Enterprise 2.0: Another Fine Mess?

Jun 20, 2007

Tim Scannell

BOSTON -- Online service juggernaut Google (Quote) and information-sharing Web sites like YouTube and FaceBook have revolutionized the way people interact in cyberspace and do business on the Net, right?


But, we are still years away from that information-rich and digitally-saturated land a lot of technorati are now calling Enterprise 2.0, which blends blogging, wikis social computing and virtual communities into a collaborative soup that has the potential to totally rewrite the rules of business and commerce in a Web 2.0 environment.

In Enterprise 2.0, the logical extension to the Web 2.0, neat and orderly brick-and-mortar shelving is out, along with carefully constructed Web sites that are designed for click-throughs and capturing eyeballs. That was one of the themes of the Enterprise 2.0 show here Tuesday.

"I'm pretty sure that it is high school and college-age children of executives who are spreading the word and pushing new technologies," said Harvard Business Scool Associate Processor Andrew McAfee, who discussed the topic he is credited with coining more than a year ago in a keynote here.

Teenagers and twenty-somethings are forcing businesses to understand new technologies and if they might be useful in business, he added, "doing the yeoman's work and heavy lifting."

The problem is that these early proponents may be lifting with their mouths not their legs, and so for now Enterprise 2.0 may not have much to stand on in terms of being an actual technology revolution.

"Corporate America won't be transformed by Enterprise 2.0 over the next five years," added McAfee. "But, I am fully confident there will be some companies that will use it successfully and profit from its use."

For now, though, there is lots of talk and information but few examples of successful Enterprise 2.0 deployments.

"The number of 'war stories' has to expand significantly if we are going to get traction among decision makers," noted McAfee.

Collaborative links and mashups are all the rage in this world, and customers are now in control of what happens in terms of information flow, product development, marketing and distribution. The more user-generated information the better, since the Internet is shifting from a world based on massive amounts of data to one that embraces metadata (define), or data about data.

If that sounds a bit confusing and chaotic that's okay because this is exactly where proponents of Enterprise 2.0 think we should be heading.

"Messiness in the real world is a disaster, but in online it's good because the more links going back to your Web site the better," said David Weinberger, author and research fellow at Harvard Law's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. "The customer is extremely messy and that's great!"

Some order and housecleaning may still be needed, however, before Enterprise 2.0 moves from buzz to business driver. A number of significant questions remain as academics and major companies like IBM (Quote), SAP (Quote), BEA Systems (Quote), Cisco (Quote) and Intel (Quote) dish out their own variations on Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 products and technologies.

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