June 26, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Corporate America wakes up to Web 2.0

Big companies have for years installed industrial-strength content management systems in the hope of sparking collaboration among workers. There was just one problem: People didn't use them.

Now, tools that people are familiar with on the consumer Web, such as blogs and wikis, are staking out ground inside businesses, often led by the end users themselves.

Industry observers say these popular Web 2.0 technologies are an effective way to collaborate at work; they are simple and easy to use, making them very appealing to end users.

"The key part of Web 2.0 is that there is something about these new tools that enable new practices of collaboration," said John Seely Brown, a consultant and former chief scientist of Xerox, who spoke at the Collaborative Technology Conference in Boston last week. "Web 2.0 is a profoundly participatory medium."

Though it lacks a precise definition, Web 2.0 generally refers to Web services that let people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation of Web offerings, Web 2.0 applications are more interactive, giving people an experience more akin to a native desktop application as opposed to a static Web page.

Like others, Seely Brown expects to see a wide range of techniques common on consumer Web applications--including blogs, collaborative Web page editing through wikis, tagging and RSS (Really Simple Syndication)-based subscriptions--to bleed into mainstream business applications.

These Web 2.0 technologies won't necessarily replace complicated and more structured content or document management systems, analysts said.

But new Web standard products could push people to stop using e-mail to share documents and instead collaborate through shared workspaces like wikis.

"There's an incredible wave of open-source and often free software for collaboration and content management," said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst at the Burton Group.

"The onus is back on the incumbent providers, especially IBM and Microsoft, to (react). This stuff is beyond good enough, and it's easy to work with," he said.

Bottoms up
At consulting firm Ernst & Young, there is a controlled experiment going on with about 50 employees to use blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 technologies to foster collaboration.

The idea of the "Web Office" is to allow knowledge workers to find information more easily, such as experts on a certain topic, and to manage ongoing projects, said Rod Boothby, a management consultant at the company.

Rather than define and then build a highly structured collaboration system, this project has a minimal amount of organization. For example, just a handful of blogs are dedicated to topics such as clients or projects.

"This way of capturing collaborative wisdom, collective knowledge is a different take on knowledge management, which was fundamentally flawed."
--Michael Rhodin, general manager, IBM's Lotus

Boothby said the project is still in its early days but he has noticed the blog and wiki approach hasn't been a replacement for the company's existing Lotus Notes collaborative applications. "It's added more value to Notes because people can find things," he said.

In another case, IBM is trying to apply tagging internally--something done on public Web sites such as Flickr or Delicious.

The "social bookmarking" system, called Dogear, will allow people inside IBM to categorize Web content and other material using user-suggested tags, said Michael Rhodin, the general manager of IBM's Lotus division, who spoke at the Collaborative Technology Conference last week. The company also has thousands of "dark blogs," viewable only by employees, which developers communicate with, he added.

Significantly, IBM chose not to define and then build a large-scale, sophisticated knowledge management system. Instead, the company is taking a bottoms-up approach, allowing contributors to have a more active hand in how collaborative work is organized.

Rhodin said the computing giant intends to commercialize these social-networking techniques and technologies.

"We see enormous applicability of this consumer stuff in enterprises and deriving value through social networking," Rhodin said. "This way of capturing collaborative wisdom, collective knowledge is a different take on knowledge management, which was fundamentally flawed."

Microsoft, too, is eyeing light-weight collaboration techniques. The company is using a wiki system in an internal communications system called Quests. And Microsoft will build a wiki into its SharePoint Server 2007 Web portal, O'Kelly noted.

Organic structure
But while giving end users more control to collaborate has the potential benefit of greater participation, industry observers warn against a free-for-all.

Businesses need some policies and oversight over how wikis, for example, are created, edited and phased out or they could end up with scattered and redundant information.

"The danger is if we don't consolidate these systems, we will have mutually inaccessible walled gardens...and those tools will die out," Andrew McAfee, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, said at the Collaborative Technology Conference last week.

McAfee wrote an article published this Spring in the Sloan Management Review called Enterprise 2.0, which examines the use of Web 2.0 technologies inside corporations.

