Technology companies are great at innovation, but not so great about tempering their own buzz.
McAfee: We shouldn't expect them to temper the buzz. The buzz is what they're all about.
What does the buzz do to hamper Web 2.0 adoption in the enterprise?
McAfee: After the turn of the millennium, I noticed that my executive education students and the management teams I work with had suddenly become a lot more skeptical about the technology sector. With all the enthusiasm around the first wave of the Internet and the alleged Y2K crisis, there was a lot of uncritical acceptance about what the technology sector was saying to businesses.
There was a lot of money spent on IT--and a lot of money misspent and overspent on technology. After the turn of the millennium, I noticed a higher degree of skepticism among business executives--a feeling that business was sold a bill of goods and they're going to make sure it doesn't happen anymore.
Skepticism is healthy, but when the philosophy turns from, "I'm going to believe everything they say," to, "I'm going to believe nothing they say," then you risk turning your back on a legitimate innovation that can help you with your business goals. I see a bit of that going on with Enterprise 2.0 right now.
Business leaders don't like the label "Web 2.0," so there's a movement to use terms like "social" and "social business." These are not inaccurate because all of the tools make use of communities--they're all social technologies. My problem is that "social" is not a word that resonates with most of the business decision makers I've worked with. They tend to think of low-level things like employee "happy hour" or wasting time. Business leaders say they're in the middle of a recession and they need to get products out the door, so making the workplace more social is a fairly low priority right now.
But we can talk to them, instead, of a new suite of tools that can help with their business problems. One of the characteristics of those tools is that they're social, but let's not emphasize that--let's emphasize toolkits and their connection to solving business problems. Then I think we'll be in a much healthier place.
But how can they explain the benefits to the business?
McAfee: One of the most common dynamics I see today is when the CEO calls in the CIO and says, "What is this '2.0' thing I hear so much about, and what does it mean for us?" It reminds me of where we were 10 to 12 years ago, where the request to CIOs was: "What is this Internet thing, and what is our Web strategy?"
Very often, the business side is looking to the CIO and the IT side for answers. And they'd better receive answers that make sense to them, in business terms that make sense for the enterprise. If they're phrased the wrong way, there could be a missed opportunity.