The value companies have realized from their Web 2.0 deployments

McKinsey Quarterly conducted a survey in June 2009 and received nearly 1,700 executives from around the world, across a range of industries and functional areas. The survey focused on 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.

Their responses suggest why Web 2.0 remains of high interest: 69% 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. The survey 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. The results show 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.

What benefits do Web 2.0 deployments bring to a company?

This year’s survey turned up strong evidence that these advantages are translating into measurable business gains: greater ability to share ideas; improved access to knowledge experts; and reduced costs of communications, travel, and operations. Many respondents also say Web 2.0 tools have decreased the time to market for products and have had the effect of improving employee satisfaction.

Looking beyond company borders, significant benefits have stemmed from better interactions with organizations and customers. The ability to forge closer ties has increased customers’ awareness and consideration of companies’ products and has improved customer satisfaction. Some respondents report that these customer interactions have resulted in measurable increases in revenues.

Respondents cite similar gains resulting from better ties to suppliers and partners: the ability to gain access to expertise outside company walls more quickly, lower costs of communication with business partners and lower travel costs.

How do companies use Web 2.0?

Among respondents who report seeing benefits within their companies, many cite blogs, RSS, and social networks as important means of exchanging knowledge. These networks often help companies coalesce affinity groups internally. Finally, respondents report using Web videos more frequently since the previous survey; technology improvements have made videos easier to produce and disseminate within organizations.

Respondents who report that Web technologies have strengthened their companies’ links to customers also cite blogs and social networks as important. Both allow companies to distribute product information more readily and, perhaps more critically, they invite customer feedback and even participation in the creation of products.

What’s next?

• Over half of the companies in this year’s survey plan to increase their investments in Web 2.0 technologies, while another quarter expect to maintain investments at current levels.
• The current downturn has increased interest in the technologies, presumably because companies count on extending their gains.
• About 1/3 of respondents have not yet achieved business benefits, either because they aren’t using Web 2.0 for one of the three major usage categories (internal, customer, and partner/supplier) or because they have yet to learn how to achieve measurable benefits with the tools they are using.

For a closer look at how companies are using Web 2.0 and their benefits, see the articles “Business and Web 2.0: An interactive feature,” and “How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0” on www.mckinseyquarterly.com

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