The business potential of social-networking Web sites and various Web 2.0 technologies remains largely untapped, according to separate reports released by the analyst firms Forrester Research and Gartner on Thursday.
IT departments are taking an active role in acquiring and deploying Web 2.0 technologies, Forrester found, but such individual technologies as blogs, wikis and RSS feeds are being adopted in only a minority of businesses.
For example, 64 per cent of IT shops have no plans to invest in wikis in 2008, and another 8 per cent were not familiar with the technology, according to a Forrester survey of 729 IT decision-makers at US companies with 500 or more employees. Sixty-nine per cent of IT shops had no plans to invest in blogs this year, and 66 per cent have no plans to invest in RSS.
That's not to say IT shops are ignoring these technologies. When it comes to deploying Web 2.0, "budgetary controls, the need for integration and technical skills, and the growing importance of Web 2.0 tools are all putting IT departments in the driver's seat," Forrester analyst Oliver Young writes.
Most IT decision-makers expect Web 2.0 to have a moderate or substantial impact on their business in the next three years. Funding for Web 2.0 deployments is more likely to come from IT than from any other department, Forrester found. IT budget constraints are thus a roadblock for many Web 2.0 initiatives.
IT departments should get involved in Web 2.0 initiatives, because unmanaged deployments driven by non-IT employees carry the risk of exposing sensitive corporate data. Nearly 80% of the IT decision-makers surveyed by Forrester were concerned about this risk.
Gartner, meanwhile, surveyed more than 4,000 PC and mobile phone users in 18 countries and territories, finding that most users of social-networking Web sites are "motivated by personal needs and a desire for entertainment, rather than business and practical objectives."
"Although the potential of such sites for business remains largely untapped, they will become increasingly important to the competitiveness of large enterprises in the future," Gartner writes.
Nearly half of respondents to the Gartner survey use social-networking sites, mostly by PC. "Despite the hype surrounding social networking, Internet users generally did not place a high level of importance on social network sites, compared with other mainstream Internet applications, such as e-mail and search," Gartner writes. "However, taken together with other broader forms of networking, including instant messaging, e-mail, sharing of photos, files and chat rooms, there is a significant aggregate level of interest in the social aspects of communication as opposed to applications that are simply transactional, diverting or functional."
In the enterprise, blog systems are used primarily for internal communications and sharing of knowledge and content among workers, according to the Forrester survey. Content aggregation and corporate communications are the most common reasons to deploy RSS, with marketing to customers the third most popular use. Wikis are most popularly deployed as an "internal Wikipedia" for sharing information and collaborating on document creation, Forrester found. About 12 per cent of companies that have deployed wikis are using them externally to gain insight from customers.
Although most IT departments aren't investing in blogs, wikis and RSS, the majority of those who do say they have gained business value from the tools, Forrester's survey found.