A Web 2.0 Tour for the Enterprise

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“The architecture of participation is baked into the architecture of the software.”

Thanks to the hype generated by Business Week, The New York Times, Fortune, and Newsweek (among others), Web 2.0 has captured the imagination of consumers and businesses alike. But knowing how to leverage Web 2.0 concepts to fuel collaboration and innovation among employees, partners, and customers is another story. Web 2.0 can change an enterprise but recognizing how, and determining whether you should, do so is confusing. This article aims to dispel some of the myths surrounding Web 2.0 while discussing its practical applications within organizations. Then the enterprise—businesses and their practices—can embrace and extend Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0.

What is Web 2.0?
To paraphrase a definition by Tim O’Reilly, who was one of the first to use the term, “Web 2.0” is web-based software which is continually collaboratively updated. This means that the software gets more useful the more people who consume and remix it. Remixing is a key concept of Web 2.0. In music, remixing means taking established songs and editing them together, potentially adding your own elements as well. With Web 2.0, individual users add their own data and services to collaborative web software, remixing the Web 2.0 sites into increasingly useful tools and creating an exponential growth effect.

For example, Digg publishes news stories from around the web. Users contribute their own news stories as well as noting other publications’ stories, and all users “digg” or rate them. The Diggers also add comments to the stories and rate the comments of others, too, determining the stories’ prominence on the site. The more users who contribute and rate stories and comments, the more effective the service gets.

The unique properties of the web—rolling releases and nearly universal accessibility—gave birth to the Web 2.0 architecture of participation. The web has always been a fertile medium for collaboration but new technologies have increased the possibilities—as well as the complexities. AJAX in particular, is being used to make the web experience faster and richer. This combination of XML and JavaScript frees interaction from slow page refreshes, creating a desktop-like responsiveness, but it also breaks down the simple click-read-click model. Ajax can create a more satisfying user experience by offering drag-and-drop, resizing, and partial-page refreshes, or a significantly worse one as designers struggle to communicate this new behavior to visitors who are used to clicking, not dragging.

Ruby on Rails is another groundbreaking technology. A combination of an elegant programming language and a framework for speeding development of web applications, Ruby on Rails is allowing dozens of tiny start-ups to create potential businesses overnight. Those web applications, from blogging tools to photo galleries to wikis, are turning site visitors into site participants. Ruby is an remarkably clear language, readable by designers as well as programmers, and Rails has many best practices built into the framework, so that these new applications are more accessible and usable than ever. Meanwhile RSS and APIs are freeing data from presentation on sites all over the web, making it easier than ever to get information the way you want it, or to remix it with other websites’ data into something new and exciting.

It’s a mistake to think Web 2.0 is all about the technology, but it’s also a mistake to dismiss the technology. The architecture of participation is baked into the architecture of the software. Web 2.0 lets you share and incorporate multiple voices— your customers, your service reps, your employees—who quickly take the product, service, or idea in a direction that you could not alone. Often the technology will let you behave no other way.

It seems most important aspect of Web 2.0 is the values it espouses. Web 2.0 purports to be collaborative, participatory, simple, accessible, efficient, lightweight, approachable, action-oriented, and user-driven. These values are found in companies like Google, Yahoo!, Netflix, Flickr, Technorati, Skype, and eBay. When you think about Web 2.0, first think about the values before you think about potential applications of the technology. The technology is nifty; the values are competitive.

What does it mean for the enterprise?
So far, other than the new technologies associated with Web 2.0, very little of the Web 2.0 advances have been brought to the internal workings of business. At first blush, it appears that the concepts don’t apply to the enterprise. The open, freewheeling discussion of a Digg seems inapproapriate for a corporation. But closer examination reveals some key opportunities.

First, Web 2.0 can change the way you reach your customers, build relationships with them, and further your brand objectives. Successful companies are using Web 2.0 concepts to encourage their customers to build communities around their products, provide feedback on products, and, in some cases, even inform strategy. But Web 2.0 concepts are not effective unless you examine how you are connecting with your customers and relinquish the idea you can dictate to them. It takes courage to let go of control, through collaborative design with the customer, or through communication within the enterprise. Rather than “aligning supply chains, communications, marketing initiatives” what if you co-create new supply chain approaches with your suppliers, or what if marketing initiatives come from the customers? While pronouncements and offerings feel safer and more familiar than participation and collaboration, the rewards are higher when you open your processes up to more input.

