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Morgan Stanley, Pfizer turning to Web 2.0 tools

Officials explain how employees use blogs, wikis and social networking to communicate

Morgan Stanley and Pfizer are among several companies launching initiatives to fold Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis and social networks into the enterprise after grassroots projects convinced management to back the projects.

Representatives from both companies detailed their projects Thursday at the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

Adam Carson, an associate at Morgan Stanley, started the investment bank's foray into Enterprise 2.0 late last year after a manager told him that there was no use for social networking tools in the business. He quickly set out to prove the manager wrong by compiling a network of 1,000 employees worldwide at the professional networking site LinkedIn.

Carson said that he promoted Web 2.0 tools as a way to help transform how the company connects people, ideas and capital, one of the company's mantras. Today, he said that about 80 different Enterprise 2.0 projects are underway in the company.

Morgan Stanley is, for example, building social communities to communicate with clients and a system for automatically turning e-mail groups into online forums. The company also is experimenting with RSS and wikis, Carson said.

Carson suggested that companies on the Web 2.0 fence quickly take the plunge, noting how the use of such tools by Netflix has affected older rival Blockbuster Inc.'s Blockbuster Video business.

"Enterprise 2.0 is not an 'if' anymore -- it is a 'when' and 'how' these things will come to the enterprise," Carson said. "The kids are starting to learn it in elementary school. If you can tap into the power of your company better than your competitors ... that is a competitive advantage. Are you going to wait until a NetFlix takes 30 percent to 40 percent of your market share before you realize something is going on with the Internet?"

Carson noted that 50 percent of Morgan Stanley's 55,000 employees are younger than 35-years-old, the age group most experienced with Web 2.0 technologies.

He added that he began his Web 2.0 quest by working closely with the company's 10,000-member IT department. "Nothing gets done without the IT department," he noted.

Carson said he has also worked hard to make sure that security and permission features are built into every Web 2.0 tool that would be used company-wide. Morgan Stanley is subject to intense regulatory requirements regarding security and archiving communications, he said. For example, employees in the company's investment group cannot communicate with equity research personnel so social bookmarking restrictions must be in place to ensure that those employees are not tagging content for each other, he said.

In addition, Carson noted that while Morgan Stanley is mainly a Microsoft shop, it is looking to fill some of the vendor's Web 2.0 "gaps." Finding such tools can be difficult, as the company must be sure that the mostly start-up vendors selling them can provide adequate support, he added,

"We're going to tend to build a lot of stuff ourselves," Carson said. "You can build it yourself and make it work within your culture and integrate it where it needs to be integrated."

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Carson advises that companies interested in adopting Enterprise 2.0 tools:

  • Create Web 2.0 awareness
  • Locate supporters in the company
  • Make friends with IT
  • Approach senior management with a proposal
  • Work closely with business units
  • Gather and distribute best practices
  • Feed the open mouths; don't force it
  • Be patient because change takes time

Pfizer began its Enterprise 2.0 initiative a year ago when Simon Revell, then a technical lead and now manager of Enterprise 2.0, was frustrated with his team's communications methods. In July 2006, he and a some colleagues interested in Web 2.0 technologies started a blog that was open to all employees.

Then the small band of Web 2.0 champions, which met over lunch to develop plans for the Enterprise 2.0 efforts, held a week-long conference for company employees last November to discuss how blogs, wikis and social networking could be used at Pfizer. There were 300,000 hits on the conference Web site, which broadcast the event live, and offered blogs and podcasts to employees worldwide.

Since then, the company has started an online community for employees to learn how they can use Web 2.0 tools in their parts of the company. The company also has also launched a laboratory for testing new Enterprise 2.0 technologies.

Revell said the success of his grassroots effort around Enterprise 2.0 came to the fore a few weeks ago when he was asked to present information about several of the projects to the company's IT executives. "We're getting so many doors opened to us now and so many opportunities to try out this stuff," he said. "So many people are keen to look at it and examine it."