If “Web 2.0” was 2006′s buzzword, we begin to hear much of Enterprise 2.0. To make a long story short, it means using inside an enterprise the successful tools of web 2.0.
Please, do not sum-up this to internal blogs or wikis, this notion gather much richer fields and above all implies deep mutations which go farther than rolling-out new tools.
Before going through my overview map (which can confuse you), I’d like first to introduce the subject.
Some definitions and key-articles (and we do not talk about it anymore)
First things first, here is an academic definition from professor Andrew McAfee: “Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers“. A very accurate definition, which can be shorter as Indus Khaitan formulate it this way:”Enterprise 2.0 = Writable Intranet“. If you which to have something longer, may I advise you this article: Enterprise 2.0, The Big Picture.
We can complete this definition with the SLATES acronym which lists essentials components of collaboration: Search, Links, Authoring, Tags, Extensions and Signals.
Finally, you will find some more information in this list of dedicated articles:
- The Trends Underlying Enterprise 2.0 ;
- A Web 2.0 Tour for the Enterprise ;
- An Introduction to Enterprise 2.0.
Now that you have a first level of information at your disposal, it is time to simplify all this corporate talk and settle some key-notions.
It is all (quit not exactly) but technology
As web 2.0 revolution did not rely on technological improvements (but was closely tied to it), Enterprise 2.0 gather some new collaboration trends which do not require changes in your IT systems.
Correction: which do not necessarily require changes. Because it might be very easy to plug a blog or a wiki in your intranet, but real benefits of Enterprise 2.0 will only come from a renewed IT architecture. By this statement, I mean that there will not be any revolution in working habits or methods without IT revolution. It is not by hazard if professor Andrew McAffee’s first definition was related to SOA: Enterprise 2.0 vs. SOA.
The good news is that no enterprise becomes “2.0 certified” in a snap of fingers. It’s a long process which first steps do not have any impact on IT structure. On the other hand, once fundamental collaboration tools are assimilated be collaborators, the big work can begin in order to progressively adopt a more flexible IT system with strong modularity capabilities which allow to put employees in the center of process and to personalize information and tools regarding daily context. Professor Andrew McAffee (again!) is very clear about this: It’s Not Not About the Technology, and it is not the only one: Enterprise 2.0 = Next Generation IT.
Of course, do not imagine you can avoid a “local” IT structure and externalize everything to online services providers. In most cases, adopting Enterprise 2.0 solutions does not destroy IT’s work: Does Enterprise 2.0 actually mean a bigger IT Department?. The mean idea is not to lower It tools dependency but to de partition usage.
It’s my file, so I am in command!
Enterprise 2.0 is above all about sharing and collaboration. Launching a blog, a wiki or an online workspace without anticipating collaborators’ adhesion is a pure waste of time and money. The biggest mistake is to under-estimate habits’ weight and change reticences. Information (the one and only) is a very rare commodity and collaborators are fighting hard for it. They stock it in files which are jealously protected by password and non-shared directory.
Working in wiki-mode, sharing know-how and experience on a blog are counterintuitive ways of working, the opposite of what we hardly learn in the enterprise “jungle”: being seen by your managers as indispensable to the functioning of the enterprise. This was to date the most reliable way to advance in hierarchy and to collect end-year bonus.
But the (business) world as changed: Chinese competitors can now produce goods for 1/10th of your price and Indian competitors can provide services for 1/5th of your price. Moreover, this is only the beginning since those two countries are facing similar low-cost labor work competition (Philippine for China and Sri-Lanka for India). Conclusion: To maintain competitiveness, we must change our working habits, methods and tools. The main objective is to enhance business-critical information flow.
Enterprise 2.0 = Collaborators 2.0 = HR 2.0
I know what you will tell me: “one cannot change alone, others have to change also”. And I completely agree! In addition to working habits and tools impact, Enterprise 2.0 also require new carrier management and collaborators evaluation tools. Quantitative criteria have been used for years and it would be very tenting (and dangerous) to make quantitative as qualitative. Example: fixing volume objectives, i.e. 10 posts by month.
