Advocates Overcoming IT Resistance to Web 2.0

Article: Advocates Overcoming IT Resistance to Web 2.0

Web 2.0 tools are slowly making their way to corporate users, often under the wings of champions who must work to overcome IT resistance to blogs, wikis, online communities and the like.

For example, Adam Carson said that Morgan Stanley’s IT organization at times presented obstacles to his efforts to introduce such technologies to workers at the New York-based financial services firm.

Carson, an associate at Morgan Stanley, initiated the Web 2.0 effort there late last year by creating a network of 1,000 employees at LinkedIn Corp.’s professional networking site, At the start of the effort, he said, “most of our IT department didn’t get it. This was all new to them. They had just been stuck in the world of enterprise IT.”

I like the word champions in this instance. Are you a champion for social tools in your library? This article is a useful bit of evidence that some could share with their own IT departments – as a discussion starter, a way to generate interest in projects, and as a roadmap of sorts:

Suggestions for Implementing Web 2.0 Tools
-Create Web 2.0 awareness
-Locate supporters in the company.
-Make friends with IT.
-Approach senior management with a proposal.
-Work closely with business units
-Gather and distribute best practices
-Feed the open mouths; don’t force it.
-Be patient, because change takes time.

My favorites? “Be patient” is a good one, sometimes patience paired with “feeding the open mouths” can go much farther than other methods for planting seeds with an organization.

The article also points out some valid concerns: launching a bunch of Web 2.0 initiatives at the same time can tax many already overly burdened IT shops and the ease of the tools can lead to covert 2.0-ness:

Young said that despite IT’s warnings, users often implement Web 2.0 tools on their own because “they are so easy to get started.” Such covert implementations are “very, very frustrating for IT departments,” he said. According to a Forrester report released last month, 25% of IT shops are “very concerned” and 53% are “somewhat concerned” about the unsanctioned use of Web 2.0 tools.

A proactive IT department might create a sandbox for library staff to play with blogs, wikis, etc, rather than viewing exploration as unsanctioned. I also like the more formalized approach — a staff member or team designated as “explorers” looking for benefits:

Lee White, social media champion at the London-based pharmaceutical company, said that he has been given a year to explore how Web 2.0 tools can benefit GlaxoSmithKline. White noted that demand for Web 2.0 tools generally bubbles up from users, unlike the traditional process where IT managers decide what products are used by workers. That shift could create significant challenges to implementing the technology at his firm, he said.

Formalized as a Learning 2.0 course or as part of an Emerging Tech team, this exploration can lead to another valuable step: prototyping. Approach upper management with IT buy in, a proposal and a prototype and our project may be golden. Brian Mathews said it well at Designing Better Libraries:

“When I speak with librarians who are excited about new social technology, they often mention the roadblocks they encounter. The best advice I can give is to use prototyping. Build a proof-of-concept, test it with a few users, and then present it to the powers-that-be. Instead of giving them the chance to shoot down your idea, let them see it first hand, educate them about it, and show them see how it can be adapted. The secret is user needs—if you can demonstrate how your idea addresses a patron (or staff) need then you’ll have greater chance of success.”

Finally, a key quote from the article speaks volumes:

“The whole Enterprise 2.0 thing is a lot more about a cultural shift than a technology shift,” White said.

Maybe this is important to keep in mind: the technology shift is such a given these days, that the people part of it is the most important. Maybe many of your librarians are already there, while IT culture is still moving, learning, exploring. The same could be said for upper management: steeped in closed meetings, “need to know” information and a way of doing business that’s been in pace for YEARS. it’s pretty darn hard to suddenly drop the opaque curtain and let the whole organization in on the conversation.

So that’s why, dear readers, we need to be champions. Champions of new tools, yes, but more so champions of new ways of offering service based soundly on our mission and vision, champions of a more open organizational culture and champions of participatory conversation. How will you be a champion today?