How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results

The heaviest users of Web 2.0 applications are also enjoying benefits such as increased knowledge sharing and more effective marketing. These benefits often have a measurable effect on the business.


Source: Business Technology Office
Business Technology, Strategy article, How companies are benefiting Web 2.0

Over the past three years, we have tracked the rising adoption of Web 2.0 technologies, as well as the ways organizations are using them. This year, we sought to get a clear idea of whether companies are deriving measurable business benefits from their investments in the Web. Our findings indicate that they are.

Nearly 1,700 executives from around the world, across a range of industries and functional areas, responded to this year’s survey.1 We asked them about the value they have realized from their Web 2.0 deployments in three main areas: within their organizations; externally, in their relations with customers; and in their dealings with suppliers, partners, and outside experts.
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Web 2.0’s Power Curves

Web 2.0 technologies improve interactions with employees, customers, and suppliers at some companies more than at others. An outside study titled “Power Law of Enterprise 2.0” analyzed data from earlier McKinsey Web 2.0 surveys to gain a better understanding of the factors that contribute most significantly to the successful use of these technologies.

The findings demonstrate that success follows a “power curve distribution”—in other words, a small group of users accounts for the largest portion of the gains. According to our research, the 20 percent of users reporting the greatest satisfaction received 80 percent of the benefits. Drilling a bit deeper, we found that this 20 percent included 68 percent of the companies reporting the highest adoption rates for a range of Web 2.0 tools, 58 percent of the companies where use by employees was most widespread, and 82 percent of the respondents who claimed the highest levels of satisfaction from Web 2.0 use at their companies.

To improve our understanding of some underlying factors leading to these companies’ success, we first created an index of Web 2.0 performance, combining the previously mentioned variables: adoption, breadth of employee use, and satisfaction. A score of 100 percent represents the highest performance level possible across the three components. We then analyzed how these scores correlated with three company characteristics: the competitive environment (using industry type as a proxy), company features (the size and location of operations), and the extent to which the company actively managed Web 2.0. These three factors explained two-thirds of the companies’ scores.

Furthermore, while all of the factors are slightly correlated with one another—for example, there are more high-tech companies in the United States than in South America—each factor by itself explains much of why companies achieved their performance scores. 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. 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. The high-tech and telecom industries had higher scores than manufacturing, while companies with sales of less than $1 billion or those located in the United States were more likely to have relatively high performance scores than larger companies located elsewhere.

While the evidence suggests that focused management improves Web 2.0 performance, there’s still a way to go before users become as satisfied with these technologies as they are with others. The top 20 percent of companies reached a performance score of only 35 percent (the score increased to 44 percent in the 2009 survey). When the same score methodology is applied to technologies that corporations had previously adopted, Web 2.0’s score is below the 57 percent for traditional corporate IT services, such as e-mail, and the 80 percent for mobile-communications services.

About the Author

Jacques Bughin is a director in McKinsey’s Brussels office.

Their responses suggest why Web 2.0 remains of high interest: 69 percent of respondents report that their companies have gained measurable business benefits, including more innovative products and services, more effective marketing, better access to knowledge, lower cost of doing business, and higher revenues. Companies that made greater use of the technologies, the results show, report even greater benefits. We also looked closely at the factors driving these improvements—for example, the types of technologies companies are using, management practices that produce benefits, and any organizational and cultural characteristics that may contribute to the gains. We found that successful companies not only tightly integrate Web 2.0 technologies with the work flows of their employees but also create a “networked company,” linking themselves with customers and suppliers through the use of Web 2.0 tools. Despite the current recession, respondents overwhelmingly say that they will continue to invest in Web 2.0.

This year, for the first time, we have consolidated the data from our Web 2.0 research into an interactive graphic (see Business and Web 2.0: An interactive feature). With just a few clicks, users can compare technologies, usage, satisfaction, and much more across all three survey years.

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