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IT execs must deal soon with worker use of social tools

Workers push for IT adoption of social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, video and Foursquare

March 29, 2012 09:19 AM ET

Computerworld - ORLANDO -- IT execs are forever concerned about the growing number of gadgets workers are bringing from home for use in the enterprise.

Now, they must also start dealing with the increasing use of consumer social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and video chat sites on the job.

The best advice from IT execs and industry analysts at the Enterprise Connect conference here this week was: Keep up with social networks and how they can be used in the business.

"What's driving us in IT is the consumerization of IT," said David Nettles, director of IT architecture and compliance at Rayonier, a global forest products company based in Jacksonville, Fla. "If we don't provide them with a smartphone, they have their own."

Increasingly, he added, IT managers must deal with the spread of social networks in the company, he said. "Now they're all on Facebook and Google+ and Twitter."

Nettles said Rayonier has turned to Microsoft SharePoint and Google Apps to start laying the groundwork to enable their employees to work more collaboratively.

"It's pretty hard for us to control the evolution of technology," Nettles told a conference audience. "At first, we say, let's control it all. We say, you can't post to Facebook while you're at work, but they can. They just pull out their smartphone. To think you can stop them is a little naive."

Social networking use is exploding in the consumer world, says Brett Shockley, a senior vice president and general manager at Avaya, a business collaboration and communications company. And while many companies haven't decided to use social collaboration tools, many of their workers are already using them for business purposes.

"What pushes companies the hardest is that people just start using [social networks for business purposes]," he said. "Companies have to go into police mode to try to stop it. Ultimately, I don't think there's a way to stop it. You can try to lock everything down. But at some point, you have to come up with something."

For instance, many workers use Foursquare to keep co-workers updated on their whereabouts during business travel.

Shockley also noted that a lot of employees use texting tools and Twitter to communicate with co-workers and business partners.

The increasing business use of consumer social tools has a lot of IT managers pretty stressed out, says Shockley. "Every company I talk to says it's real, and that I had better deal with it and figure out how to manage it," he added.

Peter Hirst, executive director of executive education at the MIT Sloan School of Management, says that IT executives must deal with a definite level of user expectation.



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