Web 2.0 Goes Corporate – Enterprise 2.0

While I was sitting on the beach of Ocean Grove NJ this week, my wife and I read the Technology section of the Wall Street Journal from June 18. This was a very intriguing article. It describes how IBM has embraced the idea of Web 2.0 . A good definition of Web 2.0 is the new interactive social networking of the Internet. Applications like Blogger, Wikipedia, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google Reader, and Del.icio.us are all examples of Web 2.0 applications. Now imagine how a corporation could leverage each of these.

Before we examine how these could be used within a corporate environment, let’s examine the function that each of these Web 2.0 sites serve (these have been “borrowed” from each of the sites above, and slightly modified to be more generic):

  • Blog – a web site where entries are written in chronological order and displayed in reverse chronological order. Blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs.
  • Wiki – a server program that allows users to collaborate in forming the content of a Web site. With a wiki, any user can edit the site content, including other users’ contributions, using a regular Web browser. Basically, a wiki Web site operates on a principle of collaborative trust.
  • Community Space – a private community where you can share photos, journals and interests with your growing network of mutual friends
  • Social Networking – an online network people from around the world. When you join, you create a profile that summarizes aspects about you. Your profile helps you find and be found by friends, family, former colleagues, clients, and partners. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join your network and connect to you.
  • RSS Aggregator – combines multiple syndicated web content sources such as news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and vlogs in a single location for easy viewing.
  • Favorites – a collection of favorites – yours and everyone else’s. You can use this to:
    • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, reviews, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
    • Share favorites with friends, family, coworkers, and the del.icio.us community.
    • Discover new things. Everything on del.icio.us is someone’s favorite — they’ve already done the work of finding it. So del.icio.us is full of bookmarks about technology, entertainment, useful information, and more. Explore and enjoy.

So let’s now try to find corporate applications for each of these services.

Blogs are easy. Each person can create their own blog. Each person should try to focus their blog on pertinent topics to their daily work. This is a great way to capture tacit knowledge about processes, projects, and subjects of expertise. Blogs get a bit more complicated when blogs are to be used as a method of communication outside the company. Then the messages in the blog will probably be reviewed by a corporate communications team.

Favorites are also easy. You could add them and “tag” them by department, division, feature, function or other category. Keeping your favorites stored online instead of on the individual PC allows the favorites themselves to be accessible from any computer anywhere, and can be searched. If you are looking for the corporate provider of translation services, as an example, searching the corporate favorites would yield that information just as much as any other source.

An online RSS Aggregator would be another simple service to provide. It would need to be web based, so that it would be accessible anywhere in the company. This would also allow for metrics to be collected, such as most frequented feeds, posts, blogs, etc. This would also encourage sources of information to be syndicated, such as blogs, corporate news, internal communications, promotions, industry news, etc.

Social Networking pages are a great way to store your profile – name, address, email, phone, etc. It is also a place where you can list your accomplishments, educational and professional history, what projects you have worked on, who you worked with, and any specific topics that you consider yourself a subject matter expert. When people are looking for qualified people to fill their project, or find internal candidates for open positions, view contacts by organization, or just to find an email or phone number, this would be a great tool for that.

The corporate use of wikis could be a bit more complex. The easiest use of a corporate wiki would be to cerate wiki pages for each ongoing project, and allow all project members to add, modify, and update the project pages. This would unify the source of information for all project work. The next logical step would be to use wiki pages for corporate policies, standard operating procedures, departments, and organizational announcements. The amount of corporate knowledge that could be captured by a wiki is endless… and all of it would be shareable, update-able, and searchable in a very easy format that technical and non-technical people can all use just as easy.

Community spaces would be the glue to all of the Enterprise 2.0 services. Each person in the organization would have their own page. The page would link to your social network pages, profiles, and link to your friends or colleagues. The links would be directly tied to their Instant Messenger ID or their email address for easy access. It would display your most recent blog entries. Your favorites would be shown by tag, by most recent added, or most recent used. It would list your most recently viewed or edited wiki pages. You could view your aggregated RSS content. Your email and calendar would be integrated. Creating additional “widgets” like stock ticker, weather, etc. would be easy.

Some of this is already possible with corporate portals like Microsoft SharePoint and BEA AquaLogic. But most is not. Some of these services are also available as individual disparate systems, but need to be justified, funded, tightly regulated, and monitored. IBM is doing some of this, and is self-monitored with corporate responsibility and common sense instead of corporate policies and Legal Review.

So… what do you think? How long do you think it will take to have an integrated Enterprise 2.0? Is all of this together even possible, or is it just a pipe dream?

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