It’s always the short questions that make my job interesting. Like this one.
Gil, do you think companies will cut back on Enterprise Web 2.0 in light of the economy?
First reaction--it depends. I’m an analyst, that’s always our first answer. But what does it depend on? What are all the factors at play and how will this impact your decisions? So, here’s my read of the Enterprise Web 2.0 trends based on many conversations with my clients and vendors. I will focus specifically on wiki and social networking tools used to improve internal collaboration and knowledge sharing. These are gaining momentum and acceptance within the enterprise. (See my TechRadar report for the details on what Forrester sees in scope for Enterprise Web 2.0.)
There will be a slowdown of IT-driven collaboration projects in 2009. But there will be increased interest in business-driven collaboration projects. Why? There is a technology populist movement, and has been for a while. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) typically operate with little IT support and rely upon vendors for collaboration services – nothing new here. But we find that business units in enterprises, especially those in companies with politically weak IT departments, are increasingly behaving like SMBs, and they are going out and provisioning technology on their own. This is a form of institutional Tech Populism.
In our conversations with many information and knowledge management professionals, it's clear that their distributed and multicompany teams need better extranet collaboration tools.
And they feel the problem is only getting worse as companies go virtual, global, distributed, outsourced, green, travel-less, and partnered, thus driving the need for ever-better collaboration tools that work outside the firewall.
Trouble is, the messaging and collaboration services that companies have implemented are designed primarily for internal teams.
For example, it's bloody difficult to set up a secure instant messaging connection with every partner you might want to work with. Such interoperability between IM platforms is technically possible, but operationally nightmarish.
So clever employees do what they must: Use public IM and calendaring services, cobble together conferences from piece parts, and fall back on endless scheduling and sharing emails and voice conferencing. Ugh. Ugly. And scary.
Well, the solution's just around the corner say vendors new and old. After all, many are on the cusp of major product releases that promise much better extranet connections and capabilities:
IBM Bluehouse promises a new extranet collaboration platform.
Google already offers an extranet collaboration toolkit in its Google Apps Premier Edition.
Cisco is adding extranet collaboration capabilities to WebEx.
Microsoft is moving its services into the cloud for easier extranet access.