Is business yet to harness Web 2.0, or not yet willing to talk about it?


Tuesday’s edition of The Australian has an article titled Business yet to harness Web 2.0. Overall it takes a rather sceptical approach to the topic, though it does include some positive comments.

Beginning with an overview of what Web 2.0, and suggesting it is confusing, it goes on:

Business strategy analyst Ross Dawson says Web 2.0 systems are becoming part of everyday business processes, like it or not.

“Virtually every large organisation is using these tools and in many cases it’s not sanctioned as part of an overall technology strategy.

“However, partly in recognition that many users are doing this anyway, large organisations are deciding this is something they need to think about, develop a strategy, and understand the value and the risks,” Dawson says.

The article then quotes IDC research that 50% of companies in the Asia Pacific see Web 2.0 as a business opportunity, while 8% see it as a threat. It says that Australian corporate giants Telstra, Westpac, Lend Lease, AMP, and Suncorp are all active in Web 2.0, though apparently the last three declined to comment for the article, saying it is too early to speak about their initiatives. This is rather disappointing, since I know that for at least two of these companies their activities are absolutely advanced enough to share with comfort.

After discussing some other case studies, including Cochlear, which was featured at our Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum, and social lending company, the article goes on to quote Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur, an amateurish attempt to suggest that the only people worth listening to are ‘experts’.

Keen is quoted as saying – in quite a few words – that too much is expected of Web 2.0 in companies. I find it intriguing that Keen is extending his ignorance from the consumer web and popular culture into the enterprise space, something he quite possibly understands even less about.

The article then concludes with what I think are more pragmatic and useful words :-):

Dawson says companies need to take action to ensure their Web 2.0 strategies stay within corporate governance rules.

“One of the most fundamental issues here is IT governance, and corporate governance in general is about ensuring that potential business value is realised, risks are understood and contained, and appropriate actions are taken to do that.

“Organisations such as Westpac and Lend Lease are establishing some governance frameworks, which will ensure that people are able to use Web 2.0 tools and there are rules about staff policy, firewalls and security systems,” Dawson says.

[UPDATE] I’ve just reread the article and I see there was a subtle but very important misquotation here. “Dawson says companies need to take action to ensure their Web 2.0 strategies stay within corporate governance rules.” No that’s NOT what I said.

I said that corporate governance needs to be re-examined in the light of emerging technologies and changing business environment. Existing governance mechanisms are almost never adequate for the manifold implications of the new tools and technologies. Organizations must adapt or re-establish governance structures that will tap the business value of Web 2.0 tools, while addressing concerns and risks. See my draft Enterprise 2.0 governance framework.