Enterprise 2.0-Change Is On The Way

November 1, 2007

By Steve Wylie

There has been much talk recently about Web 2.0 tools, mostly in the consumer market with companies and products such as MySpace, Flickr, Wikipedia, and YouTube. In 2006, professor Andrew McAfee of the Harvard Business School coined the term “Enterprise 2.0” to describe the principles of Web 2.0 in a business context, defining it as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.”

Professor McAfee established his six “SLATES” to describe the key attributes of Enterprise 2.0 technologies. SLATES stands for Search, something we’re all intimately familiar with; Links, which concludes that the most-linked-to information must therefore be the most relevant; Authoring, which fundamentally says everyone has something to contribute; Tags, which provide emergent categorization of content; Extensions, which use algorithms to find user patterns and make recommendations; and Signals, which alert users of new content and updates. My paraphrasing really doesn’t do McAfee’s SLATES justice but hopefully provides a basic understanding of his principles and insight into why social computing tools and technologies such as wikis, RSS, tagging, and presence will play an increasingly important role to the future enterprise.

Enterprise 2.0 tools are a direct response to a much-needed change in our business communication and productivity tools. Our Enterprise 1.0 systems are largely built around e-mail, a tool that was never intended for such demands. Certainly there are other business applications that have yielded mixed success, but I’ll pick on e-mail at the moment since it is the most widely used — or perhaps misused — business application, despite its many shortcomings.

We have become addicted to e-mail in a sort of love-hate relationship. We check our e-mail obsessively yet dread the ceaseless flow of messages to our in-boxes and, of course, the endless spam. We struggle to find relevant information buried in an e-mail or question whether the right people are copied on a thread. E-mail is a closed communication medium that does a poor job of capturing and sharing knowledge, a key ingredient to success in any business and a key feature of Enterprise 2.0.

Enterprise 2.0 tools offer a chance to break our e-mail addiction and our reliance on other Enterprise 1.0 applications. These tools unlock new value in the form of transparent, contextual communication; ease of access to information; and more effective use of data trapped inside applications, on desktops, or embedded in e-mail attachments. They allow us to capture the knowledge and opinions trapped in the minds of our knowledge workers through simple participation. The early adopters of Enterprise 2.0 tools and concepts are finding them both powerful and liberating.

But with any new technology, user adoption is the key to success. This could not hold truer than with Enterprise 2.0 tools. Their ease of use certainly will help with user adoption, but there must still be a willingness to break a decades-old addiction to e-mail. There must also be a willingness to work more transparently and in more public forums with the use of wikis, tags, or blogs. For these reasons the shift to Enterprise 2.0 is as much about enabling the right business culture as it is about providing the right tools for users. The shift to Enterprise 2.0 will also happen organically, over time. As new generations enter the workforce, they will expect and demand a Web 2.0 experience from their business applications. This generation is more accustomed to IM and Facebook than to e-mail or restrictive business applications. They have embraced transparency, sharing information, and participating willingly in public, digital conversations.

All of this presents both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses. These changes are taking place often unbeknownst to IT and with little regard for company IT policies and controls. This presents an alarming reality for companies with potentially sensitive information or in heavily regulated environments. IT is faced with bringing some level of control and aligning Enterprise 2.0 with corporate policy while not stifling the benefits that Enterprise 2.0 tools can yield. Striking that delicate balance is a key ingredient to success with Enterprise 2.0 and is sure to be a subject for much continued discussion and debate.

But the role of IT can and should not just be reactionary, shoring up and adapting to changes already under way. IT is held more accountable to tangible business results than ever before. There is a real opportunity for IT to drive the Enterprise 2.0 agenda as a strategic advantage and with adherence to corporate policy. This will become easier as business-grade Web 2.0 tools continue to reach the market and best practices are established. New vendors are emerging in droves to address this need, providing all the functionality of Web 2.0 tools, but with the security, integration, and scalability required for commercial deployment. Existing software platforms and tools are also rising to meet these new demands, adding Web 2.0 features and functionality while providing a bridge from our familiar business-grade applications.

A race is ensuing that will include incumbent and startup vendors alike. If the consumer market for Web 2.0 tools is any indication, we are in store for some radical changes ahead, with new rules, new technology leaders, and most certainly new efficiencies and value from our business applications and knowledge workers than we’ve ever seen before. Brace yourself for the shift to Enterprise 2.0.

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The state of Enterprise 2.0

November 1, 2007

by Dion Hinchcliffe

Industry analysts, CIOs, and business leaders around the world are continuing to try to read the industry tea leaves in 2007 when it comes to the subject of Enterprise 2.0, the increasingly popular discussion of using Web 2.0 platforms in the workplace. The primary topic of interest? Whether Enterprise 2.0 brings real bang for the buck by making the daily work of organizations measurably more productive, efficient, and innovative. Investors and executives are just not going to make significant bets on Enterprise 2.0 in terms of resources and risk exposure without good information on the likely returns of implementation.

