Business Value Of Web 2.0 Tools Hard To Measure

Business IT pros said Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, generated the highest value while blogging produced the lowest, the Forrester Research survey shows.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

July 27, 2007

3 Min Read

While Web 2.0 technologies are beginning to take root in businesses, measuring the value of the cutting-edge tools remain elusive for most companies, a research firm said Friday.

Nearly two out of three IT decision-makers surveyed by Forrester Research said their companies used traditional value metrics, such as return on investment and total cost of ownership, to evaluate success or failure of Web 2.0 deployments. Yet, rather than point to hard facts, such as support center calls offset by a self-service rich Internet application or Web site traffic from an RSS feed, respondents more often pointed to softer benefits, such as business efficiency and competitive advantage as the true value of Web 2.0 in their companies.

As a result, Forrester believes that many businesses will shy away from adopting Web 2.0 tools, or wait to expand their use, until they are able to better quantify the business value. The researcher's finding was in line with a recent survey by InformationWeek, which found more than half of business technology pros either skeptical about blogs, wikis, online social networks, and other new Web tools, or willing -- but wary -- about adopting them.

In the magazine survey, business technologists were concerned about security, return on investment, and the staffs' skills in implementing and integrating new Web tools. Forrester, on the other hand, found that busy IT departments are likely to pass over Web 2.0 projects without tangible business value justification. As one large company CIO quoted in the Forrester report said, "We've got so many things we are asked to deliver for the organization right now ... if you can't put together a good business case that has some cost benefit justification, it's difficult to get those types of efforts launched."

Forrester surveyed 275 IT pros on their firms' Web 2.0 implementations and found that Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, was the highest value technology, with nearly one in four reporting "substantial value." RSS was most frequently used for corporate communications or content aggregation, while one in three respondents said it was used for external marketing.

Blogging, on the other hand, impressed the decision-makers the least, with only 11 % saying it had substantial value. Nearly half of the respondents, however, found moderate value in blogging, an indication that the technology drove good, but not transformational, value, Forrester said. The analyst firm believed the findings pointed to a misuse of blogging. "Many business users still associate blogs with personal diaries, and some firms use blogs simply as a way to surface existing content, muting the effect," the report by Forrester analyst G. Oliver Young said.

None of the Web 2.0 tools matched the value of another technology that took root with consumers -- instant messaging. Fully, 37% of respondents reported substantial value from IM, compared with an average of just 16% for the other Web 2.0 tools.

The survey focused on companies that had deployed RSS, podcasting, wikis, social networks or blogs. Forrester found that companies that had deployed all five got the biggest bang for their buck, while those that deployed two or three tools saw the least average value. "This suggests that firms need to adopt a 'critical mass' of Web 2.0 technologies before the deployments truly start to pay off," the report said.

Respondents also said that no single Web 2.0 technology was maximized until other, complementary technology was added. Blogging, for example, was less effective without RSS. Forrester, however, could not find any "killer combination" of tools.

Because of the absence of a clear favorite combination, the most likely driver of adoption was positive feedback from users. If decision-makers saw high value from one tool, then they were more likely to take on a second, third or fourth, Forrester said.

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