Enterprise 2.0….

Two blogs that I have found well worth reading on Enterprise 2.0 are Ross Mayfield and Andrew Mcafee.

Ross is the CEO of socialtext, which is a Enterprise 2.0 play. They have customers and a compelling story and funding. SAP Ventures invested in them. Socialtext is looking to capitalise on the use of wikis inside the enterprise, and I think it is in the right place at the right time.

Ross's recent post on enterprise 2.0 adoption and CEO awareness is especially interesting.

Andrew Macfee is a Prof at Harvard and he writes about Enterprise 2.0. This blog, more than anywhere else, has helped me understand what this enterprise 2.0 is all about, and more importantly, not about.( I'm a big fan of Max Weber too. I think there is much we can learn from sociology and political philosophy, but I'll save justifying my BA in politics post for another day) He writes clearly and explains things well.

He recently defined:

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers

He goes onto explain emergent, social software and platforms.

The term emergent deserves closer attention, Andrew links emergent to freeform, meaning that the software contains mechanisms to let structures and patterns become visible over time. It evolves. We see this with blogs, linking, wikis and so on. The concept is useful to describe the new wave of tools that aid collaboration, networking and so on.

Previous attempts to "manage unstructured" data and knowledge have largely failed because of the imposition of an apriori structure and overly complex set of rules. Tags, links, trackbacks and so on have worked brilliantly to help categorise the broader blogsphere in a way that a dewey decimal system type imposed structure could never have done.

This is good stuff. I would not like to be trying to sell a traditional KM or intranet system at the moment, because I think the wiki type approach will triumph. It is clear to me that enterprise 2.0 will revolutionise significant chunks of how organisations work with unstructured data. It will also have significant impact on recruitment, project management, succession planning, and other processes that involve informal unstructured interactions. (Jason blogged on myspace careers) It may well even impact how organisations are managed, removing layers of middle management and heirarchies and dramatically improve information flows. Companies like socialtext will thrive.

So far so good, but I have a problem with the term enterprise 2.0.

2.0 implies that is better than what came before. By implication then, enterprise 1.0 is obsolete. I don't think it is. Web2.0 may well make big bits of web 1.0 less relevant, but I dont think the same can be applied to the enterprise application space.

Enterprise 2.0 is by definition about social software. This is a small but important part of the enterprise application picture. Invoicing, paying people, availability to promise, constraints based demand planning, treasury, value at risk, ERP, creditor management, supply chains, compliance, tax and so on are based fundamentally on transactions.

the term is already creating confusion, and it is only a couple of months old. I don't agree with Charlie's point here about salesforce.com being  "In the Enterprise 2.0 space, the most promising platform is salesforce.com's recently-launched AppExchange"

Firstly, I dont think it is enterprise 2.0 (at least by Andrew's definition)

Secondly, I'm not sure that is really a platform. It may become one, but it isnt yet. 

My friend and colleague Jeramiah put it firmly in a recent comment on my blog, "I am looking forward the Market realizing that salesforce etc. are nothing more than johnny-come-lately service bureaus trumped up into tech titans. Schadenfruede."

Zolis post sums up what I'm saying better than I can.

Web 2.0, collaboration is great, it has it's place in the Enterprise, but so do those "ugly complex" transactional systems.  Don't try to run your supply chain on a wiki

Andrew, please come up with another name. (the problem is nowhere near as bad as soa 2.0, but I'd like to see a name without the numbers at the end.)

It is also tempting to neatly partition the data world into structured and unstructured, but the reality is there is a big grey overlap between the two. Let's not move from one set of silos to another. Something to think about for another post.

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4 thoughts on “Enterprise 2.0….”

  1. You keep taunting me with these posts! If only my full-time job were to repsond to blogs! šŸ™‚

    There is so much good to a wiki – but more around general knowledge sharing / innovation and probably less around the “structured” data that, for example, SAP processes.

    Basically, like you are saying, I agree that Enterprise 1.0 has a place – what we have with this 2.0 stuff (and, I agree, let’s lose all the number crap) is new way to collaborate. This could do many great things, but we’ll still need core data (transactional, orders, inventory, financial) to be highly structured, imho.

    Maybe that mix of structured and unstructured could work well in the enterprise planning space? Open up some fresh thinking? I don’t know. . .

    Good discussion.

  2. Thomas, thanks for the kind words and smart post. I completely agree with you that ‘Enterprise 1.0’ is not obsolete, passe, less important, less interesting, etc. because of Enterprise 2.0. As my posts have hopefully made clear, good old fashioned enterprise systems (like the ones made by your company) and structured data continue to be critical, and to deliver benefits and capabilities that companies can’t get any other way — not even via wikis, mashups, and all the other cool new technologies out there.

    I realize that ‘Enterprise 2.0’ is a rather hype-y label for the phenomena I’m trying to describe. I settled on it to emphasize the links to Web 2.0, not to imply that all previous corporate IT is about to be pushed aside or rendered obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  3. thanks Andrew,
    the link to web 2.0 is valid, but more from a “sociological” than a technical point of view. The tools to build light enterprise 2.0 solutions are often deployed to build complex transaction apps today too. This creates a confusing mass of acronyms and release numbers that is hard to decipher. SOA etc all end up in the same vortex of hype and counterhype.

    I will be using your plumbing quote a lot from now on.

    If we keep talking about the plumbing we’re going to lose the attention of business leaders. And that would be a shame

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