As Web 2.0 technologies continue seeping into business systems, a new generation of corporate users is starting to gain access to the collaboration capabilities they are demanding from IT, according to attendees at the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco this week.
But before use of the tools spreads too far, companies were warned they must strike a balance between the Web 2.0 wants of users and the needs of corporate IT.
The conference, described as a collective experiment by its long list of sponsors, was organised in two months using the online productivity and collaboration tools that are the focus of the event, the organisers said.
Jonathan Rochelle, product manager of Google's spreadsheet product, predicted that real-time collaboration capabilities, as provided in the Google Docs & Spreadsheets tool set, would become a key part of the next generation of office tools. Employees are increasingly demanding tools that will let them collaborate online when creating documents, he noted.
"The consumer expectation [for Web 2.0 tools] is being brought to the workplace," he said. "Work groups are taking the product in because they like working with it, and they are more productive."
Indeed, within Google itself, workers are now derided when they attach documents to email instead of using the online editing tool in Google Docs, he noted. The traditional route is now viewed as a drain on productivity, he added.
Richard McAniff, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office, also predicted that Web 2.0 tools will become interwoven into corporate life over the next few years. For example, combining a social networking tool like Facebook with productivity tools could "really change the way people do work," he noted
"We really have to look at ... how we can have a complete game changer in terms of what the workforce is really doing," he said.
Still, companies have to reconcile the demand of its employees for the new tools with the inevitable productivity bumps that come when new technologies like Web 2.0 tools are added in the workplace, he added.
"What people want on the desktop is one thing, [but] what IT might want is something else," he said. "You have to strike a balance between the two."
Danny Kolke, founder and CTO of Etelos Systems, a provider of hosted web applications, noted that many IT organisations are actually under assault by end users who are demanding Office 2.0 features and tools.
"The reason I use Spreadsheets in Google ... is because I know I can create it and share it easily," Kolke said. "IT comes along and says, 'We need control over this data.' A lot of [IT] organizations are defending their turf right now because they are getting assaulted. The demand [for Web 2.0 tools] is there."
The speed in which these Web 2.0 technologies are being developed – and then moving into the enterprise – is leading to tensions between IT and users, he added.
"The market wants [office 2.0 tools] before we're ready to deliver it in many cases," he said. "We can't keep up with the demand. If you listen to the market and innovate for what they are hoping for you don't have to sell your product."