Business on Web 2.0

Today at the Gartner ITxpo conference in Barcelona, I was lucky enough to catch Don Tapscott’s presentation about Wikinomics – the subject of his new book, which looks at how Web 2.0 changes business operations. Don spoke about why businesses should look at the way kids use the web today to share and collaborate. One of his arguments is that the ease with which people can organise themselves in the Web 2.0 sphere, goes against the traditional corporate structure.

Businesses may have discarded the idea of working closely with external partners on a project, due to the cost in managing the relationship. But Web 2.0 efforts like Wikipedia, have demonstrated how mass collaboration can create arguably superior products to those developed entirely by in-house skills, at no cost. In the book he cites Boeing’s 787 jumbo jet as an example of a totally different approach to manufacturing based on collaboration rather than the command-and-control model, where a single company controls the whole manufacturing process. This obviously requires a different approach to managing the supply chain and product lifecycle. So IT has an important role to play.

More close to home, open source software is another example of such collaboration and Don sees no reason why businesses shouldn’t use the open source community to develop enterprise software. For instance SpikeSource is regarded as the “Red Hat” of enterprise open source projects, by distributing, integrating, managing and supporting open source products.

Can the open source approach can be applied outside software development? Don thinks so…In theory, companies could share intellectual property with an expert community via the Web to boost in-house skills and problem-solving. Personally, I feel this is a bit of a pipedream, and corporate culture will stifle any genuine attempts at mass collaboration.