Definition (HBS Professor Andrew McAfee):
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.
Social software enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication and to form online communities. (Wikipedia’s definition).
Platforms are digital environments in which contributions and interactions are globally visible and persistent over time.
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.
Freeform means that the software is most or all of the following:
* Free of up-front workflow
* Egalitarian, or indifferent to formal organizational identities
* Accepting of many types of data
Enterprise 2.0 is a concept to explain how new forms of online communication / collaboration and online networking will be applied to and adopted by business. To be clear, Enterprise 2.0 is NOT a technology, but is based on technology (what isn’t these days).
Enterprise 2.0 will change that they way we interact with people and information at work.
The new online technologies that are driving Enterprises 2.0 have been around on the Internet for a while now, and are commonly referred to as Web 2.0:
- Online networking: examples are social networks like MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and also business networks like LinkedIn and Rise.
- Online communication / collaboration: tools consist of blogs (don’t cringe), wikis (don’t be scared), and RSS (don’t think I am crazy).
Together, online networking and online communication / collaboration constitute a major shift in the way that people are now using the Internet. This movement has been coined Web 2.0, but can best be described as ‘the participation culture’ (Steve Borsch).
The great thing is, the concept of ‘participation’ is already built into the Enterprise. You are ‘participating’ when you go to work each day. You read/write email, answer voice messages, attend meetings, etc. etc. In Enterprise 2.0, you will be ‘participating’ in a drastically new way.
To try to clarify illustrate this concept of Enterprise 2.0, consider the following cultural shifts in a large company:
Information shifts from being trapped to flowing freely…from being protected to collected…from being private to shared.
Interaction with people (relationships) shifts from being competitive to collaborative…from being hierarchical to flat…and also from being private to shared.
The driving force behind the ‘participation culture’ is the transition of the Internet from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.
The basic premise behind Web 2.0 is that it is delivered via ‘online applications’ instead of websites.
- Online applications are easy to use and intuitive (even for the non-tech person). Think how easy it is to search Google or use Gmail.
- Online applications are fast. They feel just like applications that you use on a regular computer.
- But most importantly, online applications are collaborative. They have been created to create, share, aggregate, analyze and distribute information. And the more people that use them, the more power they have.
If we go back to my initial explanation, it reads, “Enterprise 2.0 is a concept to explain how new forms of online communication / collaboration and online networking will be applied to and adopted by business.
The main challenge that business will face from in transitioning to Enterprise 2.0 is not application but adoption.
The problem is, ‘if you don’t use it, you don’t get it’. For instance, if you don’t have a profile on a social networking site (MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn), then you probably don’t understand them. And if you don’t read blogs, then you most likely cringe when you hear the word.
However, the good news is that the opposite is also true, ‘if you use it, then you get it’. If you read blogs and network with friends online, then hopefully you understand how powerful Enterprise 2.0 can be.
A little more bad news though for most of us in business…the best correlation between people who ‘get it’ and people who ‘don’t get it’ is age.
- If you grew up with with the Internet and cell phones, then this comes naturally to you. By the way, you are under the age of 25.
- If you grew up without the internet, you never emailed in high school or college, then this is probably all a little bit scary. Oh, and you are most likely over the age of 30.
- And then there are the lucky ones between the ages of 25 and 30 who understand life both with AND without technology. This generation was introduced to the internet somewhere between middle school and college. They learned the technology while they were still learning!
- Of course there are also those of you over 30 who have adapted well to technology and are ahead of the curve.
But all hope is not lost for those of you who ‘don’t get it’. I believe that anyone who can use email, search Google and read news on the internet can learn how to ‘participate’ and empower Enterprise 2.0.
Adoption of Enterprise 2.0 for a business is more cultural than anything else. The technology is simple and cheap, so the barriers to entry of Enterprise 2.0 are extremely low. Buy some blogging software, install it, and let people blog. But the barriers to success of Enterprise 2.0 are extremely high.
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that a large company will be able to successfully implement Enterprise 2.0:
- Adoption issues
- Information security issues
- Compliance issues
- Privacy issues
- Information overload (noise) issues
- Cultural issues
But there are plenty of solutions to many of these issues already built into Enterprise 2.0 technology. Remember, that Web 2.0 (participation) has been going on for a while now on the Internet…we are only now realizing that it is ready for the Intranet.
Another thing going for Enterprise 2.0: timing
I would bet that Enterprise 2.0 would be 10 times harder to implement in a bad economic market than in a good economic market. In bad times, people are worried about losing their jobs – they are inherently more ‘private’ – the things they are doing, who they are talking to, where the next piece of business is going to come from. But in good markets, the opposite is true, people are more willing to share and collaborate – they are looking for ways to work together, to come up with new ideas, and to make more money.
If you are over 30, I believe that you are inherently more ‘private’ than someone who is under 25. And conversely, if you are under the age of 25, I believe that you are inherently more willing to ‘share’ than someone who is over 30.
Enterprise 2.0 will depend on the ability for the people who ‘don’t get it’ to adapt (just like many of you at one point had to adapt to email). But in a bad market, forget about it.
So I have tried to explain a little bit about Enterprise 2.0. If you are still scratching you head, that’s okay.
If you have a desire to ‘get it,’ then you can learn, and the good thing is that technology is making it easier and easier everyday.
I’m sure that it would also be helpful to read about some real life examples or case studies. I realize that up until now, I have written mostly about theory. Going forward, I will focus much more on Enterprise 2.0 examples in the real world
In conclusion, I see Enterprise 2.0 as inevitable. For me, it’s not a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when’.
Lots more to come…