"Enterprise 2.0" as the example that proves the rule

"Enterprise 2.0" as the example that proves the rule

Summary: If you go to Wikipedia this afternoon and try to pull up the entry for Enterprise 2.0, you won't find it there any longer. Readers of this blog are familiar with my writings about this emerging concept in the IT and business space that has been topic of much discussion of late. My point here however is not to go into the details of how and why this term is effectively censored by Wikipedia, at least for the moment; folks like Jason Wood and Jerry Bowles have already done a creditable job. However...

TOPICS: Enterprise 2.0

If you go to Wikipedia this afternoon and try to pull up the entry for Enterprise 2.0, you won't find it there any longer.  Readers of this blog are familiar with my writings about this emerging concept in the IT and business space that has been topic of much discussion of late.  My point here however is not to go into the details of how and why this term is effectively censored by Wikipedia, at least for the moment; folks like Jason Wood and Jerry Bowles have already done a creditable job.  However, the deletion of the entry does highlight a critical issue with the use of Web 2.0 tools in the enterprise space (aka Enterprise 2.0):

If anyone in an enterprise can generate content visible and consumable by the rest of the enterprise, can it be policed in a constructive way without discouraging its very creation?

Censorship is a strong word, yet the removal of online information from public view is something that every organization that allows ideas to appear unedited in the open, however briefly, will eventually be forced to do.  There is simply certain content that cannot be permitted in certain situations.  Though the open, egalitarian, self-service approach to content creation and distribution that is represented by the "2.0" generation of everything (useful coverage of some other uses of the 2.0 suffix here and here) is a terrific default stance, there sometimes comes specific abuses of these technologies that must be dealt with, often by removing the offending content.  Note: I'm speaking in generalities here now -- and not about the Wikipedia incident -- that there is very occasionally good reason for the removal of user contributed content.

 Properties of the (Web) 2.0 Generation

The fact is, things like blogs and wikis make it easy to share information businesses sometimes would rather not have easily accessible.  Shared information on an Intranet can vary from information that is merely inaccurate all the way up to the inappropriate sharing of trade secrets, private employee information, and outright illegal content.  Businesses entertaining Web 2.0 in the enterprise clearly must ask themselves if the risk of low-barrier, open information sharing is actually outweighed by the benefits.

Why is Web 2.0 interesting in the enterprise? 

One of the big attractions of things like Enterprise 2.0 is that it articulates the potential of using Web 2.0 techniques behind (and across) the firewall for greatly improved capture and sharing of organizational knowledge.  Retention and use of the volumes of insight, facts, solutions to common problems, and other tacit experience that is normally lost when an employee leaves or changes positions is one major benefit.  And not only is Web 2.0-style information capture encouraged with Enterprise 2.0, but the application of enterprise search to relentlessly find it again.  This is a model that Google and others have showed us works so well on the Web by using a hyperlinked information architecture to rank and locate what we need amongst vast, endless tracts of digital information.  In fact, Enterprise 2.0 in general describes the liberation of often previously inaccessible corporate information to be opened up to general discoverability, consumption, and reuse using a Web-based model

And it's not just employee experience that's more usable with Enterprise 2.0 either.  Business information that would otherwise be hoarded en masse within Microsoft Office documents of every description, e-mails, and data files stored privately in user's computers, accounts, and home directories -- thereby severely curtailing its utility to the rest of the organization -- can and often should be easily opened up and shared.  And yes, there have been remedies for this problem before for sure, but with relatively low levels of success according to many business users.  Many -- perhaps even most -- users today still avoid knowledge management systems with their rigid organization, complex features, and often surprisingly low accessibility.

