What is Enterprise 2.0

The term Enterprise 2.0 was first introduced by Andrew McAfee, professor at Harvard Business School (Technology and Operations Management Unit) and it means: ‘the use of platforms of social software in an emerging way inside the organization or betweent the organization, their partner and their client’ .

Enterprise 2.0 is creating a path for the introduction of Web2.0 technologies to stimulate more efficient and productive collaboration between employees inside the organization and their interlocutors outside the organization.

The key elements of this new organizational and business paradigm are:

  • Social software: instruments which enable people to be in contact and collaborate together creating an online community of practice;
  • Platforms, or rather, digital environments:  co-created interactive collaboration spaces that are visible to all users at all times;
  • Emergence: the capacity to make visible the application structure and basic patterns of interactions between people.

At the centre of this universe, as it is with Web 2.0, there are people; the users, producers and consumers of content and metadata. The ability to link and tag content created through a bottom up interaction replaces the fixed, planned ‘a priori’ processes of most existing corporate software. In McAfee's words “Enterprise 2.0 technologies make the  intranet similar to what the web is already: an online platform, continuously evolving, defined by the spread of independent user actions”.


What benefits for my company?

In an increasingly globalized and fast-pace market, reducing costs and capitalizing on available knowledge has become a strategic priority. From this perspective it is easy to understand why more and more Italian and international companies are planning and launching Enterprise 2.0 initiatives: efficiency and an increased ability to compete.

But to realise there are two related implementation paths that need to be understood: The first phase is to create a more efficient circulation and management of information through the introduction of collaborative tools like wikis, blogs, rss feeds and tags. These focus more on informal networks and aim to encourage active employee participation. This begins to break down hierarchical, geographical barriers and silos of knowledge and centres of power and helps to reduce costs. Most importantly is enables the capturing and optimisation of tacit knowledge and allows flows of information to get to people in need at the point of need, thus increasing productivity.

The second phase is transforming this into an ongoing innovation capability. Books like Wikinomics or new practices like ‘innocrowding’ induced by platforms like Innocentive, have demonstrated how Web2.0 tools and technologies have transformed how innovation is now taking place within and between enterprises. To keep pace with this ever-growing and evolving technological landscape, indeed to maintain market advantage, companies are opening-up their borders and establishing a fruitful and honest conversation with customers, suppliers and partners. This effort of sharing, involving and co-creating, requires a deep cultural shift about how resources are managed within and between enterprises. Employees, partners and customers become the true drivers of innovation, while the company takes an unusual but powerful role as product-experiences facilitator and promoter.


What are the impacts and organizational challenges?

Open outwards means, at the same time, knowing how to listen and change from the inside, reacting more quickly to market changes and turning employees into change agents. To obtain Enterprise 2.0 benefits, it is necessary to understand the depth of these changes and actively supporting its introduction into the company. Enterprise 2.0 is not a software package to buy and install. It is a new way of thinking, working and understanding the company. Managers have to become comfortable with giving up part of their employer control. In exchange they will reap the passion, creativity, innovation and flexibility from inside their companies, which is now becoming essential to meet the market challenges of today and tomorrow.


What are the drivers and barriers to the Enterprise 2.0 success?

At this point in time, the age of the workers and many senior managers, and their unfamiliarity with these new technologies and practices, are certainly hindering the uptake of Enterprise2.0. In the long term, however, there are huge benefits to be reaped by those who understand how the principles of openness, sharing, involvement, innovation and greater collaboration can transform their businesses and the markets they operate in.

Beyond the business choices and initial difficulties, Enterprise 2.0 is already proving its value by showing how bottom up employee initiatives are providing effective answers to daily work demands. The wide availability of free platforms and software offered as a service are some factors that are helping convince more and more companies to embark on Enterprise 2.0. In other words, rather than seeing Enterprise 2.0 as a source of disruption, many are now seeing it as an opportunity to transform their organisations with relatively small investments into more productive and competitive entities, fitter, more agile and ready to face the challenges of the global recession.


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