If you haven't already, it's time to climb aboard the Web 2.0 trend

Buylines | Policies, strategies and trends to watch

I went ahead and did it. Everyone has been talking about Web 2.0, and I finally figured I'd better get on board before the Generation Y crowd eats my lunch and leaves me in the dust with the rest of the baby boomers. So I updated my profile on LinkedIn, opened Facebook and de.licio.us accounts, started looking at blogging software, studied my topic interest areas in Wikipedia, and signed up for a few Really Simple Syndication feeds. I also stirred up some interest around our company about internal use of mashups and other Web 2.0 technologies as a new approach to knowledge management.

What have I discovered? I've learned that this is really about content management, and everyone is responsible for their own data. Gen Yers, the digital native generation, realize they must assume personal responsibility for their data and that cyberspace puts the burden on the individual. This has a number of implications for how public- and private-sector employers integrate that generation into the workplace.

I thought seriously about all of this at this year's Management of Change Conference, held by the American Council for Technologies' Industry Advisory Council. Participants discussed ways that change management differs in the public and private sectors. My conference experience was a wake-up call about the profound generational differences regardless of field in problem-solving; the delivery of results; and the use of information technology, knowledge management, communications and collaboration. For me, the conference proved to be less about the differences between the public and private sectors and more about differences between the generations and what it means to educate, motivate, measure and manage in this new world.

How does leadership style change when entry-level employees expect their leaders to be able to articulate what's going on in a blog format and respond to their reactions online? How does a profession build and grow its body of knowledge when the next generation expects it to grow organically and electronically online? How does government operate in this much more transparent environment?

At the communications layer, for instance, we see that the Transportation Security Administration's Evolution of Security blog looks like a first-rate newsletter that adds the absolutely mandatory Web 2.0 feature of online reader feedback. You'll find feedback there that is not complimentary to TSA or the federal government. I'll bet some public affairs types wish they could sanitize this, but if they had their way, the blog would have the credibility of a newspaper that only publishes complimentary letters to the editor. At the knowledge management layer, we have examples of wikis such as Intellipedia and Diplopedia that, by all accounts, are collaboration knowledge-building constructs for the intelligence and State Department communities.

Reports seem to indicate that information sharing is beginning to occur even though true collaboration and problem solving might have to wait until the digital natives get a little older and have a little more seniority. Meanwhile, on the knowledge creation level, the intergovernmental mashup application that drew the most praise, Virtual Alabama, illustrates what can be done when leadership provides frameworks and everyone who controls data can - and invariably will - contribute according to their comfort level. For $150,000, Alabama has local imagery and data for first responders available online that builds from the ground up.

The three examples ? blogs, wikis and mashups ? are just three of perhaps a dozen Web 2.0 technologies that are facilitating bottom-up changes in how we connect, communicate, collaborate and make decisions. This is threatening the status quo. Government leaders are asking how far they should go in permitting this. What kinds of policies should be created? Should we just tread water until the new administration takes office? My answer to the last question is no. This transition time is precisely the best time to experiment. As someone at the conference joked, there's no point in waiting: The Obama team will expect that we are already doing this, and the McCain team won't know the difference.

My solution is to start a policy and governance wiki and see how the people who are already doing this propose to police themselves. That, in a nutshell, is how all this works.

Steve Charles (steve_charles@immixgroup.com) is co-founder of the consulting firm immixGroup Inc.

About the Author

Steve Charles is a co-founder of immixGroup, which helps technology companies do business with government. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer on technology and the federal procurement process. He can be reached at Steve_Charles@immixgroup.com or connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/stcharles.

Reader Comments

Fri, Mar 20, 2009 Diane Ferguson Bethesda, MD

As a fellow "boomer," I say yes. However, I haven't really valued the internet as I do now with the "2.0 responsiveness. The collaboration of thoughts possible includes criticism, constructive or not but ultimately the evolution of a more valuable resource.

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