Enterprise 2.0 When Enterprise 1.0 Doesn’t Work
November 26, 2008
At lunch yesterday, two of my colleagues and I talked about the phrase “Enterprise 2.0”.
I admit that I named my second Google study Google Version 2.0, because I thought the “2.0” designation was a convenient way of numbering my Google monographs. The “2.0” label suggested to me that the GOOG had kicked up its efforts a notch between the time I finished The Google Legacy in early 2005 and the September 2007 date of my second Google monograph.
At lunch, I told Don (a Windows and database expert) and Stuart (a master programmer) that I didn’t know what Enterprise 2.0 meant. Furthermore, with Enterprise 1.0 companies in big trouble, I thought that we should be talking about “Enterprise 0.35” or “Enterprise 0.1”, not some fuzzy wuzzy notion of life after the financial crisis. The crisis is here, getting worse, and likely to persist for the foreseeable future. With a $65 billion in revenue company having a share price of $20, there are some problems in technology land. Beyond technology, there are some challenges for General Motors, Citcorp, and the US budget. The idea of an “Enterprise 2.0” struck me as interesting.
Different Views of Enterprise 2.0
Don said, “Enterprise 2.0 is a buzzword. We had Web 2.0, which was meaningless. We had Search 2.0 which was silly. Now we have Enterpriser 2.0. This is a marketing play and it suggests that the next version will be better than the present version. Too bad it takes some companies three versions to get something to work the way it is supposed to. I just ignore the term.”
Stuart said, “I think Enterprise 2.0 is shorthand for moving some of the high profile Web functions into a company. I think the young employees and contractors already use these, but now companies want to get control of instant messaging, services like LinkedIn and Facebook, and mashups. I don’t think most of the people using the phrase ‘Enterprise 2.0’ know what it means, but the implication is that the cool Web stuff can help an organization do some things easier is why the terms is being thrown around.”
So, I am uncertain. Don thinks it is marketing baloney. And Stu thinks it is old people trying to tap what young people do without giving the service much thought.
Defining Enterprise 2.0
After lunch, I kept thinking about the phrase “Enterprise 2.0” and decided to poke around for more information. I navigated to Google and entered the search string “define:”Enterprise 2.0”. Google promptly spit back to me one definition. It was succinct and from an outfit called PandoraSquared. The definition was, “The use of freeform social software within companies.” Well, that didn’t help me, since I don’t know what the heck social software is. It is possible to send messages via email, participate in chat, and offer Web pages that allow users to vote Digg style on certain stories. I guess that stuff is social software. I don’t think I need a buzzword to describe these functions, but I’m an old and addled goose, so what do I know?
To master the different facets of Enterprise 2.0 requires a genius of the caliber of Leonardo da Vinci, the last Renaissance man., Is there an MBA at work in a consulting firm who can carry Leonardo’s intellectual weight? Let me know if you have a candidate in mind.
Well, I probed more deeply and I found a conference focused exclusively on Enterprise 2.0. I want to submit a talk so I can explain that I know about uses of commercial off the shelf technology to help companies make more sales. I understand this approach, but I don’t need to say the words “Enterprise 2.0.”
One of my team found this list of topics that defines Enterprise 2.0. You can learn about the conference where these topics will be discussed here. I think this list is quite useful. To master each of these topics would require a modern day Leonardo da Vinci, the last Renaissance man.
- Building an Enterprise Culture
- Cloud Computing
- Conferencing Applications
- Enterprise Blogging
- Enterprise Mobility
- Enterprise Search
- Enterprise Software
- Enterprise Software Mash-ups
- Information Security
- Integrated Collaborative Platforms
- Messaging Applications
- Microblogging and Emergent Platforms
- Mobile Social Software
- Online Office Productivity Applications
- Social Networking Applications
- Software as a Service
- Wikis and Team Collaboration Applications
The conference organizers have gathered together a number of threads, sorted them, and presented themes. In my opinion these themes make it clear that the phrase “Enterprise 2.0” refers to both technology and management issues of interest to managers.
My Thoughts about This Breakdown of Enterprise 2.0’s Components
As I thought about these topics, several ideas came to mind. Let me capture these before they slip away.
