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Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Reality Check For Organizations To Embrace Web 2.0

There is a new wave of business communication tools including blogs, wikis and group messaging software - dubbed collectively, Enterprise 2.0 - that allow for more spontaneous, knowledge-based collaboration. These new tools,Andrew McAfee contends, may well supplant other communication and knowledge management systems with their superior ability to capture tacit knowledge, best practices and relevant experiences from throughout a company and make them readily available to more users. While the World Wide Web put a multimedia printing press and a global distribution network in the hands of almost everyone & millions of people and companies took advantage of this opportunity, hundreds of millions of people did not, however, even though they had Internet access. The important question for business leaders is how to import these three trends from the Internet to the Intranet - how to harness Web 2.0 to create Enterprise 2.0.
Andrew points out that current technologies offer/support :
- Simple, Free Platforms for Self-Expression
- Emergent Structures, Rather than Imposed Ones. (Instead of imposing their own ideas about how the platforms should be structured, they started working hard to avoid such imposition, and to build tools that let structure emerge).
- Order from Chaos (Besides building platforms for self-expression and overcoming their previous tendencies to impose structure, the technologists of Web 2.0 are providing a third valuable service - they’re rolling out tools that help us filter, sort, prioritize, and generally stay on top of the flood of new online content).
The paradigm is best captured as SLATES (search, links, authoring, tags, extensions, signals). Deploying these technologies, argues Andrew, can lead to highly productive and highly collaborative environments by making both the practices of knowledge work and its outputs more visible. A set of ground rules for implementing the new technologies is proposed.
- First, it is necessary to create a receptive culture in order to prepare the way for new practices.
- Second, a common platform must be created to allow for a collaboration infrastructure.
- Third, an informal rollout of the technologies(Toby Redshaw spoke about silent launch of blogs/wiki's within Motorola) may be preferred to a more formal procedural change.
- Fourth, managerial support and leadership is crucial. Even when implanted and implemented well, these new technologies will certainly bring with them new challenges.
Nick Carr had some relevant comments to make on this – "Managers, professionals and other employees don’t have much spare time, and the ones who have the most valuable business knowledge have the least spare time of all. (They’re the ones already inundated with emails, instant messages, phone calls, and meeting requests.) Will they turn into avid bloggers and taggers and wiki-writers? It’s not impossible, but it’s a long way from a sure bet".

Andrew has responded to this (which I think looks more realistic) – he writes,"The spread of Enterprise 2.0 technologies is definitely not a sure bet". He highlights three reasons for this:
- One reason why employees might be less likely than Web surfers to use blogs, wikis, tags, RSS, etc.: they’ve got too many other things to do.
- Second,most companies might not have a sufficiently long tail.
- Third reason to be pessimistic about Enterprise 2.0, is culture, especially as it’s defined and shaped over time by business leaders. If these leaders signal that they really don’t want open, freeform, and emergent collaboration, they really won’t get it. The diffusion of these tools is going to sharpen differences among companies as some work to foster the new styles, modes, and practices of collaboration and others work (subtly or overtly) to squelch them. A timely article worth reflecting upon.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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