Web 2.0 came crashing into the enterprise a couple of years ago and was given the new moniker: Enterprise 2.0 (which was coined by Harvard Business School Professor Andrew McAfee). While business has come a long way when it comes to understanding social networking tools and how to use them in the enterprise to manage knowledge and foster collaboration (see Spooks 2.0: The CIA Turns to Wiki Technology), many businesses still don't have a clue about how enterprises can take advantage of this technology inside the corporation.
This is a multi-dimensional problem because employees (especially younger ones) want to transfer the same social networking tools they've been using for years to communicate with friends to work to communicate with colleagues in a business setting, something that only makes sense, but which many IT departments still fail to grasp. Some even try to shut it down completely, rather than use the new tools to build new ways to communicate. I asked Tish Grier, who has been working at community building since the late 90s and who has been blogging since 2004, about how business can take advantage of these tools.
RM: What do the terms Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 mean to you?
TG: To me, Web 2.0 (which was coined in ’04) refers to how people—just the general populace—uses web-based tools to communicate and collaborate. Enterprise 2.0 means that the big businesses—the ones that have complicated knowledge management systems and even their own search technologies for finding information on their systems—might begin to use the tools that the general populace uses to better communicate both internally (with employees) and externally (with customers)
RM: What Tools are we talking about when we use these terms?
TG: Blogs, wikis, social networking sites, microblogging sites, anything that’s web-based and allows for many to many collaboration and communication.
RM: What is the difference in your view between the consumer approach and the Enterprise one?
TG: Enterprise is extremely complicated—lots of information to manage, legal aspects to consider. Enterprise needs to track and to store information far differently than consumers do. Consumers can put up sites and take them down without much worry. Enterprise has to think “where is this info going? How can I retrieve it?”
There’s also the issue of secrets. Consumer “secrets”—things that might be published on a personal blog—may have consequences, or they may not. Enterprise, however, can’t just blurt out its latest secret. There could be serious consequences if they did that.
RM: How are employees using consumer tools forcing enterprises to look at these tools?
TG: As employees use new tools, they go into work and think “wow, we’re using some old stuff for collaboration. Might work better if we used a wiki.” As I understand, from a recent study, there are more people going around the firewall and using consumer tools for work projects. When employees do this, the smart enterprise organization will look at the behavior and try to come up with a way to make it so that they use those kinds of tools “in house.”
Then again, there are tools and apps that people use for themselves, at home, like Facebook, and may not want their employer doing something that emulates Facebook. For some employees, there’s a clear line between work and leisure, and they like to keep particular tools and apps on their appropriate side of that divide.
RM: Do you think most companies understand blogging and social networking?
TG: Many more understand the need for both than they did two years ago, but there’s still a gap. Some of the blame for that is on the shoulders of folks advising executives, who boil the various tools down to “least common denominator” definitions: like “Twitter’s great for blasting product alerts” or “blogs are just new ways to get your message out to the people.” When the folks talking to the execs take a jaded view of new media tools, a company’s not going to fully understand that they’re for two-way communication.
Also, for enterprise, how to implement them is complicated—partly due to legal aspects, partly due to information management aspects. You can’t just open up a Ning network and start socializing.
RM: How are companies that do understand it use it effectively?
TG: Are we talking about behind the firewall or in front of it? Not too many companies are releasing information about what goes on behind the firewall, although Mass Mutual has stated that they’ve had success with weekly podcast addresses from their president. As for in front of the firewall, there’s Sun Microsystems, who’ve been the leaders with much enterprise app use.