Web 2.0 is about collaborative web applications that enable users to easily share content and network. This site is an example, because anyone can blog or add comments. Facebook is hugely popular for social networking among “friends,” LinkedIn allows business people to build networks of “contacts” and Twitter enable anyone to post anything to followers… up to 140 characters at a time.
For the most part Web 2.0 services were created for individuals and consumers, not for businesses. Now Enterprise Social Software is gaining acceptance as a kind of fork in the Web 2.0 road. Enterprise-grade applications are being launched (or in some cases re-branded) in two major flavors:
- “Enterprise 2.0” if they support internal collaboration
- “Social CRM” if they support customer collaboration
I’ve written about Social CRM technology before, so for this post I’m going to concentrate on Enterprise 2.0 based on an afternoon I spent at the Enterprise 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. I wanted to learn more about what the vendors were selling and, more important, why a business executive should invest in this technology.
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Why doesn’t Enterprise 2.0 include the customer?
Vendor reps generally said that Enterprise 2.0 was a convenient buzzword to reflect the adoption of Web 2.0 applications within the enterprise. Nearly everyone said it was mainly about helping employees communicate and collaborate more effectively, using blogs, wikis, forums, microblogging, profiles, etc.
Wikipedia (as of the date this blog was posted) offers the following:
Carl Frappaolo and Dan Keldsen defined Enterprise 2.0 in a report written for Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) as “a system of web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise”.
The term “enterprise social software” generally describes this class of tools. As of 2006, “Enterprise 2.0” had become a catchier term, sometimes used to describe social and networked changes to enterprises, which often includes social software (but may transcend social software, social collaboration and software).
This suggests that E2.0 really should include customers, partners and suppliers, but this clearly was not the focus of the vendors at the Expo.
That said, some vendors do “go both ways”—inside and outside the enterprise—such as Jive, Telligent and KickApps. But generally it seems that E2.0 vendors are making a marketing choice to focus on the employee productivity problem, rather than customer engagement as targeted by many Social CRM vendors.
Why invest in Enterprise 2.0?
The main “pitch” for why companies should invest in Enterprise 2.0 is that it increases employee productivity. It really reminds me of when email was introduced 20+ years ago, as an alternative to phone calls, letters or faxes.
Now email is the enemy, according to most of the vendor reps. With Enterprise 2.0 applications, some say you can eliminate 30% or more of email messages and get the right people working together (collaborating, even) to get work done faster.
Another potential benefit is providing a better work environment, because employees want to use the latest tools (especially younger workers used to Facebook). Theoretically this will improve “employee engagement.”
Although Enterprise 2.0 is touted as the Next Big Thing, it’s really an evolution of email, groupware, forums, intranets and portals—with a Web 2.0 flavor. Most vendors agreed that a solid ROI was difficult to prove and that a sponsoring executive really needed to support a new paradigm of communications. Either that, or count on customers to follow the Enterprise 2.0 hype!
Lots of choices… and now Microsoft
All that said, there really are a lot of robust solutions available, quite a change from a couple of years ago.
If you want a full suite of E2.0 technology, consider Jive, Mzinga, SocialText or Telligent. If microblogging is your thing, then SocialCast or Yammer are worth a look. Although increasingly microblogging a la Twitter is becoming integrated into larger suites.
For CRM-related vendors, nGenera has a new “collaboration server” that ties together internal and external social activities. Speaking of CRM, the only reference I saw to “Social CRM” came from KickApps, although the booth rep seemed to confuse CRM with CMS.
Remember Broadvision, the darling of the dot com days? Well, the company founded waaaay back in 1993 is still around and now offers an enterprise social network called Clearvale that ties into its portal solution. Other interesting players include PBWorks (formerly PBWiki) and Twiki.
In a sign that E2.0 is coming of age, Microsoft was showing SharePoint 2010, which will be generally available (you guessed it) in 2010. This has be worrisome to some vendors designed to fill the collaborative hole left by Microsoft’s current SharePoint product, which some dismissed as an overgrown file server. However, the demo I saw showed a lot of the usual collaboration functions, so I expect that companies already invested in the Microsoft stack will be looking to Redmond next year to “go social.”
Technology in search of a strategy?
I left the Expo convinced that the E2.0 market is real, much more so than Social CRM which is still largely marketed as an extension to CRM solutions. But on the other hand, the business case for E2.0 seems more narrow and tenuous than Social CRM. Delivering value to customers isn’t the point of E2.0, it’s all about making employees more productive.
Seems to me there is a crying need to connect all this technology with a real business strategy, which should fuel opportunities for consulting firms. Funny, though, software vendors didn’t mention the need for a social business strategy before implementing tools. Shades of CRM!
This expo visit also convinced me that it’s a mistake for the tools and the strategy to be called the same thing. Enterprise 2.0 is a good term for technology part of internal collaboration, but I think Dachis Group is very smart to use the term “social business design” for the strategy portion.
I’m all for employee productivity and collaboration, but a stronger business case could be built on doing more of the right things that add value to customers, not just doing the same things faster. Here’s hoping that customers will have a voice in the social businesses that will be designed.