what the employees are using their computers for

Earlier in the month, instant messaging software vendor FaceTime released their annual report on enterprise use of collaborative and social media tools, and it makes for interesting reading. The survey, conducted at the end of 2009, sampled 1650 IT managers and enterprise end users - two-thirds of respondents were in the US.  I've picked out five of the more interesting findings, with a few of my own comments thrown in.

1. Can't switch off

The work/life boundaries are now completely blurred. Only 5% of IT managers and users do not use their work PC for personal usage and only one in five never use their home computer (or internet café) to do work on. Everyday 31% use a PC not provided by their employer (i.e. their home computer) for work-related purposes, with further 16% doing so at least once a week. Bottom line: we use our work PC for our personal activities, and we use our personal PC for work. Security and content guidelines must be implemented across both environments.

2. IM has become a mainstay

Most end users have got to grips with IM whether in a small company (where they are likely to be using a public service) or an enterprise (where IM is often integrated with unified communications). The survey found that 92% are using IM to communicate with colleagues, 30% with customers, 27% suppliers, and 49% with friends.  Of those that use IM, three-quarters say what they like most is the ability to immediately communicate with someone, which suggests that the presence functionality is key to IM's success. But nearly a quarter thinks that their IM conversations can't be monitored: so what are they saying to their buddies/friends/followers?

3. Ignoring corporate IT

In smaller organisations, users will find an online service to meet their requirements, rather than adhering to ill-fitting corporate systems. And this circumventing of internal systems is also happening within larger organisations. For instance, document file sharing services, such as yousendit.com are still utilized in large organizations, according to Facetime. Fifty-two percent of users in organizations larger than 20,000 employees admitted to using these types of tools. And 53% claim that the 2.0 tools like public IM (e.g. Yahoo Messenger), internet telephony (e.g. Skype) are better than their companies' tools, which implies that users are finding their own ways to work collaboratively, outside of the IT directors' realm of control. Bottomline: if you are uncomfortable with public/consumer technology, upgrade your unified communications and collaboration tools to those with 2.0 capabilities.

4. Social media in the workplace: there's no hiding

It's no surprise that 95% say they now use social media at work (for personal or work reasons), what has changed in the past year is the frequency. Two-thirds use social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn at least once a day. LinkedIn continues to be the predominant social networking site used for work-related purposes. Twitter is now used by 76% for work purposes (up from 13% last year) and 62% for personal reasons (up from 11% last year). Bottomline: people are using social media at work, and their using it for work purposes. Do you have social guidelines in place, particularly if the company brand is associated with their socmed conversations? This is going to be particularly important in highly regulated industries.

5. Is it recorded, can you find it?

There's big difference between companies that have implemented e-discovery of electronic communications, even when they are in the same tightly regulated industry. For instance, 30% of financial services companies claim that they can find instant messages within a few hours (compared to a base level for all industries of one in five) but 39% of financial services companies admit to not being able to find IM within a reasonable time frame at all. This is even worse for reproducing content posted to social networks, two thirds said they could not do so within a reasonable time frame. Bottom line: if you are in an industry where electronic communications are regulated, you need to recognise that instant messaging and social media are in the same category as email.


image © eve - Fotolia.com

Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.