that is Web 2.0. Although being one of the organizers at the MIT CIO Conference I shouldn’t be critical about a panel but I could not resist posting this article. I was sitting in a panel on Enterprise 2.0 today at the symposium and I need to respectfully disagree with the distinguished panelists on what Enterprise 2.0 is. I was getting really frustrated when the panelists kept talking about platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, about how organizations should break down the barriers and leverage these platforms, ultimately getting onto the Enterprise 2.0 bandwagon. All the while I was sitting there and thinking to myself…. Are you guys kidding me? So you are telling me that if a Boss fires an employee tomorrow, he is going to do that through his Tweet or Facebook status or his blog? Or for that matter instead of sharing information within or collaborating within, I would expect my employees to sign on external websites and then hope that they’ll get their technical information there?
Hell no! These platforms which are Web 2.0 and NOT Enterprise 2.0. can be leveraged by companies to their advantage in specific functions and in specific scenarios but that does not make these platforms Enterprise 2.0. For example efficient mining of data from these social media platforms as explained in my previous blog post can be used for marketing & sales especially by B2C companies and specifically by the business development teams in those companies. If I were a B2B company with employees focused on coding up the next big algorithm, I would never ever encourage them to spend their time on these social sites during work hours. If any executive did so (as some do by claiming to be tech friendly) it just results in decreased employee productivity and is detrimental to the organization. That information and time spent on social sites is of no use at all and does not add to company’s bottom-line.
So the question is “What is Enterprise 2.0”?
The answer to that in my perspective is new technologies deployed within the firewall that result in increased employee productivity through collaboration and efficient sharing of information. It is sifting through and leveraging the collective intelligence within. So yeah you can say I already know this definition, but what’s new… can you give me some examples? Absolutely, there are tons of examples that we can talk about where Web 2.0 technologies can be deployed in a corporate environment.
Lets start with Twitter (for those who are obsessed with it but don’t know what to do with it). It is a obviously a great platform where we know real-time what people are upto. However, one of the biggest problems in most companies today is knowing what your fellow employees (across different sites, divisions, product lines) are working on. If each of us knew what our colleagues were working on currently, we could reach out to them whenever we are looking for information on that particular task, technology or challenge we ourselves are facing at work. And probably deploying an open source micro-blogging platform such Laconica can help companies overcome this challenge.
The next is an efficient way to capture data and leverage internal expertise. In a company with 9000 employees across the globe, I am sure there are experts and gurus that I should be able to reach out to within my company, if I faced challenges in my design/development tasks. However, since there is no way of knowing who that expert is within the company, the first resource usually most employees turn to is google.com. Ironic isn’t it? An expert is within your company (and yes he/she might have posted a blog on some random external site that you will probably encounter in a google result) but you still find it difficult to reach them directly within the company. The challenge for companies is therefore to make these so called experts catalog what they know or discover what they find into some platform within the firewall so that other employees can reach out to them or use that information. Companies also benefit in the long run because it creates a repository of information that can be tapped into later.
And last but not the least is to extend the concept of social search within an enterprise. More often than not, more than one employee in an organization searches for data (either internally or externally) on very similar topics. The searches maybe for research papers, patents, publications, tutorials and other information. In most cases we spend hours and hours searching for the right links. How about helping our colleagues (whom we have not met or know) and saving some time for them if they are looking for similar information? Absolutely, there are open source social bookmarking platforms such as scuttle that can help companies enable that. Extending the latest social search paradigms being implemented by companies such as Scour and deploying them within the firewall (without the pay rewards of course) also enables collaboration and efficient information arbitrage within a corporation.
There are umpteen examples like these which bring enterprise 2.0 into a company – applications that enable organizations to build IP within, break down barriers of communication within and leverage the talent within. It is definitely not opening up social media outlets to employees and hoping that a status message from a friend about what she did last night or their picture partying last weekend would inspire employees to write the next great algorithm or develop the next best drug. The ultimate Enterprise 2.0 technology according to me would be one which takes all the Web 2.0 collaboration and analytic technologies and puts them into a single platform that can be deployed within a firewall. Something similar to SocialText but perhaps even more powerful.
I can go on but will stop here and respond to any comments or ideas from you on the topic. I know most of you were expecting that I would write about how my panel on Virtual Organizations went at the MIT CIO conference and yes thats coming next including my comments on “Cloud Computing” – yeah the new Buzz word provided I get time. Life has been crazy as always and I need to find time…