Enterprise 2.0

    April 12, 2006

Harvard Professor Andrew McAfee:

I have an article in the spring 2006 issue of Sloan Management Review (SMR) on what I call Enterprise 2.0 — the emerging use of Web 2.0 technologies like blogs and wikis (both perfect examples of network IT) within the Intranet. The article describes why I think this is an important and welcome development, the contents of the Enterprise 2.0 toolkit,’ and the experiences to date of an early adopter. It also offers some guidelines to business leaders interested in building an Enterprise 2.0 inftrastructure within their companies.

One question not addressed in the article is: Why is Enterprise 2.0 is an appealing reality now?…

He continues, in his blog:

As described in the SMR article, these tools include powerful search, tags (the basis for the folksonomies at del.icio.us and flickr), and automatic RSS signals whenever new content appears. As I type these words I don’t know the best site to serve as the link behind the abbreviation RSS’ in the previous sentence. To find this site, I’m going to type RSS’ into Google and see what pops up (sure enough, the Wikipedia entry for RSS’ was pretty high in Google’s results). I also don’t know the URL of the page I’m using right now to type this blog entry. I do know that it’s on my del.icio.us page, tagged as APMblog,’ so I can find it whenever I want. And I don’t know what work my three collaborators on a research project are doing right now; I just know that when any of them has some results to share or a new draft of the paper they’ll post it on the project’s wiki (which is powered by Socialtext) and I’ll immediately get an RSS notification about it.

These examples are not meant to show that my professional life is perfectly organized (that assertion would be worse than false; it would be fraudulent) or that we’ve addressed all the challenges associated with the growth of the Web. They’re meant instead to illustrate how technologists have done a brilliant job at three tasks: building platforms to let lots of users express themselves, letting the structure of these platforms emerge over time instead of imposing it up front, and helping users deal with the resulting flood of content.

As the SMR article discusses, the important question for business leaders is how to import these three trends from the Internet to the Intranet — how to harness Web 2.0 to create Enterprise 2.0.

Andrew also dug deep to develop a Harvard Business School Case Study: Wikis at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein.

Nick Carr, always one for orderly skepticism, comments on the SMR article:

McAfee sounds a note of caution along these lines. He notes the possibility that “busy knowledge workers won’t use the new technologies, despite training and prodding,” and points to the fact that “most people who use the Internet today aren’t bloggers, wikipedians or taggers. They don’t help produce the platform – they just use it.” There’s the rub. Managers, professionals and other employees don’t have much spare time, and the ones who have the most valuable business knowledge have the least spare time of all. (They’re the ones already inundated with emails, instant messages, phone calls, and meeting requests.) Will they turn into avid bloggers and taggers and wiki-writers? It’s not impossible, but it’s a long way from a sure bet.

This is true, adoption is the rub. But one hedge we have is, to McAfee’s point, how these tools help cope with overload. I’d wager, in fact I have, that email volume will only increase, some devices only exacerbate the problem, and unlike KM — more productive and simpler models have an upper hand.

Would like to a FT article from today’s Digital Business section to help prove this, but they got my company name wrong and a couple other errors (okay, I will).

Dion Hinchcliffe focuses on the technical aspects of this trend: Ajax, SaaS and SoA. But what is really different is the focus on users ahead of buyers and architecture. Remember, it’s made of people.

Euan Semple on the rub:

This may be true of the experts of today but not the experts of tomorrow. I don’t wish to sound complacent but I always end my presentations with the view that organisations don’t have any choice but to get involved in this stuff as the teenagers of today are the workers of tomorrow and they won’t accept anything less. If you don’t help them they may not work for you at all or if they do they will start talking about your business out there on the web – they can’t help themselves!

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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.