Monday 12 February 2007

There is no long tail inside the firewall... just yet

As the FASTForward blog and its conference participants move into reflection mode, one post that did grab my attention this morning is from Andrew McAfee who compares Enterprise 2.0 with Web 2.0 and highlights the importance of the network effect:

"Tim coined the term 'Web 2.0' [and he] is entirely correct about the importance of network effects and collective intelligence within Web 2.0, and therefore also within Enterprise 2.0.  Every Web and Enterprise 2.0 application I can think of gets better as more people use it."

However I disagree with McAfee when he says that the network effect isn't a "key differentiator between E2.0 techs and those previously available."

As I've hinted at in recent posts (such as what E2.0 isn't and the role of super users), its not just that Enterprise 2.0 gets better as more people use it but that the internal network is essential to getting it to work at all. Remove the network and all you have is a content management system where everyone gets editor access. The way I like to think of it is that Enterprise 2.0 lets us tap into the long tail of the organisation that is currently unavailable in traditional information systems.

To explain this further, here are some points I used in a presentation last year about Enterprise 2.0 to discuss the differences between traditional groupware and social software:

Traditional Groupware and Collaboration Software

  • Top down/inward out
  • Bounded networks (organisational, project, business relationship)
  • Enterprise software platforms with interoperability added
  • Proprietary user interfaces and formats, glued with email or "exporting" data

Social Software in the Enterprise

  • Heritage in consumer originated social software (and
    Web 2.0) on the Internet
  • Bottom up/outward in
  • Self-organising, emergent networks glued with XML over
    HTTP ("Small pieces, loosely joined" - David Weinberger)

As you can see in my comparison, the impact of the network and networkability (at a social and organisational level) is an important differentiator: my prediction is that organisations that try to become an Enterprise 2.0 will fail in that effort if they ignore the network as part of that vision.

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