The last few weeks have seen a series of interesting new reports, studies, and papers on the past, present, and future of Web 2.0 concepts and applications as applied to businesses. Most notable for many industry watchers have been fairly rigorous new works by McKinsey & Company as well as Forrester, whom have each released the results of broad surveys of executives in various industries. The focus of both surveys was to capture a picture of the interests, activities, motivators for Web 2.0 adoption of several thousand C-level executives in medium to large companies.
Enterprise Web 2.0
Dion Hinchcliffe on leveraging the convergence of IT and the next generation of the Web.
Dion Hinchcliffe is an expert in information technology, business strategy, and next-generation enterprises.
Blogger Euan Semple recently highlighted a key point about Enterprise 2.0 adoption that ZDNet's own Dan Farber also found worthy of note over the weekend. And that is that Enterprise 2.0 will happen in your organization entirely by itself, whether you encourage it, discourage it, or even consign it to benign neglect. Euan actually laid out three strategies in semi-tongue cheek form likely meant as a shot across the bow of complacent IT departments; whether you get out of the way, actively encourage it, or do absolutely nothing, Enterprise 2.0 platforms like blogs, wikis, and related social, emergent, freeform Web 2.0-style apps are coming to your company, and in fact are almost certainly there already.
A couple of recent announcements from two large, very well-known organizations provides some interesting data points on how Web 2.0 is affecting the product designs and business processes of otherwise very traditional institutions. Both USA Today and the U.S. Patent and Trademark office have recently unveiled strategies for letting their users use two-way Web capabilities to contribute directly to the products and services they offer. And many other mainstream companies, such as Pepsi as well as GM and XM Radio have been exploring externally-facing Web 2.0 concepts in their products for a while now.
In my last post, I took a look at the recent proliferation of Web widgets, which are modular content and services that are making it easier for anyone to help themselves to the vast pool of high value functionality and information that resides on the Web today. Companies are actively "widgetizing" their online offerings so that it can actively be repurposed into other sites and online products. And as we discussed in the last post, it's believed that letting users innovate with your online offerings by letting embedding them in their own Web sites, blogs, and applications can greatly broaden distribution and reach, leverage rapid viral propagation over the Internet, and fully exploit the raw creativity that theoretically lies in great quantities on the edge of our networks.
One of the hallmarks of a good Web 2.0 site is one that hands over non-essential control to users, letting them contribute content, participate socially, and even fundamentally shape the site itself. The premise is that users will do a surprising amount of the hard work necessary to make the site successful, right down to creating the very information the site offers to its other users and even inviting their friends and family members to use it. Web 2.0 newcomers MySpace and YouTube have shown how this can be done on a mass scale surprisingly quickly, and of course older generation successes like eBay and craigslist have been doing this for years.
While 2006 was a big year for Web 2.0 in the consumer space, it was barely on the radar in the enterprise world. That didn't stop volumes of press coverage, speculation, and debate about how applicable Web 2.0 technologies -- from Ajax to social networking -- would actually be to the business world. However those in the enterprise who wanted to go ahead and experiment or conduct pilot projects to see how Web 2.0 concepts work for them were largely stuck with very consumer-oriented Web 2.0 applications to try out. That's because until recently, the major software makers that supply the application platforms that run in the vast majority of the business world haven't had applications that specifically focused on Web 2.0 patterns and practices, things like social networking, tagging, mashups, architectures of participation, and so on.
Last year we witnessed the rise of consumer mashups on the Web, with hundreds of individual mashup-based Web applications being released in 2006 alone. I covered this phenomenon in detail in my year-end mashup wrap-up, but now this innovation in software development is gearing up to move inside the enterprise as a raft of tools get ready to provide the tools to make it possible. What will this mean for IT departments and end-users? Let's take a look.
Those that follow the trends on the Internet and the trends within the enterprise have long noticed a very similar direction in both spaces for a while now; a push to move their software to a real services model. The reasons for this push seem straightforward: easier integration between systems, a better foundation for building new applications, dynamic business process automation that crosses organizational boundaries, and better management and monitoring of IT systems.
I explored the rise of Enterprise 2.0 this year in last week's year in review post, but 2007 will likely prove to be a much more intriguing year for the trend. The demand side of Enterprise 2.0 is driven from a variety of sources that likely include a "long tail" of demand for on-the-fly IT solutions as well as the promise of enabling true collaborative problem solving (tacit interactions). But is the real story more complicated than a couple of causal roots?
Though the eponymous title of this blog refers to the application of all aspects of Web 2.0 to the enterprise both large and small, the big story this year has really been about a collaborative subset of Web 2.0, something referred to as Enterprise 2.0. Though the definition has continued to expand in some circles, Enterprise 2.0 describes the use of the latest freeform, emergent, social software tools that hold the promise to significantly improve the ways that we work together and collaborate. As an example, the liberal use of internal blogs and wikis with discoverable content frequently forms the foundation of an Enterprise 2.0 software strategy.