CIOs look beyond Web 2.0

At MIT symposium CIOs examine the growing role of Web 2.0 in the corporate environment

"Web 2.0 is a thing of the past."

That was the judgment of Maria Pardee, president of global integration for BT Design, the IT design and delivery arm of British Telecommunications (BT), speaking at the fifth annual MIT CIO Symposium this week.

She wasn't just being provocative: Her colleagues on the panel pretty much agreed with her. "The future is about how to exchange data, and have trusted relationships, with people outside the enterprise," she said.

The MIT panel was organized to wrestle with the emergence of a basket of very diverse technologies, all grouped under the "Web 2.0" label, and their corporate potential.

The technologies range from Web services and standards like XML, and service-oriented architectures (SOA), to wikis and RSS feeds, to new forms of collaboration and social networking, and even to new infrastructures to support all this, such as cloud computing and virtualization. One analyst firm estimated these technologies will be a US$4.6 billion market in 2013.

For Pardee and her colleagues on the panel, many of these technologies have already become an essential part of the corporate IT landscape. The explosion of social networking and its implications for organization and business processes, such as customers and supplier relationships is evidence that the original Web 2.0 has already begun to foster new ways of doing business.

The power of sharing

"Web 2.0 [today] is about applications and systems that can talk with each other and collaborate," says Richard Mickool, executive director and CTO for Northeastern University's information services group. "The real power is around sharing information [dynamically and automatically] and building upon it."

That sharing and building will now take place at a higher level of abstraction, according to Mike Willis, a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and founding chairman of XBRL International, which is fostering adoption of the eXtensible Business Reporting Language, a Web 2.0 format standard to simplify the reporting of business financial data .

With XRBL, Willis said, analysts of capital markets now have the potential to do much more than access and share raw data. Instead, they can share the mathematical financial models that work with the data, elaborating and iterating those models to improve them. "Web 2.0 standardization is now around higher level IP [intellectual property]," Willis said.

James Lin, CIO for Forbes, gave an example of this shift. As is typical for online news sites, Forbes lets readers comment on stories, and now features the comments on the home page, along with different rankings of news and content, by users and Forbes editors. But Forbes has taken user content a step further. It features a members-only community of stock pickers. Members, who are investors, can make stock recommendations, along with separate picks by Forbes editors, inviting discussion by other members. Then, the performance of the stocks, and of the members recommending them, is tracked and ranked.

Lin predicted that personalization of content will generate greater demand for personalization tools -- capabilities that let Web users filter, aggregate and format data that needs their specific interests, schedules and even locations.

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