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.