IT Execs Cite Ways to Lure Users to Web 2.0

This version of this story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

BOSTON -- Conventional wisdom says that the Generation Y workforce is demanding Enterprise 2.0 tools such as wikis and social networks while stodgy, baby boomer executives are stifling those requests.

In fact, said a panel of Web 2.0 veteran executives at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference here last week, the biggest challenge is convincing end users of all ages to use the new technology.

Wachovia Corp. turned to organizational psychologists, communications personnel and others to identify potential problems before launching its Web 2.0 project two years ago.

Nevertheless, the Charlotte, N.C.-based financial services firm "still underestimated the change impact," said Pete Fields, director of e-business. "Change management is the biggest threat" to a successful corporate implementation, he added.

Wachovia did overcome the obstacles and has now rolled out wikis, blogs and employee social profiles to half its workforce. Fields said that all 120,000 Wachovia employees should have access to the Web 2.0 tools by the end of this year.

Don Burke, doyen of Intellipedia, the CIA's Wikipedia-like project, said that middle managers at first resisted the spy agency's effort to offer the Web 2.0 tools to employees.

"Middle management is about making the trains run on time," Burke noted. "Their job is to do today's job. The incentives in our hierarchy are not designed to leverage these kind of fundamental changes."

The agency responded by moving slowly, which helped it gain support over the past two-plus years. The collaboration system now includes a YouTube-like video channel and a Flickr-like photo-sharing feature.

Pfizer Inc. gained support from leery users by selecting a group of early adopters, or "Enterprise 2.0 consultants," to convince skeptics in its various lines of business, said Simon Revell, manager of Enterprise 2.0 development.

"The trick for us was to provide them the support needed to get this off the ground," he said.

Now, as the drug company adds a social network to its two-year-old Web 2.0 portfolio, "the biggest challenge for me is expectations management," says Revell. "I sense there is a frustration that [the project] is not moving more quickly."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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