Q&A: Web 2.0 and collaboration update

Web 2.0 has been around for a while now—sort of the gangly teenager instead of the fresh-faced babe it once was. IT managers in the enterprise have to deal with it, regardless, which can be a challenge, whether it’s determining the appropriate level of control or choosing the right software.

ComputerWorld Canada spoke to Info-Tech Research Group associate senior research analyst Tim Hickernell about the pitfalls around enterprise Web 2.0 implementations, and how to best avoid them.

ComputerWorld Canada: Where are we today with Web 2.0?

Tim Hickernell: We’re still in a nebulous time, although the second generation of collaboration and content generation is coming around. Real-time communication is really big, especially with Web conferencing, and collaboration technologies are more and more going on-demand via software-as-a-service.

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CWC: What benefits have businesses been reaping from using Web 2.0 collaboration and content-generating tools?

Hickernell: People are very cost-conscious these days—especially with the recession. And these tools allow IT staff to often push out a lot faster and cheaper things that would have cost you $500,000 in Web content management software a few years ago. Why not throw up a wiki?

CWC: What are the hot new trends in collaboration and Web 2.0?

Hickernell: The big thing is contextual integration, where collaborative elements are integrated much more tightly. It’s all about building in things more robustly, so people can go right to a meeting or chat client from what they’re doing.

CWC: Who’s been doing this so far?

Hickernell: We see this with Live Meeting and Adobe Connect, as one example, but you’re going to see it a lot more. There have been early moves by Google and Microsoft with their on-demand productivity apps, which will be very contextually integrated.

CWC: What do IT managers have to take care of when it comes to this contextual integration?

Hickernell: IT managers needn’t worry too much, as the ISVs will ship products with this level of integration built in—it will be a while yet before service-oriented architecture (SOA) progresses enough that they can do it themselves. At this point, to do their own contextual integration, they’d have to use a mash-up, which is like the poor man’s integration at the Web portal.

CWC: Are there any other pitfalls IT managers should be aware of?

Hickernell: There are pros and cons to both contextual integration and the more traditional Web 2.0, and between synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (not-in-real-time) tools. One has to keep in mind that, with real time, there’s no historical context, but it is immediate. When it’s not in real time, there is a lag in communication, and it can be misread, but there is that trail to refer to. Ideally, you want people getting used to both, and never having to leave their portal.

CWC: The IT manager still has to manage the collaboration suite across the enterprise. How are they doing with this these days?

Hickernell: We’re getting tonnes of demand for help, as even basic account management is challenging. People are still stuck with written policies in the absence of security and enterprise-level controls in these collaboration products. You’re stuck with good old-fashioned paper and a big stick.

CWC: Are vendors starting to come around and provide IT managers with these tools more?

Hickernell: It’s starting—blogging for instance. Platforms are now allowing admins to build a system that assigns different roles so that not everyone can do everything. They’re trying to respond to that formal business process drive. Filesharing is another area where they are really starting to promote the security features.

CWC: What can IT managers do to establish best practices around collaboration?

Hickernell: They have to know the actual process needs, and establish the users’ collaboration patterns to better structure the usage. It is a balance.