Turning Data Chaos Into Business Gold

CIOs shouldn't simply extract information. They should instead derive intelligence about customers, the supply chain, and competitors, then explore new applications that can put that intelligence to use for the business.
Web 2.0 isn't just a set of technologies, but also a group of attributes that have a social dimension: new business models, user-contributed content and metadata, more open and transparent business processes, simple design and features, and decentralized and participatory products and processes. Although Tim O'Reilly has evangelized Web 2.0 and explained many of its concepts well, it remains confusing to most. In many ways, it's a term describing the second generation of the Internet, reflective of the Web's current capabilities. Gartner identifies three key anchor points:

  • Technology and architecture. This encompasses the architecture and the concept of Web platforms. Specific technologies include AJAX, REST, and RSS. Technologists gravitate toward this view.

  • Community and social. This looks at the dynamics surrounding social networks, communities and other personal-content pub/share models, wikis, and other collaborative-content models. Most Web 2.0 adherents adopt this view, focusing on what they call the "architecture of participation."

  • Business and process. This embraces Web service-enabled business models and mash-up/remix applications, including advertising, software as a service, and other subscription models. Businesspeople tend to zero in on this angle.

    Web architecture represents a new paradigm for building, deploying, and running applications. A subset of service-oriented architecture (SOA), it provides a globally linked, decentralized model that's network-centric and extensible. It's currently characterized by technologies like AJAX and the use of next-generation APIs (WS, POX, REST). These can expose elements of a site or application using software as an SOA and composite applications delivered as mash-ups—that is, Web sites or applications that combine content from multiple sources.

    These concepts, currently focused primarily on consumer markets, will impact enterprises as the Internet remains the primary vehicle for consumerization. Web platforms will emerge as vendor-specific implementations of Web architecture that will increasingly define the model for personal and enterprise systems.

    While it's straightforward to add specific technologies like AJAX and RSS to products, platforms, and applications, it's more difficult to add a social dimension, such as user-contributed content, or a new kind of business model if it hasn't been built into the application. Adding these requires rethinking the design of the system, and possibly its target audience. It's therefore more challenging, and Gartner expects adoption within large enterprises—as opposed to startups—to be at a much lower level than the simple incorporation of technology.

    Web 2.0 is consistent with what we refer to as global-class computing—an approach to designing systems and architectures that extends computing processes outside the enterprise and into the culture of consumers, mobile workers, and business partners. Key to this approach is an emphasis on interoperability via Web-based standards. The architecture of the Web, especially as it evolves, can be thought of as the basis for the next generation of global class.—David Mitchell Smith, VP and fellow at Gartner Research