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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.

How does one get started?

Like any project, you may want to start with a small internal project that addresses a real business problem around knowledge sharing. Blogs or wikis might be a good starting point because they are self-contained tools with content management, structure and tagging capability built right in. You could start in one department by providing blogs to employees to share ideas around a particular project, such as customer development in sales, competitive analysis in marketing, reducing health insurance costs in HR and so forth.

After you complete your internal “Beta” project and employees are comfortable making entries, responding to one another, leaving comments and organising the content, you can think about how to expand the effort to include other Enterprise 2.0 tools, such as ratings and bookmarks. Eventually, you want to think about how to bring other departments onboard and down the road how to move outside the organisation to involve customers, partners and suppliers. Starting small gives you a chance to see how people react to the tools, how to manage the process and develop a social system for engaging in this fashion (that is, how to play nicely online).

Who are the major players as of this writing?

It would be impossible to give a list of all the players in all of the tool categories, so you should begin by looking at one area, such as blogs and wikis. A number of companies are developing enterprise-ready products. Aside from the usual suspects, like Microsoft Sharepoint and IBM's Web 2.0 Goes to Work package for WebSphere, other companies working in this space include Social Text, Traction Software, iUpload and Moveable Type. Although these companies aren't necessarily household names, each has been working for a number of years helping companies develop blogs and wikis in a business setting.

What should one look for in a vendor in this area?

There are so many vendors identifying themselves as Enterprise 2.0 companies that it's not always easy to shake out the pretenders and to find the real deal. As an IT executive today, chances are you lived through the Internet bubble and you are reluctant to deal with a company that might not be around for the long haul. That said, you need to evaluate Enterprise 2.0 products just as you would any others.

Define your business problem and look for companies that can provide the best solution, whether that's an established player like IBM or small company like PairUp. If you start off with a confined deployment, you can afford to make mistakes with a company. Also keep in mind that unlike large Enterprise applications, Enterprise 2.0 tools tend to be light-weight and are designed to be portable. If you make a mistake with a vendor, you won't be stuck in an expensive conversion process. You can simply export your blog entries, your bookmarks and your tags and import them into whatever new system you have in place.

Even though Web 2.0 concepts have been in place for some years, applying them to the enterprise in an organised fashion under the Enterprise 2.0 umbrella is still very new. Ultimately, there is little doubt that there is inherent benefit in like-minded people networking and sharing information (whether internally or externally). How you implement this type of strategy is still open to question. But know that many people are using this technology now, and it behoves you to at least understand how to harness enthusiasm for this work style, and how it can help your company organise and share knowledge moving forward.

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