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Is IT a Barrier to Enterprise Social Networking?

A growing number of employees want to use social networking to improve collaboration, productivity and knowledge sharing. But within some organizations IT is standing in their way. That's the conclusion of a study released by Microsoft Tuesday, which found IT blocking the adoption of social network in many workplaces.

Thirty percent of those surveyed said IT organizations are putting restrictions on the use of social networking for business use, while 77 percent said they want better collaboration tools and 31 percent are willing to spend their own money to get the tools they want. The survey, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ipsos, is based on a sample of nearly 10,000 individuals in organizations with 100 or more employees in 32 countries.

Microsoft of course has taken a keen interest in enterprise social networking following last year's $1.2 billion acquisition of Yammer and the addition of social networking features to its SharePoint collaboration platform. Microsoft this summer will begin to integrate the features of Yammer into SharePoint, Office 365 and ultimately across its various product lines. Naturally Microsoft would like to see more universal buy-in from IT.

"The tension and rift we're seeing is fascinating," said Brian Murray, director of enterprise strategy at Yammer, now part of Microsoft's Office group. "Many end users don't believe their employers recognize the value of social tools. We are urging those responsible for provisioning technology to look at the merits, listen to employees and look into provisioning these technologies on a wider scale."

Security concerns were by far the leading reason why survey participants believed IT was reluctant to support enterprise social networking, according to 68 percent of those responding. The belief that social networking would hinder productivity was the number two reason, 58 percent said. Those were the two key fears, with a much smaller percentage naming such issues as HR concerns, risk of harming corporate image and data loss.

Responses varied significantly based on countries. It turns out those in China -- an overwhelming 84 percent -- believe social networking greatly or somewhat improves productivity, while at the other extreme only 24 percent of respondents in the Netherlands believed it provided such gains. In the U.S. only 34 percent are bullish on its benefits, while 46 percent of the worldwide sample believe it so.

Does this portend challenges ahead for Microsoft and others such as, which offers the competing enterprise social networking tool Chatter? For its part, Microsoft said it added 312 new Yammer customers last quarter with a 259 percent increase in revenues.

But Microsoft believes social networking needs to be used more strategically, a conviction shared by others with skin in the enterprise social networking game. "Just putting Yammer into your environment doesn't make it successful," said Gail Shlansky, director of product manager at Axceler, a provider of SharePoint management tools, which is adding Yammer governance to its ViewPoint management tool. "It takes advocates, it takes telling the resources in the enterprise who are going to use it into being part of that team."

Are you concerned about the use of enterprise social networking tools in your organization? Has your shop given it the green light? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/29/2013 at 1:15 PM


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