What is Enterprise 2.0?

I'll be in Boston for the US Enterprise 2.0 conference next week.
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

I'll be in Boston for the US Enterprise 2.0 conference next week. I'm looking forward to meeting face to face with a lot of people I converse with via Twitter (I'm @olivermarks on that platform when it's working...) and other digital connections, seeing old friends, and particularly making new contacts. Please do come and say hello if you see me!

Andrew McAfee, who incidentally started using Twitter today, coined the original term in his 'Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration' essay in '06.

Inevitably the Enterprise 2.0 moniker is becoming more and more distorted, with Wikipedia currently defining it as

" a term describing social software used in "enterprise" (business) contexts. It includes social and networked modifications to company intranets and other classic software platforms used by large companies to organize their communication. In contrast to traditional enterprise software, which imposes structure prior to use, this generation of software tends to encourage use prior to providing structure..."

Next week's Boston conference

...is the largest and most important gathering for the people ready to reinvent the way work is done. Your business needs to figure out how to leverage new social tools and technologies....

Enterprise 2.0 is a parallel to Web 2.0, which now 'has numerous definitions'

and which

...is a term describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users. These concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies.... Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but to changes in the ways software developers and end-users use the Web.

There's PR 2.0 and probably marketing 2.0 out there somewhere too...

I'm citing all these descriptions from easily Googled sources because that's what the "business people who need to figure out how to leverage new social tools and technologies" for their employers will probably have read before attending the conference.

Checking your name tag as you walk around the conference will be vendors eager to give you their unique version of what Enterprise 2.0 is...

What does IT think Enterprise 2.0 is?

I'm wondering what a non technical business person attending the conference makes of all this, especially someone who writes checks for the acronym laiden world of 'traditional' IT systems - CRM, ERP, ECM and so on?

My experience and plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests there is a bit of a crisis in this world where nobody ever gets fired for buying Microsoft/IBM/800lb Gorrillas.

Fresh new employees have increasingly grown up with social networking and web 2.0 tools and are frequently astounded when shown the archaic interfaces of the legacy tools enterprises are anchored by. ('So this is what grown ups do - no wonder they are so boring!') They informally turn to the tools they used in school - flash drives, online collaboration environments, tools and communications, only to be reprimanded. USB drives are epoxied up, IP addresses noted and they are formally told they are constrained by the existing tools provided by IT and to stay behind the firewall or get burnt.

Meanwhile older employees are retiring and taking their knowledge with them - this problem is serious enough that they are often hired back as consultants. There is often nowhere accessible to share their knowledge in the current infrastructure so even this is a temporary solution.

Brave souls start grass roots initiatives within departments, convincing their superiors of the utility of 'Enterprise 2.0' tools and working the way they did before they started their current job. If the initiative takes off IT security start taking a keen interest, and before you know it budget season comes around and there isn't any funding available for that initiative this year. No one really owns it...

This sounds hard on IT departments who have a heavy weight of responsibility and huge issues with the systems they have to keep running 24/7, and issues with enforcing security standards to protect company intellectual property.

There are plenty of IT staff who feel the same frustrations (and sometimes secretly use Google Docs and other online services to get their job done). Some of these folks will probably be at the Boston conference - if you are I'd love to talk to you!

At this point it appears that enterprise 2.0 is often seen as a threat to security by most IT department management.

What do executive management think Enterprise 2.0 is?

The big issue is where does Enterprise 2.0 fit into the enterprise infrastructure? More enlightened management - and those driven crazy by having to log in and out of alphabet soup systems all day to get their job done in between processing email - are aware there are efficiencies and cost benefits in utilizing modern technology.

Executive management don't really know what this is or more specifically what it means to them so they can't react to it. It's not appearing on their radar in focus but they know there's something out there.

How to get there and what are effective solutions is their question.

Consumer Web 2.0 hasn't helped - companies stamping out usage of FaceBook at work aren't terribly impressed by vendors offering social systems for the enterprise, particularly if executive management happen to have slacker children living in myspace while missing school.

The crisis in IT acronym world I referred to earlier is that legacy IT systems are extremely costly. Senior management is signing off on this but are increasingly aware they should be exploring options in this 2.0 workflow world, but catch 22 they don't have much budget because they already committed it on the alphabet soup systems.

Something's got to give...

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