Up until recently, the lack of mature Enterprise 2.0 products, good case studies, and feedback from early experiences that successfully dealt with some of the challenges that these frequently disruptive and occasionally subversive tools introduced. This immature state of affairs was often holding back even corporate pilots of highly promising candidate Enterprise 2.0 technologies such as enterprise blogs, wikis, and even mashups.

However, increasing evidence abounds that Enterprise 2.0 adoption has begun in earnest with a typical example being Wells Fargo taking the plunge, having rolled out Enterprise 2.0 platforms to 160,000 workers. It has become clear that we’re moving out of the early pioneer phase to a broader acceptance phase. From the production side, a brand new analysis indicates that the business social software market will be nearly $1 billion strong this year and over $3.3 billion by 2011. In these and other ways, such as the growing collection of success stories, Enterprise 2.0 has arrived.

The big question for many of those on the fence now is: 1) Do we now have the right capabilities in terms of ready Enterprise 2.0 products? And 2) Do we generally understand how to apply them properly to obtain good returns on our investment in them? Knowing the answers to both questions will almost certainly tell us if we’re ready for mainstream adoption of adoption of Enterprise 2.0 any time soon.

Enterprise 2.0 redux

Professor Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School famously introduced the term and concepts behind Enterprise 2.0 last year and it’s had a heady ride across the industry and in the press ever since. Initially defined by McAfee as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”, the broader global community has attempt to expand, reinvent, and co-opt Enterprise 2.0 with varying degrees of success. But the essential, core meaning has largely stayed the same: Social applications that are optional to use, free of unnecessary structure, highly egalitarian, and support many forms of data.

McAfee even coined a menmonic to make it easy for everyone to remember what appeared to be the key aspects of these social platforms. Called SLATES, it was an easy checklist to verify that the tools you were considering had the right essential ingredients. Under this initial definition Web 2.0 poster children blogs and wikis were identified as Enterprise 2.0 platforms (provided that they provided reasonable support for SLATES) as well as more sophisticated tools such as prediction markets and even vertical business applications like customer directed taxi cab dispatching were given as early examples of richer Enterprise 2.0 applications.

Examples platforms that failed to make the cut as Enterprise 2.0 because they didn’t have the qualities that were believed to be important for business business outcomes? These included most corporate intranets and portals, most groupware, as well as e-mail and “classic” instant messaging. Why? They either didn’t provide access to a voice for workers to communicate and collaborate with or they didn’t create results that were persistent and globally visible. In the end, Enterprise 2.0 takes most of the potent ideas of Web 2.0, user generated content, peer production, and moves them into the workplace.

Did the original articulation of Enterprise 2.0 have the right focus and point us in the best direction? And has the conception of it evolved from this vision to reflect that which we’ve learned along the way? Going back again to our two questions that will inform us as to the state of Enterprise 2.0; what have learned from our experiences with the early platforms and initial rollouts of Enterprise 2.0 and what does it teach us?

state of Enterprise 2.0 – Fall 2007

Here is what appears to be what we’ve learned about Enterprise 2.0 up to this point in time. There is of course no way to make this list complete though I believe it covers most of the big lessons. Also, entirely in the spirit of Enterprise 2.0 itself, I strongly encourage that you add anything that you think I’ve left out in TalkBack below or in a link from your own blog.

Lesson #1: Enterprise 2.0 is going to happen in your organization with you or without you. Enterprise 2.0 is now happening on its own in many organizations and it’s up to the business and IT to not so much take control but to enable it with things such as effective enterprise search and which helps prevent silos and duplicate, yet unsynchronized data from forming.

Lesson #2: Effective Enterprise 2.0 seems to involve more than just blogs and wikis. The discussion often starts with these simple freeform tools but should progress beyond this to other platforms that are better for specific situations such as enterprise mashups which enable for user-created Web applications what enterprise blogs and wikis for user-created content and structure. Predictive market products such as HP’s BRAIN platform and online innovation facilitators such as Innocentive are other potentially more sophisticated examples of Enterprise 2.0 platforms. Social bookmarking is also starting to gain speed in the enterprise as way of providing a rich information discovery mechanism internally.

Lesson #3: Enterprise 2.0 is more a state of mind than a product you can purchase. While a widely covered report from Forrester earlier this year clearly showed that CIOs would prefer to buy one single Enterprise 2.0 suite instead of cobbling together a combination of point solutions for blogging, wikis, RSS consumption, and social networking, the reality is that even the best Enterprise 2.0 suites will be missing key pieces for a long time. To get decent returns from Enterprise 2.0 implementations, organizations will require really good enterprise search, access to enterprise data from within Enterprise 2.0 tools, the ability to create mashups at a low level to the more sophisticated Enterprise 2.0-style products at a higher level. That’s not to say an Enterprise 2.0 suite such as SuiteTwo or Microsoft SharePoint can’t form the core of your Enterprise 2.0 strategy, but other products and integration work will be required to make it provide real business results in your local IT environment. This will include products that will make your Enterprise 2.0 suite support single sign-on, work in your portal environment, provide management and moderation controls, as well as integrate with your ECM and other traditional enterprise platforms.

