Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What is Enterprise 2.0?

In his comment to yesterday's post about Enterprise 2.0, Doug Cornelius posited that:

I do not think it [Enterprise 2.0] is using Web 2.0 inside the enterprise, it is tools like Web 2.0 inside the enterprise.

However, a previous comment, from Xyzo, took what appears to be the exact opposite position:

Enterprise 2.0 is not just web 2.0 in an enterprise. You first need a change in culture, which means adopting new processes.

So which is it? Is it web 2.0 tools and technology inside the enterprise or (if I can be allowed to paraphrase) web 2.0 philosophy inside the enterprise?

Well, not being a fan of the 2.0 craze, I am probably not in any position to insist on a particular definition. So let's go back to the source, Andrew McAfee and see how he defines it:

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.

Hmmm... that doesn't seem to resolve anything. But if you read the rest of his definition, it appears he is siding more with the latter definition. I won't quote the definition in full -- it is a great read so I recommend it to everyone -- but some key points of his definition are the distinction between platform and tool and his use of the term emergent:

Emergent means that the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people's interactions become visible over time.

So if I interpret this correctly, the definition of Enterprise 2.0 is a little bit of both: it requires both the technology (i.e. the platform) and the philosophy (implied by emergent and freeform).

So are blogs inside the firewall Enterprise 2.0? It depends. It depends on how the technology is used. If it is simply used as another way to push executive news and announcements to the masses, then the answer is no. If it is used as a mechanism for managers to communicate and interact freely with their employees, or for the employees to develop their own interactions, then the answer would be yes.

Which gets us back to web 2.0 and process: intent and the process that embodies it is essential in the classification as any specific tool or technology as Enterprise 2.0. However, too much process is in itself a problem. Remember, McAfee speaks of an emergent platform; too much predefined process will tend to inhibit the emergence of patterns and structure over time. (In other words, there needs to be enough process or intent to act as a catalyst, but enough room to allow the emergence of the true purpose -- McAffee's patterns and structure -- from its usage.)

So, for example, as I read it:

  • Blogs inside the enterprise are OK, but not in and of themselves E2.0
  • Blogs used for project-based communication (as one example) are closer to the definition
  • Blogs used by project leads to post weekly status on each project (particularly if comments aren't allowed or encouraged) push beyond the freeform and the process starts to inhibit the interaction -- becoming purely web 2.0 technology used for traditional top-down project management purposes

It all depends on what is required, what is allowed, and what is supported.

But the interesting question for me -- particularly when talking about the practical application of these emergent platforms -- is looking at what are the characteristics of the platform that tend to lead to success. Which, of course, presumes the thornier question of how one defines success...

1 comment:

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