Employees See Fresh Forces Shaping the Workplace

Survey Reveals WhatsApp, AI Assistants, Trust and Microsoft as Biggest Influences

In July 2018, CCS Insight surveyed 672 employees in the US and Western Europe about their attitudes to digital technology in the workplace. We explored topics including artificial intelligence and smart assistants, security, privacy and trust, mobility, applications, and brand affinities.

Here I’ll examine some of the big changes taking place in the digital workplace in 2018. A more detailed summary is provided in our recently published Enterprise Insight (see Employee Survey Sees Big Changes in the Digital Workplace in 2018). If you would like a free copy, please contact us.

WhatsApp Leapfrogs Office 365 as the Most-Used Mobile App for Work

Perhaps the biggest frustration for IT organizations in recent years has been the growth of “shadow IT” as technology blurs the boundaries between work and personal life and employees bring consumer or low-cost technologies into the workplace to enable them to get jobs done.

One of the most obvious examples of these trends has been the growth of publicly available, third-party mobile apps in business. According to our survey, WhatsApp now ranks as the most widely used mobile app in business, cited by 30 percent of all respondents. Microsoft’s Office 365 apps are used by 29 percent of respondents; Google’s G Suite and Dropbox share third position with 22 percent each. Other consumer-focused tools also performed strongly, with Amazon used by 19 percent, and Skype and Facebook both used by 14 percent of respondents (see below).

Most-Used Mobile Apps at Work

WhatsApp’s higher standing is an important trend. Already comfortable using the chat app in their personal lives, employees are extending this to their workplaces for communicating with colleagues, customers and suppliers. According to analytics company Apptopia, WhatsApp is the number-one mobile application outside China in terms of time spent in the app, with WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion daily active users notching up a staggering 85 billion hours in the three months to August 2018. Additionally, the advent of features such as conference and video calling, and the launch of WhatsApp Business in early 2018, which allows small business owners to communicate with customers, are likely to have reinforced the trend.

However, WhatsApp has also been a growing concern for IT departments, as they are unable to track, store, govern and secure communications, contacts and data on the WhatsApp network, presenting a compliance risk for regulated industries in particular. This has prompted the rise over the past few years of third-party compliance products such as VoxSmart and Actiance Socialite, as well as alternative chat apps Teamwire and Novastone. We expect Facebook will address these issues in the coming months with more enterprise features as it has done with Workplace, for example.

Digital Assistants Set to Hit Workplaces

Building on our research into employee perceptions about artificial intelligence, this year we introduced the topic of smart assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri as workplace tools. The response was very positive: almost a third of respondents told us they already use a digital assistant in the workplace, while a further 51 percent would consider doing so. Significantly, almost half of those surveyed expect these tools to be widespread in the workplace within 12 months, and Google is taking an early lead as the perceived leader in smart assistants for work with Google Assistant (see below).

Digital Assistant at Work

For the second year running, Google was also identified by employees as the leading technology company in the artificial intelligence space, a full 10 percentage points ahead of its closest rivals, Microsoft and Apple. Perhaps unsurprisingly, owing to the importance in its role in the smart assistant race, the results follow a year of increased activity for Google, with several high-profile advances that include the launch of AutoML, the expansion of Kaggle and DeepMind’s increasing efforts in healthcare. The biggest mover since 2017 was Amazon, which also saw a big year, launching key products such as Amazon SageMaker, AWS DeepLens and Alexa for Business. Amazon jumped two places to fourth, with 12 percent of responses, up from 8 percent in 2017 (see below).

Who Leads Advancement of Artificial Intelligence

Employee perceptions of artificial intelligence saw some interesting developments this year, with increased trust in the technology’s outputs countered by growing concerns about it causing job losses. The most attractive benefit for employees, as in 2017, is the technology’s ability to help automate mundane and time-consuming work tasks, which was cited by 29 percent of respondents. The second most popular benefit is improving productivity and collaboration through features such as automated e-mail replies, intelligent scheduling and quick access to documents and search features.

However, after a year of media reports painting a bleak outlook as artificial intelligence hits the job market, individuals’ concerns that their job will be taken by artificial intelligence have grown significantly with 60 percent now worried. A third of those surveyed considered that fear of job losses would be a barrier to the technology’s adoption in their organization.

Shifting Attitudes to Trust

The most fascinating results from this year’s survey focused on security and trust. The past year has seen several cyberattacks, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and an increase in negative public sentiment toward Internet giants and their business models of “surveillance capitalism”. Trust is becoming an essential element of the technology industry alongside traditional areas like innovation and the ability to attract developers.

Microsoft and Google have been among the first to recognise the importance of trust in their strategies, and it shows in 2018’s survey results. Microsoft is most recognised as the brand that employees have trust to hold their company data, with 45 percent of responses, followed by Google, which is the clear leader among the millennial generation. Apple comes in third place overall, ahead of security firm McAfee, the only security provider in the top eight (see below).

Trust with Company Data

Apple has quietly focused on security and trust for several years, as evident in its dispute with the FBI in 2016 about its encryption and customer privacy policies. Microsoft and Google’s enterprise division, Google Cloud, have made big steps in these areas in 2018, with heavy emphasis on security, compliance and transparency. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated in July 2018 that Microsoft is “relentlessly working to instil trust in everything we do” and that it would “continue to lead the industry dialogue on trust”. These efforts are clearly paying off.

In contrast, the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal has had a huge impact on Facebook’s standing among employees. More than half of employees surveyed said that their trust in Facebook had declined over the past 12 months, whereas at least 25 percent of respondents said they their overall trust in Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Samsung has increased more than a year ago.

Security and Privacy Requirements Balanced on a Knife Edge

As privacy continues to be a high-profile topic in the consumer and business domains, two thirds of respondents in our survey said they are generally unconcerned about their privacy at work because they trust their company. However, any attempts by their employer to increase security or monitoring can expect to meet strong resistance: 54 percent said that they would be uncomfortable if the company increased monitoring of devices and applications in the workplace, while 66 percent — and 74 percent in large organizations — would object to being forced to install software on a personal device for work purposes.

It will be interesting to see how these views mesh with trends in cybersecurity, which is seeing greater use of analytics and artificial intelligence to increase the monitoring of employee behaviour and activity in apps and on devices to improve security and compliance.

Microsoft Still in Pole Position

Again this year, Microsoft retains its overall dominance as the leading provider of workplace technology and most critical brand for day-to-day work, according to 55 percent of employees. Microsoft has had another impressive year that has seen rapid growth and a “flywheel” effect across most of its cloud businesses. However, Google significantly narrowed the gap in this survey, with a nine-point increase over 2017 to reach approval by 47 percent of respondents (see below).

Most-Critical Brands for Day-to-Day Work

What Does it Mean?

CCS Insight’s 2018 employee technology survey again reveals the dynamic nature of the digital workplace.

With WhatsApp’s rise and digital assistants set to enter the enterprise in 2019, the lines continue to blur between enterprise and consumer technology. Despite rising fears about job displacement, employees remain bullish about artificial intelligence.

But after a year of cyberattacks and emerging “techlash” brought on by the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica incident, trust is emerging as the lynchpin of the digital workplace and a cornerstone of competition in the enterprise technology market. Microsoft and Google, among the first to recognise the importance of trust in their strategies, have become the most trusted brands in workplace technology, earning the highest improvements to their trust scores over the past year.

Overall, this activity is helping to strengthen Microsoft’s and to a lesser extent Google’s position as the most critical technology brand for work. It’s highly likely that we’ll see more important market shifts and changes to this picture in the coming 12 months.