SMH jour­nal­ist Brad Howarth has an inter­est­ing and insight­ful piece on Web 2.0 pen­e­tra­tion in Aus­tralian busi­ness (it’s also been noticed by the folks at Web Direc­tions). It strongly reflects my view that largely it’s small busi­ness that is begin­ning to “get” Web 2.0 here. The big end of town and gov­ern­ment mostly have a fair way to travel before these tech­nolo­gies gain any sig­nif­i­cant pen­e­tra­tion in their oper­a­tions. Frankly, that’s a pity, as adopt­ing the tools of Web 2.0 could be help­ing many of them with the increas­ing issue of good and pro­gres­sive knowl­edge man­age­ment, pro­duc­tiv­ity and stake­holder engagement .

I’d like to high­light a quote by researcher, Ross Daw­son, from the article:

Web 2.0 in the enter­prise is about enabling peo­ple to bet­ter find infor­ma­tion and work with it… There are some sweet spots, which are very nat­ural appli­ca­tions for blogs and wikis where it makes a lot of sense. And these are projects, com­pet­i­tive intel­li­gence, and many other things where you are try­ing to get broad infor­ma­tion and input on a spe­cific topic.

This is exactly the point that I, and many of my con­sult­ing col­leagues, are try­ing to get across to man­age­ment in the organ­i­sa­tions we talk to. With­out good tools, knowl­edge work­ers across busi­ness are suf­fer­ing from reduced pro­duc­tiv­ity and in many cases, crip­pled in their abil­ity to actively engage with inter­nal and exter­nal stake­hold­ers (man­age­ment, staff, share­hold­ers, sup­pli­ers, clients and cus­tomers) in order to improve their productivity.

And engage­ment is what it’s all about.

By engag­ing openly with peo­ple, both inside and out­side the build­ing, busi­ness can sig­nif­i­cantly increase the qual­ity of the rela­tion­ship they have with every­one that touches the busi­ness in any way. Just imag­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ties if the new, junior researcher felt unafraid of speak­ing his big, poten­tially prof­itable ideas to the CEO by engag­ing with her on her inter­nal blog — in view of the entire com­pany, rather than hav­ing to move it up through umpteen com­mit­tees where it would inevitably be sup­pressed. Or if clients with prod­uct issues could touch base in an imme­di­ate and real way with Cus­tomer Ser­vice by post­ing on a com­pany blog or forum and receive a near-​​immediate response solv­ing their problem.

Poten­tially huge sav­ings in Cus­tomer Ser­vice and maybe big prof­its from the ideas guy!

Intro­duc­ing Web 2.0 tools to busi­ness isn’t about hav­ing all the coolest toys to play with (although that can be a side ben­e­fit) or hav­ing an addi­tional mar­ket­ing stream, it’s about enable­ment and empow­er­ment of your work­force and your cus­tomers. It’s about giv­ing peo­ple, no mat­ter what their role, a more unre­stricted and bottom-​​up approach to deal­ing with the enor­mous infor­ma­tion pool they often have to deal with just to get their job done and allow­ing them to col­lab­o­rate in an open forum where intol­er­ance is absent and edgy think­ing is encouraged.

With good tools, and Web 2.0 soft­ware imple­mented prop­erly is a good tool, your work­force can be more pro­duc­tive, col­lab­o­rate bet­ter and be more com­pet­i­tive in a mar­ket­place where strong dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is key to your success.