May 28, 2013

Insurance companies and other businesses are still trying to get a handle on the benefits, risks and costs of bring-your-own-device arrangements in the workplace. But they'd better get ready to confront bring your own service, the term increasingly being used to describe employees' desire to use social tools to improve business collaboration. Nearly half of employees who responded to a new survey conducted for Microsoft Corp. by research firm Ipsos reported that social tools at work help increase their productivity -- and they are willing to pay for this capability. But more than 30% of companies -- led, perhaps not surprisingly, by financial institutions -- often restrict the use of these tools, according to the research.

The survey, which polled 9,908 information workers in 32 countries, found that 31% of these workers are willing to spend their own money to buy social tools. Also, 39% of employees said they feel there isn't enough collaboration in their workplaces, and 40% believe social tools help foster better teamwork.

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In terms of how different business sectors view social tools' potential impact on productivity and collaboration, the research found that financial services and government employees are most likely to say their company places restrictions on the use of social tools, likely due to the high level of regulation in those sectors, according to Microsoft. Also, 74% of financial services professionals are more likely than those in other fields to say these restrictions are due to security concerns.

The study also uncovered regional differences in terms of how employees viewed the possible business benefits of social tools. Employees in the Asia Pacific region were most likely to attribute higher productivity levels to the increased use of social tools, followed by Latin America and Europe. However, according to Microsoft, employees in Latin America were most likely to credit social tools with greater collaboration in the workplace, followed by the Asia Pacific region and Europe. Workers in North America and Europe have been slower in adopting many social tools than their counterparts in Latin America and Asia Pacific, the research found.

"Just as email accelerated the pace of business in the '90s, enterprise social will be the driver of greater agility and transformation in the 21st century workplace," said Kurt DelBene, president, Microsoft Office Division, in a press release. "As we look ahead at how collaboration and communications continue to evolve, we believe the tools people use today -- email, instant messaging, voice, videoconferencing, social -- will come together and be deeply integrated into apps in ways that will speed collaboration and truly transform the way people work."

Microsoft has a serious interest in the advancement of this trend. Adding to its portfolio of productivity and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, it recently acquired corporate social networking provider Yammer, which now is part of the company's Office Division. According to a company statement, "Microsoft envisions enterprise social as a fiber connecting all collaboration tools within an enterprise, not as a separate website or app that must be added into employees' daily mix of activities."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & ...