Charting a Web 2.0 Strategy

By Amit Varma

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Wikis, blogs, social networks, AJAX … rarely does a day go by without these terms being hurled at us from different directions and this has resulted in these becoming mnemonics for Web 2.0. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked this question, "How do I incorporate wikis, blogs, AJAX into my current site to enable Web 2.0?"

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The confusion around what constitutes Web 2.0 has led to the current situation where some limited aspects on Web 2.0 are being construed as the whole Web 2.0 enchilada. This is naturally leading to the question: What is Web 2.0? But, before I present my own view, let me take the liberty of establishing a hypothesis: Business and technology are getting more and more intertwined to the point that sometime in the near future, IT will just become a part of a business function.

We can debate when and whether this will happen at all, but I’m sure we’ll all agree that the need to understand business strategy & direction is becoming more and more paramount to defining effective IT strategies. "Business backwards" thinking will give way to "Business" thinking.

With that key point established, let me present my own definition of Web 2.0. In my view, Web 2.0 = 4Cs — content, commerce, community and context. If you dwell further, the first two Cs are what really made up Web 1.0 and the two new Cs are really adding the new dimensions to Web 2.0. Let’s spend a couple of minutes on the last C …


This is the C that’s making Web 2.0 a force to reckon with. Context really implies the following:

Contextual search: If I’m on an insurance site and am searching for risk, it shows me only risks associated with my liabilities, environment, policies, i.e. only related to the insurance I am looking for. This is a huge leap forward in terms to ensuring that customer get what they are looking for without having to sift through the loads of irrelevant results that show up today. If you look around the Web today, sites like Kayak and SideStep do a phenomenal job at that; almost a verticalized search, if you will.

Personalization: The second dimension of context is the personalization, localization aspect, i.e., I get only what’s relevant for or what I want to see. What this really tells us is that Web 2.0 is much more than the C= Community, i.e. the blog, social networking, chat etc. It’s really the combination of the 4C’s that adds up to an effective Web 2.0 strategy. Moreover, what’s important for a Web 2.0 strategy for one organization will and can be very different from another.

What’s important for a consumer centric organization (B2C) will likely be very different from that of a business centric organization (B2B). This leads to the next key point—your Web 2.0 strategy (and consequently the relative importance of the specific C’s of the framework) is purely a function of your business vision and objectives. While there are multiple ways of getting to your Web 2.0 solution roadmap, I’m particularly fond of the Strategy Canvas (Blue Ocean Strategy) & the Porter’s framework. Let’s adapt those two to help define a framework that I think organizations could use effectively to define their roadmap.

As you see, the first and probably the most important step in defining a Web 2.0 strategy is defining your business (or marketing) vision and objectives. This needs to be quickly narrowed down to the strategic business levers (SBL) that form the core of the vision and objectives. While these SBLs are very contextual and a function of the vision and objectives articulated, some examples of SBLs are brand awareness, product penetration, customer acquisition, service satisfaction, profitability, etc.

Once the SBLs have been identified from the visioning process, the value curve needs to be determined based on where the vision needs to take us. The value curve may likely look something like this (example) based on the stated vision and identified SBLs:

The curve itself is determined through a quantitative (and hence non subjective) scorecard that needs to be built. Define the key drivers and score them against each dimension, apply the appropriate weight/priority and get the score. This value curve now needs to be mapped back to the 4C framework to determine which C’s play what role in your Web 2.0 solution roadmap.

It’s quite possible that you may have an overwhelming need for only 2C’s in your solution roadmap to start with and then build on the others (or not at all) and it’s absolutely fine, as long as it helps you get to your business vision. Finally, I always recommend you build out a balanced scorecard for your 4C framework and continue to monitor your evolution along your Web 2.0 roadmap. The absence of such a framework may let your solution strategy drift and you may realize the deviation a little too late.

The beauty of following a structured approach to defining your strategy is that even if Web 2.0 becomes Web 3.0, your basic approach will not change. What will likely happen is that a few new C’s or other letters will get added to your framework and your value curve will likely span across more dimensions. As the cliché goes, its all about business, technology solutions are a mere enabler. Web 2.0 and your strategy therein, are no different.

Amit Varma is general manager & head of Business Technology Consulting Practice at MindTree Consulting .