Wikis Grow, Podcasts and Social Bookmarking Slow
Momentum around enterprise Web 2.0 continues to build, but with growth comes complexity. As noted in recent Forrester Research "TechRadar" reports -- from the vendor and user perspectives -- enterprises are finding it increasingly difficult to navigate the ever-expanding Web 2.0 ecosystem. On the one hand, Forrester analyst Oliver Young has produced a report for vendor strategists interested in Web 2.0 involvement; on the flipside, fellow Forrester analyst Gil Yehuda has a report aimed at professionals consuming Web 2.0 resources. Interestingly, the two analysts do find some common ground, as both agree that wikis have an unrecognized enterprise value, and suggest that podcasts and social bookmarking tools are becoming less viable for enterprise consumption. The reports also reveal a contradiction in terms of adoption: Blogs, despite displaying uncertain business value, continue to grow in popularity, but forums, despite a high business value, remain relatively underutilized.
The reports cover 11 common Web 2.0 technologies that can potentially find value in the enterprise:
- prediction markets,
- social networking,
- RSS feeds,
- podcasts, and
- social bookmarks.
"Consumer usage of Web 2.0 tools that invite participation and reward sharing of content provides hope that global collaboration between people who don't even know each other can succeed in an enterprise," writes Yehuda in his TechRadar report, designed for professionals engaged in information and knowledge management. "Unfortunately, some of these tools are not ready for enterprise use. More importantly, many enterprises are not ready to use these tools, either."
"Although it's no longer new, most enterprises still treat Web 2.0 with doubt, waiting to see strong evidence of business value before adopting it within their mainstream business processes," Young writes, citing 2007 research that predicted only one in three firms would be planning to invest in some Web 2.0 technology by the end of that year.
The Forrester analysts divide the 11 Web 2.0 technologies into five phases:
- equilibrium, and
No technologies fell into the decline category and only one is listed as a new creation. The categorization is as follows:
- Microblogs: With Twitter as the most high-profile example, these are on the rise -- Young calls them the "current darlings of media attention" -- but microblogs still have little enterprise-specific adoption. Forrester expects microblogs to become an enterprise feature, not a standalone product.
- Prediction Markets: This technology aggregates information to create meaningful predictions for workers. Forrester expects prediction markets to remain niche for three years and that they will go mainstream if incorporated into larger product sets. As of now, the business value for enterprises is low.
- Social Networks: "We are at the verge at an interesting set of forces," Yehuda says. "Employees in certain demographics -- predominately the younger employees -- already have Facebook accounts and they are finding value in the use of these tools." He goes on to mention that enterprises are evaluating social networks in varying ways. "Some are biting the bullet and are saying we need to provide similar capabilities but inside our own domain." Some are including external social networking. Others are not doing anything at all and may even block networking sites from corporate access. This, Yehuda notes, often leads to employees taking measures into their own hands, which can be risky for the enterprise. Despite the varying degrees of social-network adoption, Yehuda and Young note that in terms of providing value to the enterprise, social networking falls right behind wikis in the "Growth" category. The report shows that social networking is deemed to reach its next phase in one to three years.
- Widgets: The gadget-like tools, often gracing portal homepages such as iGoogle, have had moderate success for the enterprise. Young notes that the widget ecosystem is just now emerging, however he expects the impact of mobile widgets to blossom in the next few years.
- Blogs: "Within the enterprise, blogs have yielded mixed results," Young writes, conveying that blogs will not go away, but that their impact on the enterprise is perhaps not as powerful as intended. He points out that social networks have the potential to breathe new life into blogs, by providing more context.
- Mashups: The business value-add of these informational hybrids is currently low, but the trajectory is moderate. According to the research, the mashup ecosystem is in full swing and will continue to grow as megavendors such as Microsoft, SAP, and IBM endorse mashup features and functionality in upcoming releases.
- RSS: This technology has medium value-add for enterprises, yet it is one that is often overlooked by Web 2.0 adopters. Young suggests that the reason for a lack of adoption is that RSS requires training and slight engineering.
- Wikis: Forrester maintains that wikis have the most growth potential out of all the Web 2.0 technologies, thanks to their ability to solve collaboration and productivity problems. "There are many enterprises that don't have wikis, but we still place them on the growth side because there is plenty of market opportunity -- the market is hardly saturated," Yehuda says. though he notes that wikis have a barrier to adoption: They aren't as intuitive to use as other technologies. Young writes, "A new version of [Microsoft] SharePoint, expected to start adoption in about three years, along with rapid growth in the wiki marketplace, point to a rapid growth phase."
- Forums: The cost to implement a forum is low, but Yehuda compares the effort to getting a free puppy: Nothing really comes for free. "Forum technology is mature and stable," Young writes. "We predict that forms will continue to exist in every enterprise.... The cost to implement a discussion forum is low, and there is a potential for a very high value in many business use cases. However, internal
discussion forums are not viewed to be strategic to many organizations."
- Podcasts: Although the analysts are not referring to podcasts as a declining market, they write that this particular technology has been through its life cycle -- and has failed to take off in the enterprise as predicted. Little innovation is occurring in the marketplace, the analysts report, which leads to in a very low value-add.
- Social Bookmarks: Young writes that the innovation in social bookmarks, as with podcasts, may have run its course. Employees are not viewing consumer-oriented social bookmarking as having a lot of value for the enterprise.
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