Enterprise 2.0 – Giving the Hype a Second Thought

Top Down vs. Bottom Up

A large majority of experiments, to bring Web 2.0 elements into the enterprise have been bottom-up efforts, in small scale teams and departments where the participants shared lots of commonalities around work, reporting relationships, interests and passions. This is expected in any emerging concept. Not many of these bottom-up experiments have percolated enterprise-wide or scaled to engage the enterprise as a whole. At best, such experiments can spawn more small scale experiments leading to more chaos and very little benefit.

In a few organizations where attempts at bringing Web 2.0 concepts to the enterprise have been successful, it is clearly visible that these experiments are supported with active engagement, involvement and driven from the senior management. This is very critical as Enterprise 2.0 entails cultural, hierarchical and process changes across the organization that are very difficult, if not impossible, to implement.

The magnitude of issues and challenges involved in making change happen in small teams or departments is considerably different from making change happen across the organization and bottom up efforts to make change happen may not stand a chance.

Takeaway: Be wary of basing your Enterprise 2.0 strategy on the basis of one or two experiments with Enterprise 2.0 in small teams.

Critical Mass

The Web 2.0 platforms in the Internet world derive value from numbers—called the network effect—the power of the network grows exponentially in value as more and more people become a part of it. The value derived from the number of users in the platform also helps in creating the tipping point required for the platform to be successful. Organizations may find it difficult to replicate the network effect with the absence of a critical mass required to create it.

Even in the Internet world, the majority of the users of Web 2.0 platforms are passive bystanders, occasional contributors with only a miniscule percentage of users actively contributing. While this may not be an issue in the Internet world, because of the long tail phenomenon, in an enterprise scenario this is something that organizations need to be aware of.

The absence of a critical mass may result in Enterprise 2.0 platforms being utilized in a sub-optimal fashion and not yielding the desired results. Delays in expected benefits and impatient senior management can cause platforms to be shuttered without ever getting a chance to reach the tipping point.

Takeaway: Does the organization have the required critical mass to leverage the

network effect?

Workforce Composition and the Generation Gap

Organizations where a large number of employees are from the GenNet—people born after 1980 and have grown on MP3, Napster, iPod, broadband and blogs will have higher chances of Enterprise 2.0 adoption compared to organizations where majority of the employees are Baby Boomers. The cognitive and social development for the GenNet employees is molded in highly interactive and social communication environments compared to the rigid, command and control, top down environments of the baby boomers.

The leaders in most organizations still belong to the baby-boomer generation for whom the world of Orkut, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger is alien. This means that these leaders can t grasp the full potential of these tools for business context. And, even when these leaders pledge support for Enterprise 2.0, it can be without a full understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 actually means.

Takeaway: Identify if Enterprise 2.0 toolsets are suitable for the workforce composition in an organization.