Six Ways to Make Web 2.0 Work

by Jim Berkowitz on February 19, 2009

Here are several excerpts from an excellent article in The McKinsey Quarterly by Michael Chui, Andy Miller and Robert P. Roberts of McKinsey & Company, Six ways to make Web 2.0 work. I highly recommend that you take a read through the complete article:

Mgmt. imperatives for unlocking participation

To help companies navigate the Web 2.0 landscape, we have identified six critical factors that determine the outcome of efforts to implement these technologies.

1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top. Web 2.0 projects often are seen as grassroots experiments, and leaders sometimes believe the technologies will be adopted without management intervention—a “build it and they will come” philosophy. Successful participation, however, requires not only grassroots activity but also a different leadership approach: senior executives often become role models and lead through informal channels.

2. The best uses come from users—but they require help to scale.

3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used. Participatory technologies have the highest chance of success when incorporated into a user’s daily workflow.

4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs—not just their wallets. A more effective approach plays to the Web’s ethos and the participants’ desire for recognition: bolstering the reputation of participants in relevant communities, rewarding enthusiasm, or acknowledging the quality and usefulness of contributions.

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. A common reason for failed participation is discomfort with it, or even fear. In some cases, the lack of management control over the self-organizing nature and power of dissent is the issue. In others, it’s the potential repercussions of content—through blogs, social networks, and other venues—that is detrimental to the company.

Companies often have difficulty maintaining the right balance of freedom and control. Some organizations, trying to accommodate new Web standards, have adopted total laissez-faire policies, eschewing even basic controls that screen out inappropriate postings. In some cases, these organizations have been burned.

Prudent managers should work with the legal, HR, and IT security functions to establish reasonable policies, such as prohibiting anonymous posting.

Participatory technologies should include auditing functions, similar to those for e-mail, that track all contributions and their authors. Ultimately, however, companies must recognize that successful participation means engaging in authentic conversations with participants.

Next steps

Acceptance of Web 2.0 technologies in business is growing. Encouraging participation calls for new approaches that break with the methods used to deploy IT in the past. Company leaders first need to survey their current practices. Once they feel comfortable with some level of controlled disruption, they can begin testing the new participatory tools. The management imperatives we have outlined should improve the likelihood of success.

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