Consumer Technology Poll: CIOs Still Fear Web 2.0 for the Enterprise

From blogs to wikis to hosted e-mail from Google, CIOs, on the whole, value command and control over user empowerment.

The results from this year's CIO Consumer Technology survey found that IT decision makers view consumer or Web-based technologies with mixed feelings. While some have embraced such applications to enable collaboration and cut costs, others have shunned them as lacking security and reliability.

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The pool of 311 IT decision makers who responded to the survey on CIO.com for a week in January came from a variety of industries (including finance, accounting, health care, medical and manufacturing) and represented organizations of all shapes and sizes. The majority (43 percent) were from companies with 5,000 or more employees. The rest broke down as follows: 18 percent had 1,000-4,999 employees; 23 percent had 100-999; and 13 percent came from companies with fewer than 100 people.

In general, the numbers suggested that users have continued to bring consumer technologies into the workplace at a rapid pace, and that CIOs have had varying responses to their entrance into the enterprise.

"CIOs are really going to be challenged with Web 2.0 [technologies] because they're not necessarily the de facto gatekeeper anymore," says Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst with Nucleus Research. "They need to figure out where it makes sense to do this in the business when it could be an opportunity to improve employee productivity."

Still No Love for Hosted Productivity Apps, E-Mail

A particular point of contention for CIOs centered around the use and adoption of Web-based productivity applications such as Zoho and Google Apps. Of the IT decision makers surveyed, 46 percent said they'd use the tools if they are "free or low cost" or make employees more productive. In contrast, 54 percent answered "no," deeming them as consumer-grade applications not appropriate for corporate use.

The respondents also seemed reluctant to wean themselves off on-premise e-mail. When asked if they'd consider using a hosted e-mail service such as Gmail for their organizations, 18 percent said they would consider it, 50 percent said they would not at all and 33 percent said they were unsure. Of this last group, 9 percent said they'd consider it for archive and search capabilities, while nearly 33 percent cited cheaper cost as a driving factor.

For those who would not consider a hosted e-mail application like Gmail, a staggering 58 percent cited security as the primary reason. In fact, 18 percent said e-mail services such as Gmail and Yahoo posed the greatest consumer technology threat to their organizations.

Some other reasons respondents cited for avoiding hosted e-mail: They're "too married to Lotus Notes" or see a "perceived lack of control."

Wettemann says those stats reveal a telling fact for Google, which has been looked upon as going around IT to deliver technology to line-of-business users: "They still have a long way to go to make case with corporate IT for why outsourcing e-mail is a good thing," she says.

Web 2.0 and the CIO

The majority of CIOs didn't seem enamored with Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, RSS and social networks, either. Only 30 percent of IT decision makers said they offered wikis as a corporate application. A mere 23 percent offered blogs, while18 percent utilized RSS. Only 10 percent of respondents brought social networks into the enterprise.

According to Oliver Young, a Forrester Research analyst, the sluggish adoption of Web 2.0 technologies might be due in large part to the difficulty of calculating their value, since they don't necessarily replace an existing technology. "The ROI question is a big hurdle," he says.

He says that CIOs should start by using Web 2.0 technologies in small groups, see if that works and then expand to other departments if the pilot testers have early success. "You can tackle it by starting with smaller projects and well-defined problems," he says. "If you can fix that one problem, you've already shown some value."

Tension Between CIOs and Users Continues

CIOs still remain cautious about consumer technologies in the enterprise and the employees who use them . When asked what they do in response to consumer technologies entering the workplace, 35 percent said they shut them down as soon as they detect them, while 36 percent monitored them for risk and 29 percent studied the business case for mainstreaming the particular technology.

When asked if they allow end users to seek out their own software applications, CIOs again remained split. Forty-seven percent said no, while 44 percent said yes but with IT approval. Only 9 percent allowed users to do so without restrictions.

According to Forrester's Young, the numbers fall in line with the tension end users have with IT: Many of them want consumer technologies, but CIOs remain cautious about letting them make their own technology decisions for reasons of security, compliance and the incompatibility they might have with existing enterprise systems.

"CIOs, in particular, don't like mess," he says. "Allowing individuals to make their own technology decisions has the potential to bring a ton of mess into the enterprise."

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