Maximize the Chances of a Web 2.0 Success

Do you sometimes get the feeling that there’s a little “irrational exuberance” surrounding Web 2.0?  If so, you’re in good company.  The McKinsey Quarterly has released a new report, Six ways to make Web 2.0 work, which takes an honest look at the results of a survey they conducted of early adopters of Web 2.0 technology.  Their survey indicates that the reviews are mixed on Web 2.0 deployments:

To date, as many survey respondents are dissatisfied with their use of Web 2.0 technologies as are satisfied. Many of the dissenters cite impediments such as organizational structure, the inability of managers to understand the new levers of change, and a lack of understanding about how value is created using Web 2.0 tools.

For those of you at the early stages of Web 2.0 or just contemplating jumping into social media, the authors of the report helpfully suggest six strategies that should improve your chances of a successful Web 2.0 deployment inside your organization:

  1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top. Even though this is an emergent process, don’t underestimate the huge benefits from having organizational leaders model use of the tools.
  2. The best uses come from users—but they require help to scale. Management doesn’t always know exactly how best to use the tools.  Therefore, give the users lots of scope to experiment.  And, when they find a productive use for the tools, give them the support necessary to scale up.
  3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used. “Google is an instructive case …. It has modified the way work is typically done and has made Web tools relevant to how employees actually do their jobs. The company’s engineers use blogs and wikis as core tools for reporting on the progress of their work. Managers stay abreast of their progress and provide direction by using tools that make it easy to mine data on workflows. Engineers are better able to coordinate work with one another and can request or provide backup help when needed. The easily accessible project data allows senior managers to allocate resources to the most important and time-sensitive projects.”
  4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs—not just their wallets. Lee Bryant recently referred to ego projection as the key to ensuring lawyer participation in Web 2.0 technologies within law firms.  According to McKinsey, addressing the need for recognition and status is a more effective means of ensuring participation than offering financial incentives or performance feedback for participation.
  5. The right solution comes from the right participants. “Targeting users who can create a critical mass for participation as well as add value is another key to success.”
  6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk. “Prudent managers should work with the legal, HR, and IT security functions to establish reasonable policies, such as prohibiting anonymous posting. Fears are often overblown, however, and the social norms enforced by users in the participating communities can be very effective at policing user exchanges and thus mitigating risks.”

While these survey results and the attendant advice aren’t completely unexpected, they are a good reminder that the technology cannot by itself solve all your problems.  You do need to plan carefully for success.  That said, there is a little magic that happens when you connect people across a network using well-designed tools and then allow those folks room to bend the tools to their needs. Once you’ve experienced the magic, it’s hard to contain your enthusiasm.  So I ask you to please forgive my occasional lapses into irrational exuberance.

[Photo Credit:  TONI.R, Creative Commons license]

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