CONTINUED: Supporting emerging standards…
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7 comments

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Blogs and wikis are not Web 2.0
Interesting article, but blogs and wikis are not Web 2.0 tech,
whether they are used in the business or not.
Posted by pencoyd (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I missed the meeting . . .
Before my rant begins, I think the communication applications developed for public use have a very benificial place within business if they can shake the appearance of being time wasting gadgets for highschool kids.

ICQ, MSN and the miriad of other chat programs have an obvious benifit but have been blocked on most business networks.

WIKI applications provide a browser accessed colaborative tool. With more software becoming server side, browser accessed applications, this is an obvious one for business. Email has it's place but dynamic colaborative file and information sharing tools (oh yeah, we're calling them 'wiki' this week to make them sound new).

Before the business world new of it's existance, I was on IRC finding answers to work problems in minutes (back when IRC folk actually wanted to help in help channels). I've seen ICQ used as a staff attendance management tool and interoffice file and messageing tool when ICQ id numbers where still under seven digits. I'm now keenly watching for where TiddlyWiki can be used to improve work flow within my department.


But with all this I missed the meeting to decide this new mystical "web 2.0" suddenly existed. I bet it went something like this:

"The programming community has made a website that does what? Wow, we gotta get a fancy new buzzword for this cause it's so completely new and hip compared to that dusty old 'Web'.. oh.. why don't we call it 'web 2.0' you know, like software versioning."

It blows me away. Oh look, this tcp/ip network thingy can carry these neat-oh new software packets so we gotta have a new name for it now.

It's not 'The Internet' now cause there are these things called webpages (formerly html documents) so now we have to call it 'The Web'. Oh this is so cool, we can market the hell out of this.

It's not 'The Web' now cause there are these nifty things called java, images, videos and holly cow, they can all be included in html documents. Now we'll have to call it 'Web 1.0'. oh this is so cool, we can market teh hell out of this.

HOLD THE PRESS! We've found out that you can now manipulate stuff in the browser as if it was local; no waiting for the page to refresh. Oh, let's call it 'Web 2.0' it sounds so technical. Gosh we sound important when saying it. This is so cool, we can market the hell out of it.

Oh wait, it's just a new combination of programming code evolving to provide a new function over the same old tcp/ip.

I guess it does what the marketing folks want in convincing the general public that there is some mystic new thing in the InterPorn that they are missing out on. The real kicker is that "Web 2.0" was trademarked by some business already with the odacity to send out cease and desist letters.

My point, so very far from where my rant began, is simply the foolishness of "web 2.0" and the string of other conveluted buzzwords and miss-used prefaces. Your not changing the networking infrastructure (no switches where replaced in the making of this advertisement) your just using a freshly compiled program with the abuility to wrap it's own communication functions within the tcp/ip signal. No facy power tie, great over the sholder news visual or fancy buzzword is going to make you any more important than you really are.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
The "consumer web"? Ugh.
Please, please don't call the web the "consumer web." That really is a disgusting phrase. If Web 2.0 proves anything, it's that people really don't want the web to be all about consumption.

The world isn't really divided up into corporations and consumers, as the powers that be would have us believe. Just say "no."
Posted by twangboy (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Management failures not software
"There was just one problem: People didn't use them" --- Collaborative tools that is.

The reason people in large enterprises with Lotus QuickPlace and/or MS Sharepoint or even Groove did not use them was NOT due to the software. It is and remains "management" failure to drive fundamental workflow change.

Until management ties adoption of new workflow methods to performance reviews and compensation, Web 2.0 will also be of limited success.
Posted by mewcomm (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well well well
More about it:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.what.se/" target="_newWindow">http://www.what.se/</a>
Posted by martinedens (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
no english...
hey... thanks for interesting links - this one is not in english though ;-(
Posted by kaiplatschke (1 comment )
Link Flag
Enterprise 2.0 wakes up to Best Practices
Give me your feedback, thanks:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.smart-up.eu/2007/09/07/enterprise-20-best-practices/" target="_newWindow">http://www.smart-up.eu/2007/09/07/enterprise-20-best-practices/</a>
Posted by michal.faber (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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