Our Blog

where we write about the things we love



Enterprise social adoption underway in Australian and New Zealand organisations

Late last month Microsoft published the results of research it had undertaken into how people and organisations use enterprise social tools.

“The ways in which people connect and the speed with which they communicate is faster than ever before. Social communication is nothing new on the personal level, with the sharing of news, images and status updates. It’s how people keep up with each other’s lives.

On the enterprise level, businesses have to be agile to keep up with the competition. And since communicating and sharing information with people is fundamental to the success of any business, many enterprises are taking measures to employ tools that can provide that extra edge.

Microsoft wanted to find out more about the uses — or lack of use — of social tools in business. What social tools were most common, what tools were restricted and how far would people go to get their hands on those tools?”

The research was conducted by respected research house Ipsos and surveyed 9,908 people in 32 countries, who work in organisations with at least 100 employees who use a “smart device” (PC, tablet or smartphone) for at least 75% of their job function. For once, unlike many reports, the findings included respondents from Australia and New Zealand.

While the research was admittedly being used as an attempt to quantify the value of its social enterprise offerings Yammer and SharePoint, at the same time it provides insights into how these solutions are being adopted – and why they’re not. The intention of this post isn’t to provide analysis of all aspects of the report – you can find out more by downloading it yourself – but rather look at the local data and how we in Australia and New Zealand are evolving to become social enterprises.


Communication, communication, communication

Communication is perennially identified as the biggest challenge within organisations, particularly larger ones – from which the group of respondents came. Globally 68% of respondents use social tools for “communicating with colleagues.” At 64%, the results from Australia were lower than the global average, but 74% of kiwis could see the value that social tools provide when it comes to facilitating communication. (This category was the most popular across both Australia and New Zealand.)

Numbers two and three on the rankings were “sharing/reviewing documents” and “communicating with customers/clients,” with 44% and 40% of Australians, and 55% and 58% of New Zealanders, respectively, using social tools for these purposes.

Scanning through the remaining results yields few surprises, although, when compared, New Zealanders appear to have more actively embraced social tools than their Australian counterparts. Without seeing a detailed breakdown of respondents, it’s difficult to ascertain why the results were so different; one logical explanation could be that Australian organisations are typically more mature, with more robust processes and policies in place; they are also often larger, emphasising the importance of such policies. Typically smaller, New Zealand-based organisations are less process-conscious, and there is often more scope to adopt new technologies. They are blanket observations, but might ring true.


Factors restricting growth

Security concerns were the top factor restricting the adoption of social tools in both Australia and New Zealand, with 66% and 73%, respectively, identifying “security concerns” as the reason why social tools are restricted at one’s organisation.

Another major concern, indicated by 61% of Australians and 64% of New Zealanders, was “productivity loss” – inferring that social tools can distract people from doing their jobs. This is an interesting finding, on one level conflicting with the “communicating with colleagues” which was identified as a key benefit. One interpretation is that improving communication with colleagues may not result in increased productivity.

The third reason for social tools being restricted differs for Australians and New Zealanders. Australians see “HR concerns” as being important, while “Concerns about company image” is a concern for New Zealand-based respondents.

Globally, respondents aligned more with the Australian results: security concerns (68%), productivity loss (58%) and human resources concerns (28%) were all blamed for social tools being restricted at their organisations.

These findings are not unpredictable and, to a large extent, can be attributed to a lack of education. Most social tools, including Yammer, are cloud-based solutions, outside the boundaries of the corporate network which can, for many organisations, cause concern – despite these environments being significantly more secure than an organisation’s own infrastructure. Similarly, while there is (always) a risk of productivity loss, end user training, proper change management and the evolution of the organisation’s culture can help to mitigate that risk, over the longer term at least.


Industry-specific findings: More of the same

Interestingly, the survey also analysed the industries that respondents were from and, in particular, how significantly social tools improve productivity within those industries. Somewhat surprisingly, though, the results were very similar across several industries; in fact, the results for the top six industries (out of the ten that were surveyed) only differed by a single percentage point.

52% of those in the Media/Publishing and Travel/Hospitality industries believed that their productivity had either greatly or somewhat greatly increased because of their use of social tools; Information Technology, Manufacturing, Mining/Oil and Gas and Telecom were all sitting on 51%; Government was the lowest rating, at 37%.

To me, these responses are indicative of a solution that’s still finding its way – both in terms of the capabilities and value it can add, and the degree to which that value is realised by those that use it. With all due respect to government, the fact they find social tools of least value is, perhaps, indicative of how controlled their IT environments and processes and policies are, sometimes making it difficult to embrace new solutions – technically and, crucially, culturally.  


What does this all mean?

At the end of the day, we’re just starting the journey when it comes to adopting social tools and establishing “social enterprises.” Currently, tools such as Yammer are typically perceived as standalone entities that can be integrated with existing work processes; over time, we probably won’t think about “social tools” separately, in a standalone sense; instead, these capabilities will be embedded within our enterprise applications and communications tools and will inherently be part of how we use these tools and, in many cases, we won’t need to actively use them, either – they will be a mechanism to deliver information and notifications of all kinds.

Despite the industry only beginning its social enterprise journey, it’s encouraging to see – already – the positive impact these tools have on information workers in Australia and New Zealand. If you’re interested in finding out more about the survey, a copy of the report findings is available while Microsoft has added more commentary and analysis.

Looking ahead 12 months, one would think adoption rates will rise, perhaps incrementally, while one would also think that the restrictions that were identified will likely reduce more significantly as organisations become technically and culturally more open to change.


Social tools in the workplace


Posted by: Tim Howell, Marketing Manager | 10 June 2013

Tags: SharePoint, Social Media, Microsoft, Mobile, Yammer, Social Enterprise, Smart phones

Blog archive

Stay up to date with all insights from the Intergen blog