Exclusive Hydrasight Analysis: Attempting to define Enterprise 2.0

Analyst Hydrasight reports that some businesses have been able to increase their IT budget by labelling new initiatives with a 2.0 tag, but that the term Enterprise 2.0 should be understood as a cultural, not technological, phenomenon.

Hydrasight notes a rising market interest in Asia Pacific for “Enterprise 2.0”—although not necessarily purchasing activity. Like many industry terms, we believe Enterprise 2.0 refers more to a cultural change rather than a new technology solution or market category. Organisations must therefore ensure that they understand the reasoning behind their use of the term and remember the adage “be careful what you ask for”.

Hydrasight believes that the fundamental change described by the term ‘Enterprise 2.0’ is simply the open sharing of enterprise information in order to drive greater collective business knowledge, wisdom and intelligence. In many cases, the use of ‘Web 2.0’ technologies is also included in order to support this open sharing (See  "Web 2.0: Technology and social trend (but don't confuse the two)"). These technologies often include collaborative search, tagging, bookmarking, wikis, blogs, predictive and/or multi-party analysis (See "Do you encourage communities with a purpose?").

We therefore believe the term “Enterprise 2.0” more accurately describes the way discrete collaborative tools and services are implemented rather than the collection of the tools as a whole. To be even more precise, organisations are more likely to increase the effectiveness of Enterprise 2.0 by focusing on specific use cases rather than the technologies, tools and services. By focusing attention on the term, Hydrasight believes these organisations will simply perpetuate an ongoing cycle of definitional disagreements (of Enterprise 2.0) rather than addressing underlying business problems and the cultural change required to drive the behavioural changes organisations seek (See "What's wrong with a proof of concept?").

Hydrasight also notes however, that some organisations have been able to successfully increase their IT budgets or gain executive commitment for projects simply by repackaging existing (usually failing) projects under more palatable/fashionable industry terms—including Enterprise 2.0. For example, where “knowledge management” and “collaboration” projects have previously failed (or the terms have become ‘soiled’), more - highly-publicised terms such as “Web 2.0” and “Enterprise 2.0” have been able to foster greater or renewed business executive commitment.

Hydrasight warns however, that adopting terms of such broad use can have long-lasting negative impacts if applied incorrectly. We therefore recommend that organisations avoid using fashionable or ‘trendy’ IT terms/phrases wherever possible. Instead, Hydrasight recommends assessing potential projects and technology solutions based on their degree of conformance to underlying principles—such as increasing information management efficiency by applying distributed authoring/contribution and self-assembly of information—rather than any specific organisational definition. For example, business alignment to Enterprise 2.0 might translate as “supports collaborative and/or informal publishing processes” or “utilises collective data quality enhancement/enrichment processes”. We warn that continual ‘re-branding’ of projects, in order to (re)kindle business commitment and/or interest, may damage IT organisational credibility. Moreover, and more generally, such an approach will place organisations are at increased risk of succumbing to over-investment in those technologies, skills and vendors that rise to prominence simply through timing and fashion.

This article and many others also appear at www.hydrasight.com.

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