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Sharp's "Generation Cloud" study highlights the growing divide between employee preferences and what their IT departments will provide for online collaboration

Sharp’s “Generation Cloud” study highlights the growing divide between employee preferences and what their IT departments will provide for online collaboration

Are SMBs failing a new generation of mobile workers?  A new study surveying over 1,500 SMB office workers across Europe suggests that while enterprise employees are driving the shift towards the mobile workplace, the cloud-based tools that could potentially enhance mobile productivity are still actively banned by IT departments. Peter Plested, director of European solutions at Sharp Europe says the results suggest vendors haven’t been able to effectively allay businesses’ (reasonable) concerns over the cost, security and complexity of these solutions.

As some might suspect, employees working in small and medium-sized businesses are increasingly adopting more mobile ways of working – eschewing the traditional office space in favour of home offices and cafes. According to Sharp’s study, 59 per cent of SMB employees in Europe now work outside of their office, with 46 per cent indicating that working remotely is an essential aspect of their job.

Sharp surveyed 1535 office workers in small to medium businesses across Europe including the UK (306), Germany (310), Netherlands (310), Sweden (305) and France (304). Over half of the workers surveyed said they should be able to access work documents and programmes on their mobile devices, and 41 per cent believe they are more creative at home.

“Our Generation Cloud research shows that whether business likes it or not, employees are clearly driving for change in how we work, share, collaborate on and produce information,” Plested told Business Cloud News. “This is a cultural as well as a business process driven shift. We believe this has been driven by the way that people have changed how they communicate in their personal lives – whether it be communicating with family through social media or shopping online. Employees are simply extending this to how they work,” he added.

The research suggests that SMB workers have an interest in adopting cloud-based collaboration platforms – 60 per cent of those surveyed believe these platforms would lead to them producing higher quality work, and 61 per cent believe they would be more efficient as a result of adopting them.

Plested explains that cloud-based collaboration is not a golden ticket to a more successful and efficient business: “Its success is like any project; it depends on having a clear set of objectives at the start of the project and also a commitment from the business and the workforce to effectively utilise it.”

“This can mean changing how a business works, shares information and communicates. One could argue that this is in many ways more manageable within an SMB environment than a large corporate one. We believe that SMBs should be grabbing this opportunity to achieve real competitive advantage and create efficiencies in what is still a challenging economic environment,” he added.

But 41 per cent of respondents also said cloud-based collaboration platforms are actively banned in their organisations, with 39 per cent of respondents claiming their companies don’t have any official policies relating to these technologies. Nevertheless, one in five employees are downloading these tools anyway – leading to the age-old shadow IT dilemma, which can jeopardize corporate data and reduce the robustness of businesses’ security perimeters if not properly managed.

More of these enterprises (relative to larger ones) are adopting BYOD (bring your own device) policies, which is both driving spending on these services and adding another layer of complexity to the shadow IT issue. According to Gartner spending on cloud-based collaboration tools like Citrix Sharefile, Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365/Lync will account for 33 per cent of the overall productivity services market by 2017, and the research and analysis firm says adoption is largely by an increased trend that sees employees accessing more corporate systems on a growing number of devices. But the market’s growth is also limited due to security and data management concerns, it said.

Plested said that SMBs aren’t necessarily to blame for the gap between employee preferences and the positions taken by their IT departments on these collaboration tools. “It could indeed be argued that it is the cloud vendors who are failing to truly understand the needs of SMBs rather than the SMBs necessarily failing the workforce. It is clear from the research that there still exist security and cost concerns among businesses about these solutions, not to mention confusion about implementation.”

“Vendors have obviously failed to address these sufficiently,” he concluded.

  • Rama Kolappan November 20, 2013 at 4:37 am

    It’s interesting to see that SMB in Europe are spending so much time working away from offices. Mobile productivity is certainly a must for these businesses.

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