I have long been fascinated by the new technologies, blogs, wikis, and so forth, that collectively make up what is known as enterprise2.0. I am fascinated by their promise to revolutionize, as email, how we work and how we communicate and I want to be part of developing these technologies. This post is a compilation of many of the things I've read about enterprise 2.0. It is an attempt to make the case for why four technologies, wikis, blogs, Content Resource Management (CRM), and web-based project management tools, should be used in the enterprise (and every other organization for that manner).
Organizations want good collaboration and management tools. What are the properties of an idea collaboration/management tool?
- the tool is as simple as possible, but not too simple
- easy setup/maintenance
- all can contribute
- works with existing tools
- just works
Business analysts are recognizing these needs are unfulfilled by today's groupware tools. Developers and companies around the globe have created new collaboration tools to solve these problems. Examples of these tools include: wikis, blogs, lightweight project management tools, and online calendaring software. These tools and the philosophy behind them have come to be known collectively under the name of Enterprise 2.0. These tools have come to the attention of academics and large companies such as IBM and Microsoft who are implementing many of these ideas into their software. IBM's Lotus Notes supports the creation of blogs and wikis. Microsoft's new Sharepoint 2007 includes a tightly-integrated wiki.
The vast user base of already installed Enterprise 2.0 software tools show the great potential of social software within the enterprise. Enterprise 2.0 tools promise to provide more flexible and efficient collaboration within organizations.
Andrew McAfee, professor at Harvard Business School defines Enterprise 2.0 as follows
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.
'Freeform' in this case means that the software is most or all of the following:
- Free of up-front workflow
- Egalitarian, or indifferent to formal organizational identities
- Accepting of many types of data
What this means is social software is not a one-size fits all type of software. It does not try to rigidly fit a company and its processes into the preconceived notions of the software's creators.
Corporations for years have tried to install industrial-strength collaboration tools but employees don't use them. This is the natural result of software attempting to impose processes. People don't like to change behavior to fit software.
Better are collaboration tools that allow emergence. “Emergent means that the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people's interactions become visible over time.” Or in other words, emergent software merely discovers the way employees think and act in particular environment. Only then are business processed defined. The practice defines the process.(find link) This means employees are much more likely to actually use the tools IT rolls out as they can use the tools in a way that feels natural.
A college in California applied the principle of emergence to the construction of new sidewalks between buildings. Instead of building the sidewalks right away, they let students walk on the new grass for a semester. At the end of the semester, it was evident by the tramped grass where most students wanted to walk. So the sidewalks were built where the grass was tramped.
Software based collaboration tools let people collaborate anywhere and at anytime. Collaboration on ideas isn't restricted to one meeting room or one office. People can collaborate between meetings, after hours, or anytime an idea occurs to them.
Software collaboration tools make finding help easier. When searching for an answer, it is better to ask as many people as possible because you don't know in advance who has the answer, a technique called “broadcast search”. Collaboration tools such as wikis or blogs let you ask everyone in the organization. The British Parliament in the 18th century offered the equivalent of about $12 million to anyone who could devise a method to ‘find longitude.’ “The prize was eventually won, not by a famed astronomer or scientist of the day, but by the self-taught Yorkshire clockmaker John Harrison.” Another example, a sales manager at the commercial wiki company Socialtext was asked by a prospective customer for a comparison between forums and wikis. Not knowing much about the topic, he created a wiki page on the companies wiki and broadcast throughout the company that he needed help. “Within four hours, five team members, including engineers, had contributed to the wiki page with numerous revisions. I had basically a final version that I simply exported as a Word doc, tweaked with final formatting, and emailed to the customer.” He reflects that he could of asked one or two people in marketing for help but the result wouldn't of been nearly as good as the result from the wiki.
Software collaboration software creates a “group memory”. All content created with collaboration tools is achieved and easily searchable. No more will valuable ideas and plans be lost in an email inbox or the Intranet. This creates a quick ramp-up time
ibid for new employees and provides a convenient record of all past projects discussions.