Take General Motors. They have been running promotions inviting customers to create advertisements for their Chevy Tahoe brand. The customers visit a website where they can choose a video clip, add sound, text, create sequences, and publish the result as a complete advertisement. Recently a number of anti-SUV customers used this platform to create ads about global warming, to protest the war on Iraq, and to demean the product. This has resulted in numerous new articles and remarkable traffic. While this violates most brand managers’ rules-of-thumb, General Motors is leaving all but the profane up on the site. This repositions them as unafraid and honest, and allows the traffic to continue unabated. PT Barnum said any publicity is good publicity; we’ll see if General Motors agrees.

Companies are also using Web 2.0 approaches to communicate more effectively with customers. The Sun Microsystems CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, publishes a popular blog in which he discusses his company’s strategies, products, opportunities, and challenges. Customers can then follow the company’s progress via a more intimate and digestible form than a press release which then becomes a format for open dialog between the company and the consumer. Normally corporations shy from allowing customers to express their opinions publicly, much less let the CEO engage in published discussion with them. Sun promotes loyalty and gains invaluable knowledge with this simple tool.

The collaborative value of Web 2.0
Consider how your enterprise works with its network of partners. Whether it is with suppliers, distribution partners, or service providers, there are opportunities for collaboration. Ask yourself how you develop your go-to-market strategy for new products. How are you involving your business partners? And more specifically, how are you involving the foot soldiers in your partner companies?

Luxury brands like Chanel and Estee Lauder work very closely with their retailer partners to make sure that their brands are accurately represented in the department stores. These luxury brands share their marketing strategies with the senior executives from their retail partners. Maybe it is time for them to share those plans with the employees at the retailer who will actually be tasked with selling the product? Most of this communication happens over the phone, through email, and with on-site visits. Web 2.0 technologies increase the reach and improve the richness of the interaction.

Imagine if the next time Estee Lauder was determining the look of its retail presence at a Macy’s or a Bloomingdales it used Web 2.0 technologies to ask saleswomen to evaluate or even remix counter display concepts. By asking the saleswomen to vote on counter display concepts via a dynamic Web 2.0 website, Estee Lauder would learn vital information. If it allowed saleswomen to rearrange, add to, and combine those display concepts, Estee Lauder might discover new ways to reach the consumer. In fact, if the communication on the Web 2.0 sites were allowed to live on post launch, Estee Lauder salespeople could continually refine the concepts based on store usage patterns, and could share the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t across stores almost instantly.

The audience within
What Web 2.0 values should be corporate values? The more collaborative the employees of a company are, the more successful the company becomes over time. Employees that collaborate efficiently by leveraging each other’s intellect and resources create stronger and more successful products. Unfortunately, it is also recognized that current communication and collaboration “solutions” are woefully inadequate. Most software touted to enable collaoration is difficult to use, cumbersome, limiting, and does not empower employees to share their content. Rather than fueling collaboration, they hinder it.

Why do these existing approaches fail? They fail because they’re driven by technology requirements rather than by human needs. Because the current crop of tools are built on values of control, containment, and secrecy in environments where employees are encouraged to compete more than collaborate with one another, installing another knowledge managment tool does little to remedy the problem. Until the enterprise is willing to examine its values and its behavior, poor choices in policy and in technology are inevitable.

Web 2.0-driven solutions for collaboration are different because the values are baked into the functionality. RSS feeds do not force employees to visit an intranet or website but can bring the information to them in the employee’s choice of format. By allowing anyone in a company to publish RSS feeds, and by letting employees choose which ones to subscribe to with the tools they want, the best feeds rise to the top, employees are better informed, and the employee authors get the recognition they deserve. In this manner, the company itself also learns what’s valuable, instead of telling employees its abstract ideas of what employees should value. Courageous companies could even learn what direction to take the corporate strategy by tapping into the “wisdom of crowds.”

Similarly, a company that uses a wiki-based solution for collaboration will have more success than a traditional, highly permission-driven intranet tool. Wikis allow anyone to edit anything, and require no special privileges or knowledge to contribute. They work the way a smart team does, permitting people to riff on each others ideas and expand on each other’s knowledge. Moreover, if wiki authors have a comprehensive profile describing their professional interests, listing their previous posts and their contact information, an atmosphere of trust and familiarity arises, and employees will be more likely to collaborate and share their personal knowledge.

