By Stuart Wilson
Expect to see some cutting-edge technologies on display at this year’s show as Saudi Arabia shows its appetite for the latest and greatest ICT solutions. You’ve heard the buzz about Web 2.0, but what does it actually mean in the enterprise IT environment?
|~|day1exit200.gif|~||~|Expect to see some cutting-edge technologies on display at this year’s show as Saudi Arabia shows its appetite for the latest and greatest ICT solutions. You’ve heard the buzz about Web 2.0, but what does it actually mean in the enterprise IT environment? And what does it mean in the Saudi Arabian market, where some might argue that the majority of businesses actually need to get to grips with Web 1.0 first?
Don’t be surprised to see terms such as ‘Security 2.0’ and ‘Enterprise 2.0’ enter the mainstream IT vocabulary in 2007 as business blogs, workplace wikis and social networking leave internet aficionados licking their lips about process optimisation, delivered through online collaboration and social networking systems. It all sounds so slick doesn’t it – a long overdue return to the good ol’ days of the late 1990s when the web was going to change the world.
A recent ITP poll revealed that two-thirds of CIOs and IT managers in the Middle East believe that Web 2.0 represents a paradigm shift in internet-based business models, with just one third of the 170-plus respondents claiming that it is nothing more than the latest buzz phrase trotted out by the IT industry (presumably to get end-users spending cash on more tools and applications that they don’t really need).
This split in thinking is understandable, and the tangible business benefits derived from the introduction of Web 2.0 tools will clearly vary significantly from company to company. In an organisation that values creativity and the development of intellectual property, collaboration is a vital concept, which forms the foundation of business success. Now, in this environment, these tools could represent a stroke of genius for the enlightened CIO that oversees their introduction, resulting in pats on the back from every business leader, plus a newfound respect from the other CxO-level executives.
Sounds great doesn’t it. Possibly, but don’t get too carried away and rush down to your nearest web consultant to load your trolley up with online collaboration goodies straight away. While these tools can represent an injection of business adrenalin for some organisations, for others they can actually have the opposite effect. Ask any vendor or solution provider pedalling Web 2.0 business tools to define the total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) argument for deployment and you will be met by a sea of blank faces. It’s not their fault, but by the very nature of the tools, these calculations are impossible to make with any degree of accuracy.
The one commodity that is in short supply for all businesses is time. The argument from the Web 2.0 cheerleaders is that these tools simplify collaboration and communication, freeing up time and delivering enhanced business efficiency. The counterargument to this perspective is that these tools are actually taking up employee time that would be more valuable spent on more pressing tasks. I’m not against online collaboration tools – far from it. My only concern is that organisations need to educate their employees on how to use them responsibly to ensure that they benefit the business as opposed to destroying efficiency.
Web 2.0 applications have the potential to deliver business benefits as long as employees know how to use them responsibly and in a productive fashion. In conclusion, if you do decide to invest in Web 2.0 tools internally, don’t forget to send your employees on a time management course first. Failure to do this could result in the company turning in to nothing more than a glorified talking shop, not a lean and mean innovation machine.
I’ve no doubt that several exhibitors will be talking up Web 2.0 at this year’s GITEX - and rightly so. Some detractors continue to protest that the infrastructure is not yet in place to support these tools. However, the infrastructure that is put in is cutting-edge and to make full use of it, Saudi organisations will need to get to grips with Web 2.0 in a short space of time.||**||