In other words, by the time you’ve installed, configured, customized, and integrated all of the ingredients you’ve brought together, if you’ve lost sight of the specific reasons why Enterprise 2.0 is supposed to work better, your effort will have been in vain. I see this often when Enterprise 2.0 projects don’t provide, say, read access to RSS feed readers to workers or fail to make it easy to create a blog post or wiki page from the Intranet and a dozen other minor decisions made on top of the Enterprise 2.0 tools selected, yet contrary to their spirit and that will be significantly detrimental to the outcome. Best advice: Clearly understand the benefits of these news tools and ideas and then do your very best to ensure they aren’t negated.

Lesson #4: Most businesses still need to educate their workers on the techniques and best practices of Enterprise 2.0 and social media. Just like the previous generation of workers received computer literacy classes en masse and learned how to use business productivity applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, and email, the same will be required for the current generation of workers and Enterprise 2.0. The hurdle is making sure that workers have a clear understanding of the specific techniques of how to apply Enterprise 2.0 tools to their daily work. Social media information formats such as project status wiki pages to departmental news blogs are still foreign to most workers today and proactive worker education will be required to make sure the investments in Enterprise 2.0 are being appropriately reaped.

Lesson #5: The benefits of Enterprise 2.0 can be dramatic, but only builds steadily over time. One major benefit of the open, globally visible information in Enterprise 2.0 platforms is that organizational retention of knowledge actually begins to accrue on a wide scale. But it’s a continuous, linear build-up and almost never a sudden and pronounced business benefit. Adoption and habits also take time to form and it’s quite typical to see 6 months go by before significant activity begins to take place in the Enterprise 2.0 platforms in an organization. Do not expect big immediate wins but carefully measure your rollouts and make sure their network effect is being established. Particularly if your tools aren’t following SLATES, and many platforms, such as SharePoint often don’t follow SLATES by default, then growth and uptake can require a great deal of work. But like compound interest, it doesn’t take forever to begin achieving respectable results on a regular basis and all the best rollouts we’ve seen have given their Enterprise 2.0 strategies the time and support to work organically.

Lesson #6: Enterprise 2.0 doesn’t seem to put older IT systems out of business. In fact, this seems to never have happened. In fact, instead of competition, enabling connections to existing IT systems can provide significant benefits and allowing reports, views, and documents to be hosted by or connected to Enterprise 2.0 tools and can help make sure that there isn’t another silo of content in the organization. Having a blog post on the budget for FY 07 with the actual current numbers being displayed in an HTML table live from an RSS feed from the budget system is an example of this. In this way, Enterprise 2.0 seems to work better when it lives in close contact with existing IT systems than in isolation. The biggest impact of this lesson is that these new tools are so different and generally support such different types of knowledge than usually captured, that impact to existing systems seems to be minimal. Interestingly, you might see a decrease in the use of e-mail or ECM when the conversations that formerly happened on those platforms make a more natural home in Enterprise 2.0 platforms.

Lesson #7: Your organization will begin to change in new ways because of Enterprise 2.0. Be ready. Beyond simple productivity gains, other sorts of more subtle returns often accrue around Enterprise 2.0. McAfee has recently noted that these types of tools tend to create many more links between workers and different groups in an organization and that these types of links tend to provide better benefits than the stronger, more frequent links between organizational entities and individual workers. For this reason and others, Enterprise 2.0 platforms seem to foster a new type of collaboration that exhibits more innovation, creativity, and cross pollination. And because these tools are generally so freeform, they will regularly be used in ways they were never originally intended. Blogs and wikis in particularly can be put to just about any use in terms of accumulating knowledge and collaborating over a network and increasing I’ve seen Enterprise 2.0 initiatives finding them being used in entirely unexpected ways. Enterprise 2.0 enables a rich canvas for workers to think about and construct their information landscape and anything is possible.

Conclusion

It’s still quite useful to read Nine ideas for IT managers considering Enterprise 2.0. Almost exactly a year later, all the advice still rings true despite what we’ve learned in the interim. Nevertheless, we’re just now beginning down the road of Enterprise 2.0 and an enormous amount has yet to be learned. The increasing pervasiveness of the tools and knowledge of Enterprise 2.0 will continue to have a growing impact on our businesses for better and worse. Success stories will continue to emerge as well as the first major issues such as information spills, IP theft, and other potential problems when so much critical business information is made so much more leveragable. How to access the benefits while minimizing the risks will continue to be a major topc in the Enterprise 2.0 community.

