The New Reality for Customer Engagement
Setting up a simple blog, wiki or mashup isn't rocket science. Which is why IT departments need to seize this trend, lest it overwhelm them.
While businesses sort out which tools make sense where, IT departments and Web teams need a more concrete strategy, not only to ensure security and compliance requirements are met, but also to provide users with the underlying IT architecture, components, education and training they need to get the most from Web 2.0. To embed Web 2.0 technologies into the fabric of the company, General Motors relies on a combination of process information officers working in different functional areas, and CIOs working in each of the company's different businesses. Says CTO Killeen: "The combination of PIOs understanding processes and CIOs understanding how they need to be integrated end-to-end across the business helps us globally understand the innovation opportunities."
Sun Microsystems' Sasaki says a big change with Web 2.0 is the speed with which development groups can implement projects. "In the past, most CIOs' development projects took 12 months to 24 months. Now we can get a new Web application out in a weekend. It's okay if it isn't perfect; we can rapidly modify it." He points to Sun's open-source blog infrastructure, called Blogger, as an example. "We found that blogging is interesting to users but hard to sustain," he says. Sun has since modified its blogging platform to add features such as group blogging, which lets more than one user contribute.
Companies can easily avail themselves of existing Web services to set up blogs or other Web 2.0-style capabilities without having to do a lot of development, says Sasaki. "It's the Salesforce.com [software as a service] model," he says. "The company focuses on its core business while utilizing available services for everything else."
One reason so many people speak of Google Maps and Web 2.0 in the same breath is that, early on, Google Inc. published a Web service with application program interfaces to its maps. But Google Maps aren't the only data out there that can be "mashed up," says IBM's Boloker, noting that large IT departments have been building service-oriented interfaces to their data for more than three years. They can take enterprise data, mash it up with data that's publicly Web-accessible, and plot it in a new way. "You couldn't build that kind of application five years ago without a lot of people writing a lot of code," says Boloker. Now with service-oriented interfaces it's fairly straightforward.
Boloker imagines that enterprises will eventually provide an IT-approved catalog of Web 2.0 business components from which users can choose. The IT department will be then charged with ensuring adherence to any security, governance or regulatory requirements.
Forrester Research Inc. analyst John Rymer cautions enterprise IT groups to consider scalability requirements when implementing social-networking sites, and performance issues when rolling out Internet applications using Ajax. "You may wind up deploying an Ajax-based Internet application on a commerce site that has lots of interactivity and a rich user interface, but with such slow performance it chases customers away," he says. He also foresees more work for IT organizations as companies integrate Web 2.0 technologies with older, existing systems.
When it comes to integrating Web 2.0 capabilities into the enterprise infrastructure, GM's Killeen says: "I am less concerned about technology readiness than cultural readiness. We've introduced tools in the past that wound up on the junk pile because they didn't resonate with people's mindset and culture." GM is now using pilot projects to illustrate how Web 2.0 capabilities can help improve collaboration. For example, Killeen says, because vehicle identification numbers will start repeating by 2010, "we need architectural solutions to remediate that problem, and we need to collaborate to come up with solutions." A combination of Web-based discussion groups and a wiki have been enlisted to help.
For Sasaki, the biggest challenge is just how far and how quickly he can move with Web 2.0 capabilities while balancing security and identity management concerns. "I would never have predicted the popularity of MySpace or YouTube," he says. "To get online at midnight and see 12 million other people is shocking. What are the trends in the consumer space, among teenagers and under-25s, that will become trends for the enterprise? CIOs may find it necessary to spin out a new organization just to focus on these issues."
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