Enterprise 2.0, What, Why, and Knowledge Management


So Billy and I started to discuss his article published by AIIM last month. Before that got very far, it got sidetracked by a new blog launch. Luckily for me, Bex finally jumped in to fill the conversational void. He threw out a definition and then started talking about what Enterprise 2.0 isn’t. I don’t fault him for that as I doubt that I could do better on the topic. I do believe that I can contribute though, so here it goes…

Everyone get out your bingo cards, its going to be a wild ride.

The What…

Bex begins by offering a definition of Enterprise 2.0. For handy reference, here it is:

Enterprise 2.0 is an emerging social and technical movement towards helping your business practices evolve. At its heart, its goals are to empower the right kind of change by connecting decision makers to information, to services and to people.

Pretty simple and straightforward. I like aspects of it. I love the word movement as that pushes the effort beyond the technological. It does beg a lot of questions, such as, “What is the right kind of change?” In the end, I think it fails because of its vagueness. Kudos to Bex though for even putting forward a definition, something I’m not willing to attempt.

Bex’s post spends a lot of time on what Enterprise 2.0 isn’t. This part of the post holds great value. I agree with every single of the five points. I have a few comments on each:

  1. Too much information can be a problem. Information needs to be transformed into knowledge. With structured data, this can be done through reports and business intelligence tools. With unstructured data, aka CONTENT, this is best done by people tagging and collecting. As search technology matures, it will be able to do this for us, at least better than it does now. This is an old-fashioned Knowledge Management goal.
  2. End-users need solid business applications. They may consist of Services, but Users consume Applications which consume Services. It is a food chain. My only problem here is wondering if this is Enterprise 2.0 or just smart Enterprise Architecture design for the SOA world. Like point 1, this isn’t a new concept.
  3. This point is Enterprise 2.0 to the core. Let’s face it. I could be connected with 1000 people, but if nobody will collaborate with me in solving a problem, what is the point? If I have 10 good connections, I can filter out the junk and we can focus on solving the problem at hand. The interaction with Bex and Billy is more valuable to me than it is with some senior Documentum architects (not referencing Craig as he is pretty darn useful) because they actually engage in dialog. It isn’t enough to be have things in common, but to contribute to the whole to create something greater.
  4. Evolution is always the goal. Change is good. A way to manage the change and allow for change to continue as required is better. In ECM terms, if I implement an ECM system, it will only last as long as the initial initiative if a governance mechanism isn’t put in place to oversee it for the future.
  5. This is simple project management. Bex implies an extreme, but it is a valid concept. Take a small pilot and see if it works. If so, GREAT! If not, then learning why has value. The person may not earn a promotion, but they should earn a chance to apply the lessons-learned. Too often, these failed pilots have no follow-on effort where the lessons would be useful.

Hmmmm, not as much Enterprise 2.0 as I thought. Of course, that is just my opinion. Let’s look at…

The Why…

Bex talks a bit about “Why”. It isn’t stated right out, but Mark Masterson asks Why is Enterprise 2.0 is a Good Idea in a post to which Bex links. The fact is that the question, much less the answer, is missing from most discussions that I have read. Why is Enterprise 2.0 good? It sounds progressive. So did the web in the mid-90s. Most of websites sucked. Some were cool, and that led every company to want external sites and web-enable their applications. “Why” was left in the dust.

Now we have the Whe for the web. Internally we can deliver applications to a wide audience without fussing too much with the state of their desktop. The ability to write one application, deploy it to a few servers, and have it work is much better than directing people to a shared network drive and install an application, or pushing it down to each desktop. It was a good time to run a helpdesk.

Nobody asks why you need an external website now or what purpose it is trying to serve. Usually the focus is on which Why to address first.

So let me ask you this, what is the purpose behind Enterprise 2.0? What problem is it trying to solve? Until we hash that out, we aren’t going anywhere. I have a few thoughts, but I want to explore the concept of structural holes in more detail first. I’d also like to see if anyone else is going to play. (That is a hint, Chuck and Gordon.)

Enterprise 2.0 as the Next Phase of Knowledge Management

I’ve seen this theme a few times and I can understand why Bex is not enthused. I’m not ruling it out. Aside from helping frame the “Why” a little better, it is still a good goal. Bex talks about efforts 20 years ago. I remember efforts 10 years ago. There will be more efforts in another 10 years. The thing that Bex points out, but misses at the same time, is that these iterations provide value.

Be it full-text search, ECM, portals, social media, or mashups, these technologies all help to solve the “knowledge problem”. It isn’t just a matter of storing and retrieving knowledge. It is also a matter of enabling the creation of that knowledge. You need people to be able to connect and work together. I learn a lot by stopping by someone’s office and talking to them. What if they are in a different part of the building, campus, country, or world? Swinging by the office can become expensive and time-consuming.

Does Enterprise 2.0 help us address those gaps? Maybe. Is it more than that? I think so. How much of Enterprise 2.0 is Web 2.0? (BINGO!) I would say it is the part that makes it new, but not the foundation as Bex alludes.

That is why we need to work on the Why of Enterprise 2.0.

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