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Selling Web 2.0 To IT Wed 10 Dec 08

IT departments are still skeptical of social networks, wikis and widgets

Web2 One of my favorite bloggers, Eric Brown, recently wrote a great post, "Web 2.0 in the Enterprise." He states that even though companies are using more Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networks and widgets, to reach employees and customers, there aren't a lot of successful implementations so far.

"Why are so many organizations failing at Web 2.0?" Brown wrote. His answer: "Poor technology strategy and a poor understanding of what value the available technologies can really bring to the company."

Based on that statement, I left a comment referencing some of my past columns [See "Why Companies Need Web. 2.0"] that suggested ways Web 2.0 could be used in the enterprise. I also stated that I believe IT would need to "sell" this concept within the enterprise.

How do you plan to sell Web 2.0 to IT? Let us know in the Reader Comments section.

Brown agreed and responded to my comment by saying, "If we sell it correctly, the enterprise should pick it up well."

However, he then went on to say something that gave me pause. "The problem is that I've found is many in IT don't understand the power of Web 2.0 and many are even scared of the technologies," Brown wrote. "I think we need to sell Web 2.0 into the IT groups, then sell it into the enterprise."

Wait a minute! We're the technology guys. We shouldn't need to sell technology concepts to our own. I mean, of all people, we get technology. Don't we?

But the more I thought about it, the more it appears that Brown is onto something. Sure, small, nimble IT organizations and tech companies may have readily adopted Web 2.0 but "corporate" IT isn't known for being early adopters of technology, especially Web 2.0.

Corporate IT with big enterprise systems like Oracle and SAP, and their corresponding organizational processes and structures, have been slow to fully adopt Web 2.0. There are a number of reasons, mainly cultural, that come into play.

  • Size: Web 2.0 applications tend to be smaller, more focused and stand-alone. Corporate IT likes big ERP systems with all their integration and complexity. It's similar to the Detroit fascination with the muscle car mystique. There is nothing wrong with big ERP systems (or muscle cars, either) except when you focus on them in your operations to the exclusion of all other alternatives.
  • Control: Web 2.0 technologies can appear threatening because they requires IT to give up control in two ways. First, most Web 2.0 applications operate on the Internet, in the "cloud," so IT can sometimes find it hard to accept that the application is not running on the company's servers inside its data center. Second, one of the hallmarks of Web 2.0 is that users add value and control the content. Wikis are a great example of this; users set them up, and add and edit content without IT involvement.
  • Boundaries: Web 2.0 is about communication and collaboration. Often this takes place across the usual boundaries of departmental organization and sometimes outside the company, too. It is this last part in particular that can be of concern for IT. Charged with data protection, how do we let people communicate and collaborate with those outside of the company and make sure that valuable company data is properly protected?
  • A new way of thinking: At its heart, Web 2.0 requires a new way of thinking about the inherent technology and also the respective roles of IT and the user community. It is a change. As we all know, change can be difficult and has to be managed.

The good news is that we do see corporate IT slowly taking a look at adopting Web 2.0 technologies. However, acceptance isn't just about understanding the technical details of Web 2.0. Before we can truly get corporate IT to accept Web 2.0, we need to address these cultural issues and show the benefits to users.

Once we do this, I think we'll see corporate IT not only accepting Web 2.0 but actively promoting it within its user community.

How do you plan to sell Web 2.0 to IT?

This article is also posted on Forbes.com.  Feel free to join in the discussion either on this site or at Forbes.com

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