Past, Present and Future of the Third Media Revolution

Web 2.0 Works
McKinsey Confirming Common Knowledge

February 22nd, 2009

Some twelve years ago, in 1997, four comrades at KPMG Consulting founded ITTI, the “IT Trends Institute.” Brave musketeers we were, witnessing and charting the development of “e-mancipation:” the electronification of mankind’s economic efforts. Back then it was quite a struggle, I remember, to convince KPMGs “Corporate Brand Police” of founding yet another institute, since NNI, the “Nolan Norton Institute” already existed within our “World Class IT” group. But we persisted and successfully launched the institutionalization of research which two of us already had been carrying out for several years.

Author: Jaap Bloem

ITTIs main deliverable was (and still is) to yearly provide a clear picture of IT trends adoption in Dutch organizations: companies and government alike. Twelve years ago, this was more relevant than ever, 1996 seeing the birth of IBMs “e-business” while in 1997 the famous Stevenson report coined the term ICT. Apparently “Information Technology/ies” wasn’t appropriate and sexy enough anymore.

What had happened in those years was nothing near a revolution. It merely was a small but decisive “eureka” revelation - the one that still rules our world and lives. After the Business Process Reengineering flare had faded out Information Technology had become widely accepted and adopted as a necessary means of doing things: businesswise and manwise, the latter appearing to be of the utmost importance.

Being a linguist with an education in German language and British philosophy (extremely fortunate given the former Viennese-Cantabrigian-Oxonian connection which still inspires me) I always compared “e-mancipation” to Austin’s “How To Do Things With Words.” “Words,” I used to jokingly explain any audience, “since we have bits, bytes, words, long words and very long instruction words, as anyone familiar with ‘medieval’ CPU technology undoubtedly will remember.”

Anyway, year after year the ITTI research findings continue to reveal that the adoption of communications trends (the C in ICT) perhaps do not outnumber but certainly outperform business process oriented IT trends. No surprise but still an early fulfillment of Nicholas Carr’s 2003 HBR statement “IT Doesn’t Matter,” from which the subsequent “Does IT Matter?” book title unfortunately was a cowardly retreat.

Indeed, IT Does Not Matter, increasingly so, and therefore ultimately only the C will prevail. The C of man-centric Communication, of Cooperation and of Coordination. My old Greek friend Protagoras of Abdera knew it all along. He coined the underlying maxim, long before we were born: “Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.”

Now, at the start of 2009, McKinsey is also able to confirm this common knowledge with respect to yet another no-brainer, called “Web 2.0.” The secret? Well, “unlike ERP and CRM [..] Web 2.0 technologies [...] require users to generate new information and content or to edit the work of other participants.”

Too bad amigos, but this isn’t a simple dichotomy. Business process oriented IT like ERP and CRM can and already does exist in some sort of Web 2.0 shell. And as to the six so-called critical factors, determining the outcome of Web 2.0 implementing efforts, McKinsey comes up with -

1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top
2. The best uses come from users — but they require help to scale
3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used
4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs — not just their wallets
5. The right solution comes from the right participants
6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk

- would anyone please pass the salt!

The Me-Media-ization of ICTech, resulting in what I call “ICTainment,” is a crucial stage in our “e-mancipation” process. Given their reputation McKinsey’s recognition of this functions as an important sign of evidence that we will continue to travel along this road.

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