In the meantime, I’d like to try an experiment and extend the SLATES mnemonic a bit. My biggest issue in using it in its present form to communicate Enterprise 2.0 is that it doesn’t itself capture the social, emergent, and freeform aspects that we know are so essential and so I’ve added these. I know SLATES is supposed to be capability based but it also needs to convey the intended outcomes clearly, and social capability in particular is missing. Thus, I’ve used an anagram generator to create another (hopefully) pithy mnemonic, FLATNESSES, which itself captures yet another important aspect of Enterprise 2.0, its egalitarian nature. FLATNESSES is depicted in the diagram below containing these three key aspects added to SLATES as well as a fourth which I discuss below. I hope you find this a useful conception to discuss the vital elements of Enterprise 2.0 in your efforts and would love your feedback.

Finally, I’ve also added one more capability to the new mnemonic, network-oriented, to reflect that all these aspect of Enterprise 2.0 must apply not only to applications that are fundamentally delivered over a network but that their content be fully Web-oriented, addressable, and reusable. The atomization and portability of information, such as what RSS has enabled, has been vital to the successful growth of communities like the blogosphere and one vital point about Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 that many organizations don’t yet fully understand: Our enterprises are NOT the Web. And to get the full benefits of the Web 2.0 era, we must begin adapting our organizations and their information and IT resources (with suitable enterprise context) to this network-oriented model that has worked so for us globally on the Internet these last 15 years.

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Significant workplace inroads for Enterprise 2.0?

November 1, 2007

By Dion Hinchcliffe

According to a random poll I recently conducted on Facebook, just over a quarter of 300 respondents — 27% of them in all — answered in the affirmative that they are provided with an easy way at work to post on a blog or put information on a wiki. I often ask this same question to gatherings of people whenever I get the chance these days and have been getting roughly the same answer for the last few months. Businesses are apparently starting to take Web 2.0 for a more serious spin.

A year ago, accessibility to blogs and wikis in the workplace was less than half this number in my informal sampling. The growth trend seems clear and appears to be increasing. So while this data might be fairly unscientific, I suspect the number is pretty accurate, and social media, aka Enterprise 2.0, is finally making some measurable inroads in the workplace despite a few open concerns about these mediums.

Facebook as a measure of social media in the general workplace?

Of course, Facebook users in general are probably more digitally literate than the average population, will look for blogs and wikis on the local Intranet to use, and thus some say they may be more likely to gravitate to workplaces and jobs that would provide an environment with familiar tools. However, one odd breakdown in the demographics of the poll is that the youngest group, 18-24 year-olds, reported the least access to social media. Perhaps it’s because this group also includes a great deal of students or that entry level workers don’t have as much computer access as workers farther up in the hierarchy.

Poll respondents were also pretty sure when they weren’t being provided with these tools with only 21% reporting that they didn’t know if they were being offered them. A whopping 52%, just over half, said that they had no social media tools offered to them in a way they could access.

The poll question was also carefully posed to uncover if tools were being “brought in the back door” by workers using the hundreds of free social media platforms out in the Web with their browser at work, or if the workplace itself was providing enterprise blogs and wikis. In my opinion, this makes the 27% “yes” number almost surprisingly high. But, while some respondents may not have parsed the question clearly, the trend is strong enough to stand on it’s own:

Blogs and wikis may finally be seeing fairly widespread “business approved” adoption in the workplace.

Getting good business outcomes from social media while managing downside

While blogs and wikis continue to show the potential to greatly improve collaboration, create higher levels of knowledge retention, and generate more reusable business information over time, it’s also probable that in attempts to access the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 platforms, these new platforms will incur some issues that IT departments and the business will have to deal with, particularly if these platforms are exposed outside the organization.

What are the business benefits and issues of social media? The diagram above depicts the world of traditional software and native PC applications with expanding access to the “2.0″ generation of new software models and platforms. Here’s a more detailed run down of the pros and cons that will have to be balanced in most organizations when deciding on providing access to these types of social media tools to their workers.

Notes: Social media is just one important aspect of Enterprise 2.0, but the one most likely to see near-term, widespread adoption. Also, the diagram above clearly shows the social media is a new aspect to the enterprise and will more likely to enhance existing IT systems over time rather than replace them outrighte with the possible exception of enterprise content management.

Reported social media in the workplace benefits:

  • More ad hoc collaboration between employees who can find each other’s work and team together.
  • More globally persistent, discoverable business information is made available over time.
  • Social media tends to capture more institutional knowledge that’s reusable.
  • A deep hyperlink infrastructure begins to form, built by continuously by workers using social media. tools to forge links, making business information more discoverable.
  • Tagging and other emergent organization methods allow business information to be organized and cross-referenced from every point of view.
  • More efficient access to information as more business information becomes available internally and externally via syndication.
  • Potentially higher levels of innovation and productivity as more previously unavailable enterprise thinking is available to be accessed, repurposed, and built on top of.
  • Increased efficiency in conversations: social media scales up to mostly resource and time friendly conversations among thousands of asynchronous participants, yet excludes those uninterested in them, unlike e-mail distribution lists and conference calls.

