Associated Press/Uwe Lein
Like it or loathe it, Web 2.0 is here to stay. The reason? According to a survey in the latest issue of the McKinsey Quarterly, it's providing some serious business benefits for adopters. Some 69 percent of respondents to the consulting firm's survey "report that their companies have gained measurable business benefits, including more innovative products and services, more effective marketing, better access to knowledge, lower cost of doing business, and higher revenues."
Clearly, then, we've gone beyond the buzzword stage, and entered the realm where harnessing technology is an essential element of good business practice. And the good exec—or wannabe exec—will likely have a skillset that includes the ability to utilize and champion these technologies; the McKinsey report clearly indicates that successful adoption of Web 2.0 technologies throughout a company is greatly dependent on senior leaders modeling or championing them in the workplace.
While it may be tempting to dismiss emerging technologies as fads that will likely pass, most of the advances that McKinsey places under the Web 2.0 heading seem like they're going to be around in one form or another for years to come. It's difficult to imagine the world shutting the door on video sharing, for example—a technology cited as the most widely adopted 2.0 application by a majority of the 1,700 execs surveyed. The second most widely-adopted? Blogs, closely followed by RSS tools and social networking sites. Regardless of how you may feel about the ubiquitous Twitter, it's not going anywhere—and nor should it, given that it's the piece of the puzzle that allows all the others (the content you create in the form of videos and blogs) to actually reach any kind of an audience.
A surprising trend that emerged from the study—to me, at least—is that it's bigger companies that have more to gain from leveraging Web 2.0 technologies. According to the piece, "(c)ompanies with revenues exceeding $1 billion—along with business-to-business organizations—are more likely to report benefits than are smaller companies or consumer companies."
Part of that may be simply that companies with revenues above $1 billion have likely been around longer—therefore what they see as a measurable benefit of Web 2.0 technologies can be directly compared to life without the technologies. Companies that have sprung up since the dawn of the information age, however, may have no previous benchmark to set their performance against.
If the message coming out of companies regarding Web 2.0 is so clear, it should be equally clear for those inside them—or seeking to get inside them—that they need to be as savvy as possible with as many of the technologies as they can be. The beauty of many of the technologies—and one of the main benefits of the 2.0 generation in general—is that you don't need any specialized training or qualifications to get to grips with them. Indeed, many of the applications—Twitter included—are absolutely free.
The question of whether Web 2.0 is here to stay or not is settled. The only question for execs is whether or not you're keeping up with it.