In a nutshell, Web 2.0 concepts like wikis and integrated chat can make a big difference in acheiving Web 2.0 values. Companies that are more collaborative, participatory, efficient, user-driven, and action-oriented are recognized as the most successful. IBM, for example, has just launched “Innovation Jams” where thousands of IBM employees are encouraged to participate in virtual chatrooms simultaneously on a given day. IBM hopes to uncover transformative business ideas through these virtual discussions. As discussed in a recent Businesssweek article, IBM CEO J. Palmisano believes that the opinions of 100,000 IBM employees will result in “catalytic innovations” that can lead to new business for IBM.

But what can you do today?
It’s all well and good to discuss major shifts in corporate culture, but we all know those take time. What specifically can you do today to understand Web 2.0 better and to learn how to use it in your company to support employees, customers, and partners? Don’t task your information technology department to make every web-based application Web 2.0 ready, or push your product managers to start blogging 25 times a day. Instead, step back and learn more about this space, then think how the underlying concepts can help you improve in small ways. And the easiest way to do that is to look at a few examples currently on the web.

Revolutionizing the phone book
The first place to start is with a networking site like LinkedIn. Sign up and invite your peers to join as well. Create a profile of yourself. Play around with some of the linking features. Try searching for someone. And then ask yourself whether your company would benefit from an application like this for all employees and partners. Is it easier to use than your current intranet employee directory? Does it have some nifty features you wish you had on your intranet? By making the internal social networking more explicit, employees will discover connections with each other and further knowledge management between departments and offices.

Simplifying the spreadsheet
The second place to visit is the Google Spreadsheet application. At first glance, Google’s spreadsheet application may seem lacking in many respects. From a functionality perspective, it does pale in comparison to Microsoft Excel. However, after playing around with it for a while, you’ll discover that it includes the most-used functionality of Excel and offers something a bit different. Click on the “share this spreadsheet” link, and suddenly you’re collaborating in real time. This can be invaluable now that companies’ business units are seperated not just by buildings but by countries.

Web 2.0 applications are optimized for multi-users, easy to use, and mostly free. Now ask yourself, are there any applications in your work environment you wish were web-based with more collaborative features and better usability? Are there applications that have unnecessary gating features, locking out great minds? Are your most important documents living in people’s inboxes and on their hard drive? You may discover that you don’t need to upgrade to the next version of Microsoft Office again. A Web 2.0 application similar to Google’s spreadsheet application may meet your online collaboration needs.

A bottom-up knowledge management system
Once you’ve finished playing around with the Google spreadsheet application, make your way over to Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the largest living encyclopedia on the web. From the home page of Wikipedia, search for the word “collaboration.” You’ll be taken to a page filled with definitions, explanations, and references. You may even notice that the collaboration article has been written in collaboration with another wiki called MetaCollab.net. Now try it yourself: click on one of the edit links on the right-hand side. You can edit the page yourself in real time. Click on the History tab at the top of the page, and you can see who else has edited the page. Now leave your mark and see how fast it’s corrected.

Imagine if you had a wiki to share information and brainstorm with parts suppliers. Wouldn’t they feel far more invested in the success of programs that they had co-created? Imagine if your whole intranet was a wiki where anyone could create, edit, or even remove a page. You’d probably get a lot more content publishers and a lot more tacit knowledge online.

Afraid of vandalism? Because wikis have revision histories that contain who has done what to each page, responsibility for good and bad acts is transparent. An employee who might vandalize an intranet is one who might be doing worse privately. An employee who tirelessly caretakes the accuracy of the wiki is someone to appreciate, and work to retain.

Getting news that you want when you want it
Next, visit Technorati. You will discover that Technorati is the largest directory of blogs. Search for a word—maybe something like innovation—and in a matter of seconds, you’ll see which of 46 million blogs contains it. Go to one of those blogs and bookmark the RSS (really simple syndication) feed. If you use a browser such as Firefox, you’ll be able to view live news feeds from that website right in your bookmarks panel.

Alternatively, you could use a reader like Bloglines, which allows you to not only watch but share news feeds. You could also start publishing in RSS—sites like Feedburner make it easy. Think about how you could communicate with your employees or your partners using news feeds. All they would have to do is subscribe to a newsfeed, and they’d get news from you or your department as soon as you published it.

