Enterprise 2.0: The 2009 year in review

It's that time of year again, when we look back at the year that was while making next year's technology and business predictions. 2009 was an exciting year across the board for all things Web 2.0 in the enterprise and related topics. I often find that it's when we take time to look back at the big picture that we get the best sense for what's actually happening in the marketplace today.I'm starting first with Enterprise 2.0 here in this post and then cloud computing and next-generation SOA over the next couple of weeks, with the year-in-reviews first and then predictions, so please stay tuned.

We've learned this year that we're going to have to create better filters and business intelligence analytics for the vast quantities of knowledge accumulating in social environments. It's that time of year again, when we look back at the year that was while making next year's technology and business predictions. 2009 was an exciting year across the board for all things Web 2.0 in the enterprise and related topics. I often find that it's when we take time to look back at the big picture that we get the best sense for what's actually happening in the marketplace today.

So I'll be examining at Enterprise 2.0, cloud computing, and next-generation SOA in this vein over the next couple of weeks, with the year-in-reviews first and then predictions, so please stay tuned.

We'll start first with Enterprise 2.0, which had a banner year by just about any account. I've been working in this space now since it first began back in 2006 (read my first post on Enterprise 2.0), and it's amazing to see how far it has come along since the early days.

One of the most obvious trends this year is that social tools themselves are now commonplace in business settings. Most audiences I speak to this day -- whether or not they are an Enterprise 2.0 audience -- the majority of them indicate that they have ready access to some form of social computing at work. This began to uptick significantly last year but in 2009 all data pointed to a significant inflection point.

Enterprise 2.0 Year in Review for 2009

Here's my take on the more significant trends and events in social computing for business this year:

