Is Enterprise 2.0 the next big thing or 'the next little thing'?

E2.0 platforms can act as their own 'change agents' that can successful bridge corporate culture barriers

Can Enterprise 2.0 transform the way we work? Or is it being muffled by the same inertia that pulls most organizations into the muck?

ZDNet blogging colleague Dion Hinchcliffe has just weighed in on a debate on whether E2.0 is "The Next Big Thing" or "The Next Little Thing." The debate, which has been raging across the blogosphere, was initially sparked by a recent Tom Davenport post that said E2.0 amounts to no more than The Next Little Thing. (When Tom Davenport talks, people listen...)

The "utopian vision" of E2.0 can hardly be achieved through new technology alone, Davenport warns:

"The absence of participative technologies in the past is not the only reason that organizations and expertise are hierarchical. Enterprise 2.0 software and the Internet won't make organizational hierarchy and politics go away. They won't make the ideas of the front-line worker in corporations as influential as those of the CEO. Most of the barriers that prevent knowledge from flowing freely in organizations – power differentials, lack of trust, missing incentives, unsupportive cultures, and the general busyness of employees today – won't be addressed or substantially changed by technology alone. For a set of technologies to bring about such changes, they would have to be truly magical, and Enterprise 2.0 tools fall short of magic."

These are the same barriers that are impeding SOA work in enterprises today.

Dion argues that the ease of deployment and adaptability -- along with the very lightweightedness of E2.0 tools -- may help to overcome such organizational barriers. "Viewpoints like Tom are entirely right on however if we were looking at tools that are hard to use, highly complex and overspecialized, and required significant resources and special skills to acquire, deploy, and maintain," he says.

"...the constantly evolving Web has continually refined and guided through competitive pressure — and other feedback loops — the design of sites until we have hit upon very effective models for collaboration and communication.  These include the now-ubiquitous blog and wiki but many others as well including mashups, roaming Web desktops, and highly-customizable SaaS apps." 

Dion also observes that E2.0 platforms can act as their own "change agents" that can successful bridge corporate culture barriers. E2.0 platforms "are highly democratic and egalatarian; anyone can deploy these tools, anyone can quickly learn to use and benefit from them, and they can be used to communicate and collaborate openly with anyone else inside (and often outside) the organization, are inherently viral, they literally tear down the barriers that would normally impede their forward movement and adoption inside the organization.... they appear to so easily cross organizational boundaries, can be adopted so easily, require virtually no training, are highly social, and so on."

As I noted in my last post, E2.0 technologies are also a vehicle for easing the transition to service-oriented architectures. 

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