Training tapes in the car
Talking about staying on top of news, jump to Business Week, and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Choose a podcast—maybe the CEO’s Guide to Technology—and download it to your machine. Plug in your iPod and listen to the podcast on what Web 2.0 is. If you can learn about Web 2.0 via a podcast, there’s no reason why you can’t publish podcasts about products, communication strategies, training, and industry statistics for your employees. National Semiconductor recently issued iPods to all 8,000 of its employees for this purpose.

Group decision-making on steroids
The last website to visit on your Web 2.0 tour is Yahoo! Tech Buzz. Tech Buzz is a prediction market, taking advantage of the wisdom of the crowds concept. This means users can buy and sell a concept’s contract which is similar to buying a stock for a company. The value of the contract can be interpreted as a prediction for a future event. The people who think the idea is a good one invest in it driving the price up and vice versa. So go invest your fantasy dollars in trends you think are going to flourish. Use the prices of other trends to understand what the rest of the world thinks of those trends. It is like the stock market, but instead of trading shares of a company, you’re trading concepts.

Next time you need to make a decision between two advertising concepts, consider publishing them on an internal predication market on your intranet. Let your employees buy shares in each concept based on which one they think is strong. Before you know it, you will have learned which one is better. Hewlett-Packard pioneered applications in sales forecasting and now uses prediction markets in several business units.

Making sense of it all
There is no doubt Web 2.0 concepts are starting to have an impact in the workplace with blogs, wikis, and prediction markets cropping up everywhere. Just as the original spreadsheet changed business, Web 2.0 will find its place in the corridors of some of America’s largest companies. Already companies like Ernst & Young, Nokia, Kodak, Lucent Technologies, and IBM are testing different Web 2.0 concepts for their enterprises.

The technology is relatively simple to adopt, especially thanks to open source, service-oriented architectures, and advancements in XML and presentation layer technologies. Out of the box Web 2.0 wiki and blogging solutions geared for the enterprise, such as Social Text and Traction Software, also make the move easier. You can dabble with the tools first before committing to complete adoption of a Web 2.0 approach.

Web 2.0 (its technology and values) is here to stay. The web is not about publishing content and making it available to employees, partners, and customers. That was Web 1.0. This time it’s about letting those customers, partners, and employees take control of the online experience.

Allow it to happen. It may change your business forever.

For more information

Shiv Singh

Shiv Singh has been with Avenue A | Razorfish since 1999 and has worked in its Boston, New York, San Francisco and London offices. He helps clients leverage digital technologies to develop meaningful and value driven customer and employee relationships. Most recently, Shiv founded and led the Enterprise Solutions practice at Avenue A | Razorfish. Visit The Workplace Blog for trends, commentary and new affecting the enterprise workplace and web 2.0. Shiv has just returned to Avenue A | Razorfish full time after having completed graduate work at the London School of Economics & Political Science. His current interests are in the areas of web 2.0 and social media. Read more at Going Social Now
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26 thoughts on “A Web 2.0 Tour for the Enterprise”

  1. Thanks for the Web 2.0 introduction. Just one bone to pick: eBay as a example web 2.0? Have I missed something new they’ve introduced recently? I’ve seen some call Craigslist Web 2.0-ish, but eBay isn’t the first site that comes to mind when trying to think of quintessential Web 2.0.

    Then again, it’s hard to debate about exemplars with a definition as nebulous as the one for Web 2.0.

  2. At one of the many Web 2.0 panels at the IA Summit this year, one audience member defined it as “being able to do cool sh*t without having to reload the page.” Simplistic as this sounds, I think that this is where the immediate business value of Web 2.0 really lies.

    For example, I frequently work on projects aimed at helping the client increase lead generation. On projects like this, balancing business goals with user expectations is a crucial and delicate process. Clients want highly-qualified leads; users don’t want to have to enter a ton of information. A “boring” Web 2.0 contact form can make this happen by asking a single, user-focused qualification question (e.g., what kind of info are you looking for?) and then presenting different follow-on questions as an immediate result of that selection.

    This is a very simple capability of Web 2.0 technologies, but the degree to which it reduces barriers to conversion while still meeting business goals is, I’d say, revolutionary (and profitable!).

