Friday, March 6, 2009

Look to Web 2.0 Tools for the Next Evolution in Employee Productivity

Some companies are finally realizing that Web 2.0 is more than just friends re-connecting on Facebook or people Tweeting that their plane just touched down. One day, and it’s coming sooner than you think, Web 2.0 apps (wikis, blogs, podcasts, etc) will also be used by many organizations to improve worker morale, collaboration and productivity.

In fact quite a few innovative companies have been using Web 2.0 tools for several years now for those very purposes. As much was confirmed from a recent survey fielded by McKinsey of 50+ companies. Analysis of the survey can be found on their Quarterly magazine Web site.

Most of the surveyed companies are still figuring out how to integrate Web 2.0 into their organizations. This is to be expected with any disruptive technology. A few adventurous innovators get the ball rolling; they in turn influence the early adopters who validate the innovators and so on. Eventually, the new technologies and the myriad applications they hatch become widely adopted. Thus goes the technology adoption lifecycle.

To me what makes the report so useful was the identification of two factors that can make or break a corporate Web 2.0 initiative (the report actually identifies six factors but I think these two are the most important):

  1. The best Web 2.0 initiatives originate with users, not management - for anyone who has designed a Web site this makes complete sense. It’s hard for even the best designer to know what users want without an in depth understanding of their needs. In the context of Web 2.0, it appears this input best comes in the form of the types of grass roots apps front-line employees develop on their own
  2. "What’s in the workflow is what gets used” – the survey revealed that employees will not adopt new tools if they are outside of the work processes they are used to using and will view these tools as increasing, not decreasing, their workload

These findings validate Forrester’s highly practical POST approach to planning social technology programs which I highly recommend:

Most companies still don’t know what to do with this new Web 2.0 phenomenon. As a result, they either do nothing out of fear of doing it wrong, or they plan big, management led initiatives that have little chance of success. Hopefully McKinsey’s report will help companies avoid both scenarios.

Personally, I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to wade through endless emails and convoluted shared network folders to get my work done.

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