Adopt Web 2.0 at your pace

The new wave of "digital" workers are here, and will take Web 2.0 to the enterprise, so companies have to adopt new management methods, say experts.

SINGAPORE--With a new generation of "connected" workers coming to the enterprise, several experts suggest companies move to a hybrid model of adoption to embrace the new Web that comes with these employees.

Michael Netzley, practice assistant professor of corporate communication at the Singapore Management University, said at an IDC conference Tuesday, companies have to prepare for the new wave of digital workers who are entering the workforce with some 3,000 hours of time spent online already under their belts.

"These are the people you will be hiring, and their 'connectedness' will impact the way you manage them and how they will perform," said Netzley.

Netzley said "new" workers will expect an "openness" in the office because they are so accustomed to communicating via chat platforms such as text messages and instant messaging (IM).

"Another way of having an 'open office concept' is to do that via IM," said Netzley, adding that bosses who embrace this technology lower barriers to communication with staff.

But there are roadblocks too on the way to implementation for companies.

Patrick Chan, IDC Asia-Pacific chief technology advisor, said in his keynote that companies are mainly concerned with security issues with social networking, and associate such activity with reduced work efficiency.

Chan said that as the social networking application market grows almost tenfold from US$46.8 million in 2006 to hit US$428.3 million in 2009, the momentum cannot be ignored by companies.

"As the market develops, social networking functionality will be built into core communication platforms like e-mail and IM applications," said Chan.

As a result, companies worry about security issues such as information leaks. "The issue of governance poses a major challenge for companies," said Chan.

But companies recognize the benefits of social networking, and need to work toward adopting it, Chan added.

"One way companies use Web 2.0 is in collecting information, either from customers in the form of blog or forum comments, or sharing information in a more informal way amongst staff.

"Companies realize tools like blogs can provide a way to get opinions faster, so they get helpful feedback within the same day they release a product," said Chan, citing Canon, as an example of a company which has recently been paying attention to user reviews of its products as another channel of feedback.

This is contrasted against the more "formal" method of polling an audience via telemarketers every year or so, explained Chan.

On the point of social networking distracting staff away from work, Netzley said allowing staff to network online may actually produce the opposite effect; he cited a recent Ohio State study which found people used IM to reduce distraction at the workplace.

But approach Web 2.0 at a pace appropriate for your company by drawing out parameters of use, Chan advised. "For example, let staff blog, but not every member," he said.

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