The biggest challenge for a collaborator is not to find the right information (because it is there, somewhere…) but to find it on a minimum of time. The information overload is very unproductive and those who produce information are not necessarily the most useful ones. Indeed, some collaborators do not produce anything, but they organize, rate, comment, filter… for the benefits of all employees. So this function of human filter is as valuable as information producers.
And this is the same for regular visitors of corridor meetings and smoking rooms, they discuss, meet, connect, forward, relay… they act as enablers for social interactions between employees. Even if they do not appear as essential to managers, they play a very important role in the social structure of the enterprise.
So it becomes vital to sharply evaluate collaborators regarding their formal and informal roles / actions. It becomes complicated in an everything-is-shared-enterprise, but it is far from being impossible.
Enterprise 2.0 overview
Let me now explain the different components of Enterprise 2.0 by using this chart:
Yes I know, that’s a lot of arrows, but his is because in the E2.0 model users are at the center of information flow and tools. You can also see the original version on FlickR.
First of all, the main activity of a collaborator should be done online (on the intranet or with securized access if he’s on the road or at home). Corporate portal is the backbone upon which rely several essential bricks:
- The dashboard, which is used to focus collaborators’ attention on a single screen where they can access every information, services or applications (by using indicators, shortcuts or alerts). Think corporate Netvibes ;
- The collaborator’s profile which is used to contextualize and personalize information and services. This profile will be the starting (and ending) point of all social activity (something halfway between Facebook and LinkedIn) ;
- Identification mechanism which will allow them to access complete or restricted internal, shared or external applications (some kind of corporate OpenID with strongest features) ;
- Filters are useful to avoid information overload. There can be individual one’s (based on employee’s criteria), collaborative one’s (based on common or shared parameters) ;
- At least, search is an essential tool to access the famous business-critical information. This search engine can be semantic (based on a thesaurus), empiric (like Google’s index) or social (using tags, folksonomies and rating systems) ; and why not the three of them (like CoReap).
Blogs farms and wikis as alternatives to files and messages
Let’s face it: a file can be lost, does not always fit in messaging systems’ limit and are a real lost of money for internal mailing systems. They are outdated, from a time when Microsoft’s Office was considered as business enhancers. Today’s reality is different: we write in Powerpoint, make tables in Word and draw charts in Excel. It is time to make this change and that’s what blogs and wikis are up to.
Blogs, with their simplified publication engine allow contributors to start posting without reading manual or attending a training ; with their intuitive interface where beginners can “consume” information with more accuracy (by using categories, archives, tags) and efficiency (by using RSS feeds). In some large company (IBM, Microsoft, GE…) one can find thousands of blogs gathered in blog farms: horizontal ones (by job), vertical ones (by business units or countries) and transversal ones. Blogs are a very simple and effective way to extract information from proprietary systems (files, emails…) and to share them on large scale (CEO’s blog) or local scale (team’s blog).
Internal communication gets more simpler: no more lost emails, stacked replies where someone is always missing in CC, doubles and susceptibility management (“I am the project leader, why am I only in CC?“). Everything is handled by the blog engine: publication, comments, archives, categories… Blogs are also a perfect match for new comers in a team which can have access to discussions history. If you are looking for a golden rule, here it is: if more than 5 person are in CC of your mail, than you better write a post. Typepad is a defacto provider for corporate blogging tools, but IBM also have it’s own offer.
Blogs always come with RSS feeds, which are a must have in information flow: light, versatile and universal. Some firm like KnowNow even specialized in corporate RSS feed management.
External blogs are also part of the enterprise’s blogosphere: collaborators can subscribe to their feeds or add then to collective bookmarks. Those tools can be specific to a business unit or a department. Cogenz, ConnectBeam and IBM provide solutions of this kind.
