Internet Technology and the Workplace
The exponential growth and adoption of Internet technologies in organizations continues to revolutionize how workgroups, teams, departments and divisions work with each other. The speed and agility of communicating however has also been problematic in terms of defining ethical guidelines (Trembly, 34, especially in managing the emerging set of social networking technologies, collectively known of as Web 2.0 (Klein, et.al.). This collection of Web 2.0 technologies include blogs (Patten, Moss, 24), Wikis (Condon, 54) and micro-blogging, a form of Instant Messaging (Sostek, et.al.) which is responsible for the use of Twitter in many organizations. At the center of the problems of which technologies to use in an organization, and once selected, setting their use guidelines, is the need for defining policies for their use (Arnesen, Weis, 53-65). In completing this analysis, search engines Google and ProQuest, an academic database, were used.
Harnessing the Rapid Change in Technology
Instant messaging, e-mail and electronic meetings are becoming transformed by the trends toward a more interactive Web-based set of applications known as of Web 2.0. Employers are managing the challenge of the rapid escalation of technologies by first putting them into the context of how they can assist customers. As Klein (et.al.) states:
Established companies should concentrate on using Web 2.0 to tap into their client bases and draw on what’s called “the power of the crowd.” For instance, I’ve written about the Fluevog shoe company, which has 10 stores in the U.S. And Canada. it’s not a mainstream product, but customers are passionate about their shoes. The founder went to trade shows where people were constantly giving him notes and ideas for new designs. So he decided to create an area on his Web site where he asked his customers tell him what they’d like to see in shoe designs.
He got about 700 replies and made a shoe based on one of the suggestions. That’s harnessing crowd power to help a business succeed. The company has also asked customers where Fluevog should advertise, and it has had customers send in pictures of themselves wearing the shoes at landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum in Rome. If an entrepreneurial company has a passionate following for its product or service, then Web 2.0 can’t be beat as a way to tap into that.
Foremost in the minds of employers is how to use these technologies to gain a greater competitive advantage over time in serving their customers yet also retain the productivity levels of their workers. The fear of these technologies is that they will drain productivity at the least and lead to abuses at the worst. This double-edged sword of new technology is being increasingly being relied on for capturing knowledge in the organization, serving as a vital catalyst for higher levels of collaboration Condon, 55):
According to Jorge Lopez, industry research chief at Gartner, the focus of it has been to cut costs by automating tasks that can be broken down into discrete processes. But it has achieved all it can in that respect and any further improvements would be marginal. The next frontier for it is the non-routine work that lends itself less readily to automation – and here the talk is of ‘augmentation’: helping people come to decisions more quickly, and helping support any consequent action.
With knowledge workers, such as managers, who deal with non-routine kinds of work, the idea of productivity is different. As (management guru Peter) Drucker pointed out, you don’t pay them by the hour but by results,’ says Lopez. ‘The question is: how do you help that class of worker become productive?’
Restrictive Polices vs. Capturing Productivity
The promise of all forms of interactive communication including those defined as Web 2.0 and form the foundation of social networking have the potential to significantly increase productivity, yet these technologies are “open” in terms of who one can communicate with. Many employers restrict the use of company e-mail systems for personal use, as this opens up legal liabilities to them and also can significantly impact e-mail system performance. There’s a balance what is needed between restrictive policies and the harnessing of these technologies for gaining greater productivity and stronger competitive advantage in the markets served, including the ability to attract and retain qualified prospects over time. This shift from restrictive policies or a lack of new technology to adoption is seen in the rapid growth of Instant Messaging in companies, and with that, the exponential growth of Twitter as a means of microblogging and interactive communication. The following syndicated article from Knight Ridder News Service illustrates this transition in terms of Instant Messaging (Sostek, et.al.):
The appeal of the software, its users say, is its immediacy. Rather than an e-mail that might sit ignored in an inbox, an IM invitation pops right up on the computer screen, flashing until it gets attention. Once the request to chat is accepted, the pop-up window stays open until the users log off, allowing for steady back and forth communication.
If there’s a deadline, we can get more done using IM than e-mail,” said Ms. Crandell.
The appeal of IM also highlights some of the flaws of e-mail, the backbone of corporate Internet