Big business is killing itself by its attitude to the Internet

Researchers at the Chartered Institute of Management (CIM) are reported to have discovered that most companies are failing to embrace the Internet. Indeed, around one in every eight companies admit to imposing “curfews” on Internet usage, preventing employees from accessing the web at particular hours of the day.

Are they crazy? Not as silly perhaps as the one in 20 companies that still do not use email. According to National Statistics there are 2.3m businesses in the UK, which means 115,000 companies still don’t use email. What? Maybe they’ve read the report in the Daily Express which says more and more people are ditching emails so they can start talking again.

Maybe. But the CIM study also reveals other interesting information, such as a widespread lack of use of Web 2.0 technologies amongst big business. This is, of course, nothing new. But it is a huge problem for large firms which they don’t seem to be getting to grips with.

Here’s the situation. Everyone going into the world of work now expects their office computer to do the same things as their home PC. They expect to be able to visit Wikipedia to check facts, they expect to be able to ask friends for information on Facebook and they expect to be able to set up documents using something like Google Docs. And – importantly – they expect to be able to do all this without snooping (which most businesses admit to doing) and without restriction.

Add to this the fact that the current crop of graduates – and all future graduates – only know the Internet as a means of finding things out or doing things co-operatively with others. If a business does not provide web based ways of working, graduates from now on will not know how to function in the world of work.

Those graduates – the talent businesses need for their future – will go elsewhere. That will reduce the capabilities of a company making it even less likely they’ll be able to sort out their online issues.

Now include the current economic situation in the mix and you have a really urgent problem. Businesses that do not engage Web 2.0 technologies right now are unlikely to survive the recessionary year ahead because they will not be able to attract or retain the necessary talent.

If you know any senior executives in big firms tell them that they can no longer dither or try to put controls on the Internet at work. They have to embrace the Internet in all its glory – and its shame – and allow their staff the freedom to use online tools. Doing so could well be the action that saves a company from going under during the coming year.

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