Web 2.0 Inside the Enterprise

Harvard Professor Andrew McAfee writes in his blog:

I have an article in the spring 2006 issue of Sloan Management Review (SMR) on what I call Enterprise 2.0 — the emerging use of Web 2.0 technologies like blogs and wikis (both perfect examples of network IT) within the Intranet. The article describes why I think this is an important and welcome development, the contents of the Enterprise 2.0 ‘toolkit,’ and the experiences to date of an early adopter. It also offers some guidelines to business leaders interested in building an Enterprise 2.0 inftrastructure within their companies.One question not addressed in the article is: Why is Enterprise 2.0 is an appealing reality now? It’s not because of any recent technology breakthrough. Blogs, wikis, and RSS have been brewing since the 1990s, and folksonomies and AJAX since the early years of this decade. Is it just that technologists and entrepreneurs needed a bit of time to absorb all of elements and combine them into useful tools? That’s certainly part of the story, but focusing only on technology components risks missing the forest for the trees.
In particular, it misses three broad and converging trends, all of them concerning the changing relationship between those who offer technologies and those who use them. The trends are:
1. Simple, Free Platforms for Self-Expression ….

2. Emergent Structures, Rather than Imposed Ones ….
3. Order from Chaos ….

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. As described in the SMR article, these tools include powerful search, tags (the basis for the folksonomies at del.icio.us and flickr), and automatic RSS signals whenever new content appears. …

I’ll end this post with an anecdote that showed me that these three trends are not yet well understood by many business leaders. Last week I was teaching in an executive education program for senior executives – owners and presidents of companies. I assigned a case I wrote about the internal use of blogs at a bank, and also gave one additional bit of homework: I pointed the participants to blogger and typepad, and told them to start their own blogs and report the blog’s URL to me.

What they reported instead was that they had no intention of completing the assignment. They told me how busy they were, and how they had no time and no inclination to mess around with blogs (whatever they were). Out of two classes of 50-60 participants each, I got fewer than 15 total blog URLs.

Trying to turn lemons into lemonade in class, I asked some of the people who actually had sent a URL to describe the experience of starting a blog. They all shrugged and said it was no big deal, took about five minutes total, didn’t require any skills, etc. I then asked why I would give busy executives such a silly, trivial assignment. In both classes one smart student piped up to say “To show us exactly how trivial it was.” At that point, class discussion became interesting.

via Ross Mayfield

What Prof. McAfee is describing *inside* the enterprise is exactly the same sort of phenomenon that we see salespeople, recruiters and other using both inside and outside the enterprise, and explore in The Virtual Handshake.

Another person now writing on this area: Paul Gillen. (Via Centrality Journal )