It is quite interesting to notice in how many conversations clients ask questions like “which web 2.0 tools should we use to be successful”? As usual, they are looking for best practices and for technologies that are a relatively safe bet: for example, wikis have a good track record in many government organizations, while blogs tend to be a but more controversial in how they create value (or otherwise).
Since the discussion either happen with or is dominated by technical people, this is not surprising. They have always looked at tools as software products or new technology approaches, asking themselves whether and how they should become part of their technology stack.
But web 2.0 is different. It is not about what tool is best: video sharing, microblogs, RSS, collaboration suites… what makes the difference? The real question to ask is whether the community can be a tool. it does not really matter what platform is supporting the community but the fact that the community exist and can support a mission-critical function. Self-established communities (i.e. those formed without any government intervention in planning and orchestrating) choose their own platforms and the problem for government folks is to decide whether they want be there, where the people are, or not.
The assessment about the relevance and usefulness of a community must be left to individuals in government. Employees should decide whether they want that community as part of their toolset. Following a bottom-up approach like the one described in Gartner note “How governments can use social networks” (login required) allows to determine whether a community deserves to be looked at as an enterprise tool, as opposed to remaining an individual tool.