The point of 2.0 isn’t ROI, or is it?

There is a lot’s of discussion going around about Web 2.0 return on investment.

On the Gov 2.0 side, Citizen’s Tools’ A better question than what’s the business case for Gov2.0…makes a simple, but powerful statement about making the business case “tell us about your agency’s relationships, and the case will become obvious.” He then goes into actual examples where organizations are attempting to address real needs using technology to tap into the power of the collective.

On the Enterprise 2.0 side, CMSWatch’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference wrap up effectively summarizes what I witnessed during the conference with regards to ROI.

I have been reviewing many collaborative projects to identify potential submissions for inclusion into the Collaborative Society Directory.

At times it seems that some of these projects are creating sub-silos within silos. Some silos seem to result from an effort to make a case for the technology instead of finding actual solution to a real need.

With all the talk around ROI, I found myself asking what is really the point of 2.0?

So, I checked Wikipedia’s Web 2.0 entry:

… web applications which facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web.

… Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but rather to cumulative changes in the ways software developers and end-users use the Web. Whether Web 2.0 is qualitatively different from prior web technologies has been challenged by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee who called the term a “piece of jargon”

Can you remember what the point of Web 1.0 was? Can you easily point out to an organization’s tangible ROI directly tied to its investment on Web 1.0 technology, outside vendors and investors?

I venture to think that if we were to exclusively focus on what is the point of 2.0 ala Citizen’s Tool, we would have a lesser struggle finding where the value is for this project or that goal. But, then, there are the technology vendors who are searching for sustainability and have to make the case for their “solutions”.

The project I’m submitting today to be considered for the Collaborative Society Directory is one of several I will be submitting in the next weeks that look at a collaborative project with a very clear financial goal.

The Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU):

The WAICU Collaboration Project is a comprehensive initiative to perform administrative support (back office) functions of Wisconsin’s 20 private nonprofit colleges and universities on a collaborative basis. The objectives are to save money, to improve the quality of services to students, faculty, and staff, and to serve as a national model for controlling college costs.

…The WAICU Collaboration Project has been identified by the U.S. Congress as the national model for advancing this Congressional objective…

This project combines many aspects of collaboration and ROI:

This project moves beyond incrementalism. It sends a message to the entire nation that something transformative has taken place. The project is modeled on the consolidation of back office functions which has taken place in the banking and other industries. Back office operations include functions such as health care plans, purchasing, and information technology.

I will try to find out if Web 2.0 has had any role in their learned lessons or successes and will search for others where we could learn from actual executions of Web 2.0 in collaborative projects that involve entities from the three segments of government, non-profits and for-profits.

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Ari Herzog

At the risk of sounding simplistic, I’ll try to answer in less than 280 characters:

If you remove the 2.0 version, ask yourself how the web, the enterprise, and the government are different. They’re not. Also ask yourself if ROI needs to stand for investment; and not, say, insight or influence or implementation.

Challenge the status quo and you’ll find your answer.