Enterprise 2.0: Ten Predictions for 2007

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?
Written by Dion Hinchcliffe, Contributor on

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 seems to be 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 high value, collaborative problem solving (tacit interactions). But is the real story more complicated than a couple of causal roots?

As it turns out, it's precisely this particular sweet spot that makes Enterprise 2.0 so interesting: Enterprise 2.0 platforms can provide highly general purpose, freeform, do-it-yourself (DIY) tools that have the potential to solve an entire group of related and overlapping problems in collaboration, knowledge management, SOA adoption, self-service IT, and even overall worker productivity that have been plaguing IT and business for years.

Forces Influencing Enterprise 2.0 in 2007

It doesn't hurt that Enterprise 2.0 has been modeled after what seems to be working so well on the Web these days. Consequently, Enterprise 2.0 is largely driven by the apparent large-scale success of simple, effective software models out on the World Wide Web including the power inherent in fully leveraging the output potential of the users of IT systems via social media, as demonstrated by Web 2.0 applications on the Internet from Flickr, YouTube, del.icio.us, and hundreds of others.

But web applications like blogs and wikis are just the beginning of the Enterprise 2.0 story and many other types of applications can be created out of the patterns and practices outlined by McAfee's SLATES capabilities model (search, linking, authoring, tagging, extensions, and signals). Unlike telephone, e-mail, and even instant messaging, the information and collaboration captured by Enterprise 2.0 apps is non-interruptive and highly leveragable since day-by-day interaction by users contially nuleaves discoverable artifacts behind that reflect the ideas and work conducted within business processes conducted under the aegis of these tools.

Read about how Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 are related models for creating effective networked Web applications. Includes more details on the SLATES concept.

However, as I wrote in my year in review, there remains open questions about whether the tools themselves and the behavior they encourage -- open sharing, peer production, and scale of participation -- will actually transfer successfully from the Web to the often much different environment of the enterprise. 2007 will probably be the year that will uncover the issues, and determine the fate of one of the more interesting offshoots of the Web 2.0 phenomenon.

Here's my take on what will happen next year, in reverse order, David Letterman-style:

Enterprise 2.0: Ten Predictions for 2007 

10.  Despite the potential for other types of applications, blogs and wikis will dominate the Enterprise 2.0 landscape in 2007.  These two models for online user-controlled social media are the most well-known, proven, and well-understood.  That's not to say that hybrids of these, such as Itensil's wiki-based Team Activity Manager, won't make some good inroads, but my guess is that blogs and wikis will form the foundation of the majority of Enterprise 2.0 pilots next year.

9.  A number of Enterprise 2.0 projects will see lower than expected returns due to excessive structure and low social interaction.  Most enterprise wiki products offer ways to structure and control the user interaction process when capturing and retrieving information contributed by users in an organization; see Atlassian's front page claim that it offers "powerful tools for structuring" wikis.  But excessive, upfront structure is exactly what Enterprise 2.0 is attempting to avoid, and most software today remains too structured.  Why is this so important? Even very trivial barriers to use can greatly reduce user contributions (see the Nupedia/Wikpedia example in my previous post).  On the social side, making the "behavioral footprints" of users more evident as well as making it easy and acceptable, both technically and culturally, to comment and debate on social media platforms in the enterprise will be crucial for success.  Reed's Law also says that social networks are by far the powerful in terms of their network effects, and consequently, any reduction in the social aspects of an Enterprise 2.0 application prevents viral adoption and propagation within an organization.  Suggestion:Let needed structure emerge naturally and let users openly -- even anonymously -- contribute contents and enrichment including comments, tags, ratings, reviews, etc.

8.  Compliance tools will get the rug pulled out from under them as users flock to easier tools out of desperation.  SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) and other legal and regulatory rules put an enormous burden on employees of public firms and/or regulated industries.  They must continually document the processes, controls, and key decisions of a company's internal workings in meticulous detail.  Cottage industries have sprung up to provide tools and associated support services to provide automated support for various compliance processes.  Unfortunately, these software platforms are often complex, overwrought and create an major overhead burden for already overworked employees.  In response (or desperation) I'm beginning to see a number of companies with grassroots initiatives to use low-barrier wikis to capture and organize the compliance information informally, and then upload it periodically to the official compliance systems later.  It's likely this sort of guerilla deployment in the back door where many Enterprise 2.0 efforts will actually get a foothold  This will create challenges for the business both in terms of internal governance as well as making it difficult to measure how effective the emergent "replacement" platforms are.