The Web as the mirror of possibility

But, as those following Enterprise 2.0 would point out, credible case studies documenting the effectiveness of Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise are still in scant supply.  Yet considerable interest still exists because of the stories pouring off the Web about the efficacy of the two-way Web, aka Web 2.0.  Everything from last year's fascinating PeopleFinder project to the stunning growth of user generated content wunderkinds MySpace and YouTube, never mind the rise of the blogosphere.  I myself am greatly encouraged by the amount of blog content that is increasingly moving to the top of Google's search indexes for a given search term.  The creation of similar success stories in the enterprise is a large part of the reason it's an increasingly popular topic in IT circles.

However, as we're often reminded by stories such as Wikipedia's increasing move into the bureaucratic world of central editorship, there must be some way of maintaining control of our people-powered systems without also losing the very potencies and creativity that's evident in the fresh, innovative content flowing in from the edge of our networks.  I often talk about how adding "enterprise context" to Web 2.0 software -- for example, through the use of manual and automated moderating techniques -- might suddenly "fix" most of these problems. But these are also capabilities not yet built into most of our enterprise blog and wiki software, nor is there experience in applying it effectively.  The thrust is, we have a long way to go before we understand how to best apply Web 2.0 to the enterprise.  But this and other forms of effective application of Web 2.0 techniques must also be discovered as well, or newer business models based on the Web may forever pull ahead of traditional organizations in terms of their ability to provide the most relevant and important source of content, knowledge, and services.

Read a great piece by Jerry Bowles on the Top 10 Management Fears of Enterprise Web 2.0 

So, while I have little doubt that Enterprise 2.0 will eventually end up back on Wikipedia, this episode gives us a good sample of what the users of enterprise IT systems with an Enterprise 2.0 bent will feel when their blogs, wikis, and other two-way applications are redacted without a seemingly appropriate reason.  And let's not forget that the real trend in all of this is likely an larger one that is represented by the move from push-based systems of control to pull-based systems of control.  One implication of this is that the freedom and potential of these new models for business and IT is a real threat to those in charge of the old models.  And while neither model in its pure form will likely provide the ideal results, a workable hybrid that delivers the goods is the likely outcome.

What concerns does your organization have about the application of Web 2.0 on your intranet?

Topic: Enterprise 2.0

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  • Enterprises are shrinking.........

    .....and the employees in them have become more versatile, thanks to ICT-based systems available to them. Their ability to "multi-task" (that is, perform both work-related and personal activities at the same time) translates to their capacity to maintain multiple relationships, usually from within the (virtual) enterprise. Summarily, the employer-employee relations are tending towards being partnerships.
    This trend is unstoppable. Enterprise 2.0 should be, amongst other things, more about restrategizing the administration to attend to this reality.
  • What my boss told me... "no freedom, please"

    I used to work at a company as internal tech consultant. When asked several years ago about how to build the intranet (specifically, how to publish content written by the staff) I prepared a document explaining the trend from a central-managed CMS to a more network-like everybody-writable repository (aka, a Wiki).

    After explaining my boss the options, he dismissed too easily the wiki option. I felt that I was not transmitting effectively my information, because I really felt a wiki was the way to go. So, I insisted. And I was refused again. So I asked if I was really explaining well the thing or why a wiki was not a good idea.

    His answer: "because we cannot manage that much freedom". "How will we control what is published". "How will we restrict the content".

    Well, I think I was really not transmitting the message quite right. My idea was precisely to reduce the management burden and to empower the staff. It took me a couple of minutes to understand that I prepared a technological report without taking care of the point of view of the management people. Traditional management is about control, they don't know how to handle freedom; obviously they don't know how to use it to make money either.

    So, six years later, they still have a centrally-managed CMS, with little staff-produced content. All the knowledge of the people who have worked there is gone when they leave. I didn't try again to bring the wiki idea again, because the environment was becoming "less open" than before. Eventually I left the company. I tried to document all my ideas for the company. But they are sitting there, somewhere in a forgotten disk in a forgotten server. I couldn't publish them in the intranet because we didn't have a wiki.

    What a waste. What lack of vision.

