Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 refers (at least in the way I use the term) to the web 2.0 enabled organisation: one, which like web 2.0 (the social web) is likely to be open, collaborative, democratic etc
(see this 'enterprise meme map' from ITSinsider.)

The term was introduced by Harvard professor, Andy McAfee in a Sloan Management Review article, Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration.

McAfee uses the term slightly differently to me – to “focus on those platforms that companies can buy or build in order to make visible the practices and outputs of their knowledge workers”.

I am much more concerned with the outputs of these technologies, the changes in the business itself than the blogs, wikis, group messaging software etc that enable these changes. In fact, I would prefer the term ‘social enterprise’ which emphasises the nature of the organisation (which can be developed through real or virtual tools and activities) if this wasn’t more commonly used to refer to organisations with a social purpose rather than a social way of operating.

My concern about a pure focus on web 2.0 technologies is expressed well by Thomas Davenport in his Harvard Business blog:
“What he's [McAfee] trying to do is to bring Web 2.0 technologies into the enterprise, to understand and describe how blogs, wikis, tagging, and other participative tools will change large bureaucracies. He believes they will empower employees, decentralize decisions, free up knowledge, and generally make for better places to work. I share his goal of more democratic organizations and hope he is correct.

However, I fear he is not. Such a utopian vision can hardly be achieved through new technology alone. The absence of participative technologies in the past is not the only reason that organizations and expertise are hierarchical. Enterprise 2.0 software and the Internet won't make organizational hierarchy and politics go away. They won't make the ideas of the front-line worker in corporations as influential as those of the CEO. Most of the barriers that prevent knowledge from flowing freely in organizations – power differentials, lack of trust, missing incentives, unsupportive cultures, and the general busyness of employees today – won't be addressed or substantially changed by technology alone.”

Agreed. But 2.0 web technology does seem to be an important enabler.

The extension of the 2.0 tag from the web to the enterprise has further led to the placement of 2.0 after just about any other business term you might care to think of. Often this is done to refer to a ‘social’ way of operating, but sometimes, rather unfortunately, it’s just used to try to infer a more innovative way of doing things - even more so if something is labeled 3.0 (see ReadWriteWeb's discussion of web 3.0 as a marketing ploy).

I think three of the most sensible extensions are management 2.0, knowledge 2.0 and learning 2.0. And I will look briefly on these in my next three posts.

See also my previous posts:

Social networking will change HR
I'm tweating two
Social networking vs web 2.0
Social connecting in business
HR 2.0 survey.

Take my 'Social connecting in business' survey here.