Sunday 10 September 2006

Setting boundaries on Enterprise 2.0

Andrew McAfee wants to define Enterprise 2.0 as "the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers" but is concerned that others are expanding the concept to include a discussion of software development models and delivery methods.

Similarly we see some uncomfortable overlaps between the concepts of Web 2.0, Social Software and everything that has gone before. Something I've always done to help deal with this issue is to consider the difference between function (what is does) and form (how it does it). Unfortunately in doing this we have to accept a grey area to exist between the tools and technologies used, the way they are used and how we attempt to explain them using management theory. In other words people don't use technology in such a bounded fashion - think about the spreadsheet, a classic user-driven software tool, and the different ways it is put to use. Another point is that if we separate function and form, then organisations can use what ever tools and technologies they want to achieve Enterprise 2.0, not just (for example) an open source Blog written in PHP and running on Apache.

From a management point of view I think Enterprise 2.0 is a good place to start a conversation about Enteprise Social Software, but if we ignore the broader picture of Web 2.0 inside the enterprise then we may miss out on another story unfolding. The trick is learning to discuss them as both form and function so that we understand the opportunities and implications.

Incidentally part of this other story is something my CSC colleagues have previously identified and labelled "Extreme Data".

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