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Enterprise 2.0 Beyond the Office

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As Rod Boothby points out, there are a lot of definitions flying around for similar things when it comes to Web 2.0 and the Enterprise.

This week I spoke on a panel at Enterprise 2006, an invitation-only no-blogging enterprise software event that I highly recommend for the mix and setting of CIOs and potential partners. You may recall that I follow Andrew McAfee’s original definition of Enterprise 2.0 as freeform social software adapted for organizations. MR Rangaswami (who hosted the Enterprise 2006) broadened the definition to include modern technology, development and delivery:

While this is a helpful framework for looking at the disruptive changes across the industry, it dilutes what is really new, and possible. I’m with Rod that the original definition’s emphasis on freeform, emergence and implied decentralization. Not because it changes the enterprise software industry — but because it has the potential to change enterprises.

This came to a head on the panel, moderated by Ken Berrymanof McKinsey with panelists Brett Caine of Citrix Online, Josh Pickus of SupportSoft, Mark Symonds of Plexus Online and myself. All three were great companies exemplary of modern business models such as SaaS.

But the bigger problem is while Enterprise 2.0 can serve as an apt descriptor, from a naming standpoint it broadens the divide between vendor and customer. Vendors like version numbers. Customers don’t because they have been abused for so long:

    1. forced payment for upgrades

    2. forced upgrades that don’t provide an improvement for business users

    3. consequently, an upgrade in the enterprise is seen as a degredation in service availability, especially where IT is outsourced and under an SLA

I bring all this up in part because it will come up again at MIT-Stanford VLab event on Enterprise 2.0 next week where I am speaking alongside SugarCRM and Visible Path.

While I look forward definitions of Office 2.0 to come out of the conference of the same name, I don’t think it will face the same issue. To me, Office 2.0 is modern web tools designed for the scale of a small to mid-sized businesses (SMB/SME). At this scale, the business model and product — and the potential for emergence is reduced.

What they have in common is designing tools for users first, buyers second. In some cases, these users are developers. But this is a big shift in strategy for a software vendor that is increasingly a competitive necessity.

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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.

Enterprise 2.0 Beyond the Office
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