A View from the Top on Web 2.0

Recent publications of surveys on Web 2.0 usage by McKinsey, The Economist or Forrester Research presents some interesting information on how managers and CIO see the new technologies that have conquered the Web these recent years. Let us look at their content before trying to analyse what they could mean.

The McKinsey Quarterly

In January of this year, The McKinsey Quarterly conducted a survey on the usage of Web 2.0 techniques with 2847 participants worldwide. Web 2.0 is defined as a collection of technologies: Web services, collective intelligence, peer-to-peer networking, social networking, RSS, podcast, wiki, blog and mash-up.

The most used technology was Web services (80 %), followed by collective intelligence and peer-to-peer networking with a percentage close to 50 %. Those three technologies were also the one the most cited when participants were asked to identify the three technologies the most important for their business. Few participants say that their companies are using more than two Web 2.0 technologies.

As far as satisfaction is concerned, 16 % of the participants said that they were very satisfied of the financial return on their investment in Web 2.0 technologies over the past 5 years and 35% were somewhat satisfied. Only 6 % were dissatisfied. For most of the respondents, the Web 2.0 tools were used to manage collaboration internally (75%), close to interface of customers (70 %). Interface with suppliers and partners with Web 2.0 is performed by only 51 % of the participants. In the discussions with participants that are included at the end of the paper, we see that blogs and RSS are the most mentioned tools to communicate with customers.

The Economist Intelligence Unit

A report, entitled “Serious Business: Web 2.0 Goes Corporate”, was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by enterprise search business Fast. The survey asked 406 senior executives for their views on Web 2.0.

The vast majority of respondents (79 %) said they saw potential in the likes of blogs and social networks to boost company revenues and reduce costs. In spite of this desire to cash in, many businesses cited a lack of understanding of the technology as a barrier to using it. Over a quarter of respondents said their IT departments lacked the competence level to implement Web 2.0 applications effectively.

A third of executives questioned said a lack of resources to implement these new functions represented a major obstacle to their business. While there may be barriers to embracing Web 2.0 the study found that businesses expect it to play a key role in how they communicate, both internally and externally. The report found that 68 % of executives considered it to be the single biggest factor changing the way their company interacts with customers while 49 % said it would be the biggest factor affecting how employees interact with each other and the business.

Forrester Research

A majority of IT buyers see Web 2.0 in a positive light, but CIOs would prefer to buy the emerging technologies in suites from larger incumbent vendors. That’s the nut of the situation according to a recent survey by Forrester Research of 275 IT buyers in June on Web 2.0 technologies. About 16 % said they are hearing about Web 2.0 from vendors all the time, and 50 per cent said vendors pitch Web 2.0 technologies to them from time to time. About 20 % are hearing from vendors on the topic, but rarely and 11 % reported they have not been pitched Web 2.0 technologies by their vendors.

Close to all respondents, 97 %, said they were familiar with Web 2.0, which is a category of technologies that includes wiki, blog, RSS, podcast, content tagging and social-networking tools, according to Forrester Research. The research firm says as the market grows it will consolidate, which could please enterprise CIOs. Forrester earlier this year polled about 120 enterprise CIOs about the Web 2.0 market and found consolidation is ideal for their plans with the technologies. “The enterprise Web 2.0 market is beginning to consolidate” and CIOs Forrester polled “couldn’t be happier,” Forrester reports.

“Overall, 61 % of respondents indicated that they would prefer both a suite solution and a large incumbent vendor,” Forrester concluded. “The deck appears to be stacked against small pure-play vendors. Integration issues, longevity concerns and the occasional lack of polish send CIOs looking for other options.” Survey respondents also want the technologies integrated into their back-end systems, which leads them to want to see Web 2.0 suites from incumbent vendors. Forrester found that 93 %t of the CIOs survey using six Web 2.0 technologies would rather get the products from such vendors as Microsoft, IBM or Oracle than from smaller, pure-play vendors, such as Socialtext, NewsGator or MindTouch.

So what?

In my opinion, many managers and CIO have a distant view from the Web 2.0 technology. As usual, some adopters use these new tools just because it is “cool” or their manager has read in the last edition of “Business Week” that they should do it. These organisations tend to see Web 2.0 as a technological issue, but the real challenge is to provide valuable content and modify interaction with users. Installing a blog or a RSS feed is not really difficult, as I can even do it myself ;o) It is however another aspect when you have to blog regularly, provide interesting content and manage the feedback created by the posts. It is also interesting to see that Web 2.0 is seen by the business as mostly a new way to interact with customers or inside the organisation. It is not yet considered as something that could be used in B2B relationships or in internal business applications. This explains also why you can read about the “technological gap” of traditional IT departments versus these technologies and the fact that buyers will prefer solutions by large vendors. In large IT organisation, this is a widespread attitude to hesitate to let developers use “new” technology from new vendors, this can be linked to the time it took to open source technologies to be widely adopted.

The McKinsey Quarterly (March / July 2007) (free access with registration)

Web 2.0 baffles businesses, says survey / theregister.co.uk

IT buyers positive on Web 2.0, survey says / itbusinesss.ca