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?


  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.


  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,


  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 🙂

  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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