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Web 2.0 apps find a home in the workplace

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European companies are more willing for their staff to use their own IT applications in the course of their work than firms in any other region around the world. 

The survey, conducted by IDG Research Services on behalf of Unisys, highlights a shift in corporate attitudes to the use of personal IT applications by staff as employees use their own devices and systems to complete tasks as part of their job.
The findings are part of a global survey of IT decision-makers to uncover the support requirements of end users and the strategies enterprises are undertaking to ensure that their employees are receiving the best technical support.
The results show a changing attitude to IT in the UK and Europe as it becomes more essential to both work and personal lives. Specifically, on a global basis, 48% of companies that allow employees to use their own applications on company equipment, and provide IT support for these personal devices, are in Europe, compared with only 17%  in South America and 10% in North America.
The trend for allowing staff to use their own applications, and for providing support and provision for employees to source the IT tools they would prefer, known as ‘consumerisation’, comes  as Web 2.0 is becoming a reality, collaboration tools such as IM and web conferencing are gaining in sophistication and even social networking tools such as  blogs, wikis and the like are creeping into the business world.  
Non-authorised IT use in the workplace presents a major challenge to the traditional system whereby IT departments mandate software and hardware for on employees and limit the use of other tools by staff.  The research suggests that employees are turning to programmes and systems they prefer in answer to changing work requirements and  patterns, such as remote working.
The survey revealed that companies who allow their employees to use non-corporate software and hardware to do their jobs have a higher ratio of remote workers:
* 47% of these companies had employees working off-site, versus 34% overall; and
* These companies also cited providing “high” levels of  IT support, with 67% of companies believing they supplied high support levels, compared to only 55% overall.
Paul Bevan, director of field marketing for outsourcing at Unisys UKMEA, comments: “The level of consumerisation we are seeing in the market place is symptomatic of the increasing levels of IT proficiency amongst the workforce and comes as an answer to changing demands on staff as they work away from the office and require more diverse and flexible IT solutions.
"Use of IT is so common now, both in the workplace and in the home, that employees will routinely be familiar with software and hardware that  suits their needs and abilities better than the prescribed tools their employer supplies and can better support their working lives.
“Consumerisation is a massive issue for the enterprise and should be embraced by CXOs. The pressure on both business and IT for speed and agility is making the idea of limiting staff to a small prescribed list of IT tools increasingly unworkable. We are observing that employees are more productive when using systems they are most comfortable with. It is up to the IT directors and company boards to recognise and facilitate this," he adds.
The Unisys survey also highlighted the growing trend for firms enabling consumerisation to outsource their IT services provision.
Of firms who allow consumer-friendly technology in their enterprise, 65% are looking to outsource their end user services within the next six months to two years. This compares to only 38% of firms who are not pursuing consumerisation programmes – a 27% difference which suggests that the growing diversity and volume of IT applications in the workplace require  greater levels of IT support delivered in an increasing number of ways.
“Consumerisation has the potential to unlock real competitive advantage for business”, says Bevan. “CXOs need to realign their thinking on what IT can do for their enterprise and realise its worth as a critical business enabler.  It’s unrealistic to attempt to carry on prescribing what hardware and software can and cannot be used to a workforce that is ever more computer literate and is under increasing pressure to perform and be flexible.
"The development of Web 2.0 and the emergence of “Generation Facebook”, who are familiar with IT as an unquestioned part of everyday life, are landmarks for employers. Allowing staff the tools for the job is crucial and IT managers ought to be thinking now about how consumerisation could best fit their enterprise.”