Web 2.0 goes corporate

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Web 2.0 goes corporate

Companies look at new ways of interacting with customers.

Almost 80 percent of corporations believe that web 2.0 technologies have the potential to benefit their businesses, according to new research.

The research formed part of a global survey of 406 senior executives from a range of industry sectors conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The survey, sponsored by software developer Fast, aimed to find out how web 2.0 technology is being applied by large corporations throughout the world.

Most respondents believe that the biggest benefit can be seen in transforming the way that customers interact with their companies.

The in-depth interviews with senior executives suggested that large companies are already using web 2.0 tools and methods in a variety of ways.

Companies have focused their efforts primarily on the creation of online communities that can help with product marketing or product development.

In second place is the establishment of blogs or wikis to initiate conversations and share knowledge inside or outside the company.

"The EIU study confirms what we have heard from customers and partners that collaborative web 2.0 technologies are becoming more important to organisations, " said John M Lervik, chief executive of Fast.

"We expect to see a rapid acceleration in web 2.0 adoption as business leaders recognise the value of community-sourced information made accessible and actionable via search technology."

The report also revealed that customers are increasingly helping to develop and support products.

Nearly 60 percent of the surveyed companies indicated that they are inviting customers to contribute content that explains, supports, promotes or enhances their products, or that they plan to do so within the next two years.

"We were surprised at the level of excitement among big firms concerning the commercial possibilities presented by web 2.0," said Dan Armstrong, editor of the EIU report.

"Our survey respondents and interviewees saw web 2.0 as an opportunity, not a threat, and were extremely creative in applying the idea of the collaborative network to their own products and processes."

Hadley Reynolds, vice president and director of Fast's Centre for Search Innovation, explained that Fast sponsored the research to find out how web 2.0 technology was perceived in the corporate world.

"I was surprised at how much web 2.0 has already seeped through to corporations. Three out of four see it as an opportunity. And this is across a range of industries, not just media and marketing," he said.

Reynolds noted that Fast's interest in web 2.0 is based on its own perception of search technology as a key element in its future development.

"Much of what is valuable in this technology is based on search software. We are aware of how earlier attempts at collaborative applications have fallen down because the search tools were not adequate," he said.

"If you look at Lotus Notes or e-room, neither could offer proper search. You need to be able to search across blogs and wikis to make the best use of this technology."

Reynolds added that IT departments will be key to the long-term success of web 2.0, although it will take a while to work through.

"When IT lost the battle with the PC they eventually turned round and embraced it," he said. "The same thing is going to happen with web 2.0, although at the moment there is an element of individuals just going ahead and using it. "
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