Results from early adapters of “Enterprise 2.0” tools are starting to return. Business Week reported in November of 2005 that “research firm Garner Group predicts that wikis will become mainstream collaboration tools in at least 50% of companies by 2009...At DrKW, [CIO JP] Rangaswami says that among the earliest and most aggressive adopters, e-mail volume on related projects is down 75%; meeting times have been whacked in half.”
In an extensive case study written about wiki adoption at DrKW, reporting on meetings they wrote, “The teleconference used to be one and a half hours long [before the wiki], with much time wasted on bringing people up to speed on the week's events. Now team members update themselves on the wiki, and that part of the teleconference takes five to ten minutes.”
Employees of DrKW also find the wiki useful to plan presentations. They report that now with a wiki, "one person co-ordinated [planning the presentation], setting up an agenda page and individual pages for each of the main slides so that everyone - asynchronously, in their own time and in parallel - could write the presentation. Within about three of four hours, a presentation evolved that would have taken days and been a much more frustrating process had it been through email and PowerPoint attachments.
Employees at Novell also find that wikis ease collaboration. When someone finds an article on a discussion within the company, they link the article as a comment to a wiki page on the topic. This is accessible to enterprise search and those who are “tracking” this page are notified immediately of the addition to the wiki page. When someone finds the page, they have all the context available to understand the complete discussion. Novell finds wikis reduce redundancy in research and dialog and makes collaboration much more efficient.
Both DrKW and Novell and many others find that the tools of “Enterprise 2.0” make collaboration more flexible and efficient. Below is a closer look at the software that makes up “Enterprise 2.0”:
Internal Blogs: Most now are familiar with blogs. These easy-to-use communication device are widely used on the Internet by from everyone from politicians, to family groups, to newspapers. As of 14 March 2007, Technorati, an online blog search engine, is tracking 71.2 million blogs. Blogs as a collaboration tool are widely used on the Internet but are also starting to gain traction as a tool for internal communication within organizations.
Matías Dutto, a management consultant specializing in social technologies, wrote the following reasons for supporting internal blogging:
- It improves participation spirit, collaboration, and the capabilities of team learning. It is ideal to run projects and to work with heterogeneous teams. It is also useful to promote dialogue and find lateral ideas outside the team.
- It allows integrating conversations with a shared vision. It is an excellent means for the leaders to communicate.
- It is the space where interpretations and different points of view come up so that the any member of the organization can discuss and debate them.
- It is an excellent means for the employees to achieve an integrated vision of the company by joining in conversations.
- It implies an open communication platform that allows new ways relating and coordinating actions among the organizational members and between the latter and the network of external relationships.
- It becomes the written memory of the organization. Furthermore, writing conveys emotional stability which eventually promotes the process of organizational development.
- They speed up the transference and transformation of knowledge to make ideas flow easily and take learning into action.
Enterprise quality blogging software includes:
- Drupal (open source)
- Manila (paid)
- 21Publish (paid)
- Typepad (paid)
- Moveable Type (paid)
- KnowHow (paid/open source) -- enterprise version of WordPress
Wikis: The most famous example of the wiki is Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines a wiki as “a website that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove, and otherwise edit and change available content, typically without the need for registration. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring.”Enterprise quality wiki software includes:
- SocialText (paid/open source)
- Twiki (open source)
- Confluence (paid)
- Also, WikiMatrix provides a tool for comparing between 100s of other wiki engines.
Customer Relationship Management(CRM):
Wikipedia defines CRMs as follows:
“Customer relationship management software is defined as business management and automation of the front-office divisions of an organization. CRM software is essentially meant to address the needs of Marketing, Sales & Distribution and Customer Service and Support divisions within an organization and allow the three to share data on prospects, customers, partners, competitors and employees.”
Lightweight Project Management:
A rebellion against all 1000lb project management software. Most software of this class are web based, inexpensive, and integrates well with existing tools.
Enterprise quality lightweight project management software include: