Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Web 2.0 is about letting go.

One of the big cultural changes that enterprises will need to grapple with is their desire for control in a web 2.0 world with new rules. In the corporate world where millions have been invested cultivating and protecting brand image and carefully crafting the messages that emanate from the organization, Web 2.0 is a frightening concept to come to terms with. The social nature of the new internet with an emphasis on user generated content requires a new paradigm. Organizations that want to be relevant in this new world have to relinquish some of their traditional control. This new world demands partnering - taking the best solutions from outside your own walled garden. Each organization needs to take an introspective look at themselves and decide what is their "special sauce" - the mix of skills, processes, products and services that sets them apart from the crowd. After identifying those elements it is necessary to expose hooks in to them as web-based services that allow others to make use of them. Think of it this way: Organizations have invested in creating web sites that give their customers access to all of the services that the organization offers. In doing so they create this immersive environment that reinforces the values of the brand. But we as consumers have been at odds with this approach since the very origins of the web. While there are some "lifestyle" brands, such as Virgin, that cater to a distinct audience and progressively deliver an expanding menu of products and services to their audience, even these brands do not deliver everything that we as consumers need. Instead our attention is split across many different providers of services. When you analyze Web 2.0 what we realize is that we, as customers or consumers, have moved from the edge to the center. Our desktop, home page or dashboard has become a blank canvas on which we determine which snippets of the web appear. The companies that recognize this inversion are quietly providing their "snippets" that can be woven in to their customer's world. So rather than being an immersive world that a customer drops in to once in a while instead their are "threads" that are woven in to the daily life of their customers. I believe that Web 2.0 for many companies is an extension of the trend from call centers to contact centers where the customer decides how they choose to interact with the organization and it is the responsibility of the organization to be ready to serve regardless of the channel through which their customers reach out to them.

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