16 Jun Only one excuse left to avoid Web 2.0, says Forrester's Brian Haven
Copyright © 2008,
Forrester Research, Inc.
Madison, Wis. – There is only one remaining excuse for C-suite executives to resist the introduction of online collaborative tools in their workplaces, according to Brian Haven, a senior analyst for Forrester Research. In this interview with WTN, which was conducted at the recent Brandworks University in Madison, Haven not only identified that excuse but offered some advice to CIOs who want to provide business value through online social tools.
WTN: Put yourself in the position of a CIO who knows collaboration technologies have value, especially to retain and attract younger workers. How do you make the business case to a reluctant CEO?
Haven: One of the great benefits of this technology is that a lot of it is cheap, so starting small [and] finding one little thing to test out. The CIO is going to have a lot of ideas about what could potentially happen, and to really do it at enterprise scale is going to potentially cost a lot of money, cost a lot of resources. But to start off, pick one thing, one thing small that you can target with either a group of employees, whether you’re trying to get to the point where you’re enticing young employees, or maybe it’s an outward-facing tool or solution for customers.
Picking something small and simple and working with that, and then coming back and measuring, making sure you track how did it work? What did we learn? What works and what doesn’t? Ask people for feedback and take all that inside to go back to the CEO and start to build the case: Look, we tried this real simple thing here. It didn’t cost us really anything, but here are some insights and now we can take it to the next step, and I think that’s how you start to win them over.
WTN: Can you give an example of that?
Haven: The General Motors Fast-Lane blog. That’s an example where an individual said we should start a blog but the company wasn’t ready to do it. The CEO said no, we’re not going to go there. And so, inevitably, that person created a smaller blog for the 50th anniversary of the Chevy small-block engine. They created something small. It was inexpensive and they did a lot of research on it within their small team, so they weren’t sacrificing anything. It was low-risk if something went wrong and there was a very isolated group of customers, and they measured everything they could. They took that back, that insight, and made the case to the CEO. They said, look, we’ve already done this. Here’s what people want, here is how it works, and that eventually turned into the Fast-Lane blog.
That was a marketing person that did that, but there is no reason why the CIO, who actually has a much closer relationship with the technology, obviously, can’t hopefully make a better case to the CEO.
WTN: So workers crave it, the technology is mature, and you can start small and build. Is there really any excuse not to do this?
Haven: The only excuse to not do it, I would say, is that nobody needs it or wants it. You have to do some sort of observational research to understand the audience for this and what are they trying to accomplish. That may not mean that a blog is the right thing, or that may not mean that a social networking community of some sort is the right thing. There may be some other tool that may be Web 2.0-like that provides value. So the only reason I’d say, no don’t, is because you want to be sure you’re not providing something just for the sake of providing it, or providing everything. Here is the whole slew of all the different social things you could do, have fun. What am I supposed to do with that? People need to have a purpose, and I think that’s the most important thing.
WTN: Is that true both internally and with customers?
Haven: Absolutely. It’s probably a greater risk initially with customers because that’s outward-facing. Internally, it could just cause problems, hurdles, and confusion, or you might create something great but didn’t implement it in the exactly the right way because you didn’t know why people weren’t using it or you didn’t know what you needed to accomplish. And you did this great thing that actually was useful, but nobody used it because they didn’t understand how or why it was supposed to happen. And then you can kind of start to build ill will in the organization if you’re spinning a lot of wheels trying to create this stuff without any purpose. That’s certainly a risk.
WTN: Are we making a false generational assumption when we say younger workers are more inclined to want these tools?
Haven: There’s an element of that, but in the public forums that we know of – a social network, or I put up my picture and information about myself and I talk to other people, or the blog where I write all my ideas and people comment – those forums, it’s easy to say, okay, there is a generational element. But fundamentally, if people need to communicate with one another, and if a web tool is going to help achieve that, age isn’t going to matter. You just don’t necessarily want it to look like MySpace or Facebook in form because it’s a community and people need a tool to communicate.
We can use the technology and mask it in a way that it just serves that purpose and so at that point I don’t think it’s a generational thing at all. It’s more about what goals are people trying to achieve and how can we help them achieve them?
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