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.

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