Srinivas Reddy’s Weblog

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Understanding Enterprise 2.0 and its implications

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Having recently read the book Enterprise 2.0 I would like to reflect on my learning’s from the book and thoughts on the topic.  I like the definition of the author (Andrew Mcafee) “Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms by organizations in pursuit of their goals”.  I particularly like the emphasis in the book to ‘emergence’ and ‘platform’. Most knowledge work is about human interactions which happens face to face (meetings) or through virtual channels (phone, email, virtual meetings…). Given the new interaction abilities offered by web 2.0 technologies (be it using social networks, blogs, micro blogs / twitter, wikis…) it’s possible to create new Emergent Social software platforms (ESSP). These platforms enable free form (open, flexible, optional) exchange of information/knowledge across the enterprise and beyond. The author provides a four ring bull’s eye of human network relations consisting of strong ties in the centre to weak ties, potential relations and lastly to no relation at the outer ring. What ESSP offer is a basis to allow emergence of knowledge by enabling interactions across the different rings. While enabling interactions in each layer itself offer benefits it can be disruptively effective when properly done across the layers.

Given the huge investments enterprises already made in IT (ERP, BI, Portal, CMS, CRM…) do the really need more technology and what’s so different about ESSP’? There is already so much content inside the enterprises (be it structured or unstructured content) can we afford to manage more massive cloud based ‘social data’? It’s important to note that we are moving away from PC based ‘Personal productivity’ to Network Computer based ‘Group productivity’.  A key element of ESSP is to move away from closed channels (ex – emails) to open platforms (easy access and update – blogs, wikis…) to enable viral consumption/production of content. It would be possible to get more value for the unstructured content (email, documents, instant messages,..) if they are replaced by platforms that enable easy consumption and extension of content (no training needed, links that can be easily consumed, event driven updates, learning recommender system,…).

What’s really preventing adoption of such systems in the enterprise if they can add so much value? As the author highlights changing status quo needs the new solution to offer a huge value add to motivate user’s change current work flow (email is so easy to use why use wiki’s?). The success of ‘Consumer web’ (be it Google search, social networks…) to a large extent is related to the web scale data that the underlying platforms can use to build ‘smart enough systems’ that leverage the ‘wisdom of crowds’.  Most ‘Enterprise systems’ may not have a ‘critical mass’ of users for ESSP’s to show significant value add (only few people blog/ update wikis/… ). Enabling ‘Personalized’ subscription to enterprise events/data needs lot of system integration of current/legacy IT landscapes. Transparency and sharing/trusting culture needed for adoption in enterprise. Current HR policies do not offer any ‘incentives’ for ‘enterprise social activism’.

Given that a lot of preconditions are needed for the success of Enterprise 2.0 will it ever take off? We have seen lot of ESSP’s launched in the recent times (Google wave, SAP Streamwork, Salesforce Chatter…) which try to capture this market. While Enterprises understand the value of Business network driven collaboration they need to start by enabling open collaboration inside the enterprise. If the end users can see personal value from the new productivity tools they will eventually adopt it. Its not really about replacing email and excel but enabling collaboration around it in a easily reusable way. Even as we transition from open API (read SOA for IT systems) to open Data (new event streams – micro-blogs…), we need to have a good understanding of what massive (cloud/public) data we need and how are going to harvest it to create value.  In conclusion as the author states the real value of Enterprise 2.0 is not the data but the connections to new people that it offers!

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Written by srinivasreddy

April 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm

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