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Can Web 2.0 be the new productivity buzzword for Indian enterprises?

Yuga Chaudhari, Principal Correspondent
Web 2.0, a touted (and oft much abused) term, is slowly increasing its presence in the Indian enterprise. While this may not be in conformance with the pitches of many "social media gurus", Web 2.0 usage is definitely on the rise in Indian organizations. The main factor driving this adoption of Web 2.0 has been its ability to combine content, boost collaboration, enhance user experience, and transform the Internet from static web pages into a platform for social interaction.

According to IT research firm Gartner's recent report, global awareness of social technology is high because of the popularity of related consumer social software and Web 2.0 services. As a result, there is strong and rapidly growing evidence of experimentation and early production deployments within businesses. However, India lags behind when it comes to Web 2.0 adoption. Diptarup Chakraborti, the principal research analyst of Gartner Inc. says, "Organizations are waking up to the reality of Web 2.0. However, CIOs do not design sound enough strategies to use this technology. So it is still at a very nascent stage. But it is very important that CIOs pay attention on this front, since more customers are now coming via the Internet."

Indian CIOs are now making use of Web 2.0 platforms like the corporate Intranet, social networking websites, wikis and blogs. The advantage is that Web 2.0 can be used for staff, as well as customers. Web 2.0 enables streamlined access, controls content management flow between

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business units, leverages information sharing, and boosts innovation.

Telecom player Reliance Communications Limited (RCOM) leverages the power of Web 2.0 to a great extent. A rapidly growing business, RCOM has to engage with its employees across India, as well as draw structured information through complex lines of business. This proved to be a major challenge with RCOM's earlier static Intranet. "We decided to embrace Web 2.0 infrastructure for MyWorld, our new secured unified collaborative platform. The Web 2.0 technology for developing MyWorld helped our employees to interact better with team members across India and improve business productivity of internal customers," says Ashok N Shah, the vice-president of IT business excellence at RCOM's CIO office. MyWorld is a single sign-on Web 2.0 solution which integrates various business applications (more than 100 application servers, including mail servers) across the organization. It allows users to log in with a single username and password.

A big issue during Web 2.0 implementations is that it's often difficult to convince stakeholders. CIOs may face resistance since information is usually controlled by users.
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Similarly, for online bus ticketing platform Ticketvala.com, Web 2.0 is the core of its business strategy. Using Web 2.0, Ticketvala.com has developed a mesh of delivery channels to integrate meta search engines, online travel agencies, affiliate web partners, mobile delivery platforms and traditional travel agents to distribute its content. "Ticketvala's Intranet is built on TWiki. It encourages employee participation, and allows the organization to remain transparent. Every employee in the organization can collaborate, thus making it a mini social networking site," says Prameet Savla, the ex-CIO of Ticketvala. Ticketvala.com recently launched its "Ticketvala Guide" in order to create an information database of various tourist locations in India by collecting information from users (i.e., entry can be added by any web user, and edited by others).

On a wider scale, Web 2.0 has been used by civic bodies to address issues faced by the common man. Using Google Maps on its website www.ciopune.in, Anupam Saraph, the CIO of Pune City has linked the same to a Wiki to help users collect information about different wards of the city through a graphical interface. Information can be pulled from the Wiki and edited, which is then displayed on the map. This helps create ward-wise information.

Stumbling blocks to Web 2.0 adoption

A big issue during Web 2.0 implementations is that it's often difficult to convince stakeholders. CIOs may face resistance since information is usually controlled by users. "Your stakeholders will resist, if you suddenly turn over information management to the user community. Letting go of control over the entire MIS department is a big change in itself. So there is a lot of convincing that needs to be done," says Saraph.

Although Web 2.0 applications provide everyone with access to a variety of useful software services that can be easily updated, the downside is that Web applications are vulnerable to both internal and external threats. By understanding and implementing proper security measures, a business can guard precious IT resources from web-based attacks while providing a secure environment for users of Web 2.0 applications.

Many organizations believe that Web 2.0 technologies are expensive and difficult to implement. "These concerns are unfounded, as RCOM has overcome these barriers effectively by a quick low-cost implementation without compromising on security," says Shah.

Being able to spot the difference between 'must-have' and 'must-not' applications is yet another important step towards creating an enterprise that leverages Web 2.0. "At Ticketvala, we have been discouraging employees from logging on to Orkut, Youtube, and other such applications that burn up productive time. However, we do encourage them to use sites such as LinkedIn," says Savla.

Penetration of Web 2.0 tools is a challenge at the moment, since few Indian organizations seriously consider this technology, feels Chakraborti. "Organizations are not harnessing the potential of Web 2.0. Few organizations systematically leverage this technology in a sustained manner". However, Chakraborty is positive about the future of Web 2.0 adoption in India. "Right now, Indian CIOs are exploring various possibilities using Web 2.0. So the adoption may be very fast — in the next two years or so, you should be able to see Web 2.0 penetration. Web 2.0 is not difficult to deploy, and organizations need not undergo any restructuring. So the technology definitely has merits in terms of deployment," adds Chakraborty.