Reported social media in the workplace issues:

  • Productivity: Users employing social media tools for non-productive purposes such as socializing.
  • Security: Information that should be under tight control appearing on publicly via social media, either accidentally or intentionally.
  • Control: The level of control over what appears on an organization’s Intranet will decrease with the rise in use of social media, for better or worse. Also note that unlike e-mail, control of social media can be more successfully retroactive.
  • Outcomes: Ensuring that social media tools are generated pre-defined, specific goals is difficult when the the extremely freeform platforms of social media can be used for everything from managing projects to tracking a department’s fantasy football game.
  • Another silo: Right now social media is primarily a consumer-side invention, like many aspects of Web 2.0. Consequently, most enterprise blogs and wikis don’t have good access to feeds of enterprise data and this can encourage cut-and-paste publishing of information from traditional enterprise IT systems into social media, creating another silo of data.
  • Trust: How can the usefulness of the content in social media platforms be trusted. The Web has partially solved this with techniques such as inbound link counting, but reputation and voting systems are starting to appear, often as plug-ins such as the highly capable new comment and reputation add-on release from Intense Debate, for social media tools. Despite this, until the tools become mature, trust will likely continue to be an issue for many uses of social media in the workplace.
  • Not-enterprise ready. I’ve talked plenty about the enterprise context for blogs and wikis last year. The good news, many of these issues are starting to be addressed in the latest crop of Enterprise 2.0/social media offerings.

I’ll continue to run this poll on a periodic basis going forward and see what we can learn about the adoption of social media in the workplace. In the meantime, please share your stories about blogs and wikis at work in Talkbalk below.

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RightNow, Demandware Mash Up CRM, E-Commerce

October 30, 2007

RightNow and Demandware have developed a new mash-up that integrates the former’s CRM and customer service offerings with the latter’s e-commerce suite.

The result is an application that incorporates product content management and promotion with such interaction functionality as click-to-chat, while marrying order-tracking and management functions to the agent desktop.

Specifically, the new application connects RightNow’s service, marketing and sales applications with Demandware’s Web platform and e-commerce services.

RightNow’s contributions to the mash-up are its inbound and outbound sales and service desktop, multichannel customer service, marketing communications and customer feedback capabilities.

Demandware is providing its online storefront, site search, guided navigation, product catalog and promotions, Web development environment, user profiles and online content.

Suite Approach

On one hand, this mash-up can be viewed as a shortcut to bringing a suite application to market, as it eliminates much of the work involved in developing one from the ground up.

However, it is a mistake to assume that RightNow or Demandware have joined forces in such a manner strictly for competitive reasons, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone told CRM Buyer — specifically with a vendor like NetSuite, the top online suite provider offering deep CRM functionality.

“RightNow rarely goes up against NetSuite in deals,” Kingstone said. “Also, RightNow’s target audience is larger than NetSuite’s.”

Rather, the larger point behind the mash-up is that it is emblematic of RightNow’s MO of automating integration around the customer experience.

The territory that Demandware owns — namely the order management process — is a critical integration point that RightNow has thus far not touched.

“Unfortunately, it is only offering this integration for the Demandware customer base,” Kingstone said.

Integrating the Online Channel

Later this year, the two companies plan to cross-sell and upsell the joint application to their respective installed bases, Scott Todaro, director of product and industry marketing at Demandware, told CRM Buyer. There is little overlap among the two firms’ clients.

There are no concrete plans, however, to embed the joint functionality in future releases of the respective applications. It may be, though, that the mash-up is enough to satisfy users’ needs — at least in the immediate term.

The driver behind the joint application is the growing necessity of integrating the online channel into back-office functions, explained David Hayden, director of product strategy for RightNow. That’s especially relevant as more companies rip out their legacy systems and replace them with SOA (service-oriented architecture)-based applications.

Vendors and their customers alike, Hayden told CRM Buyer, “are really looking to connect the various business units around solid, go-to-market strategies.”

Kingstone echoed that prediction — at least in terms of the mash-up service providing a faster time-to-market vehicle.

“The future of software will focus on mash-ups like these,” she said. “At bottom, they are all about breaking down the barrier posed by integration.”

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Growing Pains: Can Web 2.0 Evolve Into An Enterprise Technology?

October 30, 2007

By Andy Dornan

Forget outsourcing. the real threat to IT pros could be Web 2.0. While there’s a lot of hype and hubris surrounding wikis, mashups, and social networking, there’s also a lot of real innovation–much of it coming from increasingly tech-savvy business users, not the IT department.

“We’ve cut IT staff by 20%, and we’re providing a whole lot more in terms of IT services,” says Ken Harris, CIO at nutritional products manufacturer Shaklee. Harris started with a mashup platform from StrikeIron; he found mashups such an effective way to integrate multiple Web services that he turned to Web-based service providers to replace in-house functions. Now, Shaklee gets its ERP from Workday and search from Visual Sciences, and it’s looking at other IT functions that software as a service can replace.

