If senior management and employees alike could get over their mutual trust issues, Web 2.0 applications -- more specifically, social software -- could take off in the enterprise.
Wikis and blogs have hopped over the consumer market fence into the enterprise backyard. Now social software, which enables employees to create an internal, digital corporate dialogue and workspace, has a promising future, according to a report by the Burton Group ( http://www.burtongroup.com/ ). The question is: Can employers trust workers not to spend too much time surfing, tagging and chatting? And can employees trust each other and senior management enough to publicly share ideas from water-cooler chats and closed-door brainstorming sessions?
If so, enlightened decision-making may make up for what is not yet a clear revenue stream from the applications, analysts predict. The goal is free flowing conversation between top-level management and "social capital" -- meaning everybody else in the corporation. Users could tag external and internal content, blog on group projects, interact in real time and then search the entire forum or use RSS to receive information using their own keywords. The goal is to spin corporate strategy from all ranks of the organization.
What won't work is the senior management attitude, "I know I have treated you terribly for the last 20 years, now tell me everything you know," says Burton Group Analyst Mike Gotta. "You want to build community and relationships so that people feel they should share."
Voila IP Communications is implementing a Web 2.0 application to collaborate with its service-level agreement partners. Using Optaros' open-source software, the company will provide knowledge management and self-service to its partners, who will dialogue with the company, amongst each other and with their clients in the evolving forum.
As with consumer Web 2.0 applications, some companies will face concerns with harnessing misinformation, tag-mania (or too much information) and unusable keywords. In the corporate setting there's also the legal risk of leaking guarded financial information. The answer? Governance, Gotta says. Both "grassroots" steering committees and monitoring by management could help.
If human behavior isn't mature enough yet, the technology may not be either. Watch out for security concerns, possible database issues and a lack of accepted standards for social tagging software. To experiment, analysts recommend inexpensive open-source applications.
Rivka Gewirtz-Little is a freelance writer. E-mail her at [email protected].