The Enterprise 2.0 Revolution



The Enterprise 2.0 Revolution

by Dario de Judicibus

WHITE PAPER PUBLISHED ON JULY 7TH 2009

What is Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is a knowledge-oriented environment where human interactions generate contents that are published, managed and used through network applications in a service oriented architecture.

Dario de Judicibus, IBM (June 2008)

The key factor of Web 2.0 is that contents are co-generated by people, and that all activities are performed in a service oriented environment which is shielding all technical aspects of the environment itself. Thence, people are focused on knowledge sharing, evolution, and reuse, and not on how to use the system or programming. A Web 2.0 environment can be aimed to achieve an objective or simply satisfy social and individual needs.

In Web 2.0, as in any knowledge management system, people are not users of the system, but an integral part of it. Therefore both social and individual human factors are key to understand how the system works. A well designed Web 2.0 environment should always consider both technological and sociological aspects from its beginning.

What is Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 is the integration of robust enterprise-designed web 2.0 technologies and a new way to think business, organization, and processes.

Dario de Judicibus, IBM (June 2008)

So, Enterprise 2.0 is not simply the application of Web 2.0 principles to an enterprise, but a rethinking of enterprise processes to take advantage of those principles. Furthermore, since an enterprise has a mission, goals, policies, strategies, methods, processes, and a management system, such an application must take into account all those elements from its inception. For example, an Enterprise 2.0 environment is always aimed to achieve measurable results, even if they generate intangible benefits.

The new work culture should be based on a more informal workplace which harvests collective intelligence, and the wisdom of large groups, by encouraging adoption through personal value, connecting people to ideas, communities, work, and other people, across physical and organizational boundaries, and uncovering tacit knowledge, attitudes, and actions.

Why we should go the new way?

But why we should rethink business, organization, and processes of an enterprise? Is just because the availability of a new technology? Is it really worth of?

The real values of a modern enterprise are data, information, knowledge, and people. Just consider that there are more data, information, knowledge, and people outside an enterprise than inside. Are we able to take advantage of them? And are we really taking advantage of intellectual capital inside enterprises?

Furthermore, work environments are getting more and more complex because of matrix-based organizations, process changes, mergers and acquisitions, globalization of companies, telecommuting and remote work. At the same time, the way people work is also changing, work is getting increasingly collaborative, with augmented specialization, and often ad hoc projects.

The implementation of an Enterprise 2.0 approach, will get the most from the internal intellectual capital, and will begin to take advantage of these external capabilities and resources, with no need to “integrate” them inside the enterprises . The new strategy is to be data-centric, and since the most powerful container of data is people, therefore this strategy should  become people-centric too.

Are there risks?

Any company is based on a fundamental concept: control. That is, control of internal and outwards communications, control of processes, of people, of resources, of economical and financial aspects. A company is based on control. This is a fact.

The approach to Web 2.0 is based on social networking, peer-to-peer relationships, collaboration, individual and group creativity, co-generation of content, role-unrelated initiatives, i.e. cooperation, and not on control. All that is in contrast with the way we govern companies nowadays.

However, this is a problem if we approach Enterprise 2.0 only from the technological point of view. We can take advantage of Web 2.0, but we need to change the way we think the enterprise, and it is not a matter of a one-time change, but of a perpetual change, implementing the Beta Enterprise. Enterprise 2.0 is strongly based on a robust continuous change management system.

How can we implement it?

It strongly depends on the objectives we want to achieve and the people that should be involved in the system.

Generally speaking we could focus on the enterprise only, that is, build an Enterprise Oriented System; we could focus on the interaction between the enterprise and the external world, such as providers, business partners, customers, users, even competitors, that is, build an Enterprise-Marketplace Cross System; or focus mostly on the external world and its perspective of the company, that is, to build a Marketplace Oriented System.

In most cases, we have to promote several facilitators of the change inside the company.

From a business point of view, we have to:

  • develop a collaborative culture across different departments;
  • build intellectual capital on co-generation of contents;
  • involve external people in collaborative activities;
  • facilitate communications inside the company and outside of it;
  • promote empowerment at all levels and reward initiative;
  • substitute rigid rules with policies and directions where possible;
  • give time to people to think, not just “work”;
  • think and speak “open”, promoting “lateral thinking”.

From a technological point of view, it is recommended to:

  • implement the system according to open standards;
  • improve the ability to find information and expertise;
  • deploy a reliable easy-to-use collaborative technological environment;
  • build on a service oriented infrastructure to improve process flexibility;
  • take advantage of enterprise-oriented services based on a RAS (1)
  • provide tools and mechanisms to develop professional relationships;
  • automate processes and workflows to help people  to focus on adding value;
  • provide people with multichannel capabilities, and “wherever you are” access capabilities;
  • promote an environment that is always in a “beta” phase.

(1) Reliability, Availability and Serviceability.

Of course, it is expected to get obstacles in implementing such a revolution. For example,

  • resistance from middle-level management;
  • resistance from senior employees and “experts”;
  • fear to lose power and to lack control;
  • fear to be exposed to others criticisms;
  • worry to expose own weaknesses;
  • lack of habit to continuous changes;
  • laziness, skepticism, and inertia.

