Innovation Without Permission

By Debra Donston  |  Posted 2008-05-21 Print this article Print

One of the benefits to many Web 2.0 technologies-or drawbacks, depending on how you look at it-is the ease and speed with which they can be deployed. In many cases, the IT department isn't needed at all.

There have always been rogue implementations of technology in companies-Linux servers and Wi-Fi networks were notoriously underground before the technologies became mainstream, for example. But today it's much easier to do a lot more without the help or permission of IT.

Think about the department in your company that's using Google Apps to collaborate or the group that's using Ning for discussions and to share videos and other content. No one had to ask IT to get those apps up and running.

The Forrester report says, "Business buyers want Web 2.0 but depend on IT to make it happen," which is different from the message of some Web 2.0 technology vendors that are pushing mashup solutions as a way for business users to augment or even circumvent IT and build their own applications.

One such vendor is Serena Software. Ren??« Bonvanie, Serena's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, partner programs and online services, espouses the innovation-without-permission model.

That model, he said, is being driven by the "millennials" in the work force. These twenty- and early-thirtysomethings have grown up with the tools to set up their own networks, write their own blogs, create their own widgets and so on. They've never had to ask for permission to do any of these things and certainly don't want to now that they're in the workplace (especially when they may very well know more about Web 2.0 technology than many of the IT staffers).

"You can allow people to innovate within a certain framework-a domain of innovation. Or you can take the other approach-let [technology] appear no matter what it affects or does, and decide which will make it and which will not," Bonvanie said in an interview with eWEEK earlier this year.

The concept of innovation without permission surely sends chills down the spines of most IT managers.

When asked whether their companies had implemented policies regulating the use of Web 2.0 technologies by employees, 54 percent said no, 28 percent said yes and 18 percent said they didn't know.

At companies where such policies had been implemented, the success rate is good, albeit with room for improvement. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said the policies were very effective and 53 percent said that the policies were moderately effective. Only 10 percent said the policies were barely effective or not effective at all.

The Web 2.0 apps most widely deployed without IT support and company consent? Blogs and wikis top the list again, but social networks come in third followed by peer-to-peer networking. RSS-No. 3 on the list of sanctioned Web 2.0 apps deployed, according to the eWEEK survey-falls to No. 5 on the list of rogue apps. Nearly half of respondents reported at least one rogue Web 2.0 app at their company.

That said, 56 percent of respondents said that none of the applications listed as responses had been implemented without appropriate company support, and 51 percent said none of the apps had been implemented without IT support.

When a Web 2.0 app is deployed without IT support, it is most often the result of an individual employee deciding on his or her own, according to the survey.

When asked in what ways Web 2.0 apps come to be deployed without IT support, 64 percent of respondents named individual employees as the initiator, 51 percent said midlevel managers encourage staff to deploy the apps and 32 percent said senior executives encourage staff.

A relatively significant percentage of respondents said Web 2.0 apps are deployed without Web 2.0 support at the request of outside customers (26 percent) or outside business partners (21 percent).

The Price of Web 2.0

The Forrester report indicates that the current enterprise Web 2.0 market is small but growing.

The spending by enterprises will reach $764 million in 2008 but grow quickly over the next five years, representing an additional $3.8 billion in spending.

Many Web 2.0 apps are available for free, of course, but only 15 percent of respondents to the eWEEK survey named "reduction in IT costs through the use of free apps" as one of their two biggest drivers for implementing Web 2.0.

Indeed, the Forrester report points out that a key question for software companies is: Who pays for Web 2.0 in the enterprise?

"Three challenges face vendors: IT shops are wary of what they perceive as insecure, consumer-grade technology; ad-supported Web 2.0 tools on the consumer side have set -free' as a starting point; and Web 2.0 technologies enter a crowded space dominated by legacy software investments," the report said.

Brian Prince and Darryl K. Taft contributed to this story.


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