Enterprise 2.0 in 2009

  • The capabilities of enterprise-class social tools made major headway. Earlier this year I updated my list of Enterprise 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, social networks, community platforms, etc.) and was impressed by the number of new entrants in the space, both from startups as well as traditional vendors. The latter have taken many of their traditional document management, ECM, and unified communications platforms and put a Web 2.0 face on them. The result was over 70 different offerings (I have over 25 new ones to add to the list now) that covered a broad spectrum of functionality and capability. What struck me most was that the startups are often improving faster in terms of features and even though they often don't fully understand the needs of enterprise customers (portal support, integration with DMS/ECM, moderation features, multi-level security) they seem willing to learn. Those working on Enterprise 2.0 initiatives had plenty of good options this year.
  • Informal and formal adoption reached about half of global companies in 2009. It could be said that there are lies, damn lies, and then industry surveys, yet the consistency of this year's data on Enterprise 2.0 adoption was clear: Users are picking up social tools, either the ones they are given or the ones they themselves opt for, and using them in their work. In my The Year of the Shift to Enterprise 2.0 post back in May, which I wrote as the numbers became increasingly clear, I cited Forrester's statistic that 1 in 2 businesses will use social computing this year as well as a series of additional adoption data points. These included survey stats that said at least 35% of businesses were going to incorporate the use of social networks into their activities and 50% of organizations will use wikis in 2009. These are fascinating numbers but they also represent only partial engagement with many organizations -- because B2C engagement and collaboration this year was often represented by early adopters in marketing, sales, and support in my professional estimation -- and not deeply transformative social business engagement that impacts the way organizations perform, at least yet.
  • Popular new modes of social interaction for the enterprise appeared, particularly microblogging and Google Wave. Social interaction has continued to evolve online, with real-time social aggregators like Friendfeed (since acquired by Facebook) showing the way forward. Twitter has also shown what can be done with interaction in a 140 characters, something that's compelling for enterprises since it drives efficiency in social interaction and puts to rest fears of time wastage. Thus, Twitter for the enterprise was a popular topic in the first half of the year in particular and I rounded up what the business requirements were and the top tools in the middle of the year. Since then, I find that adoption has been pretty impressive with Yammer getting the broadest penetration globally from what I can see. Google Wave has been the other big discussion in the industry since its announcement in May, and it brings an even more radical vision of collaboration to the table, with real-time persistent social chat combined with two-way data integration from external sources such as feeds, APIs, or your SOA. My early take on Google Wave is that it has an uphill battle on usability, but as a reinvention of social computing for the 21st century it's a pretty compelling vision.
  • Debates continued to rage on about the use of social computing in the workplace. Throughout the year debate broke out about whether or not Enterprise 2.0 was appropriate for the workplace or if it's really happening. While in my opinion most of the arguments ignored the evidence, failed to articulate the benefits well, or just jumped right to their own conclusions, there was considerable discussion that ultimately surfaced a lot of good discussion, the issues of which I explored as well. Sameer Patel and Andrew McAfee both took on these subjects well with substance and constructive discussion and were representative of the debate for those that want to catch up on it.
  • Community management became a hot topic with implementers. As those who introduced community-based Enterprise 2.0 approaches to the organizations over the last few years began to gain experience in how to be successful with them, they learned that social computing is not quite like traditional IT solutions. Two of the bigger issues: It's primarily based on opt-in participation and it's more open and visible (both of these good things if you understand the implications, however). But, for a variety of reasons, this requires active management of the community for moderation, administration, driving participation, and even just the work to foster in the initial engagement with workers and ensure valuable content is ready when they arrive. Community management has thus become the topic du jour for those looking at the long-term success of their efforts. 95% of the respondents to a 2.0 Adoption Council survey I requested in September reported that community management was "essential" to their Enterprise 2.0 efforts.
  • We began to see early signs of information explosion. The open and transparent nature of Enterprise 2.0 ensures that more information is available for workers to get their job done. Workers currently spend between 10% (source) and 25% (source) of their work day looking for the information they need according to research, and open silos of knowledge, ala Enterprise 2.0, can be a real solution. This year, for the first time, I began to consistently encounter Enterprise 2.0 projects that were experiencing an information overload problem. Though the patterns of Enterprise 2.0 (FLATNESSES) say that search and emergent organization through links and tagging should provide the necessary ability to sift through and locate data quickly through aids, the reality is that organizations are just now learning how important they are. Many are still relying on search engines inside of Enterprise 2.0 tools instead of engaging in broader enterprise search efforts. Thus, the first wave of Enterprise 2.0 is now upon us and we've learned this year that in the next wave we're going to have to create better filters and business intelligence analytics for the vast quantities of knowledge accumulating in social environments. The bottom line: We certainly want the full flow of knowledge and we're starting to get it, but we also need to be able to filter it and find what we need.
  • Communities of practitioners began to form. One of the best stories of the year was the formation and rise of the 2.0 Adoption Council. Founded by my good friend, the tireless Susan Scrupski, the 2.0 Adoption Council is a practitioners-only community (no vendors or consultants allowed) that has developed an impressive following. Well over a hundred companies are now represented on projects from the quite small to the quite large. It's also one the very best sources of data -- their latest report is packed full of useful information -- for what's taking place with Enterprise 2.0 today. If you're engaged in Enterprise 2.0 work, I urge you join the council and increase our collective knowledge of what's happening with enterprise social computing. The Community Roundtable, a virtual group of social media and community practitioners, is another important Enterprise 2.0 forum that's particularly worthy of note.
  • Andrew McAfee's book on Enterprise 2.0 was published. The long awaiting book from the originator of the term and who identified the concepts came out recently. If you haven't read it yet, it's a seminal work, especially for executives, managers, and strategists who are trying to understand exactly why and how social computing is relevant to today's high impact, fast-paced business activities. While there have been many books on Enterprise 2.0 up until now, there hasn't been one with this much heft and authority. This one helps take the industry from being a cottage one that has sometimes been considered on the margins of business to a full-blown business movement in its own right. While implementers will need more detailed information, nothing can beat Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Toughest Business Challenges for vision. You can even get the Kindle edition of it as well. I will post my review of it early in the new year.

Of course there were many more events that I may have missed or wasn't able to include here but I believe these were the most important or interested developments in Enterprise 2.0 in 2009. Perhaps I missed the announcement of Salesforce Chatter (which seemed to mark an important milestone for many enterprise software analysts) or how E2.0 best practices began to emerge. Or maybe it was the new Enterprise 2.0 Conference West in San Francisco or the rise of Social CRM, an important new customer-centric take on Enterprise 2.0. Please add your own take on Enterprise 2.0 in 2009 below and I'll highlight the best contributions.

Next up will be my top posts of the year and then my cloud computing year-in-review.

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