Thursday, September 24, 2009

When Does Web 2.0 Work? Lessons For The Intelligence Communities (McKinsey Quarterly)

McKinsey, the capo di tutti capi of consulting firms, recently published a fascinating report titled How Companies Are Benefiting From Web 2.0. You have to register with McKinsey to read the full text but it is probably worth it if you are interested in how (and what) Web 2.0 technologies are actually making a difference in the very competitive, global business environment -- and, of course, which technologies appear to be falling out of favor as well.

The coolest thing about the report is the visualization tool they developed to supplement their report. I have a screenshot of one of the views of the data it provides below but that does not do it justice. Click here or on the picture to take you to the fully interactive set of charts and graphs (No registration required to play with the chart...).

The most interesting thing about the report, however, is the implications it holds for the intelligence community and its attempt to bring Web 2.0 technologies into the workplace. According to a report from earlier this year, Web 2.0 is in a midlife crisis within the national security intelligence community. The McKinsey report pretty clearly points to the likely reasons why. Specifically, they identified three major performance factors (ranked by the percentage that each factor made in the average company's success):

  • "Management capabilities ranked highest at 54 percent, meaning that good management is more than half of the battle in ensuring satisfaction with Web 2.0, a high rate of adoption, and widespread use of the tools. The competitive environment explained 28 percent, size and location 17 percent."
Since management was such a fundamental part of the success or failure of these initiatives, McKinsey then dug into the numbers regarding management and found three critical management related sub-factors:
  • "Parsing these results even further, we found that three aspects of management were particularly critical to superior performance: a lack of internal barriers to Web 2.0, a culture favoring open collaboration (a factor confirmed in the 2009 survey), and early adoption of Web 2.0 technologies."

If McKinsey's results are accurate, then a true cynic would say the national security intel community already has three strikes against it. In these circumstances, it is only surprising that Web 2.0 has had any success -- at all.

That view is clearly unfair to the thousands of people who are already successfully working with these technologies inside the national security intelligence community. What would also be unfair, however, is to underestimate the roadblocks that conventional management approaches may be putting in the way of the productivity to be gained from implementing these technologies in intelligence.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is resistance to using Web 2.0 collaboration to support national security cases that may go to trial because analysts could post thoughts and conjectures not supported by the investigation, providing future defense attorneys with discoverable materials that could upend prosecutions. A limited use of Web 2.0 that management might accept would involve a read only Wiki that is controlled by a team of trained analysts. This would provide the information to a wide body of users but avoid unfortunate entries that could risk the case. Of course, the more trained personnel involved, the more collaborative the project could become. For now, management judges the benefits of Web 2.0 are outweighed by the potential risks. It's pretty clear that management has only the vaguest idea of what the potential benefits of Web 2.0 are for their projects, so the balance sheet of pros and cons is unfairly weighted against using Web 2.0.