More than a third (33%) of workplace projects have been blocked by company management due to fear, according to new research.
The study was commissioned by Mozy by EMC, a provider of online data backup and access solutions. In addition, 64% of IT decision makers believe management are the most fearful of new technology implementations and more than half (65%) stated that they or their company perceives the adoption of technology as a risk.
Gytis Barzdukas, senior director of product management at Mozy, said: "Leaders in business and technology need to be enablers, not roadblocks, if they want their companies to succeed in difficult economic circumstances.
"A little healthy scepticism about activities that could be hazardous and a desire to not make errors is good sense, but when that becomes an inhibiting fear or a dogged refusal to embrace new things in spite of good evidence for adopting change, then it becomes an issue.
"Through their own admission and definition, a full 88% of employees and IT decision makers are already bringing their own irrational fears to the workplace; they need direction from those who understand technology and business to encourage them out of their shells – not to stifle them with their own fears."
Rules set by IT departments are also hindering innovation with 52% of office workers admitting that they have not been able to do something that would help their job due to limitations imposed on them.
In addition, 49% of ideas generated to improve businesses are delayed for so long by the IT department that they fail to deliver results. However, money talks, and a return on investment of 172% is all that’s required to overcome this perceived risk and put a project into action.
It is not just IT departments holding projects back, but an institutionalised fear of trying new things at work. Twenty-two per cent of office workers stated that no one in their organisation takes risks, and less than half (43%) of all employees and managers questioned said their business actively embraces change. One in three (39%) also haven’t submitted any ideas at work and only 12% of office workers have had an idea at work that has been put into practice.
What businesses are afraid of is changing and can be irrational, as demonstrated by the influence of buzzwords on technology adoption. ‘Cloud’ was the second worst buzzword to add to a budget request two years ago, with almost a third of IT managers saying it was a turn-off for management when submitting a proposal. Now, nearly twice as many people say that describing a project as "cloud" would help to get them funding as opposed to hindering their bid (31% "help", compared to 17% "hinder").
"Gamification" has remained the worst buzzword to add to a funding request, according to the study. "Collaboration," "on demand" and "virtualisation" are the best words to use to get a project signed off. Despite the fact that "on demand," "as a service (…aaS)" and "cloud" are terms that can sometimes all be used to describe the same project, 14% of IT managers say "as a service" hinders their pitch compared to just 6% for "on demand." Conversely, 49% say "on demand" helps their proposals compared with 23% for "as a service."
A little knowledge also proved to be a dangerous thing, with people’s perceptions of cloud security varying widely based on their level of technical understanding. Overall, only 20% of people believed the cloud to be ‘slightly risky’ or worse. However just 3% of those who described themselves as "slightly skilled" thought that the cloud was a "very safe" place to keep their data, compared with 22% of people who described themselves as "experts" and 46% of people who stated that they were "complete novices." This implies that non-technical people, who are regularly exposed to discussions about the cloud – such as business decision makers – are more likely to be confused about the cloud than those who are experts and aware of the measures in place to protect data online.
Barzdukas said: "Irrational fears associated with innovation, collaboration and using new technology like cloud services hold back success.
"Signing a project off, or rejecting it, based on preconceptions and buzzwords mean that businesses are missing out. To succeed, businesses need to look at the actual benefits and risks of innovation – and stay up to speed with new developments that make adoption safer."
The results varied markedly across the countries, with the Irish proving to be the most fearful and the Americans and Germans most accepting of change. In France, only nine percent of office workers stated that no one in their company takes risks, slightly ahead of Germany with 10%, which is in stark contrast to Ireland where 27% said companies are risk adverse. In addition, 82% of Irish IT decision makers said that they have had a project blocked by the board compared with only 24% in Germany, 29% in the US and 33% in the UK.
Barzdukas added: "Evolution is the key to survival, and in the current economy, significant changes need to be made in order for businesses to not just survive but thrive in the future.
"There is no room for irrational fears. A change in attitude and approach is required from the top in order to encourage everyone in the business to have ideas and innovate, no matter their level."