And Web 2.0 means more than just SaaS. Though the term is often abused, all the various technologies, products, and sites grouped together as “Web 2.0” do have one thing in common: interactivity. Web 2.0 is designed for two-way communication. At the technical level, it replaces static HTML with (usually) JavaScript apps that continually send and receive small chunks of XML or text. At the social level, it means Web sites that let people communicate, not just read or shop. Instead of passive consumers, Web surfers can become active creators.

All that interactivity ought to make Web 2.0 ideally suited for business use. Most workplaces are about production, not consumption. However, enterprises lag far behind consumers in adoption of Web 2.0 technologies. What’s more, our online poll shows that interest in technologies such as blogs, wikis, and mashups has gone down during 2007, despite explosive growth outside the firewall.

Part of the reason is that business users already have access to more sophisticated versions of the same technologies. Blogging is publishing, a wiki is a CMS (content management system), and Ajax is a more standardized way of achieving what many internal enterprise apps already do with ActiveX or Java. Now, that doesn’t mean new technologies can be ignored–their lower costs and simpler administration mean they will quickly overtake legacy platforms, and already have done so in some areas. But it does mean they need to fit in with their predecessors.

WIKI WISH LIST
“It’s awful having an artificial distinction between a wiki and a CMS,” says Aaron Hathaway, CIO at investment bank Prager, Sealy & Co. In common with most of the users in our poll, he sees wikis as having greater use within enterprises than other Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs. Wikis’ other big attraction is that, in keeping with their collaborative nature, almost all of them are free.

Hathaway started using wikis four years ago to manage the IT department’s internal documentation, but soon saw that the technology could be more widely applicable. In 2005, he decided to roll out TWiki, a popular enterprise wiki whose other users include Yahoo and British Telecom.

It was a decision Hathaway came to regret in fairly short order.

... In With The New: Are these tools very important or critical to your organization?

The problem was that TWiki couldn’t easily share data with Alfresco, the bank’s open source CMS. Users who needed information had to look in both, while those adding documents risked duplicating effort. The bank didn’t want to give up on either, so Hathaway turned instead to Deki Wiki, which is also open source but backed by a commercial vendor, MindTouch. Deki’s Web services API eases integration with other applications. “It means a Google map can show up on a Deki page, and we’re building an über-search,” he says. “In my ideal setup, Deki would be a front end to Alfresco.” The API also lets the wiki use the bank’s existing security architecture to limit user access to specific pages, important for preserving the wall between analysis and sales. According to Hathaway, the wiki is now providing a real return on investment.

A wiki is easier to use than a full CMS, but on its own it can’t yet provide some CMS functionality, such as working with documents and files. This has led several wikis to add extension capabilities, such as Deki Wiki’s API. TWiki also has a plug-in system that lets programmers extend it without editing source code; more than 200 modules are already available to cover applications such as calendaring and automated editing. The most ambitious is IBM’s QEDWiki, which aims to be a platform for user-created mashups and other simple applications, rather than just content. The mashup aspect empowers users even more than the “edit” button and also helps integrate the wiki with IBM’s other applications.

Still, companies like Prager, Sealy can’t abandon their content management systems just yet, and the most popular collaboration platform remains Microsoft SharePoint. SharePoint also is at the center of Microsoft’s online Office Live strategy, best described as “software plus service.” Rather than a Google-style suite of online apps that would compete with its own products, Microsoft sells SharePoint and Outlook as services, with a subset of the full functionality soon to be available at no cost. Users still need a client-side application to edit documents, theoretically giving them the best of both worlds–and preserving Microsoft’s Office revenue stream.

A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE NETWORK?
Of all Web 2.0 technologies, social networking is the one that gets vendors and venture capitalists most excited. At least 17 startups are pitching social networking technology to business customers (see table, Social Networking Technology Startups), while countless social networking Web sites are chasing individual users. But it’s also the one about which our readers are most skeptical: When asked to rate the value of technologies, 68% say that public social networking sites are of no use at all. Only 5% rate any kind of social networking as very useful.

Still, one type of company finds these public sites very exciting: recruiters.

“We have great expectations for Facebook,” says Jason Blessing, general manager of the small and midsize business division at recruitment service provider Taleo. “The thing we really like is that it has a heritage from the top universities, and it’s a place where the Gen Y’s or millennials like to hang out.” His company rolled out a Web service that its SMB customers use to advertise jobs through Facebook’s API, letting users recommend their friends (or friends of friends of friends) for specific positions.

Rather than joining the big social networking sites, many enterprises are trying to compete with them. Though few respondents to our poll have yet added social networking to their Web sites, many of the startups pitching the technology have scored big-name customers. The media industry is particularly well-represented among clients of companies like KickApps and Leverage Software, with newspapers and TV stations trying to find a way to keep their audiences interested. The panic is driven by surveys showing that people under 24 prefer user-generated content and connections with others over traditional media.