  • Wikipedia's Problem isn't the Enterprise, it's the concept

    I'm a college instructor. I have banned Wikipedia as a source for term papers. Why? Because facts are not opinions. We need a variety of opinions - good, bad, neutral - to make decisions in a democratic society. But some things are not a matter of opinion. The height of the Empire state building is not decided by consensus. The number of people in Peru is not a matter for a vote. And I shouldn't be able to post my understanding of quantum physics when I am a Speech teacher and expect people to accept it as fact or even as an expert opinion.

    The argument is that others who are competant will find and edit my ignorance out eventually, but what happens to the poor student in the interim thinking that my comments about quantum mechanics represent the writings of an expert?

    At any time, I don't know if what I'm reading is accurate (by the accepted standards of the discipline) or the opinion of someone who has no serious knowledge or worse the work of a cyber-vandal trying to disrupt the system or an activist attempting to deceive others.

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion. They might even deserve a forum to express that opinion, but factual matter is not a matter of opinion (except for the controversies of recognized experts in the field).

    Now, for exchanges of reliable data, opinion within a community, sharing of project information in a business or other organization, the technologies are sound.

    Also, making editorial decisions is not the same as censorship. If I own the paper, I can print what I want and keep out what I want. I cannot, nor whould I be forced to print everything someone wants me to print. Censorship only comes into play when an outsider wants to control my content. As the owner of the medium, I have the right and indeed the responsibility to publish only what I feel to be moral, ethical, legal and beneficial to my readers. Failure to do so is at best unethical and at worst illegal.

    • I would use it as a source anyway and plagarize

      I'm keeping my Wikipedia, and much non-cheat plagarism makes it past most college instructors. I'm more likely to get busted for using Wikipedia anyway by citing the source than I would for plagarizing it. Lie-credits from overlapping sources work well with all instructors that havn't read the source themselves, even one like Ron Sarner at SUNY Tech, who is a anti-plagarism fanatic. Maybe people can make some wikipededia-proxies. Wikipedia will be banned eventually anyway, as the USA becomes more and more a facist police state.
      • And you would flunk my class

        Actually, I know the sources. And I check them. And if I am even the least suspicious, well, there's turnitin.com.

        And I am death on plagiarism. It is cheating and I've flunked more than one person for it. And I'm considered an "easy" instructor. I may be but I expect integity from my students.

      • Wow. You really deserve to fail.

        If you're going to use Wikipedia anyway, at least be intelligent about it. Use it as a research tool, not a source. Track down the sources they list, read and weigh them yourself and use those as properly credited sources.

        And what, pray-tell, is the definition of "non-cheat plagiarism"?? What possible mental warpage could justify the use of this oxymoron? Here's a clue: plagiarism is cheating. Period.

        You could use an ethics course, immediately (not to mention PoliSci).
  • more than just web impact

    Dion, you have done very good work around the impact of web 2.0, social networks on the enterprise. But so much more is happening in the enterprise - around biz models (open source, SaaS), support models (development communities,offshore/rural delivery models), architectures (SOA), other tech advances (mobility, telemetry, predictive analytcis etc) that as we define Enterprise 2.0 we need to be more comprehensive in our definition, As I wrote on my blog, we have the opportunity to radically remake the Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin not just give him a nose job...
  • Misinterpretation of deletion

    The claim that the deletion of the "Enterprise 2.0" article was the result of "censorship" is completely incorrect.

    It's important to remember that an encyclopedia is a *tertiary* source. That means that Wikipedia generally summarizes secondary sources. There wasn't anywhere to find a agreed-on third-party definition of the term - so it would be "original research" to just make up a definition, and thus it would be inappropriate for an encyclopedia and not allowed on Wikipedia! (Blogs, even by experts, are not generally considered 100% reliable sources, since they're not fact-checked and their content is in doubt if not also echoed by some third party.)

    Please understand that these are all volunteers - there are well over 1000 articles for each person that has been granted powers (like deletion) by the community. Probably few of them would happen to be familiar with a term like this.

    Meanwhile, the term is back now as part of a broader article on "Enterprise social software".