What's the big deal about Enterprise 2.0?
Entire blogs are dedicated to covering the topic, and we can’t forget the exceptionally tortured semantic debate over what would be allowed to live under the Enterprise 2.0 tent.
There are many opinions on what defines “Enterprise 2.0.” I myself lean towards Andrew McAfee’s definition. If Enterprise 2.0 comes to mean “anything new happening in the enterprise,” it becomes a meaningless term.
I fervently believe in the value of collaborative, emergent technologies like blogs, wikis and tagging. I also believe it’s inevitable that this stuff permeates the enterprise. Working for a software company I consider myself to be the quintessential knowledge worker. No accident that many of these tools are already heavily utilized inside of SAP. The underlying philosophy of Enterprise 2.0 strikes me as highly simpatico with the true nature of knowledge work:
- Cross-organization, cross-geography
- Knowledge intensive
But is Enterprise 2.0 a big deal? Here I’m not as sure. When I hear things like knowledge and collaboration I think Lotus or Microsoft. Does Enterprise 2.0 just mean “groupware 2.0?” This is fine and good, but relatively unexciting. Every 10 years or so a new groupware format takes hold in the marketplace: e-mail and message boards are two good examples of this. If Enterprise 2.0 means “keep your eyes out for the next Lotus,” I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.
Let’s contrast this with the internet which was definitely a big deal in the enterprise. The internet:
- Changed core business practices
- Altered the mix of users of enterprise technology
- Enabled completely new enterprise technology markets to form like SRM, Content Management, SOA, E-Commerce, etc.
You could do the same exercise with client-server and realize this too was a big deal in its day. Apply the same exercise to Enterprise 2.0 and it comes up short.
What in my mind keeps Enterprise 2.0 on the cusp of big deal status is its latent potential to work alongside traditional enterprise applications to enable businesses to do new and cool things. Enterprise applications are typically predicated on rules, constraints, policies, controls and processes. Groupware applications are typically predicated on open workspaces, threads, iterations and tacit knowledge capture. These two domains seem so distinct when you sit down to use the software applications they look as if they came from two different planets. But in fact most of our jobs require us to sustain both modes of work simultaneously. I may be a knowledge worker, but I don’t operate completely outside of policies, processes or budgets. Sometimes those processes and policies actually help me.
The questions in my mind are:
1. Should we combine the emergent with the routine? What significant things can you do for the business if you do?
2. How can you combine these two different paradigms? I think there are a couple of different candidate approaches here that are equally valid.
3. What are the killer apps for this converged world? If we can imagine multiple large markets stemming from this convergence, we’ll know we’re onto something.
I think that’s enough for now. If this sparks some discussion or response, I may flesh out some potential answers to these questions in future posts.
[Enterprise 2.0] [Emergent Software]