Web 2.0: Hot technology for 2008

Beyond the buzz

When it comes to hot buzzwords, nothing comes close to Web 2.0. Nobody knows exactly what it means but everybody uses it. In fact, at Network World we’ve started getting press releases referring to Web 3.0…..whatever that is.

Clearly, on the consumer side of things, Web 2.0 refers to blogs, Wikis, social networks, mashups. In other words, people using lightweight applications to publish their own content on the Internet and to connect with and collaborate with others using Web-based applications.

So, where's the enterprise angle?

First, enterprises have been trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to impose top-down knowledge management, content management and collaboration systems. And employees have been resistant to those complex, rigid systems that add extra work to their busy lives.

Web. 2.0 technologies like blogs and Wikis are different. The technology doesn't seem "corporate." It doesn't require training. The software is so easy-to-use that individuals or small workgroups can start a blog or a Wiki in no time, rather than having to go through the bureaucracy of getting a new application deployed through traditional IT channels. And Web 2.0 technologies represent the kind of bottom-up community that has more of a chance to take root, grow and continue to be used over time.

For example, Serena Software is now using Facebook as its corporate intranet. Every week on "Facebook Fridays," the company's 800 employees are given time to spend on their Facebook profiles and to connect with co-workers, family and friends.

Where does IT fit in? When it comes to Web 2.0, IT needs to enable the technology and then step out of the way and let communities spring up on their own.

The second point of intersection between consumer-driven Web 2.0 technologies and enterprise business needs occurs when companies tap into the so-called wisdom of crowds. The most well-publicized example is Procter & Gamble which is using collaborative Web sites such as InnoCentive to soliciting new product ideas from consumers, rather than completely relying on internal product development teams.

A third wrinkle is corporations moving specific activities to Web 2.0 sites like Second Life. For example, some companies are training new hires in Second Life.

Whether you believe Web 2.0 is a fad, whether you think it's not applicable to serious enterprise IT or whether you're inclined to embrace it, it's clear that Web 2.0 is something IT execs need to address.

As Gartner Analyst Tom Austin puts it: "Web 2.0 in the enterprise is unavoidable. Two major movements drive this inevitability: changing demographics and consumerization."

In other words, your new hires will already be using these technologies, so you can’t very well tell them to stop. Furthermore, Web. 2.0 is more than a collection of AJAX-based applications, it's an attitude that says the end user/consumer has the power to do what it takes to collaborate, share information, publish information and take information and use it interesting and useful ways.

Bottom line: Gartner recommends that IT organizations start looking for specific ways that Web 2.0 technologies can help advance the business. Start small. Use low-cost, lightweight applications. Give employees the opportunity to pick up the ball and run with it.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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