Blogger and stock analyst Paul Kedrosky introduced the topic of Enterprise 2.0 at a morning workshop at the Web 2.0 Summit by trying not to define the concept, calling the definitional discussion a masturbatory exercise. Nonetheless, he offered Harvard Business School Associate Professor Andrew McAfee's definition as a starting point:
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.
Note: Dion Hinchcliffe has a post on Web 2.0 transitioning to Enterprise 2.0, citing a new report from O'Reilly, Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices. Dion writes about McAfee's explanation of Enterprise 2.0:
SLATES describes the combined use of effective enterprise search and discovery, using links to connect information together into a meaningful information ecosystem using the model of the Web, providing low-barrier social tools for public authorship of enterprise content, tags to let users created emergent organizational structure, extensions to spontaneously provide intelligent content suggestions similar to Amazon's recommendation system, and signals to let users know when enterprise information they care about has been published or updated, such as when a corporate RSS feed of interest changes.
While SLATES forms the basic framework of Enterprise 2.0, it does not negate all of the higher level Web 2.0 design patterns and business models. And in this way, the new Web 2.0 report from O'Reilly is quite effective and diligent in interweaving the story of Web 2.0 with the specific aspects of Enterprise 2.0.
Kedrosky went on to say that collaborative software, with the exception of email, has not worked particularly well. "Why will it work when they didn't before. I'm not sitting around thinking it's a good time to use emergent social software," Kedrosky said. "What is it going to replace? In the consumer market, social technology replaced other ways of interacting, but in the workplace what do they substitute for?"
Avi Bryant from Dabble DB said that his product tries to do a better job of subverting IT, trying to give users tools that let them do a better job of building a proper data model or in-depth reporting themselves. Also the traditional top down enterprise sales model is subverted, targeting the users rather than IT or the CIO, and charging a small monthly fee on a credit card.
Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield identified the trend as "enterprise target with consumer approach."
Jeff Nolan of Teqlo, and formerly SAP, noted that Enterprise 2.0 could be applied to any business context, order to cash, human resources, merchandizing. "There are 1500 processes that can benefit from the technology," Nolan said. "The fundamental problem with traditional software is that developers are disconnected from users. Salesforce.com was successful by selling to end users and the company can see at any given moment what is being used in their software."
Bottom up, software-as-a-service, do-it-yourself, monthly subscription, collaborative, modifications of applications by mere mortals are are part of a movement that is seeping into corporations, just as PCs did in the early 1980s. For the more maverick or adventuresome users, if IT doesn't provide the tools they will bring them in, and charge them to their credit card. "You can't stop any hosted services," Nolan said.
Speaking as a hosted services provider, Nolan hopes that is true. But the reality is that corporations try to lock out software that is rogue or fails to pass the compliance test. They can't be totally successful is keeping unwanted software out, but the IT executives aren't going to turn their back when they need to cover their ass. Peter Rip of Crosslink Capital chimed int that companies will have apps in the could and in the sandbox that can be firewalled by IT.
Mayfield's experience is that the champions who bring in Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 or whatever you call it into an enterprise from the bottom up often become the ones who work with IT to legitimize the software used by popular demand. In addition, as new class of bottom up, user centered software matures, it will add the kinds of features that make it fit into corporate environments. Intel put together SuiteTwo, a collection of Web 2.0 content development and distribution products that could make the software more palatable for IT departments.
There will be a tug of war, but in the end, users will prevail. Bottom line, users unhappy with their tools won't be the most productive workers...