BusinessWeek's Rob Hof on a CEO's guide to Enterprise 2.0:
For all its appeal to the young and the wired, Web 2.0 may end up making its greatest impact in business. And that could usher in more changes in corporations, already in the throes of such tech-driven transformations as globalization and outsourcing. Indeed, what some are calling Enterprise 2.0 could flatten a raft of organizational boundaries -- between managers and employees and between the company and its partners and customers. Says Don Tapscott, CEO of the Toronto tech think tank New Paradigm and co-author of The Naked Corporation: "It's the biggest change in the organization of the corporation in a century."
As a "CEO's Guide to Technology," it's clearly aimed at executives, so those of you who know this stuff cold may not be surprised. But we in Silicon Valley tend to forget that most of the rest of the world hasn't even heard of Web 2.0. In a podcast, Tim O'Reilly explains the basics, and provides a little more insight into the flap over his Web 2.0 Conference partner taking out a controversial service mark on the term as applied to conferences. And in a Q&A, Ray Lane provides the VC's view.
When he interviewed me, one thread was how things have changed over the last three years in the wiki business. The broader cultural trend for consumer adoption of these tools has, at the least, made it easier to introduce them to the enterprise. Less to explain or to train. Every now and then a CEO catches the wiki bug after discovering Wikipedia on her own.
Nonetheless, the notions behind Web 2.0 clearly hold great potential for businesses -- and peril for those that ignore them. Potentially, these Web 2.0 services could help solve some vexing problems for corporations that current software and online services have yet to tackle.
For one, companies are struggling to overcome problems with current online communications, whether it's e-mail spam or the costs of maintaining company intranets that few employees use. So they're now starting to experiment with a growing array of collaborative services, such as wikis. Says Ross Mayfield, CEO of the corporate wiki firm Socialtext: "Now, most everybody I talk to knows what Wikipedia is -- and it's not a stretch for them to imagine a company Wikipedia."
MORE FLEXIBLE. And not just imagine -- Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, for instance, uses a Socialtext wiki instead of e-mail to create meeting agendas and post training videos for new hires. Six months after launching it, traffic on the 2,000-page wiki, used by a quarter of the bank's workforce, already has surpassed that of the company's intranet (see BW Online, 11/24/05, "E-Mail Is So Five Minutes Ago").
Corporations also are balking at installing big, multimillion dollar software programs that can take years to roll out -- and then aren't flexible enough to adapt to new business needs. "They're clunky and awkward and don't encourage participation," grumbles Dion Hinchcliffe, chief technology officer of Washington, D.C. tech consultant Sphere of Influence...
I think what CEOs get about Enterprise 2.0 may surprise you.
- They are proponents of transparency. Not just because it is the underlying objective of SarBox, but they couldn't get to their position through hoarding and recognize that six levels of reporting tends to water down the truth they need to make decisions.
- They understand that adoption matters. Because at their level, it's a major input to ROI and want to get what they are paying for.
- With suprising frequency, they use RSS newsreaders. This is anecdotal, but otherwise a good part of a CEO's role is reading.
- Control is less of an issue than for middle managers. Again, to advance, they have had to lead more than manage, and delegate.
The Ray Lane interview provides a similar view:
Enterprises are fine with them. I've talked to a lot of chief information officers about this. As a group, financial institutions are wary because of regulations. They can't even use instant messaging without logging and archiving them. They've got to have a record of everything.
But other than that group, every other kind of industry and CIO I've talked to absolutely buys into it and says, "Bring it on." Obviously, you have to meet security concerns. But I don't find chief executives wary of podcasts, blogs, wikis, or social networks.
The point being, CEOs are ready for the shift, but need to work with vendors who have adapted social software for the enterprise within security requirements.