Web 2.0 for the Suits: One Visionary's Take

Open e-mail, open source, open environments. British Telecom's CIO of global services, JP Rangaswami, gives his thoughts on corporate culture and the free exchange of information.

JP Rangaswami is not your typical CIO, but he is certainly an outspoken one. The current CIO of global services at British Telecom and former CIO of Dresder Kleinwort (named CIO of the Year by Waters Magazine in 2003) is passionate about IT, open source and Web 2.0. He writes in his blog Confused of Calcutta, "ever since I read The Cluetrain Manifesto I have believed in the 'markets are conversations' theme" and his credo is required reading for any executive contemplating Web 2.0 and the future of information sharing.

His take on e-mail is also unusual. For example, he reads no e-mails he is cc'd on, only those addressed to him alone. And at Dresdner Kleinwort, he opened his e-mails—both incoming and outgoing—to his management team. Here he shares some thoughts with CIO.com.

More on Web 2.0

Is the Enterprise Afraid of Web 2.0?

Stowe Boyd on Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

Five Tips for Bringing Web 2.0 Into the Enterprise

ABC: An Introduction to Web 2.0   On the Enterprise's Suspicion of Web 2.0

A superior order problem that affects a lot of Web 2.0 is that if people don't want to share, they won't share. No system in the world is going to force them to when they have a cultural bias against it. Web 2.0 is first and foremost about culture in that sense. Those are core values, and if people don't get those values then you are met with, "This looks trivial. This is not work. Have you looked at the security implications?" All the usual objections to a Web 2.0 model.

On Information-Controlling Cultures

Sharing information does not demean your having it. Personally I want to see the pockets of power based on behind-closed-doors alliances destroyed. And I have no problem saying I think it's part of the job of a firm CIO and their policies to make sure that you don't create artificial pockets of power based on selfish motives of individuals exploiting information and not sharing it. The people who do that haven't understood the value of teaching, learning, and sharing information or the wisdom of crowds.

Why does open source work? Because given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. Now the bug that may be shallow may be an information bug. So if you put the facts out, then a fact that you got wrong is more likely to be corrected if there are 1,000 people seeing it rather than 100 people seeing it. There is a self-correcting capacity when you have a large group of people seeing things, which is very, very powerful in a firm. The training costs for new hires and induction plans or programs is that much lower if you have the concept of transparent information in place.

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