  3. Thank you for your thoughts. I consider eBay to be web 2.0 largely because of its participatory values and because each time an end user interacts with the service it makes the service stronger.

    Having said that, I couldn’t agree more that these definitions aren’t water tight. Interestingly, eBay had a few web 2.0 characteristics before web 2.0 was coined. I am still waiting for more browser side interactivity on their site though.

  4. Shiv,

    I think what’ll enhance this article is reasons for introducing Web 2.0 to the Intranet Environment. Lets say an organization moves to a tagging solution instead to meta data models – is it the right approach? Taking your example of Directory – I see value in bringing social networking concepts in Intranet scenario, but are there any case studies that show the value of this in Intranet.

    What are companies like Ernst & Young, Nokia, Kodak, Lucent Technologies, and IBM experimenting with etc?

    Cheers
    Alok

  5. It’s great to see a discussion of enterprise software, which can lag the consumer world in many respects, and as a result, is viewed as a dismal corner of the web world.

    I agree Web 2.0 and Ajax offer many possibilities. Larger enterprises are acutely aware they have a general problem with information/knowledge to becoming learned by people not directly connected with the project or activity generating that information. What is a challenge is measuring what are the specific cost impacts of the general problem. In my experience, enterprises are particularly reluctant to spend on general infrastructure projects that have across-the-board benefits but that are difficult to measure in relation to itemized profit and cost centers. The other challenge is overcoming legacy infrastructure. Enterprises often are configured around fairly rigid Java-based page architectures and standards, and IT staff can be reluctant to embrace new technologies such as Ajax or Ruby.

  6. Michael and Alok, thanks for your comments.

    Michael, I couldn’t agree more with you about some of the challenges with measuring costs and benefits. Companies recognize that there is a knowledge problem but no one has really “cracked” it in terms of harnessing the culture, technology and people. Web 2.0 helps with the technology and the people components but less so with the culture of a specific company.

    On the bright side, today more than ever, companies recognize the importance of managing information/knowledge dynamically. It is only a matter of time before we see some extremely innovative examples. Maybe we’ll see some of them in the Web 2.0 conference.

    Talking of which, Alok based on my experience and the research I conducted recently, the large organizations are not being that innovative in terms of how they are leveraging web 2.0. By writing this article, I was hoping to learn a little more about what’s going on. From what I have seen so far, I have not been very impressed.

    On a side note, at Avenue A | Razorfish we are experimenting with social networking on our intranet. I will let you know it develops. Google “Peers and Forrester” to learn about our last directory+social networking efforts. It was an innovative initiative led by our San Francisco office.

  7. I strongly recommend examining the work of Euan Semple at the BBC. He had a very low-tech and bottom-up approach to Knowledge Management using web 2.0 tools.

  8. Great summary of Web 2.0 topics. It is great to see some of these tools finally making it into use in the business world after years of testing and research in Higher Education.

    Just to add some background, CSCL people may be familiar with some projects begun in the 1990’s that involved elements of current Web 2.0 tools. Although the capability for collaboration has existed for years, it is interesting that things have only taken off in the last year or two.

    I observed a networked community learning project back in 1998-99 at Virginia Tech that provided students with a virtual school using Java tools that supported synchronous and asynchronous collaboration and collaborative tools for planning, note taking, experimentation, data analysis, and report writing.

    http://hosting.cs.vt.edu/linc/overview.html

  9. Effectively, Web 2.0 is an organic, ever changing fabric knit based on collaborative efforts of the many. AJAX implementations make interacting with web interfaces speedier, in one sense, but more importantly can allow for widget type mini-applications to live within hypertext pages.

    Deployment of Web 2.0 in the enterprise begs the next question: What is Infrastructure 2.0? Enterprises are likely to make a move from consolidating to single data repositories to supporting distributed architecture, distributed storage, distributed applications, and decentralized taxonomy.

    Far from a mess, this architecture works well on the web and can work on the enterprise with consolidated directory, good server infrastructur and a keen understanding of how Web 2.0 deploys given a permission based architecture vs. the “everyone can read” nature of the open web.

    My notes from Burton Group’s catalyst conference elaborate on these points: http://traction.tractionsoftware.com/traction/permalink/Blog154

  10. Shiv, an excellent high-level introduction. I’ve referenced it on our internal company blog.

    One thing that I’ve been trying to get enculturated throughout my company is that Web 2.0 is not only characterized by collaboration and community, but that the technology developed around that is uniquely suited toward completion of cleaner “personalized” user tasks.

