Agile, enterprise, Enterprise 2.0, Outsourcing, Web 2.0

Social communities and interaction within enterprises

Enterprise 2.0 is a catchy term. If our history teaches us something about hype cycle it is the over usage of trendy terms. However, well known terms also are the best way to capture much of the broader context to convey the essence and help with the mass adoption. So to better describe what Enterprise 2.0 to look like – I am sharing some examples here.

In my opinion – Enterprise 2.0 includes effort beyond just capturing collective knowledge for deeper insight into businesses. It should also provide application building paradigm mimicking interaction model needed within different social communities of an enterprise. Something unleashing new values and making current challenges in an enterprise disappear.

Let’s briefly discuss “Social communities” within an enterprise and their “Interaction model”. At a high level an enterprise consists of various social communities of internal and external stakeholders. Some examples of these communities are say Sales community – which includes direct sales organization, marketing organization and partners, etc. or say a Product community which includes development organization, contractors, implementation partners, outsource vendors, end user customers, etc. So a web of individuals that are stakeholders of some set of common interests like what is needed in a product, success of the company, working on similar project, need to solve similar kind of issues, etc.

First version of Enterprise, if someone calls it as such – was about automating much of the paper process. Applications were built to automate the work traditionally done by filling paper(s) – hence much of the current generation of enterprise applications are build around user experience that mimic the paper process – be it invoicing, pick slips, order, entry in financial books, etc. These applications did good job of automation of routine work and brought in a level of consistency within an enterprise. It established best practices for doing everyday task.  Quite a win in this regard as overtime companies shifted IT budget towards packaged enterprise software.

However, current solution limits the collective knowledge captured to the extent of the structures defined within an application – its schema model. Also, the focus is much more on routine tasks rather than enabling various social communities within an extended enterprise to have an effective interaction.

This is a promise that people are hoping Web 2.0 based technologies and emerging/successful web based models can be deployed in the enterprise arena. Today, much of the interaction within and across social communities is either done poorly by software (like having notes kind of field in all application to key in any unstructured information) or done in all sort of fashion – say pick the phone and call the other person, capture information in a spreadsheet and share, emails, browsing/researching multiple sites, etc.

Enterprise 2.0 – as the promise starts to get shaped – has the potential to overcome it and provide much more than that. Some of the macro reasons that are adding to the trends this time compared to in the past are: –

  1. Confidence of the enterprises around adoption of Web based technologies to run the business (quite a jump from green screen to client server to web based computing)
  2. Maturity of the work force and their comfort using web and computers
  3. Shrinking geographical boundaries creating more distributed and virtual organizations whether it is for manufacturing or outsourcing
  4. Thus driving the need to capture knowledge and effective knowledge transfer within a social community 
    • Also read – capturing of graying or displaced workforce vital knowledge for the new comers to be successful
  5. Create more knowledge workers than routine workers

Some examples of successful interaction model within Social communities of a company that Enterprise 2.0 could address are: (My apologies in advance as my examples are biased towards product communities within an enterprise as that is my focus. But there are similar examples on every community that exist within an enterprise)

  • End customers rating usefulness of a feature (and providing feedback to its implementer/developer) directly for future improvements – ala digg it; embedded within a product
  • End users forming community and sharing best practices of how-tos and influencing industry wide business process definition and consistent adoption – ala wikipedia; available within the self service dashboard
  • End users subscribing to the interests in product features/updates that are in development and getting auto updated when the feature/patch is available – ala RSS feed; embedded within the product administrative suite
  • Distributed, virtual product development organizations effectively capturing knowledge, aggregating information to ramp new knowledge workers quickly
  • Above can be extended to include Implementation Partners for know how to extend/customize right from the guts of the system
  • Sales organization acheieving higher success rate of business leads converting to opportunities due to better visibility of contacts and degree of relationship with prospects within the community
  • Quick growth and scaling of an eco-system across multiple geographies for a company by its Partners/Distributors
  • Remain aware of the changes to business processes by learning from similar companies/industries and get knowledge workers transitioned
  • Quick market wins due to an organization ability to pull together right skills/people from an extended enterprise
  • Finding the network effect helping business open up opportunities not available/hard to do at present – say building economies of scale with like minded community to acheive desired results
  • etc…

Anyway, there are tons of other example that people can think around Enterprise 2.0, which has the foundation around how to enable successful interaction model for various communities of an extended enterprise.

Think for a while couple of years back our daily work was around paper/pencil/fax/todo lists, etc. Now people find it difficult what it was living without email, internet, etc. This is just another natural progression as technology matures and the younger generation (read more adaptive) gets in the workplace. 

Also, while I am at this topic – seems like Wikipedia has brought back Enterprise 2.0 discussion now under “Enterprise social software”. Thanks to SJ for pointing this out to me.

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