Web 2.0 is happening inside organizations anyway – time to recognize it and do it well


The current issue of MIS magazine Australia has an excellent feature on Corporate Web 2.0 titled Meetings of 2.0 Minds, introduced with the words: The social communication tools of the web are making their irrevocably into today’s enterprise.

The piece begins with the example of how Bond University conducted an audit of use of Web 2.0 technologies, and “uncovered a vast, organic network of technologies already being used…”

The article goes on to quote me:

The experience of Bond University is far from unique, says chairman Ross Dawson of events and strategy company Future Exploration Network, who researches Web 2.0 technologies. Whether companies realise it or not, Dawson believes there are already instances of Web 2.0 tools being used within every large corporation in Australia, usually without any managerial oversight.

“One of the important characteristics of Web 2.0 is that it emerged in the consumer space, and made its ways in the corporate space, whereas most technologies did the opposite,” he says.

Because the technology began as a consumer tool, Dawson argues, the corporate sector has been slow to seize it for its own purposes, if for no other reason than because it is perceived as facile and, therefore, somehow unproductive.

“The technologies are all about information flows and making it easier and more flexible to communicate with and co-ordinate people in multiple locations and roles,” he says. “What needs to drive adoption is this need to communicate.”

Dawson says research into instant messaging suggests vastly diverse adoption patterns, driven not by demographics or roles, but by the need to communicate rapidly with multiple parties.

“The two groups that generate the greatest volume of instant message traffic are adolescent girls and bond traders, because they have similar communications needs, in terms of obtaining the latest information from their peers,” Dawson says, suggesting that Web 2.0 projects should be based largely on the communication needs of the end-users.

[Note that this is a misquote – I said that teenage girls and bond traders were the first to use IM.]

The article then goes on to discuss the issues of balancing organic uptake and structure, using examples from DeBortoli Wines, Leighton Holdings, and Sun Microsystems, with a Leighton executive “unequivocal in his view that collaboration… suites give the construction group a crucial competitive advantage…”

The organizations I work with on implementing Web 2.0 tools are all struggling with similar issues. The reality is that these tools are being used, primarily because they are allowing people to work more effectively. However there are real constraints for organizations in how they can be used, including security, confidentiality, and integration with existing systems.

Many organizations still need to recognize that these tools are a reality. That done, they can establish effective governance guidelines, and allow the use of these tools to develop within clear parameters, but without the rigid structure that stifles innovation. The balance is challenging to achieve, but the rewards are high.