Web 2.0 on the Inside

In past blog postings we've talked about grassroots marketing as part of Web 2.0. A recent McKinsey report talks about adoption of Web 2.0 as part of a grassroots initiative within a company, and for a company. I find it interesting that Web 2.0 applications are not only changing the relationship between customers and companies, they are also changing the relationships among employees within a company.

Among Web 2.0 technologies, collaboration and communications technologies are the clear winners. I’ve “snipped” some interesting stuff from the McKinsey report (which you can see in full
here, once you subscribe for free):

Wikis, which involves software enabling a group of people to contribute to an online document, encourage collaboration within companies, in particular for developing shared knowledge. One executive noted that they are particularly useful to develop a commonly agreed-upon terminology set - starting from the centre and translated into terms that are meaningful in specific end users' contexts. Wikis are also appealing because they capture anecdotal or unstructured information that might otherwise be lost, either because there was no way to capture it or the organization has outgrown its ability to gather and share knowledge informally.

Blogs were mentioned by many executives, as a way to communicate with customers and engage with critics, and therefore performing a productive discursive role. Some companies were also using mash-ups (combinations of two technologies to create a new application), such as displaying locations or photographs on maps, to address customer demands. Mash-ups using Google maps are one of my particular favourites because they are so easy to implement and they visually create a de-facto sense of community.

In an online discussion meant to derive insight from the quantitative results in the McKinsey report, it became clear that the ease of adoption of Web 2.0 was driving the grassroots push for communication and collaboration tools. One discussion participant claimed: "These projects started at the grassroots level, however the value was rapidly demonstrated."

The ease of exploring and adapting Web 2.0 technologies are elements that help advocates avoid typical implementation barriers. Among many respondents (described as Senior Executives), top-down management was seen as a hindrance, and that the best role for senior management was one of enabling adoption and setting of boundaries.

Measuring the impact of newly implemented Web 2.0 initiatives is not so straightforward, however. Some respondents were unable to claim that the use of Web 2.0 was providing clear competitive advantages. Other respondents claimed more qualitative effects such as engaging customers for product-development ideas and encouraging interest in collaboration and a stronger sense of community.

This last point brings us back to where I began. Web 2.0 is about enabling participation from all quarters, and this is the crux of how it is changing communications, business and communities.

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