Yesterday on the Boston waterfront at the Reinventing the Enterprise summit, a lively panel of industry luminaries discussed and debated the topic of the event: How enterprises are dealing with the powerful transformational forces from the Web 2.0 era that are reshaping the workplace today. The issues and concerns around adoption and governance of Enterprise 2.0 was a hot topic.
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.
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.
The promise of remixing existing online services and data into entirely new online applications in a rapid, inexpensive manner, often referred to as mashups, has captured the software industry's imagination since the release of first major example, HousingMaps.com, in early 2005. Since then, mashups have offered the potential to finally make widespread software reuse a reality, enable SOA initiatives to achieve positive ROI, and radically drive down the cost of application development while satisfying large applications backlogs that plague organizations almost everywhere.
Mainstream social networks continue to grow at a staggering pace in 2007 as they offer users compelling ways to manage and leverage their relationships with each other online. MySpace and Facebook continue to lead the pack as the two most popular social networking sites but for the first time, it also seems fairly clear that Facebook will soon overtake MySpace in overall usage, particularly as it offers a richer overall platform powered by a large and vibrant community of 3rd party application developers.
A new survey of the personal use of Web 2.0 applications by CIOs emerged late last week and provided another interesting, if high-level, datapoint about the future of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. Carried out by CIO Insight, the survey reported the usual trends like high rates of use of wikis, blogs, and RSS, as well as a few unexpected outliers, like 39% of CIOs listen to podcasts.
For well over a year now we've seen reports and announcements from a major industry analyst firms and others tracking the movement of Web 2.0 ideas into the enterprise. Gartner, Forrester, McKinsey, and many others have all weighed in on the trends or made recommendations, sometimes cautious and sometimes optimistic, that organizations should start heading down the Web 2.0 path. And public interest in Web 2.0 in the enterprise is widespread too, not in the least exemplified by the fact that Web 2.0 trends of all kinds -- business and consumer both -- are tracked closely here in many blogs on ZDNet. The big question? What do you really need to know today about Web 2.0 in the enterprise?
While application developers tend to roll their eyes at the concept of end-user mashups, they remain one of the more promising new trends in software development this year. And while it's certainly true it's early days yet for mashups, the tools that enable them remaining rather limited, seems to be changing as I regularly come across compelling new mashup platforms as well as upgrades to existing ones that show what will be possible soon. And for now, as evidenced recently in the McKinsey Web 2.0 in business survey where 21% of organizations globally said they are using or planning to use mashups, there appears to be considerable demand for mashups at the enterprise level even though the majority of existing offerings are primarily aimed at the consumer space. Is this disconnect resolving with the current crop of offerings? Let's take a look.
It's nearly the middle of 2007 already and I've had occasion to sit down and look at where Web 2.0 and SOA software models have evolved lately. Partly it's because we're now seeing some of the bigger software companies seriously embrace lightweight SOA recently, and it's also because we're continuing to see more clearly that Web 2.0 and SOA really are largely (but not 100%) the same concepts that merely lay on different -- if fairly different -- parts of the software continuum. Here's the latest on this story.
At last week's Mashup Ecosystem Summit held in San Francisco and sponsored by IBM with an invited assemblage of leading players in this space, I gave an opening talk about the current challenges and opportunities of mashups. And there I posed the title of this post as a statement instead of a question. The reason that it's a question here is entirely driven by the context of who is currently creating the majority of mashups these days. Because even a cursory examination of what people are doing every day on the Web right now tells us that mashups -- also known as ad hoc Web sites created on the fly out of other Web sites -- are indeed happening in a large way, albeit in simple forms, by the tens of thousands online every day.
I've only recently had a chance to catch up and read Tom Davenport's post a few weeks ago about his skepticism of Enterprise 2.0's ability to wreak significant cultural and hierarchical change inside organizations. Those of you tracking the Enterprise 2.0 story know the drill, namely that applying Web 2.0 tools and platforms inside organization may or may not -- depending on who you are talking to -- improve the way we collaborate, run our businesses, and even potentially tap major new veins of previously unexploitable worker productivity. I myself tend to be a bit biased because I'm very close to many uses of these technologies and their use in the field. And that's shown me that if one trend stands out clearly above the fray, it's that most organizations are rapidly embracing these tools today, either from the top-down or at a grassroots level, and often both.