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Enterprise 2.0 - What is it good for?

Enterprise 2.0 - What is it good for?

A 12-step guide to getting the most out of Web 2.0 tools and making it safe-for-purpose

5.Consider the Dark Blog (But Be Ever Alert to the Dangers)

Companies still unconvinced should consider the value of the dedicated "dark blog" - the blog managed safely behind the firewall.

"Many blog technologies can be licensed and managed behind the firewall at an astonishingly low cost," Boyd writes. "Users can be trained in minutes, since blogging is only slightly more complex than writing e-mail. And technologies like RSS and memetrackers can be used so that people can remain in touch with what is going on through the network of conversations, within the lifeblood of the business, instead of waiting for quarterly management reports."

It is also easy to trial social project management tools like Basecamp (from 37signals) or Goplan (from Webreakstuff), to get a sense of where dedicated dark blog technology might be headed, or look to much heavier-weight solutions geared to the needs of larger corporations, with sophisticated access controls allowing fine-grained access rights management.

Oz Sultan, who handles Web 2.0 projects for The Economist, divides internal blogs into controlled blogs featuring direct - "and kind of absolute" - messaging from a corporate leader such as a CEO, CIO or CMO inside the organization, and internal blogs where a degree of commentary is allowed. The latter can be dangerous for CIOs, he points out, particularly where multiple factions inside the organization are cheerleading for competing technologies as large initiatives are being considered.

"Inside a smaller organization I think blogs are excellent, but the larger you get the more moderated it has to be, the more you have to review the comments, the more you may have to edit some of the comment that's coming back toward you," he says.

Blogs can also force a different way of thinking about the role of the CIO, says Joyent vice president, platform evangelism Rod Boothby, particularly when the organization turns to cloud computing as a delivery mechanism. (For the skinny on cloud computing, see "Cloud Computing: Not Just Pie in the Sky" page 61.)

It used to be that the CIO had to deliver everything, from the solution on the desktop all the way back to the servers. Not so any more, Boothby says. In a previous role at Ernst & Young Boothby says he ran into some "huge political difficulty" when trying to set up blogs and wikis behind the firewall.

"Not least of it was a very complex six-month process to try and order one Dell server and get it installed in our data centres so that I could install a simple blogging software behind the firewall," Boothby says. "You can't be agile, you can't be dynamic, you can't test out new technology for a short period of time if you have such a rigid infrastructure."

He says cloud computing, where computing is moved away from personal computers or an individual server to a "cloud" of software-controlled computers, can allow CIOs to decouple physical servers from the software they run on, and gives IT departments flexibility in experimenting with the new technologies.

"There are tremendous benefits to setting it up, but usually what [CIOs] are thinking about when they first do it is that they're rolling out virtualization software so that they can more easily manage the desktop computing - a lot of CIOs are excited about the technology from that perspective. I think very few of them realize the same technology can also be used to deliver for them a Web server infrastructure that allows their departments to quickly and easily experiment with blogs, wikis, SugarCRM without necessarily having to expose sensitive corporate data," he says.

6.Push Co-Creation

Most CIOs truly believe that networking is a waste of time for anyone but sales, marketing or PR people, notes Andrey Golub, social networks researcher/manager for some upward-looking open-source and open-community projects and co-founder of business networking club "Milan-IN", a LinkedIn base in Italy.

They're wrong, Golub says, time and experience have taught him that without networking and a network it's impossible to invent, develop new products or introduce them to market. [Editor's note here: IMHO Mr Golub is wrong, too. I've found most CIOs to be keen networkers. Perhaps he's networking with the wrong people. - LK]

"I started to do networking and it was just great - I could contact decision makers that I could never contact just with help of technical/marketing or through conferences," he says.

A recent McKinsey global survey: "Eight Business Technology Trends to Watch", notes companies can now achieve "co- creation" in essence by outsourcing innovation to business partners that work together in networks. But the McKinsey report also warns that companies pursuing this trend will have less control over innovation and the intellectual property that goes with it, and will end up competing for the attention and time of the best and most capable contributors.

Meanwhile consumers can also be harnessed into co-creation efforts, if companies capitalize on the Web 2.0-based evolution of the Internet into a more widespread platform for interaction, communication, and activism. Consumers increasingly want to engage online with one another and with organizations of all kinds, McKinsey says. Companies can tap this new mood of customer engagement for their economic benefit, by involving customers in design, testing, marketing and the after-sales process. However organizations need to be alert to the danger of being unduly influenced by information gleaned from a vocal minority, and of focusing on the immediate rather than longer-range needs of customers.

McKinsey believes companies moving this way must better understand the value of their human capital and manage different classes of contributors accordingly, and either build capabilities to engage talent globally or contract with talent aggregators that specialize in providing such services. Competitive advantage will shift to companies that can master the art of breaking down and recomposing tasks.

Jeff Sheard, channels director for Cisco Systems, and eXpert Executive Search's Stan Relihan say the advent of Web 2.0 had ushered in the beginning of the collaboration revolution.

Sheard's team at Cisco runs a secure Facebook group which allows members to share photos, videos, and ideas, as well as have fun and entertain each other. Meanwhile everyone at Cisco has access to a Second Life account and a suite of tools to build their avatar and start engaging in online meetings or virtual meetings.

"At Cisco John Chambers delivers his public addresses now both live and also through his avatar in Second Life and he reaches an entirely different demographic through Second Life. It's all about getting the message out there and communicating and engaging with a breadth of stakeholders that you would never otherwise be able to reach. And there's tremendous power and opportunities for corporate in being able to harness this," Sheard says.

Cutter Consortium analyst David Coleman points out that while there are currently numerous social media tools that are not yet available in the enterprise because of concerns over security, accountability and the ability of these tools to integrate with critical enterprise processes, new 3D collaborative environments may soon change the situation. Unlike Second Life and other consumer-oriented tools, Coleman says, these new tools have been built for the enterprise and do provide security and a virtual space that offers some interesting collaborative capabilities.

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