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Business Online Collaboration Dichotomy

The goal of creating a collaborative enterprise might seem like an essential requirement that all forward-looking business leaders would actively support. However, fear of the unknown sometimes makes intelligent people react in ways that, in hindsight, appear totally illogical.

A case in point, Cisco announced results of a global study that found that while 77 percent of IT decision makers surveyed plan to increase spending on internal collaboration tools, company employees believe that their ability to collaborate is constrained by their own employer policies.

That said, more than a quarter of those who work at organizations that prohibit the use of social media applications admitted to changing the settings on their corporate devices to gain online access -- claiming they "need the tools to get the job done."

This new insight was attained by investigating practices at medium to large enterprises -- those with more than 250 employees. The study, conducted by InsightExpress, surveyed 2,023 corporate end-users and 1,011 Information Technology Decision Makers (ITDMs) from 10 countries.

Progressive Use of Online Collaboration Tools
The research found that ITDMs around the world recognize the importance of collaboration tools to the future success of their business, with India and China being the most progressive in adopting the technology.

Consequently, many ITDM respondents said that they are planning to increase their spending on collaboration technologies over the next year, identifying video conferencing, Web conferencing and IP telephony as primary areas of investment.
  • Globally, 96 percent ITDMs and end users recognize that collaboration tools have a role to play in the future success of their business.
  • Of those surveyed, 77 percent of ITDMs expect investment in collaboration tools to increase between now and October, and 56 percent expect their spending on collaboration tools to increase by 10 percent or more.
  • Productivity and efficiency were identified by both end users and ITDMs as the primary benefits of increased collaboration -- with 69 percent of end users regularly using advanced collaboration tools, such as video and Web conferencing, to help them complete tasks at work more efficiently.
Why Employees Defy the Policy Restrictions
Employees identified a variety of frustrations with devices and applications at work. These include restrictions set by IT managers on the types of collaboration technologies that can be used at the workplace, a lack of integration among the applications, non-compatible formats (video, data, voice), and the limited number of collaboration tools at their disposal.
  • Slightly more than half (52 percent) of organizations prohibit the use of social media applications or similar collaboration tools at work.
  • Half (50 percent) of the end users admit to ignoring company policy prohibiting use of social media tools at least once a week, and 27 percent admit to changing the settings on corporate devices to get access to prohibited applications.
The study also highlights how end users are clearly motivated by the benefits gained from increased collaboration, but also identifies a need for some enterprises to adapt their corporate processes and organizational culture.
  • When asked to identify how collaboration benefits them, 45 percent of the end users pointed to improved productivity and efficiency, 40 percent noted they receive assistance in solving work-related problems, and 31 percent enjoyed accelerated decision making.
  • Ease of use (58 percent), the ability to communicate anywhere and at any time (45 percent), and features and functionality (37 percent) are the three most desired attributes of a device or application.
  • End users believe that elements of corporate culture can inhibit their ability to collaborate successfully: 46 percent feel that all decisions are made by people at the top of their organization, and 39 percent say colleagues are not willing to share information when it does not benefit their own business unit.
The research is the second of a two-part series that Cisco has commissioned to explore the impact of social networking and collaboration in the enterprise. Cisco previously shared findings that explored how organizations use consumer social networking tools to collaborate externally.