The spread of Web 2.0 and new mobile technologies throughout the workplace is forcing IT executives to quickly examine how best to maintain control of such systems.

CIOs participating in a panel at Cisco Systems Inc.'s C-Scape analyst conference last week discussed the challenges of managing social networks and other collaborative technologies.

Randy Spratt, CIO at McKesson Corp., a San Francisco-based medical services company, said trying to control the new technologies is like piloting a sailboat. "You never know where the wind's coming from and how hard it is, but you have to ride with it and keep sailing," he said.

He said that employees often hear from small vendors trying to sell a few licenses for Web 2.0 products to workgroups. Describing those vendors as "annoying ankle-biters," Spratt said, "They create a lot of headaches for me [but] are often at the cutting edge of new technologies."

The biggest IT concern, Spratt noted, is the possibility that using social networks could lead to legal trouble. "There could be loss of intellectual property, or inappropriate comments could be discovered," he said.

Rebecca Jacoby, Cisco's CIO, acknowledged that she has "abandoned any idea that you could possibly control" the new technologies, so she aims to teach employees how to use them properly in a corporate environment.

About 50,000 Cisco employees use wikis, which has challenged IT to create a proper infrastructure and make sure that the tools fit into the company's business processes, she added.

San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron Corp. is implementing Microsoft Corp.'s SharePoint collaboration software carefully, to ensure that it can maintain control of how it is used, said Louie Ehrlich, CIO for the company's global downstream operations.

"We're playing with things and being cautious," Ehrlich said. "We don't have a clear strategy." A key challenge, he added, is making sure the cost of managing the collaboration products doesn't stretch Chevron's IT budget.

In a recent report analyst IDC recently predicted that taming Web 2.0 and mobile technologies were set to be key concerns for CIOs in 2008.