Is enterprise Web 2.0 a KM issue?

In my last post I covered the knowledge management press's first impression of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. But should we be looking at enterprise Web 2.0 as a KM issue?
Written by Paul Montgomery, Contributor on

In my last post I covered the knowledge management press's first impression of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. But should we be looking at enterprise Web 2.0 as a KM issue?

There are several ways of looking at the question. The first, and the most likely way this issue would be covered in other media, is from a purely technological viewpoint. On the face of it, wikis can function as corporate collaboration software, blogs would not work a whole lot differently to e-mail or intranets as a method of informing fellow employees, and the process of tagging content into a folksonomy could be a new way of developing a company taxonomy. No problems there.

The technology set defined by the 37signals product family, and mirrored in numerous other startups, fit nicely into the collaboration pigeonhole with project managers, chat and to-do lists (or calendaring). Collaborative document authoring in Writeboard and Writely, to name a few, introduces workflow to the scene.

The destinationKM.com article I linked to previously talked about peer-to-peer technologies as part of Web 2.0, which don't have much to do with KM the last time I looked. Apart from that last one, and given that all of the above is supposed to be tied together in this service-oriented architecture that keeps getting mentioned, from the technology side it's looking like a perfect match.

Then there's the supply side. Not the vendors, the implementers: would the same people be coming to you with 2.0 proposals now? The same folks who last year were hitting you up for KM services?

I'm not talking about the IBMs or big consultancies of this world, since they would send you carloads of people who did nothing all day but install bookmarks for Abe Vigoda Status if that was the latest trend. My guess is that for things like wikis and blogs, the usual KM suspects could fulfil the role the same way they have for intranet implementations, and their history of midwifing workflow projects would be invaluable in implementing relatively new software which might not have worked out all the practical pitfalls that niche workflow vendors would already have solved. However, part of the charm of many of the 2.0 apps is how easy they are to install and maintain, so maybe the consultants might find themselves out of a job, or at least with a lesser role. The simple fact is I don't know which way this one will fall. Perhaps I'll find out in the course of writing this blog. (Hint hint to all the working journos out there, find this out!)

Finally, there is the cultural side. As explored by Dinesh Tantri, one of the big questions to be assessed is whether Web 2.0 is even suitable for corporate culture in the first place. Quite apart from the backend architecture or the software functionality, Web 2.0 represents a shift in attitude towards a more open, sharing environment where everyone has access to the means of knowledge production. This is where KM is arguably the best fit for Web 2.0. Good KM implementations accomplish the same thing: not just allowing the creation of new knowledge, but connecting islands of existing data -- be that digitised or in employees' heads -- into an holistic whole.

It looks as if there is enough connection there to justify the early interest by the KM press, and by people inside organisations who are tasked with KM functions. When (or if) we start hearing in-depth about successful Web 2.0 implementations is when this question will be resolved for good.

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