7.  It will be a make or break year for the first round of Enterprise 2.0 tools that add a process aspect.  While SOAs and even Web 2.0 apps tend to be more about services and capabilities, the world of business is much more about processes.  This has triggered some discussion that the best way to add enterprise context to consumer tools may be to make them more process-oriented.  Thus, a number of upcoming Enterprise 2.0 tools have a process bent to them including the above mentioned Itensil, but also the nascent BPM 2.0 movement which can be enabled with these same tools.  By the end of next year, we should have a good feeling if this is a good bet or not. My guess: A new market leader in this space will begin to emerge.

6. Not a dent will be made in 2007 in the installed base of pre-existing collaborative tools such as e-mail, telephone, and IM.  But the groundwork will be laid for a noticeable shift in 2008 as managers and workers discover the advantages of increased corporate knowledge retention, far better location of relevant business information, and emergent structure in terms of tagging and linking.  And I suspect that tools that integrate e-mail, telephone, and IM into Enterprise 2.0 environments will see the biggest early success.

5. Consumerization of the enterprise will continue apace and will help drive Enterprise 2.0 adoption at the grassroots level.  If any of this Enterprise 2.0 trend is really starting to happen, it's because it reflects a better way of working that users are already adopting en masse on the Web.  For example, blogging reaches more people than an e-mail can, and often in unexpected, serendipitous ways.  "Spaces" build out a low-barrier, cost-effective personal channel on the Internet that provides a well-defined way for a user to communicate with the rest of the world or organization. These models are becoming well-understood and effective on the Web and will drive bottom-up adoption in the enterprise, often being pushed by newer, younger workers who are comfortable and conversant with them.  Also, I suspect no solution to the empty quarter will be found in 2007.

4.  A surprisingly fierce battle will ensue between the big software makers and the small Enterprise 2.0 startups. Both in terms of products and services, it's become clear that a few of the big software companies, including Microsoft but particularly IBM, have a clear understanding where the industry is currently heading and are working hard to address it with blogging/wiki platforms, situational software environments (such as IBM's impressive QEDWiki), and social bookmarking tools and more that will focus on the Enterprise 2.0 space.  While the startups will have an advantage in agility and less installed-base issues, they will have to compete with the mechanized sales and services fleets of the large firms.  Fortunately, Enterprise 2.0 is a large space and there will be room for a number of success stories but expect that it will be tough particularly as many of these tools already have open source competitors today.

3.  Effective enterprise search will emerge as a key prerequisite for Enterprise 2.0 success.  One important reason that the Web works so well is that is has a link structure that in turn allows search to work effectively.  If we couldn't use Google or other search engines to find what we're looking for out of billions of Web pages using just a handful of keywords, then the Web would be effectively useless to us.  What use is it if information exists but cannot be found?  Enterprises continue to struggle with just this challenge as information piles up to the ceiling in data centers around the world.  Without a link structure or other means to rank the relevancy of information, how can enterprise data be found and leveraged?  Enterprise 2.0 offers the possibility of not only search contexualizing new additions to the corporate information ecosystem, but to contexualize what already exists as existing IT systems are connected to these new platforms.  Enabling true information discoverability with the enterprise via search and tagging is one of the big, though mid-term, value propositions of Enterprise 2.0, as well as a key success factor.

2.  A few high-profile misuses of Enterprise 2.0 will crop up but will fail to put much of a damper on things.  Whether it will be the uncovering of the next big financial scandal or just some extraordinarily disruptive but ultimately harmless example of employee misuse of Enterprise 2.0 tools, a few juicy stories will be inevitable as businesses pick up more and more on blogs and wikis as a better way to store and organize information in a collaborative fashion.

1.  Enterprise 2.0 and Office 2.0 will face off as leading new terms for online business software and no one will win.  Enterprise 2.0 is a broad a term that -- with it's automatic association with organization-scale back-end systems -- will struggle to maintain it's particular niche in freeform, emergent, social software tools for knowledge managements.  Office 2.0 is a nice sized umbrella but tends to refer too much to the client-side aspect and not enough on the back office side.  Will they merge or just remain convenient short-hand that evolves through next year?  The label debate is important because we need effective short-hand labels to identify the fast moving trends in our industry and for now my vote is with the latter trend.

In my Nine ideas for IT managers considering Enterprise 2.0, I visited many of the themes in this list including search, emergent structure, and so on.  But in the end, business culture will be one of the biggest obstacles to Enterprise 2.0 in 2007 and forward.  Providing public software platforms that are clearly visible to everone in the enterprise is something that many companies will take a few years to get used to, despite the fact that most companies have e-mailing distribution lists that can reach significant parts of the enterprise today, though they usually get used rarely.

In the end, the business value of Enterprise 2.0 has been articulated on this blog and elsewhere in some detail.  If even 10% of these returns on investment are achieved, the effort would be worth it.  The question is, will you get their first, or will your competition?

Have any other Enterprise 2.0 predictions for 2007? Add them and your comments in Talkback below. 

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