Microsoft: Demand for Social Tools Sparks Bring-Your-Own-Service Trend

Many of today's workers are clamoring for social tools, sometimes to the dismay of their employers, a new study shows.

social tools

Demand is growing for enterprise social solutions, according to a new Microsoft-sponsored report from research firm Ipsos, which surveyed more than 9,900 information workers in 32 countries.

Although more than half (46 percent) of the respondents reported that their productivity improved following the use of social tools, 39 percent of those polled claimed that collaboration was in short supply at their places of employment. Forty percent said such tools would help improve teamwork.

Many employers aren't getting the message.

A little more than a third of respondents (34 percent) said that their organizations' management underestimates the value of social-enabled software at work. And there are indications that several businesses are failing to capitalize on their own workforces. Thirty-seven percent said that they could perform their jobs better if management backed the use of social tools.

Some employees feel so strongly about using social software at work that they're willing to shoulder the financial costs. According to the report, 31 percent said that they would spend their own money on the tools they need. A significant number of employees are even willing to defy their employers.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that they know of co-workers who have gone against policy and installed social software or apps on their PCs or work handsets. Fewer, 17 percent, admitted to being one of those co-workers.

Employees Bringing Their Own Services

In some respects, the burgeoning social enterprise scene is exhibiting some parallels to—and overlap with—the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon that is redefining workplace IT, according Altimeter Group founder Charlene Li.

"Employees are already bringing their own devices into their workplaces, but now they are increasingly bringing their own services, as well. 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," stated Li in prepared remarks.

The business-enhancing benefits are profound, added Li. "Enterprise social represents a new way to work, and organizations embracing these tools are improving collaboration, speeding customer responses and creating competitive advantages," she stated.

Getting social right is imperative for businesses that are behind the curve or want to bridge the divide between management and social-savvy workers, Brian Murray, director of enterprise strategy at Yammer, Microsoft's enterprise social platform, told eWEEK.

Microsoft, which acquired Yammer in 2012, is in the midst of integrating Yammer's tech into its Office business software ecosystem.

"Assessing their current situation and defining their goals for social" are key to laying the groundwork, and executive sponsorship is crucial for "the confidence it instills," Murray said. From his own experiences with Yammer customers, he reported that a "like" from a CEO can be a huge confidence booster for a rank-and-file employee.

To keep the momentum going, "move quickly to tactical implementation," suggested Murray. It is also crucial to assess and measure the success of any enterprise social initiative to determine whether its collaboration-enhancing effects are taking hold, he said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...