Making Web 2.0 work for you


THE BATTLE to integrate Web 2.0 tools into day-to-day business practices will continue to be a significant issue for companies, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) new technology forecasts.

As a term, Web 2.0 has been in existence since 2003. It was coined to describe new ways of social interaction and sharing information in different ways, such as blogs, wikis, widgets, social networks, mashups and bookmarking. The distinguishing characteristic from previous web technologies is interaction.

The PwC report points to one problem with social networking platforms - much of the activity on the consumer web is frivolous and some of the companies experimenting with social software seem preoccupied with the superficial aspects of it.

According to Ciarán Kelly, head of performance improvement consulting at PwC, both sides of Web 2.0 need to be mixed. Instant messaging could take care of the more "small talk" aspects of communication and sharing.

"There is a huge amount of noise in terms of the amount of information people are being hit by with BlackBerrys, voicemail, IM, webmail and so on. With so much communications incoming it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. I think what Web 2.0 is attempting to do is distil that noise into information that is relevant to you."

PwC has been using Web 2.0 technologies - specifically internal blogs - to solicit ideas and suggestions for how to make the company a better place to work. Previously, an e-mail would have been circulated. However, the nature of blog entries means that ideas are developed more organically.

Kelly underlines the importance of being able to share information quickly and organically by positing a scenario where government could use Web 2.0 tools for a procurement strategy. For example, if a department had to buy watercoolers, PCs, telephony and so on, it could informally set up a collaboration mechanism across all departments asking who else had bought similar items and how much they had paid for them.

"We do have clients who are using the social networking side of things, similar to . . . intranets, to share this type of information, particularly around procurement. Considering the economic environment we're in that's a very powerful tool.

"If you actually introduced an information-sharing method like you can do with Web 2.0 facilities, results will come a lot quicker - and they are real results."

According to Forrester Research, enterprise spending on social networking alone is forecast to rise by 66 per cent annually from 2007 to 2013.

It also said 51 per cent of global 2000 companies expect to buy Web 2.0 tools in 2008 as they start to see Web 2.0's media promise as an additional communications channel for types of information exchange less easily facilitated by other media.

But will Ireland see similar increases in the adoption of these new communications techniques? And will the methods of how companies interact with and share information be very different by 2013?

According to Kelly there will be a number of drivers, one being Ireland's relatively young population and the amount of time wasted on rummaging through e-mail detritus.

"This tech would bring cost reduction and efficiencies. It will require a level of investment that might be difficult in the current financial outlook, but it would be justifiable.

"I think Ireland will be consistent with the international forecast. There are great opportunities in this for Irish companies."