What is Enterprise 2.0?

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Having recently finished a book on Enterprise 2.0, I went through the experience of trying to define Enterprise 2.0. To start with, anything with the moniker "2.0" gets some disdain from people. My co-author, the technical editor, and the author of the foreward of the book all agreed they didn't like the term Enterprise 2.0. And rightly so - it seems everybody is jumping on the bandwagon as we see PR 2.0, Security 2.0, Government 2.0, etc...

In the beginning there was "Web 2.0", coined and trademarked by O'Reilly (which ended up in a trademark scandal). Enterprise 2.0 was subsequently coined by Andrew McAfee as the application of Web 2.0 technologies into large corporate enterprises.

The terms seem to have changed. If you go to the Enterprise 2.0 page on Wikipedia, it is actually redirected to the page "Enterprise social software" which states:

Enterprise social software, also known as Enterprise 2.0, is a term describing social software used in "enterprise" (business) contexts.

Social software is huge, but I'm going to push back on Wikipedia's definition and say that social software is a subset of Enterprise 2.0. Enterprise 2.0 includes more - Mashups, Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), Enterprise Search, and Software as a Service (SaaS) to name a few. Enterprise 2.0 is about less complexity and a better user experience (UX).

But Enterprise 2.0 is not just about technology. Culture is a big part of it. A few weeks ago I was chatting with Jevon MacDonald and we both expressed some disillusion over the lack of actual implementation of Enterprise 2.0 we were seeing. We both live and breathe the technology so for us it is hard to understand why more corporations don't embrace Enterprise 2.0. Recently I've heard people express concern that Enterprise 2.0 isn't taking off. There are so few successful companies in the Enterprise 2.0 space.

But, I argue that we are still the early adopters, the pioneers in this space. We can't expect people to change overnight when these corporate cultures have been evolving and being created for decades. Change is coming, but while we want it to happen in the next 18 months, the truth is it will come on its own time schedule. I believe that by the time it does become mainstream, the people that advocate it so strongly today will have moved on to the next stage of innovation. Pioneers like to be ahead of the curve and once it's mainstream, there's usually little room for the pioneers.

An exact definition of Enterprise 2.0 continues to be subjective and elusive. Yet we usually know when something is Enterprise 2.0 when we see it. For, instance:

  • Blogs and wikis instead of Email
  • Social networking instead of the Rolodexes
  • Open-source instead of Closed-source
  • AJAX/RIA instead of HTML forms/Static websites

I expect we will continue to see the semantics change as well as the technology and culture. Yet the ideas and principles are here to stay. Collaboration, simplification, openness, and discoverability - some Enterprises are leading these charges, but others are going to get dragged kicking and screaming.

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