Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mashup - Web 2.0 with Enterprise (Part 2)

Continuing my discussion on web 2.0 in an enterprise from the my previous post, now lets look at the some web 2.0 applications and how they have been deployed in enterprise environment.

Web 2.0 applications can provide value to the employees in internal collaboration & communication, knowledge sharing and collective intelligence. But we still need to answer some of the questions. How are these web 2.0 applications different from legacy applications? What additional value do these apps provide which the predecessors have failed in? I would say legacy apps have been very useful and provided everything that one needs. But now employees need more in web era.

Does company provide its employees with all the information and tools that I need to perform my daily job? Are they spending their working time in finding information that they should have readily accesses to? The shift in web 2.0 paradigm is to be able to pull the information anywhere anytime and more so when is required, rather than pushing information to the employees. The focus should be to transform the company’s tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge continuously and at all the times. The focus should be able to find the right experts when you want to connect with them rather than later. The focus should be able to harness collective intelligence of employee pool rather than handful of strategist. The focus should be on leveraging company data as competitive advantage in their business model. And apps will also enable business growth and reduce redundant cost.

Lets look at some of the internal apps and how they can help organizations in achieving their goals using principles of web 2.0.

Wikis are probably most used web 2.0 application with in the enterprise environment. The very reason for its popularity could well be the meaning of the word wiki itself, which is Hawaiian for "fast". Yes, it is first version of writable web. In comparison with traditional content management systems, wiki enables everyone to be able to manage content. It does not require elaborate complex processes to create and publish content, the user can edit the content in context and publish it. Wiki is a powerful tool for internal and external collaboration & communication including discussion threads, calendars, RSS, project management, knowledge organization, document management and much more. In fact it can be classified into platform category since it provides extended capabilities of mashups, data aggregation and integration plugins. Some of the most popular commercial wikis are SamePage and Confluence. There are tons of open source wikis that corporates can deploy if they happen to have even slightly strong IT teams. Do companies need expensive and complex Content Management Systems after advent of wikis? I guess not.

Collaboration 2.0 is another offshoot of '2.0 era'. These are platforms that have been built by integrating various related technologies that either existed standalone or built over them. This 2.0 platform is very much in space of wiki but more complex and controlled. It includes workflow, business intelligence, forms and email synchronization in addition to wiki features. Microsoft Sharepoint, EMC eRoom and Vignette Collaboration most popular tools in this space.

Expert Finder or Directory 2.0 puts enterprise on the social networking technology map. If you look at the traditional directory services within the corporate,
it is more like a contact list of the outlook application. In the web 2.0 era, when we are talking about harnessing collective intelligence and finding right connection at the right time, the question is, how do you know if the required expertise exists within the organization or not. It can further be extended into a social networking application where employees can create communities and collaborate on subject of common interests. Employees can cut through the red tape and connect with each other to reduce duplication of effort and collaboration.

Blogs have made millions of journalist out of common people. Anyone who has ideas and thoughts can share it with anyone in the world and get instant feedback. There is no more dependency on print media or web sites to reach out to people. Anyone can start blogging in matter of minutes and has million of readers at his disposal. Blogging is one of great tools for harnessing collective intelligence using comments. Techcrunch is one of the most popular technology blog in the world. In the enterprise environment, it will take sometime before free employee blogging will acceptable to everyone in upper management and become part of corporate culture. I have seen executive management blogs in most of the large corporates, a channel for information distribution. Blogs have been extended where ideas get posted through audio and video media. Podcast has added another channel for information distribution and has been utilized for trainings and information sessions.

Knowledge is key when it comes making strategic decisions. Knowledge needs to be created, shared, distributed and applied continuously within the organization. In web 1.0 era, knowledge was created by few and then distributed across through multiple channels, for example, MSDN. With web 2.0, knowledge is created though collective intelligence. Take an example of wikipedia, the largest knowledge base on web, is not created by few but by everyone who has the knowledge and are willing to share. How we can replicate the success of wikipedia in the enterprise environment? Wiki is the defacto tool for creating knowledge repositories within the organization harnessing collective intelligence.

RSS has become backbone of content syndication and distribution. It is as simple as it names suggests, real simple syndication. As mentioned in my previous post, web 2.0 applications leverage the network effort. Information has limited utility if it is not shared and distributed. Information needs to be distributed across the network so that it can be utilized appropriately to achieve better results. RSS can also be used to aggregate the data from various sources to create an actionable knowledge base.

There are other popular web 2.0 apps that have made in-roads in the enterprises. Linkedin, FaceBook, Twitter, and Dopplr are some of them. I will discuss these apps in subsequent posts.

How about we integrate all the web 2.0 applications discussed above in unified connect platform. Unified Connect is a collaboration and communication platform that takes care of all business needs. It includes all the collaboration applications including instant messaging, calendar, meeting place, document management, wikis, blogs, etc... New applications can be added to the platform using mashups and SaaS. Some of the products that are available to look at are from Cisco's WebEx and Adobe.