Other enterprises can benefit from setting up social networks as a means to communicate with customers–and let customers communicate with one another. The big question for enterprises: Do we buy dedicated social networking technology or wait until it becomes a standard feature of Web servers and hosting services?

THE SEARCH FOR A BUSINESS CASE
As the table below shows, startups differ widely in how they sell their technology, or in some cases, give it away. The majority have SaaS business models, but some sell software or appliances. Free services can seem attractive, but in most cases vendors retain ownership of users’ data, something that could threaten both trade secrets and customer privacy. This is a particular risk given the likely fate of at least some startups–privacy policies and contractual obligations don’t always survive bankruptcy and liquidation. Though they all try to sell to enterprises, some vendors such as Pringo Networks and Kick Apps are finding that their largest market is niche sites, where social networking is an end in itself. These sites are essentially in the media business, with business models based on selling ads. They’re betting that users will ultimately be more loyal to sites narrowly focused on an industry, sports team, or hobby than a giant network that anyone can join. The relatively few vendors focused on social networking for use within an enterprise intranet, such as Awareness Networks and Tacit, often provide these features as part of a larger Web 2.0 suite that includes blogs and wikis.

When database vendor Endeca wanted to roll out a social networking site aimed at customers and system integrators, it rejected off-the-shelf software in favor of a homegrown system. Though enthusiastic about social networking for customers, Endeca isn’t convinced it has a role to play internally. “We’re still holding off on what the ROI is for our own employees,” says Colby Dyeff, Endeca’s IT manager. “It’s hard to say if that’s a valuable use of their time.”

Many of Endeca’s contributors are system integrators selling their expertise, giving them a direct financial incentive to be highly rated. But the same lessons can apply to social networks elsewhere, where rating content is also a way to help people find others with similar interests or locate related information. The former isn’t of much use within an enterprise, but the latter could be, especially given the poor state of enterprise search compared with the big Internet search engines.

This kind of tagging isn’t strictly social networking, so it’s usually described as social bookmarking, based more on Del.icio.us than MySpace. It’s a big part of Connectbeam’s social networking appliance, as well as new Web 2.0 platforms from IBM and BEA Systems. IBM’s system is called Dogear, part of its larger Lotus Connections suite that also includes blogs, wikis, and shared workspaces. BEA’s entry, AquaLogic Pathways, is sold alongside its Pages and Ensemble mashup tools. Both products are relatively new, as is the concept of enterprise social bookmarking itself.

Relatively few vendors are pushing full-scale social networking for intranets. Of those that are, Visible Path is the most ambitious. Its service tries to span the extranet as well as intranet, linking staff to contacts within other organizations as well as their own. Its pitch is heavily oriented toward sales staffers, who can use social networking as a way to reach prospects, as is its own go-to-market strategy: Rather than sell directly to enterprises, it prefers to go through partners like Oracle and Salesforce.com, whose CRM systems its social networking is integrated with. Most people won’t join a social network just so that salespeople can contact them, of course, so Visible Path emphasizes its security and privacy controls at both the individual and corporate levels. Users can decide what sort of introductions they want to receive, while companies can override employee choices. That might seem to make Visible Path impractical as a sales tool, since blocking unsolicited sales pitches is a no-brainer. According to its users, however, this isn’t necessarily the case.

“People don’t have to be users to be accessed through it,” says Rod Morris, VP of business information solutions at LexisNexis. Morris uses the tool to promote his company’s ExecRelate service, which tracks relationships between C-level executives and board members in publicly traded companies–people who are more likely to rely on the old-boy network than LinkedIn or Twitter.

FREE FOR THE TAKING
Still, vendors will have to show hard ROI before these technologies will be adopted by enterprises, and that could be difficult with so many free alternatives. The long-term evolution of Web 2.0 in business is likely to trace a path similar to that of instant messaging, which has comparable social characteristics to wikis, blogs, and social networks, and initially followed a parallel adoption curve in business. IM was brought in by people who used it in their personal lives, and though many people resisted it at first, IM quickly became an enterprise staple: Three-quarters of all organizations in our survey use it; half say they find it very useful or critical to their business.

IM Technology In Use

So far, so much like any other technology. Home users are driving innovation, so it’s no surprise to see the enterprise lagging. But unlike the PC a generation ago, IM has managed to colonize the workplace without going native. Despite frequent warnings from security vendors that unrestrained use of consumer IM technology can violate privacy policies, give attackers a back door into the network, and even send executives to jail, most companies happily use the same free services as teenagers. Fewer than 30% of respondents in our online poll have enterprise IM servers such as Lotus SameTime. Actual use is likely a lot lower, as staff in many companies ignore the officially sanctioned software and install their own. The move to enterprise voice over IP is bringing other players like Cisco Systems into the IM game, attempting to converge IM’s presence features with telephony, but they could be too late. The public IM services are already integrated into cell phones, another technology frequently used in the workplace but not controlled by IT.

