CIOs that haven't yet begun to capitalize on Web 2.0 technologies to mine for those hidden gems in the newly available data that can give the business a compelling comparative advantage are in danger of seriously missing the boat.
Web 2.0 provides unprecedented interactivity, including interactivity between users, between users and sites and between sites, experienced software development manager and CIO Alan Perkins noted in a recent conversation. Most CIOs will be familiar with much of the how and why Web 2.0 allows this, Perkins said, but certain technological and functional advances are key, including XML as a lingua franca and a building block for Web services, Asynchronous processing (and all the other aspects of AJAX), and the emergence of several high-level development tools that dramatically speed up development cycles.
This interactive capability provides the opportunity for sites and users to work together in ways previously unforeseen, said Perkins, who has designed and implemented systems for hundreds of companies and who is the proprietor of data mining company Profound Information.
- Much more (and richer) user content being created and stored so that users, having been provided with better user interfaces, wikis, blogs, forums, partially refreshing pages and a host of GUI-style UI-widgets, will be more able and likely to engage with data capture.
- Surface mash-ups with Web sites created from a range of sources, for example the way Google maps has been integrated into a wide variety of Web sites
- Deeper data collaborations between sites and sources providing deeper analysis, better forecasts, more insightful trends
With all that potential waiting in the wings, CIOs, Perkins believes, must begin to explore ways to harness the opportunities presented by this enhanced capability and profoundly greater data content in ways that use it all to provide comparative advantage.
Just look at what's being done at Amazon. By astutely observing user viewing patterns, buying patterns and ratings, Amazon is able to make incredibly insightful recommendations to its users, both in the form of targeted e-mails and on-site recommendations.
But this is just the beginning. Companies will need to learn to harness data from a myriad of public domain sources, eking trends and patterns from apparently separate islands of data and then applying these to what they know about their various trading partners / product lines etc. Beyond that comes the hard stuff: learning to glean quantifiable information from unstructured data by finding ways to structure the data for analysis. Once these problems have been transcended, we will begin to see data warehousing in a wider context - more of a data community warehouse: Here is the data that the world has produced; how a company mines that information and then turns that back outward will determine how successful that company can become.
While interactivity and data capture leading to more and better data is just one aspect of Web 2.0. ultimately Perkins believes CIOs should be focused on the wealth of opportunities arising out of greater access to the fruits of interactivity.
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