Who's in Charge of Web 2.0?

Having trouble telling your widget from your wiki? Chances are the IT department knows what’s what. Emerging Web 2.0 technologies -- which in many instances have been introduced through bootstrapping by individual departments -- are now gaining ground throughout the enterprise. Notably spearheading many of these latest deployments, according to an analyst at Forrester Research, is an IT department that may have felt circumvented by some early-stage Web 2.0 applications.

In a new report entitled "IT Departments Play Key Role in the Acquisition and Deployment of Web 2.0 Technologies," analyst Oliver Young reveals some findings that are not all that surprising: Web 2.0 tools are gaining recognition. What's interesting is where the deployments and implementations are now getting their start, and how they're taking off.

"The role of IT as an adopter and cheerleader for Web 2.0 tools is an important one," Young writes. "However, IT’s role as an enabler and facilitator of Web 2.0 tools is even more important. Despite the growing acceptance of [software-as-a-service], few lines of business are raring to circumvent their IT department, and those that do will likely have to scramble for an explanation as soon as the project starts to take off." Young writes that while marketing and corporate communications departments were quick to embrace Web 2.0 initiatives -- many of which, after all, focus on communication -- IT departments are picking up the gauntlet and are now taking a leadership role in deployments. This shift, he says, is evience of IT's increasing presence in the operational business landscape.  

"Budgetary controls, the need for integration and technical skills, and the growing importance of Web 2.0 tools are putting IT departments in the driver’s seat," Young writes. "Technology product managers and marketers will need to not only deal with these departments but also appeal to them outright." And i the context of getting a Web 2.0 project greenlighted, the line-of-business personnel are well aware of the benefits of winning the favor of the IT staff, Young notes: Web 2.0 successes lead to closing more deals and shortening the sales cycle. Last year, Forrester predicted that IT departments would step up and take charge with Web 2.0; this time around, Oliver writes that the actuality exceeded predictions, citing the large number of IT professionals attending Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 conferences in recent months.

A Forrester survey of IT professionals shows that 63 percent of them expect Web 2.0 to have a moderate or substantial impact over the next three years. Still, despite how top-of-mind the emerging technologies have become, some statistics suggest that IT may not be overly knowledgeable about the applications themselves. For instance, when asked how familiar they are with mashups, 32 percent of respondents said, "I’ve heard of the technology but I am not too familiar." A whopping 41 percent said, "I’ve never heard of the technology."  

Forrester sees this gap -- which may negatively impact the customer experience -- as a potential opportunity for vendors, particularly in consulting and professional services. "Building and marketing a robust services arm to help with integration, customization, and security will be critical in helping those departments inhibited by a lack of Web 2.0 skills," Young writes. "Furthermore, many customers will be willing to pay you for the privilege."

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