Web 2.0: Just say yes

Web 2.0: Just say yes

Execs say social networking and other next-gen tools can provide competitive edge

Web 2.0 tools boost project management

Lee Thomas, vice president of IT and product development at Berkshire-Hathaway's CORT, says that while many of his colleagues come to Web 2.0 tools to increase collaboration, he is more interested in how they increase visibility into the organization.

With oversight of IT operations, product development and quality assurance, Thomas wanted a clear view into the project pipeline. "This was a grass-roots effort started by me. I wanted a single place where I could go to see a list of what everyone was working on and be able to drill down into details on each project," he says. He also wanted to get tribal knowledge out of his team's head and into a database.

He considered SharePoint, but wanted something less complex and more agnostic. So he chose Jive Software's Clearspace platform, which he says is a perfect blend of wiki, blog and search technology that allows him to simplify project management.

For example, he says he's replaced broadcast e-mail with blogs. "My supervisor used to send messages about team strategies via e-mail. But when new people came onboard, they didn't have access to that tribal knowledge. Now all that goes into a blog so there's a history that's always accessible," he says.

Users can also search through projects posted on the wiki for critical information. "I can ask questions and quickly identify the subject experts in that area," he says.

HP's Brain

It's that kind of organic bubbling up that Bernardo Huberman, senior fellow and director of the Information Dynamics Laboratory at HP, is also hoping to generate through his social networking and collaboration projects. "We're very interested in harvesting organizational knowledge, the stuff that's not always visible within the organization. With the right tools, companies can get a sense of not only the organization, but the people who have relevant information," he says.

Huberman and his team have developed a Web-based tool called Brain, or Behaviorally Robust Aggregation of Information, that enables HP as well as other companies to tap into the intelligence of its employees.

"We use groups of 15 people to determine the probability of critical outcomes. For instance, what is the likelihood a key product will be done by a certain date or a drug currently in development will make it to market," he says.

Huberman says companies guarantee participation by offering cash incentives for each prediction. "Harvesting the wisdom of your internal crowd is more accurate than relying on pundits," he says.

HP also uses an in-house developed tool called "WaterCooler" to determine what information is most important to its users. "It gathers and analyzes RSS feeds from inside and outside the company and displays the top bloggers and what they are blogging about," he says.

Huberman says WaterCooler plays to a person's natural curiosity about what other people are talking about.

It's this type of innovation that Bonvanie is keeping his eye on. "We believe human contact is what makes companies successful. If people don't communicate and collaborate, not a whole lot will happen. We know there are risks, but the positives far outweigh them in how much spirit social networking and collaboration bring to an organization."

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