Via a Webware.com article published last week, I learned that more than half of United States workplaces block social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. A survey of about 1,400 US chief information officers by consulting firm Robert Half Technology shows 54% block social networks “completely,” while 19% allow social networking “for business purposes”.
While Caroline McCarthy rightly points out how complicated it can be to interpret such figures, these headline figures are probably on the low side when it comes to workers in the contractual and innately conservative and risk-averse world of architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and facilities management (FM). As I noted recently (see Why social media bans won’t work), other US research suggests that 67% of AEC firms block employees from social networking while at work.
Such figures are depressing (and I expect the UK experience is little different), and mean that advocates – like me – of Web 2.0 for AEC people face an uphill struggle to persuade organisations of the value. Around two-thirds of industry workers are effectively being denied any chance to evaluate the potential of the technologies to support their professional and business activities. And with little or no exposure to social media in their day-to-day working lives, it isn’t surprising that industry professionals can be sceptical and/or resistant.
Some of the presentations at last week’s Be2camp@WorkingBuildings2009 at London Olympia last week (which I helped organise) would, I think, have helped challenge such orthodox views. Social media is not just about PR, marketing and sales. In one Wednesday afternoon alone, attendees at this ‘unconference’ heard about:
- mobile telephone technology being used to support real-time collaboration between site and office (Woobius Eye)
- deploying Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Building Information Modelling (BIM) and social media to facilitate international design competitions (Build London Live)
- a “micro-multinational” working across geographical boundaries to create a virtual design studio by using a combination of ArchiCAD 13 and social networking (Amonle Studio Workshop)
- taking environmental sensor data and presenting real-time information on building performance (Pachube)
- using a Second Life virtual world to support Health & Safety training (Daden)
Accordingly, I think this unconference clearly demonstrated that there is much more to Web 2.0 than social networking. Being Web 2.0- savvy will, in many cases, give some AEC and FM businesses competitive advantages in their products and services – but many will first have to let down the drawbridge before their people can begin to learn about and apply these tools and techniques effectively.