Collaborative portals like Digg can also be used inside a department to filter information and only display the most valuable articles. This tool works on page-level while bookmarks works on site-level.
Wikis are wonderful opportunities to make (professional) life easier: no more version conflicts, unreadable change history, stupid file names (“friday_meeting_notes_final_V2.1_Fred_OK_print.doc”)… Wikis are online applications which have native collaboration features: everyone brings his small contribution (redaction, complements, corrections…) and information is always up-to-date. Furthermore, version history is automated, moderation can be done after publication, rights can be managed by profile (read, change, moderate…).
When acting as vertical knowledge bases (marketing, IT, sales…) wikis offers a very simple alternative to knowledge management systems, less sophisticated but more simpler to launch. Corporate wiki champs are providers like SocialText, Atlassian or MindTouch.
Let me just add that wikis are not necessarily stand-alone applications, they can be combined to other tools to build Knowledge Ecosystems.
Virtual universe and micro-learning for internal training
Lots of improvements can be done with e-learning, starting by the use of blogs for micro-learning. The main idea is to avoid travel cost of employees to be trained by delivering to them the same knowledge through email or RSS: 2 to 5 minutes to read plus exercises if necessary. This also allows to work on long-term memory (chemical memory by opposition to electrical memory).
But virtual universes’ real potential is with ultra-realistic simulations (Serious Games) to test reactions and behaviors of collaborators facing critical situations (as described in this article: Emergency Training in Second Life). It is also possible (and strongly advised!) to envision virtual spaces where collaborators can interact, share knowledge, set-up meetings… through a 3D interface. IBM and Sun booth works on intraverse solutions: Sun’s Virtual Workspace and IBM’s Innov8 Demo.
To conclude on this subject, let me just cite Grockit, a start-up which provide a v-learning solution based on massive collaboration called MMPOL (Massive Multi-Player Online Learning).
Extranet + Collaboration = Collaboranet ?
Let’s continue in the collaborative field with online working spaces which enable quick and easy collaboration without deployment or heavy setting-up. Those of you who had no choice to work with MS Project or Lotus Notes know what I am talking about. Online project management tools like BaseCamp, ProjectPlace or ActiveCollab (an open source equivalent) or online applications like JotSpot or ClearSpace are models of efficiency and intuitiveness.
These type of collaborative platform already existed in the software industry (with services like CollabNet) but can ba adapted to every type of activity.
Enterprise Mashup and online application made real thanks to API
RIA have largely contributed to credibilize on line applications. Being for office-like (check the following contenders: Zoho, ThinkFree, Zimbra… and for this article: Boundary Spanning at Office 2.0) or for heavier application (ever heard about SalesForce ?). Benefits for this kind of applications are obvious: no installation, easier maintenance, built-in collaboration… without lowering richness or productivity. In certain case, online applications can even simplify integration and allow to make some light SOA: Extending SalesForce.com and SOA with rich internet applications.
By rolling-out APIs for these applications, benefit is even higher by allowing every employee to build his own personalized dashboard or enterprise mashup with tools like DreamFactory ou CogHead (please take the time to read this two articles: Mashups: The next major new software development model? and A bumper crop of new mashup platforms).
Maybe in a near future can you design on-demand IT services (which is the objective of marketplaces like AppExchange), SugarExchange, Iceberg…) or wikified intranet (just wait to see what google will do with merging JotSpot and Google Apps).
All of this being allowed with internal applications as well as external applications (B to B marketplaces, travel services…) thanks to a corporate identification system.
Enterprise social network and social coaching system to favor integration
Social interaction is the field where most of the improvement can be done. Big groups(even smaller firms) often suffers from lacks of… talking. To sum-up: similar tasks are done by several employees. This is where social networks enter the show: by connecting the right persons to collect information, gather competences or build a team. Of course it is not about bypassing hierarchy or HR but to emphasis interactions (for real!). B to B social network (like LinkedIn) are interesting but open to everyone (and to spammers!). Once a company has more than a thousand collaborators solutions like Affinitiz or VisiblePath can be very useful.