IT’S LOOSENING GRIP
Loss of IT control is a consistent theme as Web 2.0 penetrates business. The greatest upheaval is likely to come from enterprise mashups, which combine the social and technical aspects of Web 2.0 by letting users develop their own applications. Though very few businesses use mashups at present, those that are see great benefits, and larger players such as BEA, IBM, and Oracle are entering the game. Cutting out the middleman–that’s the IT department–can be a great way of aligning business and technology.

“Mashups have let end users do more of what used to be done by IT,” says Warren Breakstone, executive VP in charge of client services at investment tools provider Thomson Financial. Although not in the IT department, Breakstone started using a hosted mashup service from Serena Software and now runs a team of business analysts who develop Web-based applications for sales, marketing, and other personnel. “Now we’re moving into traditional IT services: The IT department is using apps that we built.”

Breakstone says this doesn’t bring his team into conflict with the IT department. “It frees IT up to do those mission-critical tasks behind the scenes,” he says.

IM itself is already giving way to newer technologies that are even further outside IT’s control. The leading candidate so far is Second Life. Though often seen (and increasingly scoffed at) as a marketing vehicle, its true potential is as a glorified chat room. Like IM, it’s free, but it gives users a more immersive experience and is designed for multiparty conversations.

“We found that Second Life allows more user engagement than traditional video or phone conferencing,” says Breakstone, who is testing Second Life as an environment for meetings. “One employee told me, ‘I’ve participated in lots of meetings and I tend to be very quiet, but I felt very comfortable opening up in Second Life.'”

Source:


Big money in Enterprise 2.0

October 29, 2007

Radicati Group, a leading analyst firm that tracks the messaging and collaboration industry, recently released some suprising data on the size and growth of the business social software market. According to Radicati, the market is expected to be $920 million this year and blossom to over $3.3 billion by 2011. These revenue numbers are staggering and indicate the significant investment that has started in Enterprise 2.0 technologies by business customers. Radicati’s numbers are indeed bullish compared to other analysts like Gartner which published back in July that the social software market would grow from $226 million in 2007 to more than $707 million by 2011.

Regardless of which numbers are accurate, what’s clearly driving this market is the shift of consumer-oriented Web 2.0 tools to the domain of ‘enterprise social computing’ and addressing real business problems. Gartner highlights this trend in a recent study entitled ‘Facebook and the Emerging Social Platform Wars’ and points out “the usefulness of social networking in the enterprise is becoming more visible to large (BEA Systems, Sun, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle) and small (Leverage Software, Spoke, Userplane, Corespeed, Unisfair, Tacit Software, Socialtext) vendors.” Clearly Enterprise 2.0 is more that just hype and the value of social software is shaping up to create a billion (or multi-billion) dollar market opportunity.

Source: Socialtext’s blog


Lessons In Enterprise Web 2.0 Adoption From The BBC

October 29, 2007

Today, the BBC has 23,000 bulletin board users, about 4,000 wiki users, and 400 to 500 people who are blogging. The company is getting enormous value out of this, but it didn’t happen overnight. The BBC has been experimenting with Social Computing for a long time; they built internal networks using forum software before blog tools came to be. Lessons learned at the BBC:

  • Enterprise Web 2.0 can be the catalyst for a more collaborative business environment. The BBC had done a lot of work to try to create a more collaborative work environment. The BBC World Service, for example, has 47 language services. People need to work together who come from wildly different backgrounds (cultures, languages, etc.). How to make this happen? As it turned out, the BBC’s internal forums, which only cost the company about 200 pounds, got the company to be more collaborative than the more formal initiatives did.
  • Experiment, start small, and make sure ownership is clear. Using Social Computing tools at work is very different from the way most of us are used to working. Managers, for example, may need time to get used to a flatter kind of environment, where people are off doing their own thing. One thing that helped at the BBC was that the forum environment was collectively owned; this helped people take responsibility for how it was used.
  • Trust breeds trust. The BBC found that when people are given responsibility, the right tools, and a little coaching, most of them will do the right thing. And as people gain experience with Social Computing tools, the value of their efforts increases. While Semple didn’t get into this in his story, I’ll add here that creating a solid policy about appropriate use of tools like blogs, wikis, virtual worlds (a policy that has teeth) — and educating the workforce about that policy — can go a long way toward helping employees and management feel comfortable with what is going on.
  • Go where you’re not quite comfortable going. This is the source of innovation. At the BBC, employees were allowed to post on internal forums about anything they wanted to. Someone started a conversation about the pros and cons of being single. This evolved into something awfully close to a dating service. Managers, as you might imagine, were cringing. But before long one of the producers came to Euan Semple saying he was about to do a program on being single, and the employees who had participated in the forum about dating had done half the work for him. Great example of something that didn’t seem business like ending up delivering true business value.

Source: Forrester’s blog