Sneaking Web 2.0 Into The Enterprise

Nicholas Carr’s blog Rough Type (an excellent blog by the way) shares some thoughts on a new MIT Sloan Management Review article by Andrew Mcafee entitled “Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration.
The article is basically an argument of how many of the pillars of Web 2.0 – tagging, RSS, blogs, wikis – can really help the dissemination and flow of knowledge through enterprises whereas previous efforts have consistently failed.
I generally agree with this premise. We’ve seen enough over-bloated feature-laden X Management Systems that promise to finally solve the challenge of getting the right information out to the right people in large organizations. The Enterprise world has a lot to learn from some of the basic tenets of Web 2.0: less complexity; highly focused goal-oriented user interfaces, rapid development. Unlike the general Internet population which is more akin to the Wild West, the typical Enterprise’s user population is far more focused and the Enterprise itself provides invaluable context to what’s going on with in. It’s a built-in noise filter.
Nicholas astutely points out a snag in this promise though. Most users are consumers of the artifacts of web 2.0. A small population actually creates the content. Furthermore, those content creators have the best knowledge and the least time to share it. They’re very busy. Sure, the techie early adopters will be giddy about it, but the key players will glance over these cute little tools and go back to their routine.
He’s right. But I think there are creative ways to address this. One way is to fuse content-generating activities with actual responsibilities. Is there a status update? Put it on the wiki. Don’t email a group of people. You can further reinforce this by tying incentives to using these tools. This requires a top-down mandate real vision by management. A rare thing if real money isn’t tied to it.
But there’s something else we can do. Rather than training people and hoping they’ll play with a new tool, we can work within their current toolset and work practice. We can build software that pays attention to how they work. We can, in very subtle ways, introduce simple but powerful tweaks to their current user experiences. If posting to feed were as simple – and similar – to writing an email, the cost is far lower for the user. Couple that with the very real benefits of Web 2.0, you’ve got a better shot at infusing these things into the work day.

5 Comments Sneaking Web 2.0 Into The Enterprise

  1. Chris Brogan...

    I concur with the idea that there are lots more consumers than creators. As a content producer within an enterprise, I opened up a wiki for other people to aid in collaborative documentation of several of our technologies. I was astounded that not ONE person added more than the occasional correction of a typo. Disheartening, because the technology hurdles that the web 2.0 technologies overcome make it seem obvious that a new dawn of sharing will happen. Not so.
    -Chris of []

  2. Ross Mayfield

    > Most users are consumers of the artifacts of web 2.0. A small population actually creates the content.
    500 people, or .5% of Wikipedia users, account for 50% of the edits. Good ’nuff.

  3. Jay

    We’ve gone through 4 “knowledge management” systems in the 4.5 years I’ve worked at my company: eProject, Sharepoint v1 and v2, Documentum and TWIKI.
    All of them don’t work. People are literally scared of using Sharepoint because it is so cumbersome and unusable. Business users get confused when editing the TWIKI. (The TWIKI does get good use for downloading existing information.)
    Knowledge management is not the right label. That implies that knowledge actually gets managed. In reality, knowledge gets created (in emails, documents, IMs, GANTT charts, etc…) and it needs a way to get found.
    We need a set of “Knowledge Exposure” or “Knowledge Awarness” tools.
    Not more knowledge management tools…

  4. Sam Bose

    rich, please have a look at my blog…i have tried to highlight the key adoption user scenarios all enterprise 2.0 tools providers will face…will interested in ur views and identification of other hurdle scenarios


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