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Web 2.0 low-cost boosts adoption

By Brian P. Watson  |  Posted 11-11-2009 Print

This year CIOs had a lot of cost pressures. Web 2.0 is a low-cost play. Shouldn't that boost adoption?

McAfee: These are comparatively cheap technology initiatives for a couple of reasons. First, the software itself doesn't have a hideous price tag. A lot is freeware--not all of it, by any stretch, but a lot is. Second, you don't need an army of people to populate and configure it before you go live. The beauty of these things is that they self-organize and self-populate over time.

For all those reasons, these are not big-ticket items. In addition to which, one of the use cases for them is to let the community--your employees, your value-chain partners or your customers--help decide what you should do to cut costs and economize, as you try to get through this nasty recession. It's one of the topics you can tee up and let the community help you with.

I keep coming back to a quote by Eric Raymond: "With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." Today we have a lot of bugs, but we have a lot of eyeballs.

How should a newbie to Web 2.0 approach it in terms of internal versus external?

McAfee: First of all, it's not an either/or conversation. You can proceed down both these paths simultaneously. But the first questions I ask, when we talk about your business, are: What problems are you trying to solve? What are your pressing challenges these days? And do you consider them primarily internal, or primarily external? After a pretty short conversation you start to home in on the fact that we really want to be focusing on inside the four walls of the business versus focusing on value-chain partners, or we're really not engaging with customers the way we want to, so we need to build out some sort of Web 2.0 aspect to our public-facing presence.

The interesting thing is that the marketing case seems to be the more obvious one. The thinking is that revenues will go up if you build a stickier community site to take better care of your customers and let them interact. That seems relatively straightforward.

McKinsey just released its latest Web 2.0 in the enterprise study, and they found that most of their respondents were focused on internal efforts--what I would call Enterprise 2.0--and that they were reporting big benefits from those efforts. The gap between the internal and external wasn't huge, if I recall, but the internal benefits were both broader and deeper than the external efforts. I find that really interesting.

The marketing stuff is real. We're dealing with customers and consumers differently; they have different expectations than they used to. If all we're doing is putting up brochure-ware on a Web site, it's a missed opportunity that might come back to bite a company.

But more fundamentally, there are also challenges to gathering and sharing information inside the company, hooking up people with colleagues who could be useful to them, locating sources of expertise, or tapping into collective intelligence. These are all challenges on the levels of reaching out to our customers better. Historically we've had some really lousy technologies for doing these things. Thanks to this new toolkit, we actually have really good technologies now.

What key issues should CIOs consider about Web 2.0?

McAfee: For the comfort of their business colleagues, CIOs need to make sure they understand why they're doing this. What's the business need they're tackling? What benefits are they seeking? CIOs need to be sure they have a plan that calms decision makers and shows them that these are going to be valuable tools.

To convince users, it's important to keep in mind that if you want people to, say, throw away their e-mail and collaborate differently, that's an uphill battle. We need to roll out tools that let people do things they haven't before--broadcast their expertise, broadcast their ignorance, ask a question and get help, build a social network that can be used through the day, and weigh in on a question and take advantage of the wisdom of crowds. We've had lousy technologies for doing those things. The technology toolkit has become better by leaps and bounds.

And people like doing these things if it's easy for them. So the third piece of advice is that, if you're going to roll these things out, they should have three properties. First, they should be frictionless, meaning they're easy to use. One of the things that always appeals to me about Twitter is that from idea to finished tweet takes about 20 seconds. It just couldn't be easier to do, whereas, if we're making people jump through hoops and click and type before they can make their contribution, you're going to see fewer contributions.

Second, they should be free-form. Don't assume the workflow; don't assume who has the authority or expertise. Start these things off as broadly open and egalitarian efforts and see what happens over time.

Third, build in tools to let the patterns and structure become evident. I call this "emergence." With things like linking and tagging, we have ways for the good content to rise to the top, so build those into the tools.


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