The best way to face those obstacles is the «Try & Buy» method, based on the implementation of specific initiatives in sectors of a company that are more inclined to accept it, and use the pilot to evangelize the rest of company. A well-designed Enterprise 2.0 initiative will sell itself.

Enterprise Oriented Systems

An enterprise oriented system should be always aligned to business objectives, and based on measurable indicators. The implementation of an Enterprise 2.0 approach in a company has costs and benefits, and therefore it is fundamental to understand the return of investment of such an implementation. Not all benefits are tangible, but even intangible benefits may cause effects that subsequently will be tangible, and can be measured. The key is to ask ourselves: «What is the purpose? Why am I implementing that tool, introducing that capability, and defining that process?»

An Enterprise 2.0 system is not usually a duplicate of the most successful Web 2.0 tools and social networks. Every system in an enterprise must be oriented to provide business value. Therefore, the Enterprise 2.0 tools should be very specific to each single company, and designed to leverage specific capabilities. All of them, however, share the same strength and weakness: they empower employees.

An Enterprise 2.0 system works only if it integrates knowledge workers, by allowing them to leverage their creativity, initiative, and competence. Workers should be allowed to make decisions within a specific context, and to communicate to each other by developing communities of practices which are transversal to the enterprise organization.

Generally speaking, the objectives of an enterprise oriented system are:

  • improve individual and group productivity;
  • reduce risks of activities and costs and time for troubleshooting;
  • increase morale and sense of affiliation to the company;
  • select valuable ideas and proposals independently on sources;
  • capitalize on people know-how regardless of their roles;
  • capture valuable content for reuse regardless of who owns it.

Enterprise-Marketplace Cross Systems

This is the most delicate and complicated Enterprise 2.0 system, since it allows direct interaction between the inside of a company and the outside, with limited or no control of the interaction itself. A faulty designed enterprise-marketplace cross system can be counterproductive, and even harmful.

The most protective approach is to avoid to open any aspect of the enterprise activities to the marketplace, and instead of it, select a specific division, process, community of practice, and let them to interact with a selected and well-defined counterpart. We must always begin by defining the expectation that a system should have, and why we are doing this. If we cannot answer that specific question, it is better to postpone any Enterprise 2.0 initiative in that area until we have a better understanding of our needs.

Generally speaking, the objectives of an enterprise-marketplace cross system are:

  • improve processes and activities involving allies, providers, and customers;
  • reduce costs and troubleshooting time;
  • take advantage of know-how located outside of the enterprise;
  • generate content by stimulating synergies between employees and non-employees;
  • improve understanding of the marketplace;
  • anticipate market trends;
  • support the brand.

 Marketplace Oriented Systems

A marketplace oriented system is an environment provided by the enterprise, but used mostly by the marketplace. It could be managed by the enterprise or co-managed by both provider and users.

Generally speaking, the objectives of a marketplace oriented system are:

  • improve understanding of the marketplace;
  • anticipate market trends;
  • improve loyalty of customers and allies;
  • support the brand;
  • understand the marketplace perspective on the company;
  • facilitate outward communications;
  • improve the understanding of the customers’ needs and wishes.

How should we select technologies for Enterprise 2.0?

The selection should not focus on functionalities only, but capabilities and benefits too. The best technologies for Enterprise 2.0 should:

  • be designed for enterprises;
  • be founded on a robust infrastructure;
  • be focused on data and people;
  • be oriented to dynamic social networks;
  • be bundled as an integrated service suite;
  • be easy to install, manage, and upgrade;
  • provide high degree of security;
  • implement logging and auditing;
  • feature backup and archiving;
  • assure reliable user identification;
  • be based on profiling;
  • be multichannel;
  • manage textual and multimedia content.

Conclusions

Enterprise 2.0 is not a plain application of Web 2.0 principles to an enterprise, but a significant never-ending revolution in the way the enterprise operates, and relates with the marketplace. Any change should be based on a clear understanding of needs and the objectives to be achieved, and not on replicating success stories of Web 2.0. In fact, the individual and social mechanisms of Enterprise 2.0 are the same of Web 2.0, but the context and the expectations are different. From a technical point of view, tools and technologies could be the same as in Web 2.0, but the way they are implemented and customized could be quite different.

Furthermore, Enterprise 2.0 applications must be able to interoperate with legacy applications and traditional IT infrastructure to take advantage of existing enterprise capabilities. Strategic positioning of such tools in the current IT environment, and their impact on existing application is an aspect that has to be understood and designed in advance.

Since Enterprise 2.0 is strongly founded on people rather than simply applications, individual and social factors have to be well comprehended from the very beginning, and a social analysis of the side effects and consequences of an Enterprise 2.0 initiative has to be planned. Therefore, an Enterprise 2.0 environment is not simply a technological system, but it resembles more a complex biological system, where cooperation and synergies are the foundations of its success. If well designed, it is an autopoietic system able to sustain itself and to grow.

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