tape maker 3M UK &
Ireland, photo giant Kodak Company, healthcare IT concern Cerner Corporation
and new media marketer Carrot Creative.
Of the companies interviewed, 75 percent admitted to
using Facebook and other consumer-facing social networks, while 50 percent of
respondents admitted to using Twitter extensively in the workplace, Neil Hair,
assistant professor of marketing at Rochester Institute of Technology, told
Use of these tools is spread across diverse business departments, from
marketing and public relations, to human resources and sales and customer
The use of these tools in businesses ranges from regular
to rampant, yet Hair said only one in seven of the companies that participated
in the research admitted to having a formal process associated with using
consumer-facing social networking tools for business purposes.
Moreover, only one in 10 respondents reported direct
involvement from their IT staffs in corporate social networking initiatives.
Leaving IT staffs out of the mix seems counterintuitive for companies who rely
on these experts to secure their proprietary data, which can be compromised by
the social networks employees use.
The results come two months after Cisco began
its first official foray into
enterprise social networking with Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform, Show
and Share video application and Pulse network tagging software.
These offerings, along with technologies from acquisitions such as
, will be supported by Cisco's IOS (Internetwork Operating
System) in private cloud environments.
Ideally, Cisco will use the info from
the study to lure more enterprises to its social software, supported by Cisco
services, Nick Earle, senior vice president for Cisco Services in Europe, told
eWEEK in a recent interview.
Earle said that with no standard practice for governing
use of Facebook, Twitter and other consumer services, IT departments heads find
themselves clashing with employees who are using these tools because they
prefer they not use them. "These are two ends of the same problem,"
"It's almost as if the IT department has been
bypassed entirely with the use of these sorts of tools," Hair added.
The unstructured nature of social networking, Earle and
Hair noted, makes it harder for companies to struggle with policy creation and
adoption. Borrowing governance processes from IT won't work for social
Earle added that social networking in businesses is here
to stay and will continue to evolve in shape and complexity. Companies need to
embrace the change, rather than fight it. "People are using this stuff on
PCs or mobile devices inside the firewall," he said.
That's why Cisco is working hard to prepare customers for
the social networking snowball, noting that there is great opportunity in
selling businesses "corporate versions of social networking tools."
That would include IBM Lotus Connections, Jive Software and Cisco's Enterprise
Collaboration Platform, among hundreds of other solutions.
Of course, financial institution such as Barclays
Capital, block these consumer-facing sites with prejudice, so it's not out of
the realm of possibility that some companies could go that route if creating a
governance policy for social software is more trouble than it is worth.
And that's a great question to conclude with for readers:
Is creating a corporate policy for public social software use worth the
trouble, or should businesses simply ban the tools outright?