For all the mind-numbing buzz about Web. 2.0, most business collaboration and information-sharing remains mired in endless e-mail strings and conference calls. More than half of the business technology pros surveyed by InformationWeek, a CMP Technology property, are either skeptical about tools such as blogs, wikis and online social networks, or they're willing but wary of adopting them.
Business technologists are concerned about security, return on investment and their staffs' skill in implementing and integrating new Web tools. But despite the challenges, a solid minority of the 250 business technology pros surveyed by InformationWeek are behind the IT strategy push, which has come to be known as Enterprise 2.0. In fact, nearly a third (32 percent) of respondents describe their Web 2.0 strategies as fully engaged.
Within a few years, rich, collaborative software platforms that include a slate of technologies -- such as wikis, blogs, integrated search and unified communications -- likely will be the norm. Employees will expect to work that way, and it'll be up to IT to solve the still- significant problems and deliver.
While some financial services companies, such as San Francisco-based Wells Fargo ($482 billion in assets), are plunging into Enterprise 2.0, it still is an emerging technology. While Wells Fargo is using blogs to give executives an informal channel for employee and customer discussions, and RSS feeds to funnel news into a CRM system, its attempt to build a presence inside Second Life -- a virtual community called Stagecoach Island -- to get young people involved with the brand and learn about personal finance has not seen much traction.
So how should an IT team approach an Enterprise 2.0 strategy? One way is to carve it into two main areas. The first is Web-based information-sharing -- think business versions of Wikipedia, MySpace and Flickr. A growing number of companies are finding effective business uses for blogs, wikis, syndicated feeds, pervasive search, social networking and collaborative content portals (such as SharePoint). For example, wikis, which let multiple people access and edit a document online, are widely used at 6 percent of the companies in InformationWeek's survey and are used effectively by a few employees at 25 percent of companies.
The second area is voice and messaging, where Voice Over IP, instant messaging, videoconferencing and unified communications can make it possible to connect people in more relevant ways. Unified communications entails the blending of voice, video and messages, coupled with functionality such as embedded click-to-call links in documents, and the ability to see if colleagues and partners are available to chat. It's widely used at 13 percent of companies surveyed.
Security Comes First
Widespread adoption of Web 2.0 tools, however, still looks to be well off: 74 percent of organizations "widely use" fewer than three of the 13 technologies highlighted in the study. For Enterprise 2.0 to get anywhere, businesses must first ensure that these apps do not expose them to regulatory or legal action. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (64 percent) cite security as a challenge.
Wells Fargo employees are embracing hundreds of blogs to brainstorm with one another and interact with customers. Yet on another Enterprise 2.0 front, integrated search, the company has limited employees' ability to search across data repositories because of the complex authorization schemes needed to keep people from accessing information they shouldn't. About 80 percent of development and deployment time for customer-facing and internal tools is spent on security measures, such as authentication and authorization, says Steve Ellis, EVP of Wells Fargo's wholesale solutions group.