First, several of these topics flag information management issues. For example, the notion of building an enterprise culture reaches beyond a particular technology. The idea is that in today’s organization’s “culture” has changed. In fact, when I think of the “culture” of a company, I recall the fingerprint of specific organizations where I worked as an officer or an employee. For example, at the Courier Journal & Louisville Times Co., one of the leading newspapers in the U.S. for many years, the philosophy of the Bingham family created a specific set of expectations and methods. Barry Bingham, who hired me, asked me what I valued in one of our meetings before I was hired. I told him that I wanted to balance work and family, a task that was, in my opinion, impossible at Booz, Allen & Hamilton in 1980. I recall as if it were yesterday what he told me: “We expect our officers to be involved in the community and spend time with their family. If you have to miss a meeting to participate in a community or family event, that’s is okay here.” I was stunned. At Booz, Allen 60 hour work weeks were the norm. Saturday mornings were spent at the office “catching up”. Sunday was interrupted by telephone calls where other Booz, Allen professionals would “touch” or “reach out”. Family life was secondary to the Booz, Allen commitment. Here was a fellow who told me that I could volunteer to coach a sports team or attend a civic function. That was culture, and I experienced culture shock at the Courier Journal & Louisville Times. When the paper was broken up and sold off in 1986, I was shocked with the culture of Bell+Howell, the outfit that bought the information services unit. Bell+Howell was a financial roll up, and it had the look and feel of an accounting firm, not a company where executives should go to a Boy Scout meeting instead of a departmental technology review. The notion that Enterprise 2.0 should address culture tells me quite a bit about how most conference organizers perceive what potential attendees need and want to know. The only problem for me is that technology cannot replace the values and priorities of the senior manager. After the Courtier Journal & Louisville Times “went away”, the people remained, but the culture of the Binghams was lost. In fact, in retrospect, the culture disappeared the day of the sale in June 1986. No Enterprise 2.0–in fact, to my knowledge no software at this time–software can remediate this type of change.
Second, several of these topics are umbrella technologies or phase change technologies. To me, moving some or all software to a data center “out there” in the network brings us full circle. The mainframe model is alive and well, just given a new name such as Cloud Computing or Software as a Service (SaaS). The idea is that a user doesn’t need the application on a computing device. The computing device connects to the application. If the device fails, the application and probably some or all of the data will reside “out there” on the network. The technologies for cloud computing are not trivial, and it is unlikely that a single individual possesses sufficient knowledge to work as an expert in data center performance optimization and negotiating favorable contracts and Service Level Agreements with telecommunication companies to keep costs under control. These buzzwords “cloud computing” and “Software as a Service” are new disciplines, and few companies have a firm grasp on the upsides and downsides of the different facets of these technologies. The subjects are too big, too fast changing at this time.
Third, a number of these topics that define Enterprise 2.0 are information access and manipulations, not new technology at all. For example, Enterprise Search has been around for decades, and it is not working particularly well. The notion of simplifying search (the Google approach), the toolkit approach (the Microsoft FAST approach), the hosted service (the Blossom way), the business intelligence angle (the Attivio approach), the text mining method (ISYS Search Software), the any device, any time system (the Coveo method) the flexible technology approach (the Exalead way), and the other angles of attack make the topic one of the most complex, expensive, and baffling today. Information manipulation issues surface with content creation and security as well. No one person can master these different facets of information access.
Finally, some of these topics focus on communications. The fact that Internet Protocol handles bits means that any thing that can be represented by zeros and ones can be supported by what most people call “the Internet” This allows old functions to operate in what to many is still a new medium. It is not surprising that as awareness of the Internet has grown, more applications, services, and functions have be transported there. Communications, therefore, is a large part of the “Enterprise 2.0” space. For example, social software, social networking, collaboration, and conferencing are routine methods of interaction now available within a browser or a browser-like environment. I doubt that one person can implement each of these with equal facility.
One important point for me is that I am deeply suspicious of any person or organization who asserts expertise in the subject matter of “Enterprise 2.0”. How can a single individual be an expert in complex topics such as Enterprise Search and in Presence and in Security at the same time? Anyone who makes this assertion is straying into what I think of as hubris; that is, confidence that a bright person or a group of bright people can understand and speak with authority about each of these diverse topics. Anyone can have an opinion. Anyone can assert anything. But disaster may strike when these uninformed, essentially unsupported notions are used by an organization to solve a problem. A mistake can put an organization into significant financial difficulty or a competitive disadvantage.
With regard to search, most search vendors support “social functions” but I think few people have thought deeply about the ramifications of social features and information retrieval in organizations. I am thinking about regulated businesses, organizations engaged in work for government agencies that require certain safeguards, and organizations which may find themselves embroiled in litigation. Email can be exciting, and it is very social in nature. In the eDiscovery process, some people learn how exciting social email can be.
To sum up, I acknowledge that “Enterprise 2.0” can mature into more than a generality or trendy buzzword. But that point is months, maybe years in the future. Individuals or organizations asserting expertise in these diverse areas are to be viewed with caution, perhaps–dare I say it–suspicion.
Is there an “Enterprise 2.0” discipline? Let me know. Keep in mind that facts are helpful. Assertions can be amusing, even interesting, but data help me understand quickly.
Stephen Arnold, November 26, 2008