Web 2.0 Goes Corporate

Tools like wikis and podcasts can provide significant advantages to a business. But CIOs have been slow to embrace these lightweight Web technologies.

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Content Publishing. The Discovery Channels Educator Network offers Web 2.0 technologies to help teachers share ideas. Among them are Six Apart Ltd.'s TypePad service for blogging, StikiPad Inc.'s StikiPad for wikis, iLike Inc.'s GCast for podcasts, Simulat Inc.'s Vyew live conferencing tool and Yahoo Inc.'s Flickr photo-sharing application.

Some teachers who recently went to South Africa and New Zealand as part of the Discovery Educator Abroad project used Flickr to post their photos, for example.

"They're tools to communicate with other teachers," says Dembo, noting that Web 2.0 technologies are easy to use. "With these kinds of tools, anyone can jump in."

Basho Strategies draws clients and potential clients to its Web site with a blog where visitors can read sales-related commentary from Basho executives and post feedback. In addition, Basho clients can subscribe to an RSS feed of podcasts on sales tactics.

"Our clients respond very well to the personal approach. Blogging and podcasts are a natural extension of that," says Hoffmann.

Inherent Limitations

Despite the benefits of Web 2.0 tools, smart corporate users realize that they cant effectively replace face-to-face and phone contact between people. For example, at RT Logic, engineers make use of wikis for internal collaboration, but the company has so far eschewed implementing Web 2.0 for customer communication. Currently, if a corporate client wants to find out how a product is progressing, he has to call a lead engineer at RT Logic to discuss it.

Sullivan says that the company has considered implementing a blog for customers. One possibility was to have engineers post updates on the status of projects and allow customers to log into their own project blogs and get updates anytime they wanted, rather than playing phone tag with the engineers.

Another idea was to allow customers to go online and file their own change requests for product features, or post requests and questions to a wiki, where RT Logic engineers would answer them.

While both ideas seem tempting, RT Logic managers have so far decided against them, reasoning that Web 2.0 tools might actually impede good communication with customers. "It puts a layer of separation between our engineers and our customers," Sullivan explains.

"We like the feedback we get when we have direct communication with our customers. We're able to ask more direct questions and get to the root of the problem."

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