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Enterprise 2.0 101: An Executive Guide to Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 101: An Executive Guide to Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 has the potential to provide knowledge and content management in a surprisingly cheap and easy fashion using Web-based tools. Learn what it's about, what distinguishes it from consumer Web 2.0 technologies and why you should pay attention.

What tools are considered Enterprise 2.0?

When managers examine Web 2.0 tools such as MySpace or YouTube, they may wonder why one would ever want to apply this to the enterprise. Yet, once you get past the drinking party photos and goofy teen stunt videos and you look more closely at the ways young people share content and build social networks, the business applications for Enterprise 2.0 become clearer. Here are a few of the technologies common in Web 2.0 that have direct relevance to the enterprise.

Blogs and wikis provide a natural way to establish two-way communication. These tools give people an intuitive environment in which to share information and collaborate. Using a multiauthor system, people can easily contribute all types of content-text, video, pictures. Participants can continue the conversation, challenge each other and push ideas forward in a collaborative network.

For example, in a software company, users could share tips and tricks; developers could brainstorm ideas for the next release and ask customers to rate the priority or contribute enhancement suggestions. In a large global organisation, project team members spread around the world could share information, files and ideas without meeting face-to-face in a conference room. Employees attending a sales conference could post pictures and text about experiences and invite customers to share ideas and impressions (and their own pictures or videos) to get immediate feedback about the latest campaigns.

Social Networking tools empower you to build virtual business (instead of purely social) networks of like-minded individuals. One of the better-known business examples is LinkedIn, which enables you to invite individuals to join your network; you can then see connections between the people you know and the people they know, providing new business opportunities. Social networking tools can help you, for example, find trustworthy vendor references. A project manager could build a team with the requisite expertise, and with the advantage of seeing who each person has worked with in the past (from whom, presumably, she could get more honest evaluations). Salespeople could find out which clients are attending the same conference, and set up meetings ahead of time- something you can do easily with a social networking tool called [xref:www.pairedup.com|PairedUp|new]].

Tagging enables individuals to categorise information in ways that make sense to them instead of trying to pigeonhole data into predefined categories. These user-generated taxonomies (or “folksonomies”) are related to their creators, so people can see content generated by the same individual or content in the same categories to follow an information trail of sorts. That maps well to the way you collect data and share knowledge in the enterprise to identify individuals (“who has been working with the plone CMS?) and related data (“what information do we have in-house about plone?”).

Tagging also makes use of a graphic called a tag cloud, which illustrates the popularity of each tag. The more often a tag is requested, the larger it appears in the cloud. This can help people identify the most popular tags quickly and can be useful in tracking content.

Rating gives community participants the ability to assign qualitative and popularity values to content, such as a simple up-or-down ranking system or the most often read help files. As your company generates content, a rating system provides a way for users to sift through it. It involves the idea that “the wisdom of the crowd” can help sort out the best material. For consultants, this could mean finding the best PowerPoint presentation on deploying Desktop Linux; for a help desk employee, it could mean finding the best answer to a query on how to troubleshoot a video card.

Social Bookmarking is a system for sharing browser bookmarks, made popular among consumers by Del.icio.us and Furl. Marketing teams could use social bookmarks for competitive analysis to track what a competitor is doing; Sales could use it to learn and share information about targeted companies; knowledge workers could use the technology to track a particular subject such as Exchange Traded Funds or mobile phones. What's more, people can share these lists, and the data lives on even after an employee leaves the company.

RSS is the glue holding much of this together. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) pushes information to individuals using a subscription model. Just as you subscribe to a magazine, you can subscribe to a blog or to other social tools, and so can your customers, business partners and employees. RSS lets the enterprise keep others apprised of changes and it updates automatically (from e-commerce special pricing to software build status), bypassing the dependence on e-mail to share information.

There are more useful Enterprise 2.0 tools. One is searchable Web-based e-mail, which you can organise using tags, the most common example of which is Gmail. Web-based conferencing, such as WebEx, enables you to organise virtual meetings and demonstrations while providing the means for the speaker and participants to communicate via a built-in instant messaging client.

Mash-ups provide programming links to online applications. These are typically APIs that enable developers to customise the Web application for interesting and relevant usage in your organisation. For instance, you could create a mash-up between your CRM system and Microsoft Virtual Earth to mark on the map where you have had successful sales over a given time period. Your company's sales executives could see which regions are successful and which ones need a boost. Or you might combine this map technology with GPS to locate your delivery trucks at any given time. Mash-ups tend to be cheaper and lighter weight than most enterprise applications, offering an inexpensive way to develop custom applications for your organisation.

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