    In short, collaboration architectures lead to…
    …an accomodation of personal context for contributing collaborative content, which leads to…
    …better-organized tools that enable a cleaner overall user experience that more efficiently assembles
    …contextual, task- and user-oriented modalities and presents them only when they’re needed.

    …which is a bunch of overcomplicated gobbledegook. Referencing live examples of Web 2.0 and getting us to think about how to compare with what we have in the enterprise is a far better and illustrative approach. Thanks much!

  11. You know what we’ve got to exploit to get Web 2.0 in the enterprise? Selfishness. If it makes my life easier, I want it. Is your intranet rotting? Make your life easy: Deploy a wiki. Now if it’s rotting, it’s not your fault. It’s everybody’s.

    I think this idea has legs. 🙂

    One of my clients deployed a wiki-based intranet for similar reasons: she wanted it to be fresh & relevant without hiring staff to maintain it. Jerry Bowles blogged about it here: http://www.enterpriseweb2.com/?p=72

  12. Shiv, this is an excellent overview. Web 2.0 has not only the potential to increase organizational change. Organizational Transparency, collaborative business models, collaborative ideation, have the potential to move from being mere buzz words, with the power of web2.0

    You mentioned an interesting idea on luxury brands, something on which I am doing research.

    “By asking the saleswomen to vote on counter display concepts via a dynamic Web 2.0 website, Estee Lauder would learn vital information. If it allowed saleswomen to rearrange, add to, and combine those display concepts, Estee Lauder might discover new ways to reach the consumer.”

    Am doing research for an article on retail, and found out that lot many brands in the garment industry are doing this already and it would be a good idea to involve not only sales staff, but also customers on the decision making stage. That would be a very powerful way of understanding customer behavior, especially when it is in context.

  13. Thank you for all the feedback and the thoughts on Web 2.0. I really like the idea of capitalizing on “selfishness!”

    Talking about Web 2.0 Google has released its web apps as an Office 2.0 type package. They’re worth checking out. I just came across a great blog which I recommend for anyone interested in Web 2.0 It’s called Original Signal.

  14. Excellent article… i would like to translate it into Spanish and want to publish it on http://www.chilepd.cl “Chile Pais de Diseño” (a designer’s blog community), and on my personal blog.

    waiting for your reply,
    Take care,

    Cristián.

  15. Shiv, nice work. Lots to get excited about, and like everything else, lots to be cautious about. Sometimes I get worried about the power of the crowd. I am not a total believer that the crowd is right. I am more of the “herd mentality” type-of-guy. People are too engaged and pre-occupied with their own nonsense to be critical and support an opinion based on what they really think instead of where the tide is going. If you don’t believe me, as yourself this question: how many times have you dugg something without first reading it? Be honest! 😉 Group intelligence is something I have a lot of respect for, however, so there is a balance in there… somewhere. Again, good work.

  16. Shiv,
    as a internal analyst with a big enterprise I also had to deal with this new buzzword. I am not that enthusiastic about it, especially if we look on an internal usage. The main principle about Web 2.0 is not the technology – AJAX did not fell from heavens but its elements have been around the block for a while. What is really new about Web 2.0 is the significance of the community and the “let others do the work” principle. If you take Wikipedia for example – it would not have been a success if not thousands of helpers would have created and maintained the content within. But Wikipedia cannot control the content – you yourself mentioned the GM example where the intended usage was turned around. For marketing reasons this might be a good thing to just create traffic – if you take the internal know-how repository of a company that defines certain methodologies or processes enabling everybody to change them at will might not be a good idea. A company might not want to share its internal knowledge for reasons of competition, not even within the whole company, and so the advantage of a very large group of contributors is gone. For the same reason external hosting of services might not be an option.
    Web 2.0 services are sucessful because they also can be shared and even “hijacked” – Google Maps can be used by everybody because there is a welldefined interface. But as a company this service is out of your hands – what happens if Google decides to add advertisements to the maps?
    Also Wikis and Blogs seem to be the hottest “must have” for a company. But how do you motivate your employees to contribute to a wiki? How do you prevent that they do not use blogs to reveal secrets? And do you really believe that the high ranking executives spent so much times on their blogs? I do believe that there are ghost writers already – so blogs will become just another channel of “official” communications.
    Just do not get me wrong – I think that a lot of new and interesting ideas come with Web 2.0, but these ideas are not indended for an internal company environment. If you can disprove me I will be happy to change my views (and even think about implementing some of the suggested systems ;-))

  17. Alexander,

    I look at web 2.0 form a slightly different persective that might be more useful to practitioners in a large enterprise: web 2.0 isn’t about letting users take over the experience; it’s about letting them *contribute* to the experience.

