Currently it would seem that there is no need to convince anyone of the impact of the development of the Internet and internet technologies on the functioning of contemporary organizations, which has been taking place for over a decade. Its influence on almost all aspects of function of contemporary organizations has been something extremely visible and obvious for many years now and in the case of some industries this impact has even significantly deepened recently. On the one hand this impact concerns single organizations and their ways of functioning and competing, while on the other hand it affects consumers, their attitudes and behavior. Both these issues are mutually interrelated.
Already by the middle 1990s organizations were functioning in a more or less stable business environment, concentrating their efforts on conducting business activities in their own sectors and facing typical challenges such as: cost reduction and the introduction of new products in the marketplace. It was clearly necessary to contend with changes taking place in the business environment but they were predictable to a large extent.
The second part of the 1990s saw the end of such relative stability, the main reason being due to the arrival of the Internet into the contemporary economy and the beginning of its utilization in business. An important element of this process was the emergence, within the space of a year, two Web browsers with intuitive users interface, allowing both companies (i.e. their employees) and their customers easy access to and use of the multimedial resources of the Internet. At the same time, built-in Web browsers client e-mail programs gave users the possibility of trouble-free utilization of electronic mail. Additionally, at the end of the 1990s two other tools, based on the utilization of Internet technologies spread: instant messaging and P2P programs. Along with Web browsers and e-mail programs they very quickly became the most often utilized tools based on internet technologies, available to contemporary organizations in business sphere.
Analyzing the impact of the Internet on the business environment of contemporary organizations it seems that for a long time only one side of the process was perceived.
Namely, the advantages which resulted from the commercial utilization of the Internet. So the most commonly underlined issues were:
- procurement cost reduction,
- reduction in inventory level,
- lowering cycle times,
- improvement of customer support/service and the lowering of related costs,
- diminishing sales and marketing expenditures,
- emergence of more effective forms of work.
But there is another side of the process connected with the virtualization of contemporary economy. Looking at these processes from today’s perspective, at the almost ten years experience connected with the commercial utilization of Internet technologies, it can clearly be seen that functioning in the electronic environment is far more complicated and brings many more challenges than was initially predicted. This is especially so with regards those previously almost completely unnoticed aspects connected with internal work environment of organizations. Thus the basic goal of this paper is the analysis of the real impact of the utilization of tools based on internet technologies on the internal work environment of organizations virtualizaing their business processes, along with the resulting social and ethical implications.
The paper is composed of three parts. In the first part an overview of the situation connected with the virtualization of the contemporary economy and the consequences of this processes is briefly provided.
The second part forms the core of this paper. It is focused on the internal problems and challenges connected with utilization of the Internet technologies, and those tools based on it, in the work environment of companies. There are four basic aspects which are analyzed:
- employee access to WWW resources and Web browser utilization,
- utilization of electronic mail programs by employees,
- utilization of instant messaging programs by employees,
- employee access to the resources of P2P networks and P2P program utilization.
In all cases attention is concentrated not on the advantages of the mentioned tools utilization, which are quite well known and have already been discussed in length, but on the social and ethical consequences which have became to be more and more important and highlighted by companies. It is hypothesized that there are four groups of challenges related with the utilization of Internet technologies-based tools by employees. They include:
- lowering employee productivity risk,
- possible dangers related to company security,
- legal risks,
- challenges connected with the proper functioning of IT infrastructure.
All these issues are analyzed based on numerous reports devoted to these aspects. Also the problem of monitoring employees on-line activities is discussed and analyzed. In the final part of the paper, the most significant conclusions and suggestions are offered.