While most CIOs have some sort of policy in place to address the influx of so-called digital natives joining their companies, according to silicon.com's latest CIO Jury survey, reactions on how to cope with the Facebook-savvy next generation of workers are mixed.
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Only three of the 12-strong jury said their organisations did not have processes and rules in place to cope with the demands of the 'Facebook generation' of employees, used to using social networking sites and other web 2.0 applications on a daily basis.
Of the other nine CIOs, the response ranged from an outright ban on websites the digital generation use to communicate with each other, to embracing these sites as legitimate business tools.
Many respondents said their organisations have banned the use of social networking sites due to concerns over security and productivity.
Mike Roberts, IT director at the London Clinic, said: "The computer is a tool for work. I suggest these sites are blocked. Uploading/downloading can be a security risk. If staff feel that being able to access these sites is important to them, I don't want to employ them."
Others said their organisations have tried to assimilate the next generation of employees' fascination with social networking into their business processes.
Peter Pedersen, CTO of online womenswear retailer figleaves.com, said: "It will provide new challenges for IT and HR departments in terms of changing policies and letting go of a variety of controls and passing a new level of trust to employees. It also poses a series of questions of how abuse and defamation of brand should be handled or policed - or should it?"
It may be that some organisations are better placed to take advantage of social networking sites than others: companies whose business models need a high degree of security, such as finance and some government bodies, will face difficult choices over whether or not to allow their use.
Simon Stapleton, chief innovation officer for Skandia Investment Solutions, said: "Organisations who are under heavy regulation, such as financial services companies, are very cautious about social media. Apart from the risk of a breach of the Data Protection Act, my organisation takes a very hard line on disclosure of information in general in case it contains competitive information; it is used out of context; or misrepresents facts.
"The other aspect is of 'value' - the perceived value of these sites is blurred between appropriate and genuine business use and loafing. My organisation errs on the side of loafing, at this time. Although the perception of business benefit is emerging, the cost and risk is, from a policy standpoint, too high."
Taking part in this CIO Jury were:
- Ben Acheson, IT Manager, PADS Printing and Commercial Stationery
- Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
- Graham Benson, IT director, M and M Direct
- Dr Ben Booth, global CTO, Ipsos
- Nic Evans, European IT director, Key Equipment Finance
- Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO, Northern Europe Sodexo
- Madhushan Gokool, IT manager, Storm Models
- Peter Pedersen, CTO, figleaves.com
- Jacques René, CIO, Ascend
- Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
- Simon Stapleton, chief innovation officer, Skandia Investment Solutions
- Richard Storey, head of IT, Guys & St Thomas' Hospital
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