    At a really broad level web 2.0 allows individual users the ability to contribute meta data to the network as a whole, or to specific resources. Web 2.0 applications harness user input to add greater clarity to network resources.

    Input arrives through various methods: traffic, navigation, and search aggregation and analysis can provide most popular items, most popular searches, best bets, and related content.

    If you allow specific user input like wikis, ratings, reviews, or tags, then this additional info can be used the same way. If it’s public to users on the system (e.g. all intranet users), then it has the possibility to provide more clarification and enrich existing resources for everyone on the system.

    But if this information is private — visible only to the originating user, the author — then it still adds great value. Adding tagging for findability is a good example. Just because my tags aren’t shared doesn’t mean they won’t help me narrow a large collection into manageable chunks I can scan and browse.

    In every large enterprise I’ve ever worked with, the biggest problem has always been improving the relevance of information that users found. Web 2.0’s focus on improving relevance by augmenting meta-data does just that.

    Blogs, open APIs (for mashups) may not match your current culture, but helping users find better stuff faster is en vogue everywhere.

    One of your last thoughts really struck me: how do you engender buy-in. If it’s designed correctly, you won’t have to. Employees all work different ways, generate value in different ways, and contribute to organizational knowledge in different ways. Some will write a memo. Some will file it on the network. And some will tag it so its easier to find. Not all employees have to participate in each activity.

    User-generated content is icing on the cake. It doesn’t hurt the cake.

  18. This site is interesting and very informative, nicely interface. Enjoyed browsing through the site.

    Keep up the good work. Greetings

  19. Thank you for all your thoughts. I must admit that I’m intrigued by the principles behind group intelligence. The notion of a hundred brains being better than one while simplistic is very attractive.

    At the heart of it all, I agree with Alexander that Web 2.0 is a user phenomena about contribution and collaboration. However, organizations will always find it challenging getting their employees to collaborate whether it be on a wiki, an internal blog or through some other interactive communication technology.

    Hopefully, what the web 2.0 conversation will draw attention to is the fact that its the social and cultural factors that drive adoption the most in any collaboration context. There’s some good research coming out that discusses the relationshp between corporate culture, employee satisfaction, past collaboration experiences and the likelyhood of future collaboration. Companies with empty wikis should take a look at this research.

  20. Great discussion.
    One aspect I have not see mentioned above is leveraging Web 2.0 for social change by non-profits. Traditionally, non-profits were lagging with technology – because it was expensive and cumbersome and designed for corporation instead of loosely organized groups run by volunteers.
    Web 2.0 trends are finally affecting this “industry” too.
    There are great articles and a PDF report at http://www.dotorganize.net/
    Also http://www.WildApricot.com is a Web 2.0 tool for non-profit organizations my own company has built . (So far our main focus was on using new “AJAXy” technologies to make interfaces more usable – but we have a huge list of ideas to leverage many more new Web 2.0 features like tagging and sharing )

    Dmitry, aka Chief Apricot 🙂
    http://www.usability.ca

  21. This gives a good perspective on how Web 2.0 will affect the enterprise (Enterprise 2.0 anyone?). Just for starters, Web 2.0 for the enterprise should make it easier to build web apps that support the business – maybe not as easy as blogger, but close.

    I am exploring the intersection of Web 2.0 and Enterprise business on my blog at http://www.keeneview.com – I this is an important dialogue for the next generation of enterprise software.

  22. A reference was made in comments above to checking out Euan Semple’s work at the BBC. You can do that and more at the location where the best collection of Enterprise 2.0 conversations are happening: http://www.fastforwardblog.com

    Midway through this post there are references to Euan’s work and a link to a webcast (from an Enterprise 2.0 Rave) where the details of Euan’s comments can be gathered directly: http://fastforwardblog.com/2007/06/15/km-nerves-are-raw/

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