Those internal social networks rely on extremely detailed collaborators’ profile which could help gather employees by competences or affinities. Gathering which can take form of corporate coaching programs: employees with similar goals (learn spannish or chinese, improve IT skills…) could regroup and support each others. This principle is already working with services like 43 Things, InpowR or GoalMigo.
At last, it can be possible in a second time to extend the corporate social network to ex-employees: retired, trainees… to find lost competences or information by offering bounties like crowdsourcing platform (think Innocentive).
Micro-blogging and lifelog for documenting day-to-day activity
Finally, it could be interesting to implement micro-blogging tools (yes, I’m talking about Twitter or Jaiku) to enliven micro-community (and to lighten spam). Those services can also be used to document (historize ?) day-to-day activity. Plazes is a nice example of how this social presence services can be used.
Corporate lifelog might be the most frightening idea, but it could be very useful to determine what was the global contribution from a collaborator, to evaluate the footprint he left.
One for all and all for one
Let me insist for the last time on two essential rules:
- All those tools are completely ineffective if collaborators do not embrace them. Global management has to show the example by validating and encouraging necessary changes in work habits and methods. Experimentations can be made to evaluate collaborators needs, but you will be forced one day or another to convince you top management.
- Efficiency is enhanced if those tools work together. Try to imagine the power of such a portal as the one described in my chart: collaborators connect every morning on their personal start page to monitor activity or project advancement ; they have powerful social tools to quickly find information or key-competence ; with some few clicks they can access or deploy adapted online applications or build some.
But remember that tools are only supporting collaboration, only users can make it happens.
Which solution is right for me?
Numerous providers are already focused on Enterprise 2.0:
- Traditional actors like IBM (with QuickR or Connections), Google (with Google Apps the acquisitions of JotSpot and Postini), Microsoft (with Dynamics Collaboration), SuiteTwo lead by Intel or BEA (with En.terpri.se) ;
- New comers like SalesForce, SocialText, Traction, 37 Signals…
Stop dreaming: there is no magical solution which matches every possible configuration and constraints. The best you can do is to experiment.
Where to start?
As I have mentioned it earlier, Enterprise 2.0 comes with numerous changes in working habits. So it is wise to adopt a progressive approach:
- Search for existing initiatives inside your organization (you never know…)
- Poll your co-workers about web 2.0 tools they already use (Netvibes, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, blogs…) ;
- Identify key-collaborators which are easy to convince and can be converted to your “cause” (E2.0 champions) ;
- Find a small to medium sized department with open-minded collaborators to test a blog or a wiki ;
- Set-up some KPIs to measure improvements and benefits ;
- Support them on a daily basis ;
- Debrief them after 2 or 3 month (individual or collective sessions) ;
- Write a business case where you explain with simple words the context and stacks, describe added-value (with KPIs and testimonials) and propose a roll-out plan to your boss ;
- Elaborate a roadmap where different tools can be tested simultaneously by different departments ;
- Pass your year-end evaluation and collect your bonus for “demonstrating spectacular innovation capabilities and playing a key-role in internal process improvements and corporate culture enhancement“.
Of course Rome wasn’t built in a single day and it would be illusory to succeed in such initiative in a few lonth. So I can recommend some books to read (The Wisdom of Crowds, Wikinomics) and a site to visit (Cases 2.0) to strengthen your motivation.
To conclude, I’d like to add one more thing: Enterprise 2.0 has already begun in your organization. Indeed, your co-workers have a LinkedIn profile, they read blogs and have their own start-page, they use Wikipedia and visit Youtube. Maybe only a few of your colleagues are like that (the more internet-savy ones), but how will this evolve within 5 years? Changing working tools and habits is a long run, the bigger the organization, the longer. It appears to be essential to start thinking about adopting Enterprise 2.0 before fresh new graduates from the MySpace generation think your enterprise sucks and prefer to apply for your competitors.