A recent report by Forrester Research suggests that corporate IT departments have seen demonstrable value from Web 2.0 technologies in the workplace and should continue to adopt more of those applications at their own pace. But the report also reveals that the unsanctioned use of consumer, Web-based applications (a phenomenon known as Rogue IT or Shadow IT) remains high, behooving IT managers to get in the trenches to find out where sensitive corporate data could be exposed. (For more, see "Shadow IT Culture" on the Rise for Businesses.)
"Of the rogue usage going on, it's often difficult to see which poses privacy or security concerns," says Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester analyst and one of the authors of the study, "Web 2.0 Social Computing Dresses Up for Business."
Around 15 percent of the IT decision-makers surveyed at firms with 500 or more employees say their workers have used technologies like blogs, wikis and really simple syndication (RSS) for business purposes. On average, about 27 percent of those companies have already made formal enterprise investments in all three of those technologies and another 16 percent have at least considered it. At least 89 percent saw limited to substantial value from the use of blogs, RSS and wikis.
Meanwhile, Koplowitz says the numbers reported for rogue usage—which at Forrester's last count range from 3 percent to 8 percent—remain deceptively low.
"It could be a lot higher because unsanctioned use is, by definition, under the radar," he says. "The best an IT manager can do is have some anecdotal evidence and then work from there."
To avoid an ad-hoc approach to Web 2.0 adoption, Koplowitz says IT departments should start by getting a better handle on what applications users have flocked to and embrace them rather than shunning them. In doing so, IT eliminates an adversarial environment, allowing IT managers to form a long-term strategy with their users that encourages testing, setting usage policies and training.
"It's becoming increasingly difficult for IT to control what tools people use in their day-to-day activities," Koplowitz says. "It's in IT's best interest to find out what's going on and offer a sanctioned alternative."