Rapid advancements in technology are changing the way companies gather and share knowledge, and most importantly the efficiency with which new ideas are discovered and brought to market. Crowdsourcing, open innovation and social enterprise technology are just some of the platforms allowing companies to tap into a new and diverse pool of ideas, leverage best practices, and create deeper relationships with their employees and customers.
This is very exciting, particularly in the sustainability space. Companies today face a tough challenge – to use fewer resources while continuing to grow their business. For example, Unilever is looking to double its size, while reducing its environmental impact. Microsoft has committed to making its operations, across 100-plus countries, carbon-neutral starting this July.
Crowdsourcing and open innovation platforms are helping companies identify innovative sustainability solutions, and those embracing them are seeing results. For example, GE's Ecomagination Challenge 'Powering the Grid' generated 4,000 ideas and built a community of 74,000 members in just ten weeks. IDEO's OpenIDEO platform harnesses the ideas of thousands to develop solutions to pressing social issues.
Companies are also using a multitude of enterprise social platforms to streamline internal knowledge transfer, foster employee engagement and improve customer relationships. Sustainability teams are using these to create internal communities that rally employees around corporate responsibility initiatives such as Green Teams, volunteering and community outreach best practices.
In addition to the benefits, uptake of these platforms carries risk such as protecting IT security, IP and brand health. So how does a company embrace new technologies, yet ensure that their business and brand are protected? Following are a few key ways companies are successfully leveraging new technologies and platforms without compromising security:
- Creating visibility to the applications and platforms employees are using
It's 5 pm, do you know what apps your employees are using? From smartphones to laptops to tablets, the use of personal and managed mobile devices for work has increased dramatically. This "consumerization of IT" is challenging IT departments to keep tabs on what is used both in and out of the office, and to ensure these applications don't compromise network security.
For example, seemingly safe applications can contain malware that will quickly compromise the security of your phone. File sharing applications such as Dropbox and Google Drive are often used to share confidential company documents, yet pose their own security risks, particularly if not managed properly. Lastly, companies often face difficulties of integrating multiple applications into the larger corporate network.
Companies are responding to this by gaining the best possible visibility to usage, and using this to guide mobile device policies. At Symantec, we are constantly monitoring the latest trends and needs in IT security. This has lead to development of our Mobile Device Management tool and recent expansions to our portfolio that are helping IT organizations protect data and applications across both corporate managed and personally owned unmanaged devices. Additionally, our O3 cloud information protection provides a single, secure access point to a wide variety of cloud and web applications and services. Therefore companies are aware of the technologies allowed on their systems, and confident they are safe and secure.
- Safeguarding IP
An effective strategy for protecting IP is becoming increasingly important in the digital age. For example, the "dematerialization of goods" has made it increasingly difficult, or in some cases impossible, to differentiate between a real or fake product online. You might know a Rolex from a fake in person, but could you tell the difference between two identical images of a Rolex online?
Twitter has responded to this with 'verified accounts' that help users identify real vs fake accounts. eBay's Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) program allows sellers to report IP violations. Symantec has discussed expanding the use of our Norton Secured Seal to additional products. When customers see the Norton Secured Seal they are confident a website is safe and secure. We also want to provide assurance to the authenticity of products on these sites.
- Protecting against those 'gaming the system'
Gaming techniques such as spoof content or fradulent voting often raise questions about the credibility of open innovation campaigns. For instance, Pepsi's Refresh Project was pressed to investigate participants last year when questions arose regarding fraudulent voting. Companies are working hard to decrease these risks through effective security technologies such as geolocation, IT lookup, email/mobile phone verification, and more.
As a recent Forbes article stated, "Social business is here, it's real, and it's the next big thing in the enterprise." And as we've seen, it is doing wonders for helping companies improve efficiency and address sustainability in innovative and effective ways. However, as with any business decision, the key is finding the right balance between risk and reward. And it looks like with the right balance, the sky's the limit.
Cecily Joseph is Symantec’s Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility and Compliance.
This article was developed for Sustainable Brands May Issue in Focus on IT.