Businesses not ready for "technology democracy"

The Economist Intelligence Unit said that 47% of European executives are "not entirely ready" to embrace "technology democracy", where employees demand the ability to use the applications and devices of their choice in the workplace. Although a similar number are claimed to be supportive of the concept, the lack of corporate training on issues such as the use of personal communications devices and social networking services indicates that "readiness for technology democracy is not high".

The pressure on the established status quo, where the IT department is dominant, comes through the permeation of younger staff in corporates, who will begin moving into management positions in the foreseeable future. For these employees, social networking, messaging and other non-corporate applications are important tools for work use.

Denis McCauley, Director of Global Technology Research at EIU, said: "Companies will inevitably lose some control over IT use as a result, but this will be no bad thing provided the risks are managed. The best business innovations tend to originate at the grassroots level, and employees should be encouraged to use their technology know-how to generate them."

According to the study, the main gains will come through better grass-roots innovation, as well as higher morale on the part of the employees who are trusted to make "at least some" technology decisions themselves. The biggest identified risks, perhaps informed by earlier tales of unpoliced social networking site use, are reduced productivity, the loss of confidential information, and increased vulnerability to viruses.

In order to support technology democracy, new freedoms "must be supported by clear rules and regulations to prevent a descent into chaos". The most important ways to do this include regular and mandatory training courses for employees, developing formal guidelines, and "continuing the work of upgrading network defences".

The EIU also suggested that devolving some security responsibility will prevent central IT departments from being overwhelmed by the need to support a number of diverse devices and applications. Trained specialists in business units may be best positioned to manage certain aspects of information security.
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