Companies are controlling the use of the internet within the work environment by restricting the use of web mail services (like Gmail and Yahoo Mail) and social networking platforms (Facebook and Twitter).
“Despite these measures, the number of Facebook users in South Africa has grown to approximately 2.9 million in 2010, in line with global trends where Facebook recently surpassed 500 million users,” said Greg Comline, Senior Manager Online Strategy at Deloitte of Tomorrow. “This is made possible through people accessing the internet on their mobile phones and personal internet connections, rather than through work desktops and laptops, where some access restrictions might apply.”
Like it or not, the convergence of mobile phone technologies and improved internet capacity in South Africa is increasing the extent to which companies are exposed to new internet technologies.
In the past, businesses were able to control their internet presence internally but this has now changed to the extent that customers have become active contributors by generating content and publishing it easily through extensive social networks that are frequently updated. Word-of-mouth has gathered reach and momentum. The technologies encompassed by Web 2.0 include, but are not limited to, blogs, podcasts, tags, RSS, and social networks.
This is in sharp contrast to the old ‘Web 1.0’ methodology, in which news was provided by a handful of large corporations, Web pages were static and rarely updated, and only the tech-savvy could contribute to the development of the World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site gives its users the choice to interact with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of content in a virtual community.
“This Web 2.0 infrastructue has also created a number of opportunities for businesses to communicate more effectively with their employees, clients and customers,” said Andrew Farrant, Associate Director Online Strategy at Deloitte of Tomorrow. “Social media can enhance a company’s brand by showing the human side of a business, and this can be used to manage reputation and develop loyalty. Internally, social networking can be used to change the efficiency with which people communicate across business units, and the way that people manage their work environment.
“In addition, crowd sourcing (leveraging mass collaboration by using Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals) provides open environments where people can create, rate and develop new ideas in innovation campaigns.”
However, these new techniques also bring with them a number of risks that need to be managed. Business results can be delivered through:
· The right change management interventions
· Establishing the most appropriate legal policies and procedures
· Ensuring internet security
· Optimising information management
· The use of data analytics to further understand transactional data generated by operations and customers
“Overall, social networking and mobile phone technologies do not replace the way we do business, they simply provide new opportunities and should be used to make the work place more efficient,” concludes Comline.
Deloitte of Tomorrow