I hate Buzz Words. About a year ago, I spent 15 minutes trying to describe to a couple of friends what Web 2.0 meant. In the end, I realized that spending time trying to define it wasn’t nearly as valuable as talking about the changes we could see in how people were using the web and what benefits resulted.
So the big deal with Web 2.0 is:
• People are creating content and data
• Those people benefit from their actions
• Other people benefit from those actions
As three little bullet points, Web 2.0 might not look that impressive. But consider Wikipedia. This collaborative encyclopedia project has more than 75,000 active contributors working on more than 5,300,000 articles in over 100 languages.
Those bullet points don’t look all that clever, or new, either. Systems have existed for years that have exactly the same characteristics. For example, web-based forum software has been around for many years and meets the same three goals. What has changed to create this “Web 2.0”
One big part of the answer is that the enabling technologies and user interfaces have gotten so much better. Another key part is that people have become so much more accustomed to the browser and related technologies. It actually doesn’t surprise me any more to watch my 5-year-old pick out Pokemon movies on Netflix – the interface is really easy to use and he has no fear of computers.
In a nutshell, the marriage of easy-to-learn and use tools with a large and growing population who can easily see the benefits of using those tools has produced explosive increases in value. And this is what is driving Web 2.0.
So what about Enterprise 2.0?
Enterprise 2.0 means organizations leveraging the same three bullet points. Again, I think the momentum behind this is a combination of great progression in technology, user interface and experience level of the users.
A great example of the change comes from the expertise discovery problem. Finding the person who knows the most about a particular technology or who worked on a particular project is a big challenge in a large corporation. In the late 1990s, my company was trying to pull data from a few internal systems and photos from employee security badges to create intranet pages. Today, I watch several companies creating “Facebook-like” applications that are much easier to use and have more compelling information because the actual users are contributing to the system. The new approaches are orders of magnitude better because they apply the principles of leveraging user-created data both for the user’s benefit and for others. And they make it easy.
In fact, there wouldn’t really be a need for a separate Enterprise 2.0 term at all if it weren’t for a couple of details like security and governance. The big difference between Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 is that enterprises typically have business rules about which people can consume certain types of data, and these rules are reflected in other systems (like directory servers) or are known by managers.
I’ve heard people say that data should be open in Enterprise 2.0 just like in the most successful Web 2.0 systems. I generally agree. The more data available to more people, the more likely a company will see the network effects of the most successful Web 2.0 solutions. So the trick is to get the valuable user-generated content visible to the maximum audience without violating any of the data governance rules for the organization.
This is where enterprise RSS solutions can have a big impact. RSS is the ideal way to present valuable, recently created information to the right people without overwhelming their email inbox. But some of the most exciting work we have been doing is helping customers develop solutions that leverage all of the great data about users and content that is generated and stored in an enterprise RSS platform.
If you want to discover a person who has expertise in a particular topic, looking at the tags they use can be extremely helpful. If you’re trying to come up to speed on what a particular project team is doing, viewing the top articles for that group gives a lot of insight (And, of course, you shouldn’t get insight on projects that are truly confidential.)
So the hidden fourth bullet point in the Web 2.0 list is the assumption of many, many users. Enterprise 2.0 relies on creating the biggest possible network of users without breaking business rules, and RSS is a critical component to make that happen.
So don’t worry about Buzz Words. Applying the concepts creates real business value. We get to see it every day with our customers and prospects. Business value trumps Buzz Words every time!
NewsGator Product Mgt./Consumer GM