In my attempt to keep track of Web 2.0 trends, I came across a wide range of terms that have adopted the 2.0 series. There is Office 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Blog 2.0, News 2.0, RSS 2.0, Community 2.0, and guess what, I even found a blog titled Everything 2.0; I guess that’s the easiest way to put it!
I am not sure whether all these terms are in use officially or informally, but the clear indication is that all media types have a new implication and a new meaning to their users in the Web 2.0 era.
Out of these, Enterprise 2.0 is a term that I read in a McKinsey article illustrating a survey taken on the use of Web 2.0 by enterprises to run their businesses. The term was also found documented in Wikipedia.
We know that Web 2.0 is being widely used by individual users through applications like Facebook, eBay, Wikis, and social networking sites. Enterprise 2.0 is the usage of Web 2.0 applications in a company or corporate environment. That is, when individuals in a company use applications to share knowledge, information, ideas and expertise in a way that may benefit them in a professional and intellectual level, it also enhances their functioning in the company. This in turn helps the company leverage the benefits by building a competitive workforce to achieve its goals.
Does this strike a chord somewhere? We have heard and worked on something similar in our work environment, right? Yes, Knowledge Management. A simple contrast in this context will help understand the distinctive features of Web 2.0 from 1.0. KM is a classic example of a Web 1.0 practice in a company’s internal environment. KM involves imparting company practices, industry trends, processes, knowledge and expertise. This is done in a structured manner and the employees are only at the receiving end. So it is a “read only” application.
Enterprise 2.0 would a Web 2.0 version of KM where everybody participates. It is also termed as a “social software” which has no pre-determined structure. There will be sharing by everyone from all sides, in the form of RSS, Wikis, Blogs, Networking sites, Podcasts, etc. In this case, the company’s objective would be to bring about a culture of learning. Rather than imparting or training what the company knows and believes in, it is giving a chance to its employees to share their knowledge and opinions. This way, people get more involved, there is innovative thinking, zillions of ideas are thrown up, and each day employees learn at least a thing more than what they already know. Hence the word “sharing” in this context is being replaced by the buzzword “collaborate”.
Like any Web 2.0 application, for this concept to work well, there has to be maximum participation by employees. As we know, it is mainly the users and not just the technology that makes sites like Linkedin, Technorati or Amazon successful. So there has to be an effort from the management to not only make the interface attractive enough, but also to get employees involved. It is not an IT department responsibility; of course, they provide the support; but the initiative has to come from all business units. It is an enormous task and the results don’t come quick. It not only involves setting up of infrastructure and latest technology but also deciding the boundaries and limits.
In this context it is worth mentioning that apart from internal applications, Web 2.0 can also help in interacting with customers, by knowing what they want, how they want it and thereby fit the marketing strategy of a company. Similarly, it can help in the operations side as well, in terms of interacting with suppliers on a regular basis to ensure overall efficiency and effectiveness.
At the end of it all, when carried out well, Enterprise 2.0 promises to develop and instill a culture of learning in the organization. In a global economy with tremendous competition, only the fittest can survive; Enterprise and Web 2.0 incorporated in an organization can help breed the fittest.