In the next post, I will be writing on the external apps.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mashup - Web 2.0 with Enterprise (Part 1)

Web 2.0 has been great success story with consumer products but much has still not been said or done with it in the enterprise environment. Pundits and analysts have been toying with idea of web 2.0 in the enterprise sector but surveys show very little actual adoption of web 2.0 in this area. How can the trends be optimistic if surveys show the opposite? The trends have been optimistic but actual implementation of web 2.0 is yet far away from reality. Do we know why?

What is web 2.0 in an enterprise? What do we need to know about web 2.0 that can be applied in an enterprise environment? Web 2.0 is a trend or paradigm that is shaping the next generation of world wide web. But this definition is not enough. Web 2.0 has different meaning for different audiences - technical and business. For technical community it is wikis, blogs, RSS, podcasting, folksonomy, mashups and social networking. From business prospective it is finding new business models and opportunities, marketing new innovative products, engaging large untapped user communities into the businesses and enhancing customer satisfaction and retention to name the few. Where do web 2.0 and enterprise meet (mashup)? We will only be able to answer this question if we understand underlying set of principles of web 2.0 and try to put all web 2.0 blocks together in the enterprise environment.

First lets discuss the core principles of web 2.0. According to Tim O'Reilley, web 2.0 are networked applications that leverage network effects. What is "Network Effect"? It is a situation or effect in which a product or service becomes more valuable as more people use it. It is increasingly focused towards engaging large user communities into the network with new products and services, strengthening the network with shared knowledge pool and collective intelligence, and leveraging the web into business strategies, products and services. Then what is problem with widespread adoption of web 2.0 in an enterprise? We have all its constituents; audience, web, knowledge. The fourth quadrant i.e. product and services, depend and leverage the other three constituents and enable in shaping the new business strategies and opportunities with web 2.0.

Then why are the enterprises not moving as fast as they should have been in adopting web 2.0? Web 2.0 is more than just products, people, knowledge and web, it is also about processes and culture i.e. shift in power and control. Enterprises will have to change the way they do business to take strategic advantage of the web 2.0. It will not be easy to formulate a web 2.0 strategy without changing underlying processes and power switch. It will require an enterprise widespread and dynamic changes since web 2.0 approaches will require self assessment, introspection, risk and new strategic alignment. Web 2.0 is basically a disruptive model that may derail old platforms and business models. Web 2.0 advocates moving away from command and control towards collaboration and teamwork, from push to pull model, from process-centric to people-centric business model.

Even in the presence of directives from top management for enabling this change, enterprises are still unable to implement or deploy the web 2.0 apps? My 2 cents. The single biggest challenge here seems to be the employees. The sheer numbers here present a daunting task of getting them at an equal level of understanding of the new technology and its strategic advantages. It is a challenge to educate them and for many leaders, web 2.0 shift is thus beyond their scope and mandate. Avoiding risks and taking the path of incremental improvements then becomes the easier alternative.

Many companies have therefore adopted web 2.0 principles not as a business strategy but more as an experiments to get on the web 2.0 technology map. These companies are plying low risks strategies and trying to gauge its adoption with respect to business model and corporate culture. It will be interesting to see how many companies deploy web 2.0 as business strategy and change their internal culture, because that is when they take full advantages of web 2.0 principles.

The next challenge is where exactly to apply web 2.0 principles. According to research and surveys, the biggest reasons for widespread adoption of web 2.0 are to cut costs and increase revenue. Nothing new, lets find more. About 80% of companies surveyed see the collaborative aspects of Web 2.0 as a way to increase corporate revenue and/or margins. As a cost-reducer, 30% of companies expect Web 2.0 tools to trim the most in customer-service and support costs. As for increasing revenue, 40% of companies expect web 2.0 will help in acquiring new customers and 25% in product innovations. Generally perception is that collaboration is single greatest reason for web 2.0 adoption within the corporate. So far the largest implementations of web 2.0 are wikis and blogs that have been adopted as next generation collaboration tool.

There are two facets of an enterprise - internal and external. Internal apps are for their employees, internal communication, knowledge sharing and product innovation. External apps are for their customers and partners, marketing and sales, product development, customer services and retention, and new opportunities.

I will drill more into these facets and how web 2.0 can serve them. These apps may use same technologies but differ from how they are provisioned and used. I will start with internal apps in my next post and then discuss the external apps of the organization with reference to web 2.0 in subsequent posts.

Please follow the links below for rest of the series:
Mashup - Web 2.0 with Enterprise (Part 2)
Mashup - Web 2.0 with Enterprise (Part 3)
Mashup - Web 2.0 with Enterprise (Part 4)