Sunday, October 15, 2006

Enterprise 2.0: Deploying Web 2.0 concepts in the Enterprise

There is a fair amount of discussion and controversy around this this topic. Andrew McAfee of HBS wrote an interesting article on the topic.

In my mind, one of the key ingredients of Web 2.0 is user participation and control. Users are able to produce and share content freely and decide what they wish to see and what they do not and how they leverage technology.

So, how does this get implemented in the enterprise? Corporate management requires accurate metrics and data for decision making. Management also requires control - that is a lot of what Sarbanes Oxley is about. This usually translates into standardization of process and work flow. So, to a fair extent, corporate processes and systems have to be inflexible. The corporation also has to worry about information security. It cannot be only left to the individual employee's judgement, understanding and care. However, our future employees will join the workforce and be used to the very flexible technology solutions that they can tailor to their needs. We will need to resolve these conflicting requirements.

The answer is in developing very high quality user interfaces to out corporate systems. These should provide a fair amount of flexibility but ensure that the information absolutely essential for the organization's success is captured in a very non-intrusive manner. For example, you cannot buy a book on-line without paying for it. The credit card companies have developed systems that approve transactions in real time to ensure that customer does not have to wait and that the merchant can be certain of getting paid. However, how you found the book is under your complete control. You have access to search and recommendation engines to find the next book you should read and you can search and buy at your convenience. The system tries to learn and remember your preferences without asking you over and over again. It also looks at data from other users with similar book preferences.

I look at our ERP systems (Oracle, PeopleSoft, etc.) - we have web-enabled Client Server User Interface - so 1990s. We constantly need to train employees and implement change management programs to ensure acceptance. This will not work for our future employees growing up in the Web 2.0 world. We must take the appropriate Web 2.0 lessons into the corporate world with Enterprise 2.0.

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