Web 2.0: Not Everyone's Doing It, After All

Ann All

Who hasn't been persuaded to try something new with the "everybody's doing it" line? Most folks have fallen for some variation of this at least once in their lives, and some people succumb to it repeatedly. It's often employed to lure us to test something we may not be quite ready to handle (i.e. smoking, sex, water skiing). While some of us are put off permanently when these initial experiences disappoint, others later grow quite fond of some of these things.


Could that be what's happening with Web 2.0 in the enterprise? At the very least, recent research sends some mixed signals about it.


In my post about a slowdown in IT hiring, I cited an InfoWorld item that quotes M. Victor Janulaitis, CEO at IT staffing research company Janco Associates, as saying that the sluggish economy has halted Web 2.0 investments. Demand for Web 2.0 technologies has "atrophied," says Janulaitis, after "a slight increase in demand" earlier this year.


Indeed, Web 2.0 deployments likely fall under the discretionary spending column at most companies, and thus are prone to elimination as tech execs look to cut IT spending. As a Goldman Sachs analyst put it, execs are "searching for solutions with a high and fast ROI," a criteria mostly lacking in Web 2.0 technologies.


Here's what Forrester Research analyst G. Oliver Young said earlier this month about ROI when discussing a Forrester report that indicates agrowing acceptance of Web 2.0 technologies among IT personnel:

It is very difficult to sit down and create that traditional ROI measurement where you can talk dollars and cents. The benefits are softer benefits ... a lot of productivity benefits spread over a lot of different resources.

While Forrester's report offers a bullish outlook on Web 2..0, others are less positive. A Robert Half Technology survey shows decent adoption rates and high interest among CIOs for some Web technologies, and strong aversions to others.


According to that survey, 34 percent of CIOs use videoconferencing today with another 18 percent planning to adopt it in the next five years. Also popular were online training, with 47 percent of respondents using it now and 13 percent planning to add it within five years, and collaborative work spaces (Microsoft's Sharepoint is the example offered by ZDNet's Larry Dignan), with 24 percent using it now and 19 percent expecting to add such tools.


But check out the Robert Half numbers of CIOs taking a pass on technologies: tagging software (67 percent), blogs (72 percent),wikis (74 percent) and virtual worlds (84 percent). ZDNet's Dignan expresses surprise at the lack of love for wikis and speculates that maybe they are popular among in-the-trenches types such as software developers and project managers but not among CIOs.


While adoption of Web 2.0 technologies is growing, just 21 percent of companies are satisfied with them, found a McKinsey survey. Twenty-two percent of respondents say they are dissatisfied with such technologies, according to a Network World story about the survey, while the majority of companies are apparently still on the fence. That's hardly a ringing endorsement.


Among the barriers to adoption: company doesn't understand the potential financial return (the ROI thing, again), cited by 28 percent of respondents; corporate culture doesn't encourage Web 2.0 use (22 percent); and company doesn't provide enough incentives to adopt or experiment with Web 2.0 technologies (20 percent).


And why do companies adopt Web 2.0 technologies? The top three reasons, according to McKinsey: managing knowledge (83 percent), fostering collaboration (78 percent) and enhancing company culture (74 percent).

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 7, 2008 10:41 AM Kris Olsen Kris Olsen  says:
I've not seen the McKinsey report, but those Top 3 reasons strike me as the typical canned responses offered for survey respondents to select - and they are not very compelling reasons to justify IT investments.The only reasons IT shops should be looking at any investment is getiing "more done with better quality in faster cycles". If you do it with that mindset, that is exactly what Web 2.0 will deliver.If you implement Web 2.0 capabilities for the reasons given in that survey, you will achieve nothing. JMHO Reply
Aug 13, 2008 8:40 AM Bart Vickers Bart Vickers  says:
@ DavidExactly--the "free-range" Web-based tools are fast to implement, easy for nontechnical business users, and usually free. If the enterprise doesn't provide the tool for the employee, then the employee is going to self-provision it. This actually can cause more problems for the enterprise than just bringing the tools in-house in the first place. Reply
Aug 13, 2008 11:37 AM Katherine Canipelli Katherine Canipelli  says:
What lurks behind the resistance? Silo'd strategy -- or no strategy to speak of indeed. In my niche (industrial B2B services), technology serves the core business and may be the exemplar competitive differentiator with huge benefits derived from process automation, collaboration, etc. in work flow and communications. Nevertheless, technology isn't the ringmaster. ROI of technology can't be the prime metric because means to measure behavior change resulting from Web 2.0 in action does not exist (or, at least, isn't recognized). ROI of other operational metrics is a possibility--even if we must model the impact to understand it. Reply
Aug 13, 2008 7:09 PM Bart Vickers Bart Vickers  says:
I'd love to see these survey results cross-referenced with employee interest in enterprise 2.0. My sense is that there would be a gap (especially in wikis and other knowledge management/knowledge share tools) between what the CIOs see as valuable and what the "people doing the work" want or need.Additionally, there is an inherent risk aversion gene in most C-suite technology folks, and user-generated content (even users within their own company) can be a scary process of sharing control with the masses. Reply
Aug 13, 2008 7:27 PM Tom Simon Tom Simon  says:
I have been developing web 2.0 + software for over 10 years - (starting with ASP/XML/SQL & SOAP - My non IT customers are much easier to sell - I appeal to C -level business managers and focus on converting enterprise desktop and back office applications to online virtual workplace apps. I would love to connect to a community of experienced people who have a long term history in pioneering the virtual workplace - as we have much to share and always are open to learn more. Reply
Aug 13, 2008 7:50 PM David Dines David Dines  says:
It is good to get multiple opinions - it creates a healthy debate.Based on my research, the C-level execs may try to stop it but it is going to happen anyway. Employees are starting to use it anyway and eventually the C-level types will catch on. For example, about 90% of the Fortune 1000 companies have a network on Facebook (set up by someone in the company), and I cannot imagine that the C-level execs had anything to do with it or even know about it.It is looking a lot like email and IM. Remember back in the mid 90's? There was a lot of inertia within major corporations giving email to employees. Also, while many companies are talking about blocking IM, other research shows that it will have nearly complete penetration into major corporations in just a few years. As for ROI, I agree it is important, in fact having a business reason for implementing the technology is imperative - otherwise you are just deploying technology for its own sake - which is the wrong reason. The problem now is quantifying the benefits with some reasonable accuracy or confidence and since the use of the technology is young and our experience is limited, this will take some time to prove. A few pioneers will take the leap of faith and gain the rewards or pain of failure (and they are betting that potential payoff is great enough that the risk is worth it). We should thank the pioneers because their efforts that educate the rest of us about the best use of the new technology. I predict that in a few years no one will be doing ROI on web 2.0 (when was the last time someone did an ROI on email or web site?) The economic doldrums will slow down adoption rates that we predicted earlier, but this will be a temporary situation- in the long run web 2.0 in the enterprise (and the related use of web 2.0 for social networking in the enterprise) is inevitable.See below for more information.http://enterprisesocialnetworking.blogspot.comhttp://www.wainhouse.com/presn08.html Reply

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