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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Security Concerns

There are also lingering concerns about Web 2.0 in the corporate setting. Hawaiian Airlines' Osborne worries that uncontrolled use of wikis and blogs could lead to unsuitable content being distributed. "Were not going to let people just have a free go at everything. There's liability around that," he says.

So the airline will implement an approval process for creating wikis, as well as employ the security features in SharePoint to control who can post content.

David Osborne

David Osborne,

CIO, Hawaiian Airlines Experts note that it isn't that difficult to set up a controlled Web 2.0 environment. "Some feel that it will expose more problems to a wider audience, but a wiki can be managed and monitored in a central place," says Jim Murphy, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston.

In fact, most of the products aimed at businesses have features for setting up role-based access rights for various users. But the flip side is that too much security can negate the benefits of Web 2.0. "If youre trying to create an open, collaborative community and you lock it down, you won't have one," says Murphy.

Another issue is that many Web 2.0 applications are hosted services. The idea of having a blog, wiki or even a podcast with private company content on someone elses server can make executives nervous.

Hosted service providers offer security measures, of course, such as SSL encryption, passwords, firewalls, backups and archiving, but if those aren't sufficient, it's often possible to buy the software and bring it in-house. Thats what Manning & Napier did after upper management expressed concerns about security.

"We were getting [Socialtext] through the Internet gateway, but the powers that be said it had to be behind the firewall," says Herrmann.

Here Come the Big Boys

Until recently, the Web 2.0 market was dominated by smaller vendors. But the major players have begun adding Web 2.0 capabilities to their existing products. Microsofts SharePoint Server 2007 has templates for wikis and blogs. Last November, Intel Corp. introduced the SuiteTwo Web 2.0 package, which combines technologies such as Six Apart's Movable Type for blogging, Socialtext wikis, NewsGator for RSS feed reading and SimpleFeed for RSS feed publishing, all integrated by SpikeSource Inc.IBM, Oracle Corp. and Google Inc. are all adding various Web 2.0 features. (See "The Grill: Steve Mills," page 20.)

As Web 2.0 becomes part of leading business applications, more organizations are likely to adopt them. According to a recent survey by Forrester Research Inc., large organizations prefer to purchase Web 2.0 products from incumbent vendors. Of the 119 CIOs surveyed, 71% said they would like to buy them from a major vendor, and 74% said they would prefer to get Web 2.0 technologies as a suite.

In other words, businesses dont want a collection of Web 2.0 tools; they want an "Enterprise 2.0" platform. One key reason for this is a desire to have complete interoperability and integration with existing business systems.

As Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz explains, "If youve already chosen the vendor [for your enterprise platform], then youve already made a decision about security, directory services and operating systems. So generally, youll have everything in place."

Support and maintenance is another motivation for buying from a single vendor. "Its much easier to manage one piece of technology that is integrated and runs on one box," Osborne explains.

Whatever you ultimately decide, the time to start considering Web 2.0 is now. "Were at the stage where its so easy to experiment that it's almost a liability," Murphy says. "You don't want people going down the wrong path with a tool that isn't usable in the long run."

The best move that a CIO can make, he says, is to start asking department managers what Web 2.0 functionality they need, and find the common denominators that will dictate which products to purchase. Then make a decision before your employees do.

CIOs Vote For Web 2.0 Suites

Would you be more interested in Web 2.0 technologies if offered as a suite?
More Interested
  74%
Doesn't Matter
  22%
Less Interested
  3%
Don't Know
  1%

Would you be more interested in Web 2.0 technologies if offered by a major incumbent vendor?

More Interested
  71%
Doesn't Matter
  26%
Less Interested
  3%
Don't Know
  1%
Base: 119 U.S. CIOs. Percentages may not total 100 because of rounding.

Source: Forrester Research Inc. March 2007

Hildreth is a freelance journalist specializing in enterprise software. Contact her at Sue.Hildreth@comcast.net.

For more about next-generation Web tools in the enterprise, see our Web 2.0 Security special report.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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