Accenture: Embrace Web 2.0 cautiously

The company says businesses should recognise the value of blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 tech, but should be aware of possible adverse impacts

IT consultancy Accenture has advised businesses to accept Web 2.0 working practices but to beware of possible impacts on the IT department.

Accenture's head of research and development, Martin Illsley, on Monday advised businesses that mashups, web applications combined with more traditional business software, were becoming increasingly useful but have to be managed so as not to overwhelm IT departments.

"Systems can be integrated in a lightweight manner," said Illsley. "But mashups and the like have to be managed very well or they drift out of the IT department into many departments. Most IT departments are aware of that and spend an awful lot of time trying to keep things together."

While there are tangible business benefits to allowing employees to create their own combinations of applications, Illsley said, there has to be a balance between "stifling the process by making it go through 20 stages" and loss of control of the application.

"Today, if you want to build integrated back-end and front-end systems, you use technologies like Google Maps with lightweight APIs [application programming interfaces], whereas you used to buy several packages and integrate them into a framework," said Illsley. "These days organisations can throw applications together quite quickly."

Illsley said that businesses should be cautious of other Web 2.0 practices. While "crowd-sourcing" technologies — used to formulate ideas among large groups — could prove very fruitful for companies, businesses should be wary of such technologies until they mature, he said.

"The issue is the quality of comments and whether changes have been made [to wikis] because control procedures haven't been put in place," said Illsley.

Companies need to build tools to aggregate unstructured data, Illsley insisted, as crowd-sourcing can frequently lead to duplicate comments being returned.

While corporate blogs can also make a company more accessible to its customer base, Illsley said that, currently, there are no mechanisms to check the consistency of blog entries against the corporate brand.

"I expect there to be mechanisms to guide me to not make mistakes, to deliver better quality [content]," said Illsley. "At the moment there's not much help to guide bloggers away from contradictions or saying something just plain stupid."

Illsley said that bloggers should have a flag to warn them of inconsistencies, which they could choose to ignore if they felt it necessary.